A gold at the Senior Olympics

Carroll County archer wins medal in Florida

her husband takes a silver

November 17, 1999|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With her archery skills, Carroll County resident Mary Sanders, a 70-year-old, turned a day in the Florida sunshine into gold.

Sanders has returned from the National Senior Games -- The Senior Olympics with a gold medal in archery for her age group (70-74).

She is one of five senior archers from Carroll County who qualified to compete in the Senior Olympics, which drew 12,000 participants from across the country.

Her husband, Edward "Spike" Sanders, 73, also competed. He returned home with a silver medal.

All five seniors did well last month.

Vicki Clem took a bronze medal, and Jerry and Mary Wenzel earned ribbons. All five are members of the Mayberry Archers Club and are from the Westminster area.

The five have been involved in archery for many years, but their stories vary about how and why they began.

"My husband and son were doing archery together, but when my husband started to referee basketball games, I ended up taking my son to archery," Clem said. "But archery is not a spectator sport. I got involved out of boredom."

Rather than sit and watch, Clem said she thought it would be more fun to participate. That was 1983.

Today, Clem competes in a number of tournaments, including the Maryland Senior Games and the National Senior Games.

Clem, who teaches French at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County, said she enjoys archery because it is an individual sport.

"You're competing against yourself, and you just do your best," Clem said.

Asked about her bronze medal in the Senior Olympics, Clem said, "I really think I could do better than that, but at least I came home with a medal."

The beginning

Mary Sanders took up the sport more than 30 years ago, when her husband talked her into it.

"I was at a sporting goods store and the owner, David Armacross, told me there was a sport he thought I'd like," Edward Sanders said.

"And he got me a bow, too," Mary Sanders said. "He has taught me everything, and has been with me every step of the way."

The year was 1964. A year later, Mary Sanders won her first championship.

For the next 10 years, she continued to win gold medals at tournaments.

"Then one day, I missed 70 shots in a row," said Sanders, who started shooting right-handed. "I put the bow down and waited a few minutes. Then I picked it back up left-handed instead. I had what was called `target panic,' where you release the bow as soon as you see the circle, rather than wait until you have it right in the center."

She said it took her 10 years to relearn the sport left-handed and compete at a high level.

"But I loved the sport too much to just give it up," she said.

The Wenzels' experience in archery also dates back more than 30 years.

"I had taken an archery class in 1967, but I didn't start competing until my son wanted to get involved in archery," Mary Wenzel said. "And that's how I really got involved."

Maryland has the largest contingent of athletes in the Senior Olympics.

"Maryland has an extremely strong program," said Jerry Wenzel.

More than 500 Marylanders

More than 500 Marylanders went to the Senior Olympics. Each had to qualify at the Maryland Senior Games at Towson University in October 1998.

"At the state games you shoot 30 arrows each at 60 yards, 50 yards and 40 yards," Mary Sanders said. "Each arrow is worth 10 points. But the number of points you need varies depending on style and age of the shooter."

After qualifying, the athletes advance to the Senior Olympics, which is held every other year at a different location.

A commemorative program published by the National Senior Games Association, formerly the United States National Senior Sports Organization, says the organization started 13 years ago to promote healthy lifestyles for seniors through education, fitness and sports.

The not-for-profit organization has a volunteer board of directors and a full-time staff of 14. It conducts the National Senior Games -- The Senior Olympics.

The athletes must be at least 50 years old and must qualify at the national association's sanctioned state games.

In 1987, the year the first Summer National Senior Games -- The Senior Olympics were held, 2,500 athletes participated.

The games were held in St. Louis. By 1989, that number increased to 3,400 athletes and 13 sports were offered. The games were again held in St. Louis.

By 1991, the number of athletes had nearly doubled to 5,000 and the games were held in Syracuse, N.Y. Other changes included an increase in the number of sports.

In 1997, the category for ages 50 to 54 was added to the competition.

This year's games, held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, drew 12,000 athletes.

The first Winter Games will be held next year at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mary Sanders has qualified for all seven Senior Olympics and has received four gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals.

Other reasons to compete

It isn't medals that draw the five Carroll residents to the games. "I enjoy the camaraderie," Clem said. "And it's a great family sport that you can do together, but you only compete in your own age group."

Edward Sanders agreed.

"I like seeing the other archers," he said. "I always look forward to seeing the guys I competed against before."

Mary Sanders said she also enjoys the camaraderie.

"And it gives me a sense of achievement," she said.

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