Masters athletes put on show at Woolsey Stadium

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:35am

SHORELINE — Some of the top athletes from across the United States and Canada put on quite a show at the 2006 USA National Masters Decathlon and Heptathlon championships at Woolsey Stadium.

World and American records were set and 14 individual champions, ranging in ages from 40 to 80, were crowned July 16 at Woolsey Stadium.

But the highlight for most of the athletes was just catching up with old friends and cheering each other on during the two-day competition.

King’s cross country coach Rod Wilcox, 40, had competed in about 12 decathlons and pentathlons prior to last weekend.

The Edmonds resident strained his hamstring during the long jump, the second event of the first day, but still managed to finish the competition. Wilcox took second place in the men’s 40 division.

Wilcox enjoys the social aspect of the meets and noted how supportive the athletes are toward each other.

As one of the younger participants, Wilcox realizes the importance of taking care of himself when he sees his older counterparts doing so well.

“It really reminds me that my health is my choice,” Wilcox said. “It’s not something I’m just given. So don’t take it for granted. You can always get in better shape.”

One of the men in the decathlon started competing when he was 50; he’s now 63 and still going strong.

“It’s never too late to get young,” Wilcox said. “We’re just happy that these guys are still alive and they’re still doing it. It’s really fun to see them again. We all meet up every year at these (competitions), have a big hug and go have some fun.”

Dennis Sullivan, 80, certainly is living proof that it’s never too late to get started. Sullivan, of Bend, Ore., started competing at track meets about 15 years ago just for the fun of it. This past year he decided to branch out and try the decathlon.

This was only the second time Sullivan, a hurdler and sprinter at the University of Oregon, has competed in the decathlon. His first decathlon was four weeks ago.

Sullivan finished first in the men’s 80 division and set a world record, scoring 7,357 points. Denver Smith, 80, of Louisville, Ohio, finished second with 7,067.

“We’re all really good friends,” Sullivan said. “The guy I competed against, Denver Smith, I admire him to no end. We help each other. It’s so much fun and it keeps us young.”

The first five events of the decathlon — 100, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 — are run the first day. The remaining five — 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500 — are completed on the second day.

For Sullivan, the most difficult event was the final one.

“The 1,500 is the worst event. That is the killer,” Sullivan said. “That’s the last event, so everybody is really tired.”

Also competing at the championships was a former Olympian, John Hawkins, who captured the men’s 55 division with a point total of 7,407. Hawkins, 57, was a high jumper for the Canadian Summer Olympics team in 1972. He also played basketball at the University of British Columbia.

Hawkins, of West Vancouver, B.C., competed in his first decathlon in 1998 but said that it took him a few years before he felt really confident in all of the events. Hawkins won the U.S. championship in 2004 and captured a world title in 2005 in the men’s 55 division.

“The nice thing about doing it now … is that I’m still getting better at things,” Hawkins said. “I’m still improving at the throws. I’m improving in the pole vault … it’s great and it really gives me a great focus for staying fit. I train four days a week for an hour and a half. It gives me goals. I’m goal-oriented. When I don’t have a goal, it’s easier to let it slide.”

Two women also set world records. Rita Hanscom, 52, of San Diego, Calif., won the women’s 50 decathlon with a point total of 7,213, while Nadine O’Connor, 64, of Del Mar, Calif. scored a victory in the women’s 60 division with a score of 8,149. O’Connor also established an American record in the long jump with a leap of 14 feet, 3 1/4 inches. This is the first year that the women’s decathlon has been staged.

“Everyone is a winner,” Wilcox said. “Anyone who competes walks away feeling good about themselves.”

The first-place finishers were: Julia Hawkins, girls 10-14 heptathlon (exhibition); Caren Ware, women’s 40 heptathlon; Ann Carter, women’s 60 heptathlon; Christel Donley, women’s 70 heptathlon; Rita Hanscom, women’s 50 decathlon; Nadine O’Connor, women’s 60 decathlon; Alex Fellows, boys 10-14 decathlon (exhibition); Dolf Berle, men’s 40 decathlon; Mark Murdock, men’s 45 decathlon; Bill Murray, men’s 50 decathlon; John Hawkins, men’s 55 decathlon; Warren Hamill, men’s 60 decathlon; Emil Pawlak, men’s 65 decathlon; James Leggitt, men’s 70 decathlon; Jerry Donley, men’s 75 decathlon; Dennis Sullivan, men’s 80 decathlon.

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