Serious fun for senior bowlers

Olympians seek competition, camaraderie in the statewide event in Ellicott City.

September 14, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Richard Subock, 72, of Ellicott City has been bowling in the Maryland Senior Olympics "at least since 1990," he said, and has no plans to quit. "I'll do it as long as I live," he vowed.

And maybe even beyond that.

He doesn't know whether bowling alleys exist in the hereafter, but he suspects they do. Isn't thunder the sound of pins being knocked down? He is joking, of course, but not about his love for the game. He plays five days a week in three leagues, and his best score is 297.

All that practice pays off in the Senior Olympics. Not because he is going to win, necessarily, but because it's a good time. "It's good exercise, and I enjoy the camaraderie," he said. "It's just a lot of fun."

Maryland has been host to a Senior Olympics since 1980, and the 26th annual games kicked off this week with bowling competitions Monday and yesterday at the Brunswick Normandy Lanes in Ellicott City.

About 150 bowlers ages 50 and older participated in the event, said Bob Eikenberg, who is chairman of the Maryland Senior Olympics. "This is our opening event," he said Monday. "This starts everything."

In all, more than 1,200 seniors will participate in 18 events that include golf, track and field, swimming, softball, line dancing, a 10K run and bicycling. The main events will be Sept. 22 and 23 at Towson University, with the opening ceremony scheduled for noon Sept. 22 on the main campus.

The games are organized by volunteers, including about 300 Towson students, Eikenberg noted. "We could not do it without them," he said.

All 50 states conduct Senior Olympics, and since 1985, winners at the state level have been able to take their sporting skills to national competitions, held every other year.

The next national competition is scheduled for Louisville, Ky., in 2007, Eikenberg said.

The bowling competition, like most of the others, is divided by age and gender, with competitors ages 50 to 69 bowling in the morning, and the 70-and-older crowd commandeering the lanes in the afternoon.

`Best cheerleader'

Frank Herrelko, 92, of Bowie said he is the oldest athlete in the bowling competition. He also takes part in track and field, which includes events such as pole vault, standing long jump and a 5K run. And when he is not competing in sports events, Herrelko said, he gives free haircuts and likes to sew.

He attributes his rosy-cheeked good health to two things: quitting smoking in 1956, and his wife, Edie, 89. "I'm married to the same gal for 63 years," he said. "She's my best cheerleader."

Many of the same bowlers compete year after year. "I think this is my fifth year," said JoAnn Atchison, 72, who lives at Leisure World in Silver Spring. Though she bowls in two leagues and competes in many tournaments, she sees plenty of room for improvement in her game. "I wish I was as good as I am serious," she said.

`A convivial thing'

The appeal of the Olympics, she said, is "not so much competing as it is the people. It's a convivial thing."

She was standing with Mernie Braden, 71, of North Beach; Barbara Cole, 67, of Bowie; and Helen Boulabsky, 73, also of Leisure World. "Mernie and I were coming, and we started inviting other people," Atchison said.

Though they were competing, they did not let their lust for first-place ribbons stand in the way of their friendship. After Cole took a turn and left a pin standing, Atchison reacted with sympathy. "You know what you've done wrong as soon as you let go," she said. Boulabsky agreed, admitting that she sometimes brushes against her pants leg as she swings her arm, throwing off her aim.

Naturally, everyone who competes hopes to win, but nobody seemed to be taking the competition too seriously. "I'm going to try, but I doubt I'll win," said Sandy Bridges, 67, of Dayton.

Sam Ross, 69, of Temple Hills said he has been bowling in the Senior Olympics for seven years now, and he would like to win so he can go to the national competition, as he has in years past. "I like to make the Nationals so I get a chance to meet a lot of people," he said.

His average is 205, but, he said, "if I was serious, I wouldn't be at 205."

`Kept me going'

For Agnes Dorsch, 82, of Ellicott City, the games are about more than high scores and even catching up with friends. "My husband and I both bowl," she said. "When he passed away, that was the only thing that kept me going." That was in 1994, she said.

Now, she bowls in two leagues. Her average is 150, and she proudly noted that her best score is 229.

For many of the bowlers competing in this week's Senior Olympics, age is a number without much meaning. The number that really matters is that high score.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.