Dick Voneugen wants a few more good, young men and women to join the team for the B.C. Senior Games.
The 81-year-old has organized the registration of the 55-plus athletes in Zone 9, from 70 Mile House to Mackenzie and including McBride to the east, for the 2013 games this week, Aug. 20-24, in Kamloops. More than 200 competitors from Zone 9 will take part in 25 sports, with 30 athletes competing in track and field events.
Voneugen said it's difficult to attract athletes in the 55-60 age category.
"I think some people have trouble admitting they qualify," he said.
The longtime member of the Prince George Roadrunners Club has taken part in all, but two or three, B.C. Senior Games in the 26-year history of the event. This year Voneugen will compete in the 2,000-metre power walk for athletes who have undergone hip or knee replacements. Voneugen had hip-replacement surgery in March, while an old hamstring injury he tore while skiing still impedes him, so his running days are behind him.
"It was just a matter of healing and carrying on," said Voneugen. "I'm developing some discomfort in [the hip] area, and a physiotherapist I saw last week discovered there is a small muscle group that's just being neglected and gave me some special exercises."
Getting started with a running program is simple.
"Everybody can do," said Voneugen. "You don't need much, a couple of shoes and you can go from you own house anytime, any day."
The B.C. Senior Games began in 1988 when Vernon hosted about 600 athletes. The event has grown each year, so when Burnaby hosted the 25th Senior Games in 2012 there were more than 3,500 participants.
Voneugen said it's a fun, friendly five days of competition, trying to cajole more new seniors to join up next year.
"It's basically participation and if you end up with a medal that's a bonus," he said. "It might make you work harder next year."
There will be at least one 55-year-old on the Zone 9 track team - middle-distance runner Brian Martison, who will compete in his first senior games.
Other track and field athletes include Tom Masich, 77, Tom Ukonmaanaho, 68, Ewing McLaren, 87, and Zena Lou Campbell, 79.
The 2013 edition of the B.C. Senior Games will mark the 10th one Masich has competed in, though due to illness he last took part in 2010. Masich said most of the 55-plus participants are wanting to stay fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"To make up for those long dog days of winter you get out here in the summer and practice and you go to the senior games," said Masich. "It's just nice to get together with people from your own era."
Masich will compete in the 75-79 category in the weight pentathlon, a group of five events - discus, shot put, javelin, hammer throw and weight throw. The competitions are all in one day with each competitor earning three chances in each discipline to meet the established distance. He'll also compete in the individual events for all five disciplines.
"I generally medal in discus and javelin and shot put and I hope I do that again this year," said Masich. "I'm adding the hammer, which is an additional burden you might say, and the weight throw. The weight throw is going to be tough because it's 16 pounds and I don't weigh much over that myself."
Campbell was 72 when she'd take her granddaughter to track and field practice, where Masich would needle her about signing up herself. At first Campbell refused, preferring to stick with softball, but eventually her inner voice pushed her to try out the track and field events.
"If I'd known this about track and field I would've been in it years and years ago," said Campbell. "It's wonderful to compete with other people, everybody's like one big family."
In addition to track and field, other events in the B.C. Senior Games are ice hockey, archery, road cycling, tennis, swimming, ice curling, floor curling, golf, slo-pitch, badminton, pickleball, soccer, whist, cribbage, darts, carpet bowling, five-pin bowling, lawn bowling, dragon boat racing, horseshoes, table tennis and equestrian.
For most seniors the B.C. Senior Games are a gathering of old friends, getting together and doing something they all love.
"Even if I don't get a medal I'll know I had a good time," said Masich.