ROCKINGHAM — Old age has its drawbacks — to put it lightly — but they’re not enough to stop Richmond County’s seniors from getting in a few frames at Striker’s Bowling Center.
Tuesday was the bowling portion of the 2018 Senior Games, which brought out 30 competitors as old as 93 for friendly competition.
“Was there any doubt!” shouted Ray Collins, 72, when he and his bowling partner, Neil Haygood, 72, were awarded the gold medal. Collins and Haygood are old friends who have taken to bowling for the camaraderie offered by being with friends, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t come to win.
“When I step on the alley, I’m taking it seriously,” Haygood said.
The games, which have been held in Richmond County for 28 years, offer a wide range of competitive events for seniors, ranging from the more active sports such as tennis and swimming to board and card games. Several competitors have gone on to compete nationally as well.
Haygood said he enjoyed the games because they break up the routine, and he enjoyed them so much that he and his wife recently became ambassadors for the games.
“I’m going to keep (bowling) as long as I can,” he said. “When you get in your 70s, your mind says ‘Oh, yes’ but your body says, ‘Oh no.’”
Many of the players play in multiple leagues that meet weekly.
Ron Kanode, 76, said he had been bowling in leagues since the ‘70s but underperformed Tuesday afternoon, missing his average score.
The oldest competitor, 93-year-old Roy Duffy, won gold in his age group.
“It keeps them younger,” said co-coordinator for the games, Terry Mercer. Pete Wheeler, the other co-coordinator for the games, added that they were “good for their spirits.”
Mercer and Wheeler, who’ve been in their roles since 2009 and 2011, respectively, said this year was the first the games had breached the 200-participant mark in 28 years, with 207 this year. Last year, 197 registered to compete.
“We set a goal and we got it,” Wheeler said, adding that the games averaged 150 competitors but had been steadily on the rise.
Mercer’s father competed in the bowling event Tuesday, but she said his signature event was the dancing contest. Her kids grew up watching him compete in dancing contests, and he taught her how to dance so she could teach others once he was gone.
Wheeler said the games mad great efforts to accommodate seniors with disabilities, learning from experience from seniors with a wide range of ailments, including blindness, being wheelchair bound or having limited use of limbs after a stroke.
“Nobody has to (sit out) because we rework it so they can participate,” she said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]