What do a retired electrical engineer, a school teacher, a corporate insurance manager, an office manager and an export executive have in common?
They all live in central PA, are over 60, and are very athletic.
In fact, they’re so athletic that they’re part of the Pennsylvania delegation to the National Senior Games, which will be held this month in New Mexico.
Sixty-one-year-old Ben Hawn, a retired electrical engineer, recently moved from Louisiana to Lancaster to be near his family.
A veteran of 10 iron man triathlons, he competed in the 2017 Senior Games in Birmingham, Ala., and finished fifth. He qualified at the Pennsylvania State Games last year and is looking forward to participating in the national games in Albuquerque.
“I stay fit by doing three to four bike rides, three to four swims and four to five runs each week,” said Hawn. “Then I like to add a number of weekly strength sessions.”
This 19-sport, biennial competition for men and women aged 50 and older is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors, said Pam Schorr, wellness manager at Willow Valley Communities, a 55-plus community in Lancaster County that has a history of fielding senior athletes.
“Events range from tennis to track and field, and it’s a great way not only to stay in shape, but to make new friends,” she said.
Athletes vying to compete in the National Senior Games must first qualify at the state games held the preceding year. They must score in the top four of all participants in their sport at the state level or meet a qualifying standard.
For Pennsylvania residents, the state games were held in Wilkes-Barre last July, Schorr said.
“If a state doesn’t host a particular sport, for instance some track and field events, athletes can participate in another state games to qualify,” she said.
I Can Do That
Swimmer Bob Locke, 73, was a competitive swimmer in both high school and college. His competitive flame blew out during a busy career as a corporate insurance manager at Air Products and Chemicals Co., but lit back up again upon his retirement.
“I believe swimming saved my life,” he said. “I had a heart problem I wouldn’t normally have identified, but one day, while I was swimming, I felt a tightness in my chest. It turned out almost all of my arteries were blocked.”
It’s also improved his social life. At two different meets, he spotted old teammates from college. He hadn’t seen them for 40 years, but they’ve since reconnected.
Heide Moebius and her husband, Richard, came to the United States from Germany in 1960.
Heidi long enjoyed playing tennis and skiing, but, one day, decided to take up running, which became her competitive sport.
“One day, I came off the tennis court and saw someone running by,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’”
Since then, Moebius has run in more than 700 races, including more than 100 half marathons and 10 full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Husband Richard serves as her coach.
“I had on my bucket list to run the Athens ‘Authentic’ Marathon, which follows the first Greek marathon route of so many years ago,” Moebius said. “I entered and was proud to win in my age group just one day after my 80th birthday.
Since 1999, she has won 20 medals in senior games, but said that she’s “most proud” to have won three gold medals for the United States in the Masters World Championship in Poland.
A Few More
Elaine Eichner’s father was a well-known amateur tennis player who spent a great deal of time with his daughter, teaching her how to play tennis. She was a varsity tennis player all three years in high school.
As with many young athletes, tennis later took a back seat to raising a family and to work, in her case as an administrator in a dental office. In her senior years, she rediscovered her love for athletic competition.
“I was pleased to be a member of a women’s doubles team which ranked third at a United States tennis event in 2010,” said Eichner, 75.
She went to the Pennsylvania Games in 2018 and won six medals. This year, her fifth time at the National Senior Games, she hopes to win a few more.
Debbie Mink, 67, moved to Lancaster after retiring as a fourth-grade teacher. A long-time tennis player, she participated in the 2015 National Senior Games in Minneapolis.
“I qualified in both table tennis and tennis at the state games in York, so played in both in the Minneapolis games,” she said. “The competition is fierce, and I was proud that, in both events I made it through the first round, but was not able to go any farther.”
She’s now gearing up for the 2019 games.
“I’m hopeful that at the games in Albuquerque, I’ll be able to bring home a ribbon in table tennis,” she said.
The National Senior Games takes place June 14 to 25 in Albuquerque, N.M. For more information, visit www.nsga.com.