Vincent Walls placed 10th for his age category in the 1,500-meter run at the 2013 National Senior Games.
October 2013 Issue
Meet three Ohio athletes who excelled at the National Senior Games this summer.
Don’t believe the adage that age is just a number? Then it’s time you meet three of the 1,142 Ohioans who competed in the National Senior Games, which were held in Cleveland this summer.
Founded in St. Louis 28 years ago to promote healthy lifestyles through fitness, the biennial competition is the largest multisport contest in the world for athletes age 50 and over. In July, 10,885 competitors — ranging from a 50-year-old swimmer to a bowler who can still strike ’em down at 101 — congregated to prove their mettle.
“The games promote the idea of putting your personal best forward,” says National Senior Games Association CEO Marc Riker, “no matter where you are along life’s journey.”
Man on the Run
The need for speed has been a driving force in Vincent Walls’ life for almost 50 years. In fact, he’s spent 22 of them behind the wheel of a Cleveland Regional Transit Authority bus, whisking suburban commuters to and from their downtown offices during rush hour. But Walls also hits the road running after his work is finished. The South Euclid resident has competed in 14 marathons — including the renowned contest held annually in New York City — and 1,800 races. This summer, Walls placed 10th for his age category in the 1,500-meter run in the National Senior Games. His time: 5 minutes, 11 seconds.
“Not bad for a 54-year-old,” he says with a chuckle.
The athlete became interested in track and field competition back in the ’70s as a pupil at Rawlings Junior High School in Cleveland. He’d hoped to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a sprinter. “But,” Walls explains while recalling those days, “my coach said that while I was good, I didn’t have the explosive speed I needed to be a sprinter. He suggested I try distance running.”
Much to his surprise, the youth discovered he was a natural. He ran his first mile in 5 minutes, 35 seconds. Walls pared that time down to 4:27 while a student at East Tech High School and 4:19 as an undergrad at the University of Akron.
Although he admits there are some mornings he’d rather relax between bus-driving shifts, Walls refuses to slack off. He’s determined to remain at the top of his game.
“As you get older,” he explains, “you don’t need to run every day when you’re fine-tuning for an event. So, I run 20 to 30 miles a week, including an hour of speed running on Wednesdays.
“On the days I’m feeling lazy,” Walls adds, “I do a nice, easy 5-mile jog in
Euclid Creek Reservation. Even though I may not feel like doing it, in the end, I’m always glad I did.”
He is a firm believer in paying it forward. Walls helps students and colleagues achieve their fitness goals by serving as an assistant cross-country coach at Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School and designing individualized exercise routines for his co-workers.
“It’s a good feeling when I see the people who see me run get motivated enough to exercise and lead a healthy life,” he says. “To be fit is to be happy.”
Secret to successful aging:
“I try not to have a lot of drama in my life,” Walls says. “The stress of it can kill you.”
On Higher Ground
The crack sounded like thunder. And the diagnosis that followed was irrefutable: Robert Arledge’s rib was broken. And so was his dream of taking home the gold in this summer’s National Senior Games.
Yet the octogenarian remained determined to succeed in the pole vaulting competition he’d trained countless hours for: Arledge competed through the pain, and placed third in his age category.
“I fully expected to win the event, but I came down hard on that crossbar on my fourth vault,” he recalls wryly. “However, I’ll be ready to compete in my next meet, which takes place this fall in Kentucky.”
The 80-year-old scoffs at the notion that his recent mishap would be a stumbling block in continuing to pursue the sport that’s clearly more than mere hobby.
“There’s nothing like the endorphin high you feel when you can run and lift off the ground,” says Arledge, who currently can vault as high as 7 feet, 3 inches.
The Lancaster native’s passion for the event was sparked as a youngster, while watching teens compete at the local high school. Upon returning home, the youth asked his father to fashion a pole vault out of bamboo rods.
He soon became proficient: Arledge would go on to earn a letter in the sport at Lancaster High School, and became a 12-foot vaulter at Otterbein University, winning third- and fourth-place honors in Ohio Athletic Conference competitions. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology, he entered the Air Force. During a rewarding 30-year-career, thoughts of fly-aways and pull-turns were relegated to the back burner. But they resurfaced when Arledge retired in 1988.
“In the military, you’re required to maintain a certain level of fitness and adhere to a weight standard,” he explains. “In other words, we weren’t allowed to get heavy.” But it didn’t take long for an additional 25 pounds to creep onto Arledge’s 5-foot, 8-inch frame after he stopped working. When a friend suggested the retired Colonel train for the senior games, he decided to give it a shot. That was 11 years ago. Since then, in addition to the Cleveland contest, Arledge has competed in the National Senior Games in Louisville in 2007 and Houston in 2011, placing fourth and third, respectively.
His exercise regimen is one that would make many of us break into a sweat just thinking about: Five hours a week, Arledge engages in a weight-training routine that includes 15 reps of biceps curls using 35-pound weights; five reps of chin-ups with the goal of bringing his knees to his eyes; and a sequence of 10-12 reps of 30- to 50-yard sprints.
“It’s been an awesome experience getting to know Robert,” says 18-year-old pole vaulter Natalie Uy, who trains at Wright State University alongside Arledge. “His self-motivation is inspiring. He has a fire inside of him that never dies.”
Secret to successful aging:
“My friends 75 and up frequently ask me why I work so much at training ... and I use that question as a teaching moment,”Arledge explains. “I say, ‘If I could give you a free pill that would help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, increase your metabolism and improve your energy and your strength, would you take it? And of course, they say ‘yes.’ So, I reply, ‘Well, it’s your feet and your legs. You’ve got to start exercising.’ ”
Cupid aimed his bow and arrow at Linda Klosterman and shot with aplomb. So much so that it didn’t take long for the St. Mary’s native to be smitten by archery. The love affair began in 1981 when she was introduced to the man who would become her husband two years later. An avid archer, he taught her the intricacies of the sport, which include keeping a cool head before shooting.
“To be successful, you have to develop your ability to concentrate on the target,” Klosterman says. “You have to put everything else out of your mind — what’s happening at home, at work or anywhere else — during that eight or 10 seconds it takes to execute a shot from beginning to end.”
Clearly, she’s learned her lessons well. The 55 year old placed first in the Compound Release competition at the National Senior Games. (Compound release refers to the type of bow Klosterman used to rack up 1,445 points out of a possible 1,500). In fact, her accuracy was so spot-on that she not only chalked up more points than those accrued by the other women in her age range, but also outscored male adversaries.
“Men usually have a strength advantage over women,” Klosterman explains. “I knew I beat my female opponents when I finished. But when I turned in my scorecard, I knew by the looks on the judge’s faces that I had bested the men as well.”
Klosterman is no stranger to first place. Over the past three decades, she’s won 14 championships, including six tournaments presented by the National Field Archery Association and two hosted by the Professional Archers Association.
“Archery can be practiced year round,” she says. “But to me, there’s nothing like shooting outdoors. Hiking through the woods to set up your target is great exercise. And you don’t have to be terribly athletic to succeed.”
Secret to successful aging:
“Things are a little harder now than they were 25 years ago,” Klosterman says. “My eyesight is not as sharp, and I’m heavier than I used to be. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let it get me down.”