CHEYENNE – Some take it seriously, and some not so much. Some were athletes in their youth, while others never competed before – ever.
The Wyoming Senior Olympics attracts a wide range of athletes of varied abilities, but they all have one thing in common: everyone is at least 50 years old.
Competitors in the first two age groups, the 50 to 54 and 55 to 59 categories, are often referred to as “baby seniors” by the somewhat older participants. Possibly the hardest thing for those entering in the youngest ages is admitting they are old enough to qualify as a “senior” at all.
Cheyenne resident Bill Stone, president of the Wyoming Senior Olympics, strongly encourages anyone age 50 and older to give the Olympics a try, but he is especially interested in seeing the numbers of “baby seniors” increase. “Fifty and Fit for Life” is the new slogan to encourage younger competitors to get into the Senior Olympics.
“Not all competitors in the Senior Olympics have gray hair,” Stone said. “It’s great to have participants in their 80s, but we strongly encourage younger competitors, as well.”
The next two years are especially handy for Cheyenne residents, since they won’t have to travel far to compete. The Wyoming Senior Olympics will be held in Cheyenne both in 2019 and 2020. Traditionally, one community hosts the event for two consecutive years to accommodate the cycle with the National Senior Games, which are held every two years.
Each competitor in the national games must first qualify in a state games the year prior to the national event.
The National Senior Games was held this past June in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with all competitors qualifying in 2018. The next one won’t come around until 2021, when they move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; the next qualifying year is 2020.
This means the Wyoming Senior Olympics, held from Aug. 7-10 in Cheyenne, are during a non-qualifying year. It gives all the volunteers and race directors a chance to test the waters and figure out the best way to hold each event.
In the case of the competitors, it’s a chance to check out race courses and event venues. Consider it a test run, with events getting much more serious the following year. That also means participation is typically lower on the first year, with more racers coming from other states during the qualifying year.
There are plenty of events to choose from, with 24 sports offering competition. Some events, like the 25-yard freestyle swim and 50-meter dash, are short and quick. Others, such as the mile swim, triathlon or 40 km bicycle road race, take a good bit longer.
There also are team sports, such as softball and three-on-three basketball, as well as solo events from billiards to bowling, as well as trap shooting and disc golf. Some athletes specialize, focusing on just one sport, while others go for a scattershot mode and try out new sports and enter events they never tried before.
One new event this year is paddleboard. Stone said the City of Cheyenne provides the paddleboards, with the event held at Sloans Lake. Those taking up the challenge compete between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Aug. 10.
“It is a timed event,” Stone said. “It is not a big group start but, instead, each individual takes off solo. But they must compete during the listed time schedule.”
Medals are awarded in all events to the top three finishers in each age group. Age groups start at 50 to 54, and continue on up in five-year increments. As most veteran Senior Olympics participants know, it’s not unusual to earn a medal just for getting to both the start and finish lines when the number of age group participants is less than four.
There also are social gatherings, with the opening ceremonies, complete with the Parade of Athletes, from 5-9 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza downtown. Tentatively, the parade will leave from the newly refurbished state Capitol after kickoff comments from Gov. Mark Gordon. The event includes dinner, cash bar and live music. Those opting for dinner must register ahead of time, when registering for the Olympics.
A banquet with dinner and a cash bar will be at the Kiwanis Community House from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 9. Tickets are $25, and must be purchased during registration.
The registration deadline is fast approaching. All mail-in registrations must be postmarked by Friday, July 19,but online registration by the Friday deadline is strongly encouraged. To register online, visit www.wyseniorolympics.com and click on the registration link. Basic registration is $30 and includes entry into one event plus a T-shirt and athletic bag. Each additional event is $10.