Still Kicking—and Running and Throwing | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Still Kicking—and Running and Throwing

Oregon Senior Games bring 600 competitors to race, run, shot put, and pickleball

Nate Wyeth

Florence Latter took up running later in life, much later, at the age of 79.

Now 91, Latter will return to the Bend Senior Games to defend her titles in the 50 and 100 meter dash.

"I don't really do much running," she admitted. "But, prior to the games I try to get in shape by doing a lot of walking."

Hosting the games for the second year, Visit Bend is looking to increase participation to more than 600 older (50 years-plus) athletes, an increase of 20 percent over its inaugural year in 2014.

Kevney Dugan, sales and sports development director for Visit Bend, said that his organization began looking at the possibility of bringing the games to the city when they realized that Oregon and North Dakota were the only states not offering a version of the nationally-recognized competition.

"In 2012, we approached the National Senior Game Association and applied to host the state games in Oregon," said Dugan. "In 2013 they approved our request and we had almost two years to plan and commit to holding them."

Although not needing to travel far to compete, Latter has certainly proved she can move quickly over short distances, qualifying in her age group for the national competition this year in Minneapolis.

Latter also had the honor of being the oldest competitor across all sports in Bend last year, and vows to compete for as long as her body lets her move.

"It isn't going to do anything if I sit around doing nothing," she laughed, referring to her body. "I believe that everyone needs to get up and move."

If age isn't going to stop Latter, cancer and the loss of her husband is not going to stop 74-year-old Evelyn Cook.

"I started playing pickleball in 2011 after my husband passed away," said Cook. "When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, I continued to play indoors."

Cook would alternate one week of cancer treatments with two weeks of pickleball, taking advantage of the newly-formed Bend Pickleball Club.

"This group lightened my load," she said, referring to the club. "I was able to leave my cancer outside when I played indoors."

Dugan noted that it is the attitude of these two competitors that is at the heart of the Senior Games.

"The Senior Games is as much about camaraderie and sportsmanship as it is about competition," he said. "Even those that are not serious competitors are very much at home in the Senior Games."

The games offer events for all athletes and includes archery, badminton, bowling, cycling, golf, pickleball, racquetball, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, and a 5k run/walk. Exhibition sports include Cowboy Action Shooting and a sport touted by Bend local Phil McCage called Over the Line.

"The game is played on a court about one-third the size of a softball field," explained McCage. "There are three players to a side and the objective is to hit the ball over a line between second and third base and inside the foul lines. It is a game of hitting and fielding skill with no base running."

McCage admits that the game is more social than competitive and is timed to coincide with the Senior Games' official social party at Riverbend Park.

McCage, who admits to being 72 in years, but only 28 mentally, is also competing in two golf tournaments, bowling, and the mixed-doubles pickleball event. It's only the lack of sufficient registration that prevents him from playing tennis as well, which has been cancelled. "I was hoping for a pentathlon, but four events will do me well," he declared.

Oregon Senior Games

Wednesday, June 17-Sunday, June 21

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