TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In announcing the 2019 Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year last week, Peggy Peck and Ed Scheid joined an elite club among the thousands of athletes age 50 and over who have taken the field of play over the last 28 years.

The 52 male and female recipients of the award possess the utmost confidence in their abilities when they step up to the starting line, the tee box, the free throw line or the service line.

The medals they win for their accomplishments and the honor of being named the Athlete of the Year, also challenges and prepares them for future competitions.

When Madelaine “Tiny” Cazel earned the 2003 Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year, she received the award at the Florida Capitol at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs Ambassadors for Aging Day event.

The award motivated the already fierce competitor to set goals beyond winning gold medals in Florida. She set her sights on setting records in State and National Senior Games competitions.

While measuring in at only 5 feet 3 inches and weighing just over 100 pounds, Cazel lives up to her nickname in name only.  With her strict workout and practice schedule she was featured prior to the 2005 National Senior Games in a New York Times article.  In the accompanying photo of her throwing the javelin, the muscular definition was hardly that of a nearly 70-year-old woman.

“I was very honored to be chosen as Athlete of the Year,” Cazel said.  “You get humbled and it has really kept me going knowing that I could do what I’ve done.  I really enjoy competing for the State of Florida and hope to stay healthy enough to keep competing.”

Since winning the 2003 Award in the 65-69 age group, Cazel has set 12 track and field records in the 70-74, 75-79 age groups.  In National Senior Games competitions since 2005, she has posted eight of the top 10 javelin throw performances in the 65-69 age groups through 80-84 age groups. She holds the top overall performances in the 70-74, 75-79 and 80-84 age groups. She also has five top 10 discus throw performances and two in the shot put.

The 2018 Athlete of the Year, Brian Hankerson, from Hollywood, first appeared in the Florida Senior Games in 2009 and he promptly started setting records with a triple jump of over 37 feet, for the Games the all-time best performance.

Prior to advancing to Florida Senior Games age, Hankerson competed in Master’s Track and Field events, including the Sunshine State Games beginning in 2003.  At age 43 in 2003, Hankerson won gold medals with a high jump of 5’6”, a long jump of 17’9” and a triple jump of 34’09”.

His production has only fallen off by an inch or less in jumping events over 16 years. At the 2019 Florida Senior Games, Hankerson had a high jump of 5’5”, a long jump of 17’8’ and a triple jump of 34’5” in the 60-64 age group.

Hankerson’s continued success from his 40’s into 60’s, is due to a training regimen seen mostly by athletes of a younger age. Her participates alongside elite athletes in high performance programs three days a while working on the track on sprints and jumps two days a week.

“I worked out with Frank Gore (NFL running back from the Miami area),” Hankerson said.  “The program combines weight training and movement training for running.”

He also has a lot of personal motivation to stay healthy. Cheering him on  as he received his 2018 Award at the 2019 Florida Senior Games was his wife, children and grandchildren.

Avis Vaught is a former collegiate track and field athlete at Florida State University in the early days of women’s athletics following the passage of Title IX for equality in women’s collegiate sports.  Since her first competition, she has advanced from the 55-59 age group and is now into the 70’s age group.

“Winning the Athlete of the Year Award and being recognized in Tallahassee was a new beginning for me,” Vaught, the 2010 Athlete of the Year, said.  “My motivation became, ‘How do I compare with athletes from other states?’ It was a great motivator to push harder.  I tested myself by going to the Nevada State Games and competing in events not offered in Florida.  I did the hammer throw and ran hurdles.  I’ve also been to the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah and medalled in 13 of the 15 events that I competed.”

A resident of The Villages, Vaught has a following of active seniors that she annually recruits for softball, basketball and volleyball team competition.  Beginning in 2019, she assumed the role of the Florida Senior Games softball sport director and created teams at various skill levels to prepare them for the 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale.

“For the most part Senior Games competitions are meant to be fun events and they are,” she said.  “However, there’s a small group that is very competitive and want to go a bit further.  I’m looking ahead to competing for years to come.  You know how they say everyone’s got to have a reason to get up in the morning.  Well, that’s my motivation.”

Peggy Peck is following in the footsteps of Tiny Cazel and Avis Vaught and no doubt providing an example for athletes in the 50s age groups.  Ed Sheid has been playing golf since he was seven years old and has served as an inspiration in the Florida Senior Games since the mid-1990s.

Their performances at the 2019 Games were worthy of their honors and their actions on and off the field of play serve as an inspiration to future gold medal winners and Athletes of the Year.