USATF Masters Track and Field Championships Media Coverage

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USATF Masters Track and Field Championships Media Coverage

    USATF Masters Track and Field Championships Media Coverage

    July 9-12, 2009

July 9, 2009

     Nadine O'Connor, 67,

    shows off the pole- vaulting pit at her and

    Bud Held's San Diego-

    area property, which

     includes a 100-foot


    By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY

    Couple Show Age is No Barrier in Track and Field By Billy Witz, Special for USA TODAY

    CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. When Nadine O'Connor and Bud

    Held went looking for property to buy, they laid out three conditions

    with real estate agents. It had to be within a 10-minute drive of their

    house, large enough to accommodate a 100-foot runway and, when

    they stood at the foot of that path, the breezes that blow off the Pacific

    Ocean had to be directly at their back.

    "I'm sure they thought we were crazy," O'Connor said.

    O'Connor, 67, and her partner, Held, 81, were looking for property two

    years ago that would allow them to build a pole-vaulting pit near their

    home in Del Mar not for their grandchildren, not for their children,

    but for themselves.

    At an age when most people are content to be spectators, O'Connor is

    striving to run faster, throw farther and jump higher. She is entered in

    seven events this week at the USA Masters Outdoor Track and Field By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY Championships, which begin today in Oshkosh, Wis. In most of them,

    she holds the American or world record for women 65 and older. Nadine O'Connor, practicing at her

    home near San Diego, holds the 55-She holds the world record in the pole vault (10 feet, 4? inches) for 55 and-over pole vault world record. and older but is not competing in the event because of the difficulty of "Almost every event she takes up, she transporting her poles to Wisconsin. sets some type of record," says her

    son Brian.

    O'Connor said the fields she competes against include 10 to 20

    athletes at most, and they don't all come to the same meets. There are very few competitors in her age group.

    In the pole vault, all athletes compete together regardless of age.

    Held, an Olympian in the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, where MASTERS MEET he finished ninth in the javelin, is not sure if he can still compete because of recent rotator cuff surgery and five knee operations About 970 athletes are scheduled to resulting from his days as a world recordholder. His last compete at the annual USA Masters competition was in October in Santa Barbara, where he pole Outdoor Track and Field vaulted 9 feet, improving his 80-and-over record. Championships today through

    Sunday. The meet will be broken into But he is content to coach O'Connor, whom he met nearly 20 age groups ranging from 30 to 95. years ago.

    The oldest competitors are 95-year-

    The question she gets most often is a philosophical one: Why? old men. Max Springer of Knoxville,

    Her answer is visceral: It's fun. Tenn., and Frank Levine of

    Norristown, Pa., will face off in the

    She sees younger athletes compete at meets, and if they lose, 400 and 800 meters. Leland McPhie

    they often head home. Older athletes stick around to watch other of San Diego will take on Springer in

    competitors and share laughs over dinner and drinks. the long jump and triple jump.

USA Track & Field has more than "With older athletes, I think they appreciate being able to be out

    24,000 registered as Masters there," said O'Connor, among the 526 women registered as 65-

    members, from ages 30 to over 100. and-older Masters athletes with U.S. Track and Field. (There are

    More than 70% are men. about five times as many men registered in the same category.)

     "And I'll get in trouble for saying this, but women don't take

    By Roxanna Scott themselves as seriously as men."

    Nevertheless, her marks are serious. This year she has run 14.35 seconds in the 100 meters and 29.91 in the 200. Her pole vault height (10-4?) would have placed her among the top 16 in the intermediate division (ages 15-16) of the U.S. Junior Olympic Championships last year.

    She has no major injuries but backs off training if she has nagging issues and said next year she'll probably concentrate on the pole vault. O'Connor works out almost daily, for about two to three hours. That type of commitment is what drove O'Connor and Held to purchase a second home. They had practiced for years at the University of California-San Diego in nearby La Jolla. The school closed the pit to the public, and high schools would not allow them to use their facilities for the same reason liability.

    For many, the vision of a grandma barreling down the runway ends not with her landing in the foam cushioned pit but in the emergency room. It's a thought with which O'Connor's three children, now in their late 30s, have had to come to terms.

    "It still makes me a little nervous, but they know what they're doing and she's happy," said her son Brian, who played soccer at the University of California and coaches the sport in high school. (Her other children, daughter Heather and son Jim, also live in the Bay Area.)

    "I mention it to friends, and they can't believe it. It's kind of funny because, almost every event, she sets some type of record. It's pretty cool that I can say my mom's a pole vaulter."

    It isn't just her family that appreciates what O'Connor is doing. Some of her peers suggest that inspiration doesn't quite cover it.

    "Nadine shows women what's possible," said Rita Hanscom, 55, who is a workout partner of O'Connor's and competes in many of the same events. "A lot of us are willing to accept limitations because of our age or strength. She's writing a whole new chapter."

Really late bloomer

    Though O'Connor, with a thin but wiry build, carries herself with the grace of a natural athlete, she came to competitive sports late in life.

    O'Connor grew up in Idaho at a time when opportunities for girls and women to participate in sports were rare. In her 30s, married and raising three children, she took up running and completed marathons. When she was in her mid-40s, a friend told her she moved like a horse running for water and encouraged her to enter a Masters meet. She became hooked as much on the camaraderie as the competition.

    O'Connor spoke recently sitting at a picnic table underneath a sprawling sapote tree on the 1-acre property she and Held purchased. The house, which they've fixed up, occupies about one-third of the lot and is rented out. Held, using land-moving equipment, leveled off slope along the lot's back edge and laid down a runway, with every 10 feet marked with golf balls. At the end sits a pit, which they purchased used from a high school near Los Angeles.

    Downhill on the property, among a grove of freshly planted citrus trees, is a high jump pit with a curved synthetic lane leading to the bar.

    Engineer and entrepreneur

    Held has carved his own path for much of his life. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering at Stanford and California, respectively. He entered a seminary and served as a minister at a Presbyterian church in nearby Point Loma before becoming disillusioned.

    "I was a little too agnostic," said Held, who has two sons, David and John, from a previous marriage. Putting his engineering degrees to use, Held created a lightweight racquetball racquet. The company he formed, Ektelon, became an industry leader.

    In the mid-1990s, O'Connor joined him at a mine in Colorado, where Held was prospecting for gold. For a year they lived in a small shack, using a gym in town to shower.

    The investment proved fruitless for gold, but they say the adventure was priceless.

    "I kind of feel like people should enjoy their lives," Held said. "I've always enjoyed trying to do something different. Making money has never been a major motivation."

    Held's analytical mind has kept him drawn to track and field. His days studying engineering have been useful in understanding how the body works in field events, how it can best be positioned to unleash maximum energy such as last year, when he propelled a discus 120 feet. It was his first time competing in the event, and he recorded the third-best throw ever for his age group.

    O'Connor has been drawn to field events for the same reason. It allows her to exercise her mind as well as her body.

    "It makes it more fun, more interesting," said O'Connor, a retired math teacher. "You're not just putting one foot in front of the other. There's the mental part. It keeps your interest. … I hope it's engaging some brain cells when I do this."

    An idea that doesn't seem so crazy after all.

    Link to original story:

    Link to YouTube video of Nadine:

    Masterful athletes in Oshkosh

    Updated: Thursday, 09 Jul 2009, 8:02 PM CDT

    Published : Thursday, 09 Jul 2009, 7:52 PM CDT

By Tom Ristow

    OSHKOSH - Masters track and field athletes have

    congregated in Oshkosh from locations far and wide.

    Competitors ages 30 to 95 are running, jumping and

    throwing in the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor

    Championships at the Oshkosh Sports Complex.

    The athletes have a variety of resumes.

    At age 50, Steve Gallegos of Golden, Colo set the world

    record in the 800-meter run for his age group with a time of

    1:59.9. Caryl Senn-Griffiths of Long Island, N.Y. holds

    American records in the women's pentathlon and

    heptathlon in the 40-44 year-old age group.

    This event was originally slated to be held in Florida.

    Thanks in part to a six-year, $10 million update to the Oshkosh Sports Complex and the hospitality of the Oshkosh community, this event is here.

    "It's not a question of having big restaurants and things like that," Stephen Coen of the USATF Masters Executive Committee said. "It's how you're treated , when you go into a community, if it's friendly and whether it's athlete-friendly."

    UW-Oshkosh men's track and field coach John Zupanc is hoping the school and the city can host more events like this.

    "We built this facility with this in mind," Zupanc said. "These types of events like this we have going on this weekend is what we'd like to continue to do in the future."

    YouTube video link:

    Link to story and video:

    Defying Time

    Updated: Sunday, 12 Jul 2009, 10:36 PM CDT

    Published : Sunday, 12 Jul 2009, 10:36 PM CDT

By Paige Pearson

    Oshkosh - Like boys gathering after the dinner bell, they huddle up to make the trek toward the track. Two are a bit more senior, but just as competitive.

    "When I'm running the only thing to do is to win," says 95-year-old runner Frank Levine. "It's a challenge. Running is a personal challenge."

    Pennsylvania's Frank Levine has been competing against Tennessee's Max Springer for about five years.

    "You get to know these older birds because they come

    back regularly," says Springer, also 95.

    On this particular day, Springer has the upper hand. In

    doing so, Springer set an American record in the 400

    meters for the 95 and up division.

    "I'm surprised. That's really a little faster than I can run it,"

    says Springer.

    Ever the gentleman, Levine is gracious in defeat.

    "I have to bow to the better man. He's six months older than

    I, so he deserves a lot of credit," says Levine.

    So how long will these two so-called old birds keep


    "I don't know," says Levine. "You compete as long as you feel well enough, but I would say 100." "Until I get too tired and you see that won't be long," says Springer.

    Until then, the two will enjoy their friendly competition and the health aspects running provides. "You run and then you feel better and then you're proud of yourself for staying fit," says Springer. "There's no trouble to continue, but there is trouble to get up off the couch."

    Sitting on the sideline isn't for this pair.

    YouTube video link:

    Link to story and video:

Track & Field Contest Includes 95-year-old Competitors

    July 11, 2009

    By Michelle Tuckner

    The USA Track and Field National Masters championships continued Friday at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh. Some true masters were on display. For the first time that organizers can remember, three 95-year-olds are competing in the event, including racing in the 400- and 800-meter runs. The drive at 95 is the same as it is for any competitor. "I don't think anyone would do sports if they didn't think they were any good compared to the people they go against. So it is the competition, that is why we do it," said Frank Levine from Pennsylvania, adding, "Stupid, but that is why we keep doing it."

    The Masters is open to age groups from 30 to 95, and age truly is no obstacle. At an age when most people would be happy just watching from the stands, these athletes are striving to jump higher and run faster. "A mile a day is what I do," Max Springer from Tennessee said. "It's better than sitting on the couch getting fat. And of course, I'll never get fat."

    Springer and Levine are still running strong. They faced off in the 400-meter dash on Friday. "We take pride, especially when we win," Levine said. "When we lose, we're depressed a little bit."

    These two met on the race track and have squared off over the

    years. Levine holds the U.S. record in the 400, but Springer

    sprinted to the finish line in 2 minutes, 45 seconds, breaking the

    record by 34 seconds.

    "I have to bow to a better man," Levine conceded. "He's six

    months older than I am, so he deserves a lot of credit"

    Levine only began long-distance running at the age of 65. He

    didn't start off easy -- that first race was a full marathon.

    "That's the only race there is. When you run a marathon,

    everything is just competing. That's how I saw it."

    Levine and Springer will meet again on the track Saturday for

    the 800-meter. Neither plans on slowing down.

    "You're grateful for the years past and feel fortunate to be able to compete," Springer said. "At least for the next 20 years," Levine said. "And after that, I'll look for you." Link to story:

    Link to YouTube video:

Stories also ran on:

Ran a story about 95 year-old competitor Frank Levine.


JULY 9, 2009

UWO hosts track and field event

    Former Olympians, local talent all taking part


    The city of Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the Oshkosh Sports Complex will have a chance to show off a little this weekend with more than 1,000 competitors competing in the 2009 USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.

    The meet begins today and runs through Sunday with athletes from 30 years old to 95 years young ranking themselves against others of the same vintage.

    "The message of the meet is lifetime fitness and health," USATF masters media chair Bob Weiner said. "It not only keeps you going, it gives you mental sharpness, you can gain (an extra) 10 years through a personal fitness program."

    Among the competitors: Ed Burke, a three-time Olympian and United States flag bearer at the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles. Also competing is Richard Cochran, a bronze medalist in the 1960 summer Olympics held in Rome.

    Locally, UW-Oshkosh men’s track and field coach and men's cross-country coach John Zupanc will lace up his running shoes and take to the track in steeplechase and the 10,000-meter run. Zupanc, a lifelong runner and veteran of the Boston Marathon, is excited to get back to competing on the track. "I think it will be good competition wise," Zupanc said. "You compete against your own age group. Most of the races I do now are road races. I'm not fast enough to race against those college kids, it's a good opportunity to race again on a track."

    Zupanc will be joined by more than 100 fellow Wisconsinites at the meet, making up the second biggest representation by state at the meet.

    Steve Cohen, a local attorney and board member of USATF, originally suggested the Oshkosh Sports Complex as a venue to USA Track and Field for an event down the road. This year's meet was originally supposed to be held in Orlando, Fla. but the venue could not support the needs of USATF. "A bid has to be made and accepted," Weiner said. "There is a rigorous process that USA Track and Field goes through. They make sure the (facility) is capable of running the meet from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. And, let me tell you, Master's track people are sticklers for getting things right." Weiner added that the vetting process for a venue normally takes two years, but because of the Orlando facilities' inability to host UW-Oshkosh was cleared in a mere six months thanks in large part to the national experience the university already has. UWO hosted the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships in 2007, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference meet this past spring, prep regional and sectional meets and the Badger State Games, giving Titan Stadium impressive credentials to host a national event. Additionally, the actual track surface is the same surface used at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

    In the end the USATF board takes a vote and the Oshkosh Sports Complex was approved unanimously, according to Weiner.

    "It's a spectacular facility there are nine lanes," Weiner said. "No one gets nine lanes, there was a

    flurry of athletes scoping out the facility (Thursday)."

    Link to original article:

JULY 10, 2009

Record-setting day

    One national, eight U.S. records fall at masters meet BY ANDREW MUNGER • OF THE NORTHWESTERN •

    If one was anywhere near J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium on

    Thursday it can be assured they heard all the smashing noises.

    All the noise came from the plethora of records that came crashing

    down at the 37th annual USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor

    Championships held in Oshkosh.

    The event began with a bang as 95-year-old Frank Levine of

    Pennsylvania broke the world record time for the 95-99 age group in

    the 5,000-meter run by nearly 15 seconds, finishing the race in 50

    minutes 10.56 seconds.

    Levine said he wanted to break the record for his age group and said

    near the end of the race he knew he was close.

    "I thought if I pushed extra-hard then maybe I'd get it," Levine said.

    And push he did, sprinting the last 100 meters to ensure he would

    claim possession of the record. Lillian Snaden, 80, throws a

    distance of 6.92 meters to set

    the new U.S. 80-84 age group Levine said there was only one reason he wanted to break the record. record in the weight throw

    Thursday at the Oshkosh "It's an ego thing," Levine said.

    Sports Complex.

    (Shu-Ling Zhou of The It wasn't the first world record Levine has toppled, as he also holds the Northwestern) record for the 90-94 age group in the indoor 3,000-meter run with a

    time of 20.04 minutes.

    Although Levine has two world records in distance running, he didn't start running long distances competitively until he was 65 years old when he entered a marathon. Levine said he ran his first marathon because he wanted to try a new sport after winning the novice 112-pound Golden Gloves boxing title in 1935 and a boxing title in the Navy.

    "When people run a marathon, nothing else matters to them," Levine said. "Marathons are a man's and ladies event, you have to run 26 miles."

    Levine was the only competitor to break a world record on day one, but there were eight other American records that fell at Titan Stadium on Thursday.

    Fellow 95-year-old Leland McPhie lowered the U.S. record in the shot put with a hurl of 6.87 meters. Florence Meiler set two U.S. records for the 75-79 age group while competing in the pentathlon, one in the 80 meter short hurdles with a time of 18.63 seconds and overall in pentathlon with a score of 4783 points.

    The other five records broken on day one of competition all came in the women’s weight throw.

    Lillian Snaden threw a distance of 6.92 meters to earn the 80-84 age group record. Audrey Lary broke the 75-79 age group record with a hurl of 10.4 meters, while Myrle Mensey grabbed the 60-64 age group record with a toss of 15.73 meters.

    Cindy Latham and Jennifer Stephens both currently hold the record in the 35-39 age group, although with different distances, because Stephens' distance has yet to be verified. Stephens threw 10.49 meters, while Latham launched a toss of 8.71 meters.

    Carroll DeWeese, who is on the games committee for USA Masters Track and Field, said it's not uncommon to see many American records go down at the Masters Championships.

    "We get the best athletes," DeWeese said. "This is the top meet of the year and the conditions here are very good."

    However, DeWeese also said it was surprising to see as many records fall in the older age groups, attributing that to better overall health.

    "You've got more people living an active lifestyle and doing serious training, and finding out as an older person they can do more with their body and they're doing it," DeWeese said. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh graduate West Shaughnnesy won the 5,000-meter run in the 30-34 age group with a time of 16:02.79.

    Link to original article:

JULY 11, 2009

Hitting those high marks

    Competitors continue to tear through world records at event


    During the second day of the 2009 USA Track and Field Masters Championship held at J.J. Keller Field on Titan Stadium on Friday, American track records continued to fall like dominoes with 11 records broken, including four world records.

    In the 400-meter dash, two 95-year-olds, Max Springer and

    Frank Levine, went head-to-head with Springer coming out

    victorious with an American record in the men's 95-99 age group

    with a time of 2 minutes, 45.36 seconds.

    Springer said although he doesn't race against the competition,

    just himself, he wanted to beat Levine.

    "It means a lot (the record)," Springer said.

    Fellow 95-year-old Leland McPhie added to his American record

    set Thursday in the shot put by furthering his world record in the

    long jump with a leap of 1.93 meters.

    McPhie said the records are nice, but he enjoys the competition

    and friendships he makes at the track more.

    "I don't care what I do or not, I care about the company of the

    people around me," McPhie said.

    Ivan Ivanov, left, 39, leads the pack as Although McPhie doesn't covet the records he sets, some athletes, Jeffery Miller , 41, leaps to the water in like 45-year-old Karen Steen, not only treasure world records, the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the they set out to capture them. USA Track and Field Masters

    Championship Friday on J.J. Keller Steen said she had her eyes on the 2,000-meter steeplechase Field at Titan Stadium. since she posted a time of 7:25 last year, just 9 seconds off the (Shu-Ling Zhou of The Northwestern)

    world-record pace.

    She said wanted the record so bad, she wrote the splits for the second, third and fourth laps needed to obtain the record.

    "You can't just think it, you've got to ink it," Steen said.

    Steen didn't disappoint, setting Titan Stadium alive when the announcer said she was ahead of world-record time going into the final lap, finishing the race in 7:07.49 this time, 9 seconds faster than the

    previous record.

    Steen said while running that last lap, she realized she not only could break the record she would.

    "To have a world record is not something many people can say they have, so it's a good goal to go chase," Steen said.

    The two other world records broken on the second day of competition were in the men's 55-59 age group in the javelin throw by Michael Brown, who had a hurl of 64.05 meters, and Audrey Lary in the 400 dash with a time of 1:27.41 to set the record in the women's 75-79 division. Lary added to her American record in the weight throw she set Thursday and almost added another world record in the long jump, but her leap was ruled ineligible because of the wind. Had the wind been one-tenth meter-per-second slower, she would have captured two records on the second day of competition.

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