ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – While it’s still early in the 2019 National Senior Games, the official medal count after the first two days of competition has the State of Florida leading with a total of 31 medals, including 10 gold.
The 2016 Florida Senior Games Female Athlete of the Year, Kathy Petrillo, a cyclist from Jupiter, won the 5K and 10K Time Trials gold medals with record-setting times in the 55-59 age group. Her top women’s time in 5K Time Trials was 6:39.0, 21 seconds better than second place finisher in 55-59 age group. She rode the fastest overall women’s time in the 10K Time Trials, crossing the finish line at 14:26.70, to break the 55-59 age group record, that stood since 1999, by 17 seconds.
Even though Petrillo posted a record-setting time, she admitted the course, located 10 miles west of Downtown Albuquerque, that began at 5,738 feet and climbed to 5,820 feet, caused her some problems.
“I was hyperventilating and having a hard time breathing on the way back,” she said. “Luckily, it was downhill and with the wind.”
Clermont’s Cheryl Cherry won the 5K Time Trials gold medal with a time of 7:07.20, to break the previous best in the 70-74 age group by more than 45 seconds.
Cherry, who has concerns with her heart rate while racing, has a device on her bike that measures her heart rate while riding. After the 5K race Saturday, she was able to download her results and email it to her doctor for examination.
“I got clearance from him for the 10K race,” she said on Sunday. “I got up to 33 miles per hour in the 5K and if my heart rate would have spiked, I wouldn’t race.”
Advancing through a 48-team Pickleball Women’s Doubles bracket, in the 55-59 age group, Sylvia Whitehouse, from Palm Coast teamed with Jana Spano, from The Villages, to win six matches for the gold medal. The age group bracket was divided into two 24-team halves.
After Whitehouse and Spano defeated the top half winners, Erika Battaglia and Linda Thompson, from Ohio, the Florida duo had to wait two hours to play the Ohio team again for the gold medal, after beginning their day at 9:30 a.m.
“They dropped down into the loser’s bracket and beat another team to play us again,” said Whitehouse. “It was a 12-hour day of playing pickleball. 48 teams; that’s a lot.”
What made the gold medal for Whitehouse and Spano even more challenging was they had not played together as a team in competition until Saturday. They played against one another in the U.S. Open in Naples in April, and afterwards, Whitehouse contacted Spano about partnering for the National Senior Games.
“If you stick with the game plan, you can play with anyone,” said Whitehouse. “We’re both highly ranked players and have both won at different tournaments. I knew we had a good chance at winning the gold medal.”
Always a sport where Florida excels, Rudy Vazmina, Joan Campbell and Martha Henderson won swimming gold medals on Sunday with Henderson setting an 80-84 age group record in the 400-yard IM. Vazmina won the 50-yard breaststroke gold and Campbell won the 85-89 age group 200-yard freestyle with a time of 4:36.90.
Henderson’s time of 11:35.44 in the 400-yard IM topped the previous record by over four minutes. She set the 80-84 Age Group Florida Senior Games record in the 400-yard IM last December with a time of 10:29.97.
Vazmina won the gold, in a field of 29 swimmers in the 65-69 age group, by touching the pad with a time of 34.83, just ahead of Lane Schuckers, of Georgia, with a time of 35.03.
“It’s a win,” said Vazmina, when asked about the slim margin of victory afterwards.
The 2019 National Senior Games continue through Monday, June 24, with 687 Florida athletes competing among the record-setting 13,817 athletes from around the U.S. in 20 sports in various venues in the Albuquerque area.