April 16, 2022 4 min read
These are still the good old days for Flo Meiler. She is 87 years old and looks forward as much as she looks back.
The uncancellable Flo is getting ready with glee for the National Senior Games in May where she will pole vault….
…and throw the javelin and hammer, run the 50 meters and 100 meters, long jump…let me catch my breath…
….high jump, triple jump, and shot put.
“It’s all so much fun,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Many of the rest of us look forward to putting our feet up. Flo looks forward to getting her feet moving.
She has claimed 795 medals since she started participating in Masters track 31 years ago. Flo set 35 world records and 35 U.S. records along the way.
It’s already been a terrific 2022 for Meiler. She set a world record in the Pentathlon in the USA Masters Track & Field Nationals indoors in New York in March. She did the five events in 3½ hours and tallied 3,907 points, which bested the previous world record for 85-89 cohort by 90 points.
The 60-meter hurdles in New York was a new world mark 18.73 seconds. Flo was so dominant two women came up to her after the race and said, in a cringeworthy moment, “You sure made those two ladies look old.”
The rest of us can look old around Flo, too. There just doesn’t seem to be an expiration date with her. The end looked near in 2019 at the National Senior Games in Albuquerque when Flo had hamstring and quad injuries. Her leg was wrapped, but she still competed. She seems darn near unbreakable.
“I am surprising myself,” Meiler said. “I still can’t believe I’m doing the pole vault when I’ll be 88 in June.”
Many of us wouldn’t have the nerve to stick a pole in the ground and leave our feet and go five feet in the air. But Flo adores the pole vault and no one can tell her she should not be doing such a thing.
What’s the competition going to be like in Ft. Lauderdale?
She laughed. At the last event where there was a pole vault, she said, “I was the only crazy one” in her age group.
It’s fitting Flo has a streak of daring because her father was a bootlegger in upstate New York during Prohibition. Adrian ran the sauce between Montreal and the family’s dairy farm in Champlain in the middle of the night with his brother.
It was no myth, Flo says. Her father and uncle cruised along back roads with a sleigh and horses. The county, Clinton, was one of the rumrunning hubs in the U.S. during Prohibition in the 1920s.
It wasn’t as if Adrian was pure rough neck. He taught himself to play the violin and then taught his kids to dance a Canadian jig. The most important thing her dad and mom (Francoise) taught her was work ethic. Growing up on a dairy farm work ethic was as much a daily requirement as a glass of milk.
Flo’s father died in 1953 at 53, a month before her graduation from high school. He gave her spirit and he must have given her some good genes to go on this long in sports. Maybe, but the gene that matters most is her husband, Gene, a B-52 pilot turned financial analyst.
Asked where she gets her motivation for track & field, Meiler said it is not the medals, it’s Gene. She grew up speaking French at home and in school and her raison d’être is Gene.
“He’s so proud of me,” she said. “He is my motivation.”
Gene has put together 14 albums of the stories and pictures commemorating her athletic career. She is keeping him busy.
As if you and I need to feel any more inadequate around Flo, she trains six days a week for 90 minutes to two hours a day. It is not all event-specific work. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Flo works on the weight machines for 30 minutes and then plays tennis with her friends.
To get ready for the National Senior Games, Meiler will run a couple of 100 meter races one day, then go to the 50 meter run another day and then the 800 meters. She is trying to stay sharp with the pole vault, but her upper arms are sore this week.
“I never, ever take any medication, except this week I had to take Tylenol,” Flo said. She has spread some ointment on her arms, but mostly she watches over-working the same body parts. That’s a lesson. Do so many events you don’t wear out a muscle or tendon like a lot of sport-specific kids in today’s world.
You wonder how Flo manages to be so active and then she tells you more of her story. You find out what makes life so precious for her.
Years ago, she and Gene lost two premature babies just hours after they were born. They had another child, who died at 3½. They adopted a son. Five years ago he died of a burst aorta. Now do you see why she takes nothing for granted and maintains her health?
Raising a family was not all tragic, not at all. They adopted a 2½-year old boy from Canada and these days he helps them keep up their place in Vermont as they advance in age. Flo and Gene adopted a 5½-year old daughter from Korea and she lives near them in Burlington, Vermont. Flo has four granddaughters and two great grandsons.
So, you see, Flo has a big heart to go with big ambition on the track.
These are indeed still the good old days for the best senior athlete in the U.S., perhaps in the world. Go Flo Go. We will watch.
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