Several athletes hit the track fields and courts to prove their endurance and sporting skills during the inaugural Thoroughbred Senior Sports Classic.
Residents ages 50 and older competed in a variety of events including basketball, softball throw, pickleball, table tennis and several track and field events. The games were held all around the county at different recreation centers and other facilities starting in late September.
This is the first year the North Augusta Sports Commission, North Augusta Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services, City of Aiken and Aiken County parks, recreation and tourism departments have partnered together to offer this event sponsored by Daybreak Adult Care Services Inc.
John Felak, Classic committee chair and program coordinator for the City of North Augusta recreation department, participated in the games himself. Close to 70 people signed up, and Felak said the City was pleased by the turnout.
“Just because you're age 50 and up doesn't mean you can't be athletic, competitive and enjoy sports,” Felak said.
Ann Carter, 71, has competed and won medals in both state and national senior sport events. Carter started running as child, competing in her first race in Southampton, England, at the age of 8. She took a hiatus in competing but got back into it in her 40s. Her times were only five seconds slower than from when she was 18, so she kept on running.
Carter said with the rising obesity rates across the country, the emphasis on exercise is important. She added that events such as the Senior Sports Classic is a great way to get people moving, and nobody should be intimidated by a little competition.
“Just go out and try,” Carter said. “You may be very surprised at what you can do. There's nothing wrong with coming last in something as long as you give your best effort.”
Jack Sayers, 74, has also competed in both state and national competitions. He currently holds the state records for the high and triple jumps for ages between 65 and 70. Sayers said a positive attitude is key, which he witnessed on the field as participants were willing to try sports they had never attempted before and learned new skills.
Participant Sharon McCracken ran races, threw discus and did the long jump during the track and field events on Friday. She said it was a lot of fun and would encourage anyone who can to get involved.
“The key to enjoy your senior years is to just do things,” McCracken said. “It's foolish to just sit back and watch.”
City of Aiken Recreation Superintendent Kim Coleman, who's also a member of the Classic's committee, said she hopes the event grows in the coming years. She said everybody who did participate seemed to have a great time, and pickleball was a big hit. The three-on-three basketball tournament, another popular game, included seven teams and a few of them were from out of state, including North Carolina and Georgia.
The games wrap up on Thursday, and an awards banquet will be held that evening at 6 p.m. at the Aiken Municipal Building.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.