No Last Laps For Olympians Who Take Them Like The First

DRAWING EVEN

How Young You Feel Is How Well You Do

July 07, 1991|By Katherine Dunn

SYRACUSE — I spent much of last week with some of the youngest people I know.

Never mind that every one of them was more than 64 years old. You would never have known it to watch them run, jump, bike, bowl or play tennis last week at the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic here.

Remember the old adage, "You're only as old as you feel?" So do Charles Irwin, 73, Anna Romagna, 72, Ed Sebring, 71, Bud Steckman, 67,and his wife Millie, 66, Beatrice Short, 66, and Tom Coyle, 65.

These Harford County seniors simply refuse to act their age. No easy-chair retirements for these folks. Most of them can't sit still.

"Years ago, there wasn't anything like this for the seniors, so what did you do -- sit home and watch TV," said Romagna, who brought home two gold medals and a silver in track.

These seniors have discovereda way to stay young through sports. Training has not only kept them in better shape physically and mentally, it also has kept their social lives in shape.

While they were here, most of them kept up racing and social schedules that would exhaust people half their age. The Steckmans played several sets of tennis last Friday. The same eveningthey entered a jitterbug contest.

Through their involvement in seniors sports, these athletes have met a lot of folks with the same interests and objectives. Their happy, active retirements give them a lot to talk about.

"No one talks about their kids," said Millie Steckman, a tennis player from Bel Air.

I'll bet their kids are talking about them.

Every one of the local senior athletes here said their children are supportive of their athletic endeavors. So are theirgrandchildren. "I know our kids see something in us they like and they hope they can be like that. We're really on stage," said Millie Steckman.

Every one of the local seniors here is a grandparent, and the examples they have set are priceless.

Steckman said her grandson, Matthew Muir, a first-grader, was surprised that his grandmother could play softball. "I pitched to him for a while. Then I said that's enough. Now it's my turn. I made him pitch to me. When I hit the ball, he said, 'Wow, Grandma, I didn't know you could hit like that.' "

Matthew shows off his grandmother's medals with pride. He even told one admiring playmate, who had never seen such prizes before, thathis grandmother could win one for him, too.

For Matthew, and the other grandchildren of these athletes, emulating their grandparents early on could give them a happier, healthier lifestyle. Of course, Matthew has about 50 years to get ready for the Senior Olympics, but ifhe's anything like his grandparents, he will certainly get there.

Being around the senior athletes for a week has been a refreshing change for me. As athletes, they are different than most others I've met as a sports reporter.

They don't complain. They never make excuses. They wouldn't think of bragging. They truly appreciate what they are able to do. And they appreciate what others are able to do.

Make no mistake: These athletes want to win, but winning just isn't everything. Watching a 91-year-old man running a half-mile around a track sort of puts everything into perspective.

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