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2017 National Senior Games – Birmingham

What an adventure!

My Aunt and Uncle decided they would like to go with us to the Birmingham National Senior Games, so Rosaura and I headed to Cheney to pick up my Uncle Les and my Aunt Laura, and packed all four of us into our little Subaru Forester with a Thule car top carrier and headed out towards the east.  We decided to make a trip of it, so we stopped at the Oklahoma City bombing site on the way out (very moving!), and planned a variety of stops on the way back — more later.  My dad, Chuck, and my niece, Cicily, flew out and met us at the Best Western in Birmingham.

The games were at Samford University — a very nice facility.  The weather got hotter every day.  We took side trips to the statue of Vulcan and downtown to the civil rights museum and parks.  I hadn’t seen fireflies for many years and got some great sightings at the Vulcan Park.  The Civil Rights Museum and the park next door were very powerful and moving.  We ate at Green Acres, a small café near downtown, and had gizzards, fried green tomatoes, and pickled pigs feet.  Great food and brought back lots of memories of childhood.  A memorable moment was when I was waiting in line at the café and the move Madea Goes To Jail was playing on a TV.  Madea responded to an aggressive fellow prisoner in the way only Madea would, and the whole crowd was captivated by the scene.  We all smiled at each other and shared the comedic moment.

The games were great fun — we had our family rooting section — Rosaura (my wife), Laura, Les, Cicily, and whichever of Chuck and I were not participating at that moment.  The events were stretched over several days, Chuck high jumped on June 7th, Chuck pole vaulted on the 8th, I high jumped on the 8th, and I pole vaulted on the 9th.  Chuck had a 4×100 relay on Sunday, so we attended it before leaving for our sight seeing portion of the trip.

Chuck had a great high jump on Wednesday.  We had no expectation of him doing very well, but we didn’t know Chuck.  He kept just barely clearing heights, which is his practice in both the high jump and the pole vault.  He kept hanging around as people were dropping out of the competition.  I kept a running dialogue with my family about how Chuck was getting close to the podium, then he was guaranteed on the podium, then he was one up on misses with the remaining competitor and it seemed that the air just went out of the sails of the competitor when Chuck cleared the last height on the third attempt, which meant the other competitor would have to clear this height and still clear the next height up to beat Chuck and it was clear the spirit had gone out of the competitor.  Soooo, Chuck won gold in the high jump in the 85-89 age group at 3’5″!

My high jump was the next day.  Remember that I only started doing this to fill in the time while waiting for Chuck.  I was jumping pretty well, and my friend from the Northwest, Woodie, was very encouraging.  I came in fourth(!) at 4’8″, which is my personal best.  I felt pretty impressed with myself, against all these tall guys. 

Chuck’s pole vault was the next day.  He was the only competitor in his age group, so our biggest challenge was to keep him from entering at too high of a height.  He was vaulting in a younger age group than his, so he didn’t have to jump alone.  He cleared 3′ and so could relax with his gold medal and see what he could do.  He ended up jumping 5’9″.  I think he was upset that he started so low and thought he might have been able to go higher, but my advice was to make sure he cleared a height, particularly if he was vaulting solo.  As it was, he would have come in second in the next age group down.

My pole vault was the same day, in the afternoon.  There were a lot of people in my group (65-74) and the temperature got hotter and hotter as the day wore one.  I was having a real concern about getting worn out by the heat.  Dan Isett was there vaulting, and is one of my heros, so he and I talked about how to manage the heat, dehydration, and tiredness that resulted from waiting until my height came up.  Vaulters started at 4′ and I waited until 9′ to start vaulting.  By the time I came in there were only three other vaulters still in the competition.  There was a bit of pressure not to no-height, as you might understand.  I didn’t realize that one of the other vaulters still in was in the next age group up. I missed once at three meters, which added a bit of a scare, but by then there were only two of us and I was ahead on misses.  I made the next two heights, finished at 10’6″, and pretty much was wasted trying for the next height.  I can’t say I felt comfortable running down the runway, but I cleared the heights, so I must not have felt that bad.

I really had trouble taking it all in.  My dad and I had both won NSGA championships before and I had a vague dream that we could be a father-son combo.  To do it here at Birmingham in front of a larger than usual group of family was beyond my expectations.

Finally, after watching my dad and his friends once again win the 4×100 relay on Sunday, we were off on the vacation portion of the trip.  To put it briefly, we went to Selma and walked over the Pettus Bridge, then to the Kennedy Space Center, then Key West (yes!  all the way) and had key lime pie and conch fritters, then back to New Orleans and had beignets at the Café du Monde.  Back to the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, and finally back home. 

Father-Son!!! What a great feeling.  I wonder if any other Father-Son combos have ever won pole vault golds at the NSGA events.

As an addendum, we accomplished dual father-son golds in July at the Washington State Senior Games for Pole Vault AND High Jump.  The Northwest Masters championships was a little later.  I won the gold, but then severely pulled my hamstring on my last vault and couldn’t high jump.  Serves me right for weeding in the garden the day before — it always kills my hamstring.