January 06, 2024 4 min read 4 Comments
Fred Monesmith ranks No. 4 in the world in the decathlon (M75-79) because he is a stat stuffer, accumulating big points with jumps and throws. Here he is in the long jump, a skill he developed with coaching while in his 60s. Photo by Rob Jerome.
By Ray Glier
Fred Monesmith, 75, seemed to just crash into the athletics party later in life. He was not invited to sports by sheer skill, like so many kids. Fred was not a natural and he met resistance from himself and the adults who did not clamor for him to be on their team. He got a meager two hits in a Little League season when he was 11. Fred dropped out of all sports from 17 years old to 27.
But when Monesmith (MON-Ah-smith) got back to participating, and stuck with it, he found skills he didn't realize he had.
He wouldn’t be driven away from the games because he wasn’t any good. Fred joined a community softball team and fell down running to first base with his first hit. Monesmith was cut from a community softball team at 28.
He kept participating.
It’s been almost 50 years of growth and fun, and skill development. Fred fits in with athletes now, as if he has always been one of the cool kids.
“I realize that in a strange way, that I was perhaps fortunate that I was not an accomplished athlete at a younger age,” Fred said. “For me, I have zero memory about how good I used to be. Each year with proper coaching and training you can get better at various sports activities. Each year you can try new activities without remembering how good you used to be.”
That has changed in a big way. Fred has expectations now.
Of the 508 discus throwers ranked worldwide in his age class, Monesmith is 11th. He is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. with a best heave of 36.11 meters in 2023 (118.4 feet).
Fred finished 2023 No. 1 in the decathlon in the U.S. (M75-79) and fourth in the world, which includes 16 men around the globe seeking a ranking and thousands more who wish they were fit enough to seek a ranking. He trains hard in the jumps and throws and usually skips the 400 and 1500 so his points come from just eight events. Here is a link to his profile from www.mastersrankings.com.
In 2023, Monesmith ranked No. 1 in the world in Outdoor Pentathlon out of 17 participants. He will be a medal collector for the U.S. next summer in Sweden at the World Masters Athletics championships.
Track & Field is not even the most impressive thing Fred does.
What Fred does best…is just play.
Since he turned 75 on May 11, 2023, Monesmith has been in 11 track meets. He plays softball all year and once played in 130 games. Fred lives six months in Deerfield Beach, Fla., and this fall collected 52 hits in 59 at bats in a senior league.
Fred, who studied at Virginia Tech and is a retired chemical engineer, has played beach volleyball and was on a bowling league team. He lives the warmer six months in his hometown, Andover, N.J.
Here is what is interesting and fun about Monesmith. He relies on “cross-training” to stay injury free. This cross training is not a regimen of visits to the gym and lifting weights, or plyometrics. It’s softball. Fred will play in two leagues this January and running the outfield and running bases builds up his legs for track & field.
What Monesmith testifies to over and over is coaching. In his 60s, he started to bear down on his sports with coaches and learned better technique and improved. This year, Fred is still taking coaching. He plans to go from a standstill discus thrower with extreme torque to a three-spin thrower and contend for a gold medal in Sweden.
“Coaches have gotten me where I’m at,” Monesmith said.
You better believe there are also some genes involved. His father, Joe Monesmith, who made a living as a pipefitter, jumped into track & field at 85 years old in 2007. Joe and Fred had consecutive numbers (see photo below) at the 2011 WMA in Sacramento. Joe entered four events and grabbed a silver medal in the 12-pound weight throw. Fred, a relative novice in the decathlon, finished 13th among 26 entrants (M60-64).
Joe kept participating until he was 93. He died at 96 in 2019, 13 days after his wife of 76 years passed.
The dad passed on more than good genes to his son. He shared an irrevocable ideal with his son, which is to be amicable with fellow competitors.
“The camaraderie is a special gift at this stage of life,” Fred said. “Even if I am no longer able to compete at my current level, I hope that I can continue to participate and be with my sports friends.
“This mindset was learned from my father, who would laugh and have a wonderful time with his horseshoe friends. At track meets I would watch him talk, laugh, and hug his competitors, even those at international meets that did not speak the same language.”
If you see Fred at a track meet, or a softball game in 2024, be prepared for chill when he is not competing. He will tell you stories like the one about how his name is “Monesmith” instead of “Moneysmith.”
“My grandfather had to sell the ‘y’ during the depression,” Fred said.
You want Fred on your team now because he is really good at this sports thing, and has been good for decades, and also because he is the essence of a good teammate.
Fred and Joe Monesmith at the 2011 World Masters Athletics meet.
Fred Monesmith in the high jump. Even at 75, Fred can be coached into better technique. It translates into more height and points. Photo by Rob Jerome.
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