Although they’ve seen more birthdays than many of the athletes who will compete in the London Olympics this year, the participants in the 2012 Scotland County Senior Games awards banquet took no less pride in their accomplishments.
Some 60 of Scotland County’s senior residents attended the banquet, held on Friday evening at Scotia Village. Between the Senior Games and Silver Arts contests, more than 80 people participated this year.
“This is my second year doing Senior Games and last year we had about the same participation on the athletic side, but this year we had more new participants,” said Senior Games organizer LaKisha Williams.
Senior Games events include water sports, bowling, bocce, basketball, and volleyball as well as games like billiards. A new event on this year’s games roster found favor with many participants.
“We had a new event, which was called cornhole,” Williams said. “North Carolina Senior Games had sanctioned that game, so that was a whole new event for us, and we had a huge turnout for that, so we’ll have to restrategize for next year to make it an even better experience for our participants.”
The games are open to individuals aged 55 and older, with age groups up to 85-89 that level the playing field.
“This is my first year,” said Jackie Haynes. “One nice part about it is that they have categories, for instance 80 to 84, and you play according to your stamina and your age. It helps more of us to participate. We had a good time and got to meet a lot of people that we’d never met before.”
Haynes, 82, took first prizes in her bocce and cornhole divisions, and also participated in volleyball. The top three placings in each age group in sanctioned events qualify for the North Carolina Senior Games.
Jerry Weinreis, like many participants, does not restrict himself to participating in only one event, trying his hand at bowling, bocce, shuffleboard, baseball, football, and basketball this year.
“We participate every year in Senior Games and we enjoy it very much,” Weinreis said. “It keeps you young, it keeps you going. My wife, she’s going on 85 and she does it every year and gets a lot of gold medals. So we really appreciate it — everything they had, we did.”
Even those with seemingly debilitating disabilities found a niche in the games this year, including 74-year-old Sylvia Baldwin, who managed to land a few scores in the cornhole competition despite her blindness.
“I’m a people person and I love to be around people,” said Baldwin. “I was very active when I could see, and I try to keep it up as much as I can for my own health. If you’re healthy, you’re happy.”
Baldwin started in Senior Games about eight years ago. Encouraged by friends, she branched out from race walking to long jump, softball throw, and shotput.
“Nan Johnson got me started in it and I didn’t think I could do it, but Alden would walk with me, and we just kept adding other things,” Baldwin said.
Senior Games gives the elderly a competitive outlet, putting a new spin on activities many of them enjoy on a regular basis.
“I enjoy everything about the games; they keep me young and motivate me a lot,” said Annie Smith, 70. “I usually bowl every Wednesday and I really do enjoy it. I’ll do it as long as I can.”
Winners received their medals during Friday’s banquet, which also included a piano performance by Donna Dickerson, a rendition of “What A Wonderful World” performed by Lester Williams, and an exhibition from Scotland Athletic Seniors, the games’ corps of cheerleaders.
“I participated in Senior Games two or three years ago, and it’s a lot of fun,” said John McGirt, 84. “Everybody ought to do it.”