Area seniors gearing up for 50+ Sports ClassicWritten by Morgan Delp | | email@example.com
When Dorothy Gackstetter attended Genoa High School in the late 1940s, she was told track and field was too hard for girls and not good for their health.
“It was a ridiculous excuse because we were county champions every year and probably would have gone to state,” Gackstetter said.
As the Ottawa County resident approaches her 80th birthday, she will compete in the 50+ Sports Classic at St. Francis de Sales High School on June 9. Gackstetter has participated in the event for nearly 30 years, competing in the 100- and 200-meter race along with longjumping, shot put, discus and javelin.
While Gackstetter was denied the opportunity to attend the state meet as a teenager, she qualified for the Senior Olympics’ state meet in Dayton four years ago and hopes to qualify for this year’s state meet in Cleveland.
“I belong to our health and wellness club, but I don’t go to a gym,” said Gackstetter, who said she once tied former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in the 100-meter dash. “I have a bicycle and weights and I do practice lunges at home. I have a horse so I do all those chores, so there’s always something to do to keep me active.”
To train, Gackstetter said she runs around her horse track and uses a sawdust pile as her long-jump landing. She throws a homemade javelin and uses an old cooking stone her mother used while making sauerkraut as a shot put.
“(The Sports Classic) keeps me motivated to do exercises and keep limber,” Gackstetter said. “I look at some people in their 70s and I see how important it is to stay limber and keep active. I like to go to the nursing homes and get more people involved.”
Justin Moor, vice president of planning and program development at the Area Office on Aging, which organizes the event, said there are competitors in every age group, although the highest bracket, 90+, has the fewest. Moor said the oldest recent participant was a 92-year-old man who bowled and competed in track and field.
“It’s really inspiring. Some are out there just to have fun and get exercise. Some are out there to compete with others and improve their times from last year,” Moor said.
Gary Kidd, 65, of Toledo has participated for about four years, usually competing in javelin, shot put, discus and basketball events, which include a three-on-three tournament and foul-shooting contest.
“You end up sharing with and coaching the people you compete with. You’re not just out there to win; it’s more socialization. You learn from other people because you are never too old to learn,” Kidd said. “A lot of my friends have seen me compete and want to be involved because it seems fun.”
Kidd played basketball at Bowling Green High School and competed in track and field at Bowling Green State University. In his first year competing in the foul-shooting contest, Kidd shot 25 for 25 and last year went 23 for 25.
“I know how to go about it psychologically. As we get older we aren’t as fast or jumping high, but we can still do it and we can still function,” said Kidd, who officiates high school baseball, basketball, football, volleyball and lacrosse in the area.
“I keep myself rather active. Part of living a good life is being able to enjoy it, by living an active lifestyle,” Kidd said.
Moor said the number of spectators has increased in recent years, as more and more competitors have been bringing spouses and family members to watch, making it more of a family outing.
Terry Mohler, 82, of South Toledo said, for him, running is a family affair.
“My wife does occasionally [come to watch me] and there are five or six in the family that participate in the road races in the area,” Mohler said. “My wife is a good runner too and I’ve tried to get her to [participate].”
Mohler said he’s been participating in the Classic for about a dozen years. He competes in the shot put and all the running events, adding that he would like to do basketball and table tennis, but it would make for too long of a day.
Mohler ran track and cross country at Central Catholic High School and was on a practice football squad at John Carroll University. He coached track, football and cross country at Macomber High School in the ’50s and ‘60s and has been a member of the Toledo Roadrunners since shortly after its founding in 1976.
“I did 49 marathons,” Mohler said. “On my bucket list was 50, but I couldn’t make that 50. My last one was four years ago, the Glass City Marathon. I just didn’t have the stamina or time to condition anymore. It was fun and I met a lot of people.”
About 220 people competed in last year’s Classic and 200 have already preregistered for this year’s event. The cost to register is $30, and participants get a T-shirt, lunch and a goodie bag that includes a month-long membership to the YMCA. The day begins with golf at Ottawa Park at 7:15 a.m. and continues with events all day until bowling at 5 p.m.
For more information or to register, call (419) 382-0624 or visit areaofficeonaging.com/sports.pdf.