HAMLET — Richmond County sent its discus throwers, bowlers and dancers off to the N.C. Senior Games with balloons and sheet cake Thursday afternoon.
Forty athletes from senior centers in Hamlet, Ellerbe and Rockingham will participate in the games in Raleigh next week, timing and finances allowing. Among them will be two women who competed at last year’s National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama: Ida Mae Malloy and Patricia Clemmons.
“(We’re) sending them off, wishing them luck,” said “Pete” Wheeler, coordinator of Richmond County’s Senior Games, which were held last spring.
Then she added soto voce: “It’s an excuse to eat.”
None of the athletes seemed to worry much about “breaking training” by nibbling popcorn, potato chips and the thickly frosted cake served up at the Hamlet Senior Center. Except for Clemmons, who maintains a quasi-vegan lifestyle: She avoids what she considers unhealthy.
The lifestyle must work. At nationals in the spring, Clemmons, 57, won bronze medals (third place) in the discus and long jump, fifth place in the 1,500-meter race/walk and sixth place in the 5k run/walk.
She plans to pour it on at the state games, too, participating in 10 track events while eschewing lunch. There are just so many events she wants to compete in.
“I got active in 2012, after I retired,” she said. “I had more time.”
In 2013, she began her participation in the Senior Games. She has gone to the biennial nationals once and to the state games, three previous times.
Malloy, 69, also attended nationals and will participate in the state games this month. She didn’t perform as well as Clemmons at nationals — she came in 11th in a field of 25 shotputters — but she looks forward to the games. (Although not as much as she looks forward to “aging up” into a new category next year, making her one of the youngest competitors in her class.)
“Last year, I didn’t practice (and) I got first” in the state, she said, chuckling. She has no predictions for how she’ll fare this year, but it doesn’t matter all that much because “to me, it’s fun. You meet people from all over the world.”
To which Clemmons added, wryly: “I’ve met some people I want to beat the next time.”
The state games comprise both the Senior Games and the Silver Arts competitions, which means Richmond County will send dancers alongside its athletes.
Ronald Adrianse has won nine gold, one silver and two bronze medals in the state Senior Games. He began more than a decade ago as a line dancer, alongside his wife. Now a widower of 85, this year he will compete in cornhole.
“I find the higher you throw (the beanbag), the better it flops” onto the cornhole board, he advised.
Mike Deese, 67, also will play tennis at the N.C. Senior Games, hoping to add to his five gold, four silver and four bronze medals.
“I just like to compete and stay young,” he said.
Qualifiers from 53 local Senior Games will compete at the state games. Every two years, the state finals winners qualify to represent North Carolina at the National Senior Games.
The games began in St. Louis, Missouri in 1987 and have grown to a 19-sport, biennial competition for men and women 50 and older — the largest multisport event in the world for seniors.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.