TRACK & FIELD: Local athletes shine at Masters World Championships
More than 8,000 athletes from 101 nations converged in Malaga, Spain in early September for two weeks of spirited competition at the 2018 World Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships.
Among the throngs of competitors was a contingent of 24 local athletes who made the trip. For them, it was an inspirational experience filled with culture, camaraderie and fierce competition.
“The original thinking for me was it was all about the track meet,” said Bob Thurman, a member of the local Sierra Gold track and field team who placed fifth in the men’s 60-64 long jump. “But, as I got there, it became more about the group and getting to know people on a completely different level. The track meet was still there and that was very important, but ultimately it came down to us being together.”
Being together was a continuous theme for the two dozen Sierra Gold athletes at the event. If they weren’t competing, they were rooting on their teammates and fellow countrymen.
“After my competition, all my family and my teammates and my coach were there. That was my highlight,” said Durelle Schimek, who took silver in the women’s 50-54 javelin competition. “It was incredible. It was so inspiring. That was my highlight: them being there and being able to share it with them.”
Schimek was just one of several local athletes who earned a medal at the World Championships. Distance running phenom Lynne Hurrell earned two medals, including gold as member of the women’s 80-84 4×400-meter relay team and a bronze in the 5,000 meter race.
“(Hurrell) constantly solidifies the fact that she is one of the best distance runners in the world,” Sierra Gold Coach Clyde Lehman said. “She’s a national cross country champion, a national outdoor champion in the 5K and then she goes on the biggest stage and gets a first, a third, a fourth and a fifth against the best athletes in the world.”
The always humble Hurrell said she’s just trying to live up to expectations.
“I just try the best I can,” she said. “I feel like if I don’t win, I’m letting everyone down.”
In addition to the glory she found on the track, Hurrell added she relished the opportunity to get to know her teammates better during the trip.
“When you run together, you talk to somebody for 10 minutes, but when you’re staying together you learn all about what they’re doing, what their hopes are, and you become better acquainted with the whole team,” she said.
Other Sierra Gold members who earned podium finishes at the World Championships include Abe Underwood with a silver in the men’s 80-84 steeplechase, and Makie Ohler with three bronze medals coming in the women’s 55-59 individual half marathon, team half marathon and team cross country race.
Narrowly missing the podium, but still earning top-five finishes were Drue Mathies and Gordon Keller in the men’s 70-74 team cross country race. Keller also earned fifth in the men’s 70-74 steeplechase.
“There’s a lot of runners in their 70s, but a lot fewer that want to jump,” said Keller of the steeplechase event, which he had very little experience competing in until recently. “It’s a challenge.”
Grabbing top-10 finishes were Richard Harrison with a sixth place finish in the men’s 45-49 shot put, and Patti Baker with an eighth place finish in the women’s 65-69 hammer throw.
Earning top-15 spots were Kathy Slouber in the women’s 65-69 shot put, discus, hammer throw and weight throw events, Bob King in the men’s 75-79 5K and 10K, Inka Mims in the women’s 55-59 10K and cross country race, and Mathies in the men’s 70-74 steeplechase.
Sierra Gold members Dan King (21st in men’s 55-59 10K) and Rene Sprattling (23rd in javelin, 26th in discus, 27th hammer throw in women’s 65-69 division) also put forth strong efforts in their respective events at the meet.
“I’m really proud of each and every one of these folks,” Lehman said. “They won seven medals total, add that to the seven they got in France (at last year’s world championships), and that’s 14 medals on the biggest stage possible. They performed so well, so competitively, and they are so supportive of each other.”
In addition to the competition, the team embraced the Malaga experience, delving into the cuisine and culture around them.
“The place we stayed at, the Villa, there was a fella named Francisco and one night he prepared paella and sangria and then afterwards he sang opera to us from the steps of the patio,” Mathies said. “It was just magical.”
The World Championships was the culmination of what has been an incredible year for the Sierra Gold team. They can add their seven World Championship medals to other accolades such as being the Pacific Association Masters Track and Field Team Champions, the Pacific Association Grand Prix Team Champions, and their second place finish as a team at the Outdoor Masters National Championships.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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