Ron Bannister of Thetis Island decided to enter the 55+ B.C. Games when he realized he would qualify – just barely – for this year’s event in Kelowna Sept. 10-13.
Unlike the rest of the events in the Games, in track you had to reach age 55 before the event. Bannister turned 55 just one day before the Games began so he entered the 400 metres and 800 metres in the 55-59 age category.
He came third in the 800m (2:59) for a bronze medal and 4th in the 400m (1:13), with personal best times in both events, despite a spectacular wipeout just before the finish line in the 400.
Bannister only started training with the Nanaimo Track & Field Club in the spring because he “thought it would be fun.” He used to run recreationally about 25 years ago, accompanying his wife Kelly, who ran on the UVic varsity team.
When his daughter Katia joined the Nanaimo track club a couple of years ago, Bannister found himself spending a lot of time at the track so he thought he might as well join in. “I figured I could do that,” he said. “And the Masters seemed like a pretty fun group.”
Bannister says training 2-3 days per week has been hard but the internal motivation clearly took hold. “I was starting from nothing in terms of cardiovascular fitness, but am enjoying the benefits of improved fitness and the social aspects of being with an active group.”
He noted benefits like feeling stronger and trimmer. “It’s nice to have something that’s my own and is also shared with our kids.”
When asked about the commitment, including the commute from Thetis Island, Bannister said, “Living on Thetis, you just figure it out, like combining practice with errands or grocery shopping. You need to be organized but it’s workable.”
When asked if he plans to keep running, he offered a simple “Yup.”
In terms of goals for the year ahead, Bannister says he’d like to add some other events, such as throwing. “I’ll keep training through the winter. It was encouraging to improve my time in the 400 and 800 with each race.
“It’s neat to see the older athletes train and compete, I’m the youngest member of the Masters group in the Nanaimo club. They are a pretty encouraging and inspiring group to be part of.”
Tim and Nola Hendrie also made their annual Games appearance in track events.
Tim competed in the pentathlon, 400m, 800m, shot, discus and high jump.
He got a bronze medal in the pentathlon and was pleased with his 1500m run and 200m which was his fastest in a few years. Tim attained a silver medal in high jump and was happy he was still able to jump. It’s a hard job to make sure his Parkinson’s medication is at its peak for all the events but he managed well.
Tim finished sixth in the 400 and shot put, seventh in the 800 and ninth in discus.
Nola captured gold in the weights pentathlon, silver in hammer, silver in discus (by two mm), silver in shot put, silver in triple jump, silver in pole vault and gold (or silver) in the women’s 4 x100m relay.
”At the meet, they awarded us a gold based on an age category but in the final results, they listed us as silver, and we did come in second,” explained Nola. “I was in a mixed relay as well with Vern and Karen (Shook of Chemainus) and we were 10th but it was fun.”
She said the weight pentathlon was not listed for her results. A fourth in long jump and sixth in the 100 completed her meet.
“I had some competition in pole vault this year and she won by 10 cm but I was very pleased with my pole vault result of 1.65m , the best in a few years,” Nola commented. “Everything was right and the wind was behind me. An old family friend formerly from Duncan came to watch so maybe that spurred me on to do my best.”
Nola had three general throwing goals in mind this year and met them all with a throw of 17.19m in hammer, 6.08m in shot and 16.21 in discus (during the pentathlon).
”I have really enjoyed the throws this year,” she noted.
The Hendries have been regulars in the 55+ Games for many years.
“We had an amazing time, and are always grateful that volunteers make it possible for us to have four days of fun in the sun competing with our friends and acquaintances throughout B.C.,” Nola enthused.
Next year, the World Masters Track and Field Championships are in Toronto during July and August and the Hendries hope to attend, not with any hope of getting medals, but just for the experience.
”We never do this for the medals, but for the enjoyment of training with our track mates in Nanaimo and also to keep us off the couch,” summed up Nola.
The Shooks made their presence felt in the Games again after a one-year absence. Karen won bronze medals in the 65-69-year-old weight throw, hammer throw and 100 metres. Vern claimed bronze in the 75-79 long jump.
In other events for Chemainus athletes, Barb Bradford won a gold medal in the women’s 3.5 singles in pickleball.
Golfers Geri Elchuk and Morris Jenson both claimed gold medals for low net, Elchuk in Div. A for women’s 70-74 and Jenson in Div. A for men’s 85+.
– with a file from Kelly Bannister