ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Florida’s senior athletes made themselves known at the 2019 National Senior Games, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 15-24, winning a total of 450 medals, the third highest total of all 50 U.S. states.
The distance between Florida and New Mexico did not deter Florida athletes, as 687 made the trip out west for competition in 20 sports.
Florida swimmers climbed onto the medal stand 90 times at the West Mesa Aquatic Center, winning 29 gold medals, 28 silver and 33 bronze.
A pair of former Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year combined for 11 medal winning performances. Patrice Hirr, the 2009 Female Athlete of the Year, from The Villages, won six gold medals in six events and Rudy Vazmina, the 2015 Male Athlete of the Year, from Sarasota, won five medals (4 gold, 1 silver).
Included among Hirr’s medal winning performances in the 70-74 age group was a National Senior Games record time in her age group in the 50 Yard Butterfly with a time of 37.60. Her time also established a new all-time best for the event in the 70-74 age group.
With Vazmina’s five medals, in the 65-69 age group, at the 2019 Games, he has now won a total of 20 National Senior Games medals (13 gold, four silver, three bronze), since 2013.
Another highlight of swimming competition saw two of Florida’s 90+ athletes in the water. Shirley Chase and William Mitchell, both of St. Augustine, combined to win seven medals with Chase winning a gold and three bronze and Mitchell won a gold and two bronze.
In winning her gold medal, Chase was the most experienced of all swimmers, at 94-years old, in the 500-Yard Freestyle, an event requiring swimmers to complete 20 laps in the 25-yard pool.
After shooting an 87 in the first of three rounds, William Jones, Jr., from the Villages, climbed up from fifth place to win the Golf gold medal in the 80-84 age group. Jones found himself seven strokes behind the leader after day one, but had the overall low score for the second and third days (78 and 81).
“It was just tough going there,” Jones said of playing at the Sandia Golf Course. “Those greens were like nothing we ever play here in Florida. They were super slick. The first day, I couldn’t get a handle on it. I couldn’t get my brain to hit the ball that easy and my putts would go past the hole. I had seven three-putts the first day and that’s unacceptable. Somehow, the second day I got it down to five and the third down to three, which, to me, is acceptable.”
His three-day total of 246, was one stroke ahead of the second-place finisher, Marvin Selby, of Michigan. Selby was the leader after day two, four strokes ahead of Jones, but shot an 86 on the final day to allow Jones to win the gold medal.
The East Coast Bouncers won the Women’s 75+ Age Group Basketball gold medal winning a total of 10 games in four days, with a center who fractured her wrist prior to the Games and coming out of the loser’s bracket to defeat their nemesis, the Michigan Spirits twice. Their last four games were played within a span of seven hours on Friday, June 21
Undefeated in four games of pool play to achieve the top seed of the eight team championship bracket, the Bouncers lost their second game of bracket play to the San Diego Sun, a team they beat in pool play by 18 points. The Bouncers won their next three elimination games, including a win over the San Diego Sun, by 23 points to set up the final with the Michigan Spirits.
“They have a really tall center, named ‘Big Edna,’ who scores every time she gets the ball,” said Bouncers team member Julie Bradley. “We got a tall player from one of the other teams from The Villages to simulate her in our practices.
“The strategy worked as the Bouncers defeated the Spirits by identical scores of 23-19 in the final two games of bracket play.
“We were behind in both games and came back to win,” Bradley said. “We double-teamed ‘Big Edna’ and that was the key. We kept her from getting the ball and from scoring. Needless to say, we were ecstatic.”
Florida Table Tennis players swept the top three medals in the Men’s Doubles 55-59 age group. Garth Jordan, of Tampa and Winston Dowridge, of Jacksonville won the gold medal while Ricardo Abril, of Orlando teamed with an out-of-state partner Dennis Lee, for the silver. Dwight Newton, of Melbourne, teamed with William Lee, from Orlando for the bronze medal.
Deb Harrison, of The Villages, won a silver medal in Table Tennis in the women’s singles 70-74 age group and won three Pickleball medals, a gold in women’s doubles with Ruth Weil, also from The Villages, and silver medals in women’s singles and mixed doubles in the 65-69 age group with The Villages’ James Hoggatt.
Of the 13,718 total athletes competing at the 2019 National Senior Games, 687 were from Florida. Since 2001, 5,406 Florida athletes have registered to compete in the National Senior Games.
The 2019 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, will be held, December 7-15, in Fort Lauderdale/Broward County. Florida Senior Games Local Series Qualifiers resume with the Pensacola Senior Games, beginning September 6. Through November, 10 Series Qualifiers at a variety of locations statewide, will give athletes age 50 and over a chance to qualify for the 2019 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana. For more information, please visit www.floridaseniorgames.com.
A listing of Florida medal winners follows. If any omissions are found, please send an email to Nick Gandy at email@example.com to be added to the list.