Don't expect to find activities like bingo and shuffleboard at the National Senior Sports Classic, in which 10 Carroll County residents will be competing in everything from archery to the high jump.
"It's not just a bunch of old folks stumbling around," said cyclist and swimmer Edward Overton, 56, of Eldersburg. "These people are quite good, and there's a smattering of ex-Olympians."
He means athletes who when younger competed in the real Olympic Games, which asked some time ago that the the National Senior Olympicschange its name because there was no formal affiliation. The event is now called the National Senior Sports Classic.
Overton doesn't feel slighted by the name change and minces no words about how youth alone is an advantage to an athlete. Nonetheless, he said, seniors canremain competitive.
"The older person must train regularly and carefully to produce this performance at that age," Overton said. He doesn't swim much any more but cycles three to four times a week, 15 to30 miles at a time. He also rides in statewide clubs for racing and touring and writes a column for the Baltimore Bicycling Club's newsletter.
A former runner, he switched to swimming and cycling becausethey are sports he can participate in for the rest of his life. Theyalso give him an efficient workout but can be fit around his full-time schedule as a field sales representative for Peerless Radio.
"I'm, in effect, almost done with running, because it is jarring" to ligaments, joints and bones, Overton said. "But you can knock yourself out in the pool or on the bike and get up in the morning and not feelbeat up.
"Swimming and cycling are non-load-bearing physical exercise and have great return in cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone."
In the National Senior Sports Classic, the minimum age for competition is 55. Carroll County's oldest athlete participating is only 68, but even the track and field competition has a category for those 85 and older.
Besides Overton, the other Carroll residents going and their sports are:
* Edward J. "Spike" and Mary E. Sanders of Westminster, archery.
* Alfred "Pete" and Eva Thompson of Hampstead,archery.
* Carol A. Knepp of Westminster, swimming and cycling.
* Donald V. Joy of Westminster, softball.
* Otto Seraphin of Woodbine, softball.
* William Lew Thomas of New Windsor, track, road race and triathlon (swimming, cycling and running).
* Diane T. Perry of Taneytown, track and field, high jump and long jump.
The Carroll seniors will join about 100 from Maryland and 5,200 others from around the country starting tomorrow and through next Wednesday in Syracuse, N.Y. The national event is held every two years in a different city.
Those competing have qualified by winning medals in their state competitions. The Maryland Senior Olympics is conducted every October and sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland. The insurance company provided matching T-shirts and a reception for the Maryland athletes going on to the national competition, but the seniors must pay their own $50 registration fee and hotel and travel costs.
Long before athletic shoe companies turned cross-training into a household word, Overton and other mature sports enthusiasts were combining swimming, cycling, running, team sports and other activities that have paid off in a healthy late middle-age.
Perry, 56, a retired elementary-school teacher, has been athletic all her life, even though women in her youth weren't encouraged to be so. She credits her fitness to growing up on a farm. In high school, she played speedball (similar to soccer), basketball, intramural volleyball and field hockey.
At Towson State University, she added flag football, soccer, lacrosse, varsity basketball and archery.
"I just went out for whatever was available," she said.
Instead of relinquishing sports as she ages, Perry finds that the more active she is, the less she feelsthe bursitis that she got from a shoulder injury suffered in a fall in 1952 when she was the Farm Queen.
"You can hurt yourself badly," she said, and she has been extra-careful not to injure herself before tomorrow's competition. In addition to training for her track and field events, she also plays volleyball and takes aerobics classes sponsored by the county.
"We still live on a farm, so I am active a lot on the farm," she said. "It's sort of like a cross-training."
Worried about a pain in her knee a few years ago, she visited an orthopedist just to check it out.
"He said, 'If you want to go out andtry to act like a 20-year-old, come back and see me when you get hurt.' He was kind of joking. So after I won my medals I went back and showed them to him."
While Perry said she has enjoyed meeting otherathletes her age through the Maryland Senior Olympics, she and Overton admitted they don't participate just to socialize -- they like winning.