The Southeast Missouri Senior Games are held in Perryville each August. The city’s Parks & Recreation department does an excellent job of organizing and managing the multi-sport event. I participated in the basketball skills and swim meet portions on Friday, August 10. Basketball skills included shooting free throws and around the world. About a dozen hoopsters competed for medals and bragging rights for making the most free throws. Around the world participants shot 3 baskets from each of 5 locations on the floor.
As with most senior events, age groups were gender-specific, 5-year increments, starting at 50 years of age. Free throw shooters were allowed 25 attempts each. After tallying the scores, the top 4 of all participants were invited to shoot again to determine an overall winner. Perennial sharpshooter, Duane Shaw was awarded the top spot for making all 25 free throws in the first round and then going 24 for 25 in the final round.
Around the world followed with people under 70 shooting from the 3-point arc; each corner, the top of the key and halfway in between. Contestants over 70 years were allowed a benefit of locations about 4 feet closer to the basket. There were several impressive around the world shooters but the accuracy was considerably less than the free throws.
The gym at the Perry Park Center was quickly converted to six pickleball courts as scores of seniors assembled to play the growing racquet sport. Cape Girardeau pickleballers showed up in force with over 20 participants in the doubles tournaments. Local sportscaster Todd Richards was impressive on the court, returning hot shots and finding the spots on the court his opponents couldn’t reach.
I left the pickleball action to prepare for the swim meet. Organizers allowed swimmers to participate in up to 10 of the meet’s 15 events. There were 25 meter, 50 meter and 100 meter races in the four traditional strokes, a 100 meter individual medley, plus 200 meter races in backstroke and freestyle. The 25 meter races were contested and medals awarded before moving on to the 50 meter races.
The races were friendly, yet competitive as many of the swimmers have participated annually. Congratulations and words of encouragement were freely shared between races. Swimmers were sent home with plenty of hardware as medals were awarded to the top three in every age group. A wide variety of ages were represented from 50-something Myrna Huskey and Paul Dragon to 90-something Thomas Maine. My age group was competitive with Mitch Wexler and John Lebsack setting the pace for many of the races.
One unique story from the event was Thomas Maine and his daughter both competing in the senior swim meet. Tom is a true inspiration to me and many others, and not just because of his longevity. At 93 years of age, he still swims all the strokes, all the distances and starts by diving from the blocks. His success transcends the local level as Thomas Maine is a World Masters Champion many times over, holding records in several events.
It was an honor to share the pool with a living legend. Like other participants I was grateful for the ability and opportunity to compete in the swim meet. Our commitment to swimming is part of our fight against illness, injury and age. The aquatics department of Perryville Parks and Recreation did a great job of timing the races and kept the meet moving along. Snacks were provided during the meet and more food was available in the community room after swimming was finished. Sharing stories over food and drink was an appropriate ending to an enjoyable day.