Many people have seen portions of the Olympics, but last week Perryville hosted its own version for the older generation.
The 19th Annual First State Community Bank Southeast Missouri Senior Games was held August 9-11 in various locations around Perryville. The games are used by many participants to stay in shape. At least that’s the thought for Barb Borger, who competed in as many as nine track events as well as others throughout the four days.
“I try to do as much as my body will allow,” Borger said.”It’s just something that I like to do. I was a sprinter in high school and this event allows me to stay on the track.”
Participants range from the low end of 50 years of age to this year, 90 plus. League and Fitness Coordinator Kaelin Casasola said they had a good turnout for this year’s event.
“We had right around 100 participants this year,” Casasola said. “I was a little worried that the numbers would be a little low, but we had a few last-minute sign-ups. It wasn’t too far off from our regular numbers, but it was an exciting four day event, and one of my favorites that we do each year.”
One of the big attractions was pickle ball, which was added to the games nearly five years ago, has Casasola said it had one of the biggest numbers of any event throughout the Senior Games, but there was a slight surprise as to the next high est attended event: table tennis.
“That makes sense because table tennis is right after pickleball and people just wanted to stay and participate,” Casasola said. “We had a lot of write-ins, which is great. We allow that because people might walk by an event and want to try it. We had quite a few that were actually pickleball players.”
Others like track and field and the swimming events saw an increase in participants including 86-year-old John Gahan of Perryville who ran several races including the 50 meter and 400-meter to name a few on Saturday.
“This is the first time I ran since last year this time,” Gahan said. “I don’t even practice really, but I’m one of the only people in my age group, so I’m almost guaranteed a medal.”
Others like Ron Jelinek, 87, have been competing in similar events for a long time. Jelinek has been competing since 1987, and he estimated that he has over 1,200 medals from various games.
“It’s something that gets me out of the house and gives me something to do,” Jelinek said.
Many bigger cities such as St. Louis host a bigger event that is sanctioned by the state of Missouri.
Perryville’s version is not a state sanctioned event, which means that the winning participants don’t move onto a regional or national event.
But that doesn’t stop people from coming or enjoying themselves.
“A lot of people will use this as a practice event before they move on to a sanctioned event,” Casasola said.
Some just like the environment, like Borger from Freeburg, Illinois.
“Everyone is so nice here,” Borger said. “I just like coming to Perryville and competing because I meet people that I don’t see too often and it’s just a great time.
Casasola thought the four day event was full of fun which makes it successful in the long run. But she may need a nap to recover from the strenuous event.
“It takes a lot of people to put on this event and you can really put in a lot of hours,” Cassasola said. “But it’s all worth it in the end.”