TALLAHASSEE – When the 2019 National Senior Games begins on Saturday, June 15, the State of Florida’s will be represented by 687 athletes, the fourth highest total of all 50 states. Florida regularly places in the top five of states competing no matter where the biennial National Senior Games are held.
The 687 athletes competing at the 2019 Games is the second highest total traveling to the national event, after 872 Florida athletes registered for the 2017 Games in Birmingham, Alabama. Since 2001, 5,406 Florida athletes have registered to compete in the National Senior Games.
Overall, 13,712 athletes from all 50 states will compete at the 2019 National Senior Games. This represents an all-time high participation in the 32-year history of The Games. The National Senior Games is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
The nearly 700 athletes will be competing in all 20 sports offered at the 10-day event, which concludes on June 24. Athletes qualified at the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, held in December 2018 in Clearwater/Pinellas County.
Watch Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year Shine at National Senior Games
Since 1993, over 50 Florida Senior Games athletes have earned the coveted Athlete of the Year Award and nine of those athletes will be competing in 2019 National Senior Games. All nine of the Athletes of the Year have previously competed at the National Senior Games with most having competed on multiple occasions.
Ethel Lehman, the 1997 Female Athlete of the Year, from Largo, will play for the 75+ Freedom Spirit of Florida Softball team. Lehman will celebrate her 90th birthday in November and will play shortstop in Albuquerque. Lehmann has been competing in the National Senior Games since 1991 and has not only played softball but has been a track and field athlete as well.
Madelaine “Tiny” Cazel, the 2003 Female Athlete of the Year, from The Villages, will play Softball with the 70+ and 75+ Golden Gals teams and compete in six track and field events in the 80-84 age group (50 meter and 100 meter dash, shot put, javelin, discus and long jump). Cazel has won National Senior Games medals since 2003 (19 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze) and has seven top 10 performances in the Javelin Throws dating back to 2003 and six top 10 performances in the Discus.
Harry Carothers, the 2004 Male Athlete of the Year, from Pinellas Park, will play with the Clearwater Aces 75+ Basketball Team. The Aces are regulars on the court since 2003 when they were in the 60-64 age group. The team won medals at the National Senior Games in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2017, with a silver coming in Birmingham in 2017. Carothers is also a multiple gold medal winning basketball shooter at the Florida Senior Games whose specialty is the three-point shot.
Patrice Hirr, the 2009 Female Athlete of the Year, from The Villages, will swim in six events in the 70-74 age group. She will be in the water for the 50- and 100-yard butterfly, 100- and 200-yard IM and 100 and 200-yard breast stroke. At the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston, Texas, Hirr won three gold and two silver medals in the 60-64 age group, with record-setting times in the 50- and 100-yard butterfly. While those records have since been broken, her times in those events are still among the top 10 all-time performances in those events.
Avis Vaught, the 2010 Female Athlete of the Year, from The Villages, will play Basketball, Softball, and is registered in five field events at the Track and Field competition. Vaught will take the court with the 65 Rockers Basketball team, the 70+ Golden Gals Softball team and throw the Javelin, Discus and Shot Put while flying through the thin Albuquerque air in the Long Jump and Triple Jump.
Danuta Kubelik, the 2014 Female Athlete of the Year, from Crystal River, will run in the 5K and 10K Road Races and the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meter runs in the Track and Field competition. At the 2018 Florida Senior Games, Kubelik ran and won gold medals in all six races of the Track and Field competition as well as the 5K Road Race. Her husband, George, will also be running in both Road Races in Albuquerque and in three track and field events.
Rudy Vazmina, the 2015 Male Athlete of the Year, from Sarasota, will swim in six events in the 65-69 age group (50, 100 and 200 yard Breast Stroke, 50 and 100 yard Butterfly and 100 yard IM). Since he began swimming in the National Senior Games in 2013, Vazmina has won 15 medals (8 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze). At the 2017 Games, in Birmingham, he won five gold medals and a silver.
Kathy Petrillo, the 2016 Female Athlete of the Year, from Jupiter, will ride in the 5K and 10K Time Trials and 20K and 40K Road Race Cycling events. Petrillo, who holds the Florida Senior Games 50-54 and 55-59 age group records in the 5K and 10K Time Trials, has won seven medals at the National Senior Games since 2013.
Mike Welter, the 2017 Male Athlete of the Year, from Cape Coral, will play mixed doubles Pickleball with his partner Nancy Robertson. Welter suffered a stroke which paralyzed his left side and affected his vision on September 30, 2018. He was urged by doctors to continue playing pickleball and qualified for the 2019 National Senior Games prior to the stroke. He was informed by Robertson he would be playing mixed doubles with her in Albuquerque.
Watch Florida’s 90+ Age Group Athletes Competing at the 2019 National Senior Games
From the swimming pool, to the track, to the pickleball, shuffleboard and tennis courts, 10 Florida Athletes, age 90 and over, will compete in the 2019 National Senior Games.
The oldest of the group of 10 is Shirley Chase, a swimmer from St. Augustine, who won medals in the 2011, 2015 and 2017 National Senior Games will swim in the four freestyle events ranging from the two laps of the 50-yard free to the 20 laps of the 500 yard free.
Mataya and Moorman also competed in the 90-94 age group at the 2017 National Senior Games with Mataya winning a Doubles Shuffleboard gold medal and Moorman winning bronze medals in the Shot Put event at the Track and Field competition.
Events of Florida’s 90+ athletes
Shirley, Chase, St. Augustine, Swimming – 50-, 100-, 200- and 500-yard Freestyle, 94
John Mataya, Ocala, Shuffleboard – Mens Singles, Open Doubles, 92
Rennie Ballagh, Punta Gorda, Cycling 5K and 10K Time Trials, 92
James Heaney, Fort Myers, Tennis – Mens Singles – 91
Clem Moorman, Punta Gorda, Track & Field – Discus, Javelin, Shot Put – 91
Suat Akgun, Pompano Beach, Tennis – Mens Singles; Track & Field – 50M, 100M and 200M Dash, Long Jump and Triple Jump, 91
James White, Naples, Pickleball – Men’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles, 90
William Mitchell, St. Augustine, Swimming – 50Y and 100Y Free, 100Y IM and 50Y Back, 90
Lonnie Hulsey, Port St. Lucie, Shuffleboard – Men’s Singles, Open Doubles, 90
Ethel Lehmann, Largo, Softball – Freedom Spirit of Florida, Games age 90, turns 90 in November.
Watch Floridians Work Behind the Scenes at the 2019 National Senior Games
Beside the athletes competing at the National Senior Games, the State of Florida will be represented by individuals working the administrative side. Since 1999, Florida Senior Games Archery Sport Director, Tim Austin, of Gainesville, has been the National Senior Games Archery Sport Director. Austin and Bob Jones were the Sunshine State Games Sport Directors last weekend at the Easton Newberry Archery Complex and Gator Bowmen in Alachua County and will oversee the Archery events in Albuquerque, along with Tallahassee’s Oliver Austin. Oliver, who is Tim’s son, will be competing in the Compound Fingers event in the 55-59 age group will also be assisting. Besides the Sunshine State Games, Florida Senior Games, National Senior Games and various other Florida Archery Association events, the 81-year old Austin annually directs the National Field Archery Association Tournament in Yankton, South Dakota.
South Florida Badminton expert, Dave Zarco, will make the trip to the 2019 National Senior Games to assist with the six days of competition at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Zarco, who is the Florida Senior Games and Sunshine State Games Badminton Sport Director, has been assisting with the National Games since 2011. Prior to working the administrative side, Zarco won medals at the 2003, 2005 and 2007 National Senior Games, teaming with Owen Howe, for men’s doubles medals in the 50-54 and 55-59 age groups.
Watch as the 2021 Games in South Florida Will Be Celebrated in New Mexico
Greater Fort Lauderdale was awarded the 2021 National Senior Games in March and the torch will be passed from Albuquerque to Fort Lauderdale at the Celebration of Athletes on Wednesday, June 19 at the Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit. Once the torch is passed, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Organizing Committee will extend its invitation to the assembled athletes at the Celebration with a band playing a four-song set of Jimmy Buffett tunes. Beach balls will be distributed and will bounce around between athletes on the arena floor and South Florida beach scenes will be shown on video screens.
Greater Fort Lauderdale will also host the 2019 and 2020 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, with the 2020 Games being a qualifier for the 2021 National Senior Games.
Florida Sports Foundation representation at 2019 National Senior Games
Florida Sports Foundation’s Nick Gandy will be in Albuquerque following Florida’s Senior Athletes, between Saturday, June 15 through Wednesday, June 19, and will be reporting on athlete accomplishments. For information on specific athletes or photos, please contact Gandy at (850) 322-3404 or firstname.lastname@example.org. FSF Vice President of Amateur Sports and Events, Marvin E. Green, Jr., will be in Albuquerque from Wednesday, June 19 through Saturday, June 23.