August 03, 2022 3 min read 3 Comments
Richard Watson. Look at the green grass of the infield and the blue track. He's learned every inch of it in 39 years of the Pentathlon.
By Ray Glier
Lexington, Ky.___Richard Watson, 69, labored as he ran around the track in the 1500 meter run as part of the Pentathlon here Thursday. It was a slow, valiant slog because of various sore body parts, the wear and tear of age, and legs that have all but quit on him, at least when it comes to running. Watson has competed in the Pentathlon in 39 consecutive USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships and even though it is harder to compete he is not going to surrender the streak easily.
“I haven't been able to run very well the last 15 years, but I've become more of a thrower since then,” Watson said. “So I might be a better hammer thrower, but much worse in the Pentathlon.”
He was seventh among the eight competitors in the Men’s 60-69 age group here this week. He won the Men’s Pentathlon way back in 1983, his first year competing, and it launched this legendary streak, which may never be broken.
He said he “feels like crap, but that’s ok”. His left knee aches. His groin feels ready to pull and there is "general fatigue". Then he holds up a hand and says, “I’m not complaining.”
That's right. You need some guts to do this event when you are less than your best.
Watson sits down and packs his bag, but I don't think it was for the last time. He leaves you with the idea he is going to go for No. 40 in 2023.
“I didn't think about the streak way back in the beginning, of course,” said Watson, who is from Yuma, Az. “But right now it's kind of taken on a life of its own and I don't want the streak to stop. I keep doing it even though I'm not in shape to contend for medals.”
We should cheer on Watson, even if he has to crawl around the track. Some people who are older quit too easily when the body starts to fail. You've seen it. I've seen it. As the slogan at the University of Arizona says, "Bear Down."
Tim Jenkins is back on the track and he made it into Saturday’s men’s 70-74 national 100 meter final.
It has been quite a ride for Jenkins, once a crack cocaine addict and overpowered by life. He slept in the rat-infested alleys of Chicago and Louisville, but now he has his health back, mostly, and is competing in the USATF Masters Outdoors. That's something.
As always, he credits his faith in God, never himself, for getting traction late in life.
It will be a tough chore to medal in the 100 Saturday. The sprints are the most competitive part of these Masters meets and Jenkins had the sixth best time in the prelims on Friday. He ran a 14.97 to advance. Michael Kish is the overwhelming favorite after his 12.98 in the heats.
Update: Tim Jenkins finished fifth overall in the Men's 100 70-74 age group in 15:20 seconds. Kish won the race in 13.22.
I was struck by the competitiveness of Elmo Shropshire as the Men’s 85-89 400 meter race approached Friday. Elmo was a sure Gold medal winner, as long as Ino Cantu didn’t show up for the race. Cantu holds various American records and is a formidable runner in the over 80s group.
“I’m really hoping he’s here,” Elmo said. “It will make it so much more fun if I get to race him. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t race.”
Cantu, 88, did indeed race and Elmo still won the Gold. The Texan Cantu set a brisk pace and Elmo stayed right with him and then took control of the race in the last 200 meters.
The competitive gene never dies out in some people.
Somebody missed a chance to make some concession money at the track meet. There was a concession stand open for a few hours Thursday on Day 1 when crowds were light, but there was no water or snacks for sale on Friday, Day 2. USATF had water for athletes, but there was nothing for the public. The University of Kentucky apparently didn’t see the value in it.
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