Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

Schoenewald returning to Senior Olympics


Mark Dykes

T.J. Schoenewald gets in some time on an elliptical. He's been training for this year's return to the State Senior Olympics.

Next week, T.J. Schoenewald will travel to Laramie to compete in the 2017 State Senior Olympics. It's far from a first-time experience for him, having competed in the games 11 years.

Schoenewald first heard about the event at a presentation for the Kiwanis given by Marion Bishop, who has also competed at the games in multiple years. Schoenewald, a Kiwanis member, decided he would give it a try when he hit 50 years old, the minimum age for competing. Prior to that, he had been participating in USA Swimming.

2004 marked Schoenewald's first year in the Senior Olympics, and he has always competed in swimming events. He noted one year he did shot put but added with a laugh, "it's best not to discuss that."

Last year, he did new events, the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley (IM), and brought home gold medals in the 400-meter IM, the 200-meter butterfly, the 100-meter butterfly, the 100-meter IM and the 100-meter freestyle. This year he plans to do the 100-meter IM, the 100-meter backstroke the 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter freestyle. Medleys include butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

Regarding training, Schoenewald said it's difficult here as there aren't many pools designed for competition. On the off-season, he does cardio, weights and stretching exercises. A couple weeks before the event, he'll start heading to the aquatic center in Worland as well.

Schoenewald started swimming in 1962 with the first team organized at the Casper YMCA. Back then, the governing body was the Amateur Athletic Union. He swam with them through high school and beyond, through 1974, before he left the sport until 1993 when he competed in the Cowboy State Games.

A friend suggested he get involved with USA Swimming, so he joined the Worland Water Jets and was with them for 17 years.

In addition to the swimming events, sports at the State Senior Olympics include cycling, tennis, pickleball, basketball, golf, billiards, horseshoes, a triathlon, track and field, a road race, archery, table tennis, bowling, weight lifting, trap and skeet shooting, softball, disc golf, canoeing, badminton and mountain biking.

Schoenewald said sometimes there is a torch-lighting ceremony, but there is always a parade of athletes. In addition to the sports, there are also networking events such as banquets and luncheons. He said the games are nice, because there is competition but not a lot of trying to psych out other people.

"It's just one big family," he said, with everyone cheering each other on no matter the sport.

This year's games are scheduled for Aug. 2-6, and Schoenewald will compete Aug. 4.

Schoenewald encourages anyone getting near age 50 to consider getting off the couch and getting into a sport or back into a sport to stay fit and have a lot of fun. "Senior Olympics is the place to do that," he said.

This year is a non-qualifying year for the National Senior Games, though Schoenewald plans to compete next year and hopefully qualify for the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M.


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