Three compete at National Senior Games
August 8, 2019
On June 14-25, T.J. and Lea Schoenewald, as well as Marion Bishop, headed to Albuquerque, N.M., to compete in the 2019 National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
T.J. and Bishop had previously qualified for the competition in 2018, though Lea noted she didn’t have to qualify to go because this was the first year they had a Power Walk event so it was “come one, come all.” Bishop added the national level also added Pickleball to its offerings.
This year marks the 16th competition for the national games, which occur every two years, and this year had the largest number of participants with 13,751. In addition to the United States, participants also come from other countries including Barbados, Bolivia, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Trinidad.
T.J. competed in swimming, in the Age 65-69 division. He said if he had hit his qualifying times he had last August he would’ve ended up 10th or 12th. Instead, he was able to lower all of his times and got sixth in the 100-yard backstroke, sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke and fifth in the 50-yard backstroke.
Bishop added, “That’s monumental, to get better than you were two years ago.”
Lea also lowered her time from where she was last summer by over a second. She noted Wyoming doesn’t have a Power Walk event at its state games, but does have a Road Race in which walkers and runners are “lumped together” and she did the 5K Power Walk.
She came away with a 50-minute time at the national games. She said, of the games, it was nice to be there with other like-minded senior citizens. National participants have to qualify at state games, but not necessarily their home states. Therefore, if Wyoming doesn’t have a Power Walk event, Lea can still qualify for the 2021 national games through a neighboring state.
Bishop has been to the national games 10 times — the first being in 1997 in Tucson —and has made it a personal goal to get to every nationals until she dies. This year she was in two divisions in the Race Walk, 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters, in the Age 75-79 division. Due to an injury to her shoulder, she was unable to compete in Swimming.
Her time in the 1,500 meters was 10:59, just three seconds behind first place. “I was just so close, but it was my personal best. That’s what’s most important.” She had another second place finish in the 5,000 meters with 40:39.
“I didn’t event start training for this until a month before, realizing I can move my arm without much pain,” Bishop said, “so I am very motivated to train.” She knows she can’t rest, as the oldest woman to do the 1,500 meter Race Walk was in the Age 90-95 division and finished eight seconds faster than Bishop.
T.J. said he and Lea work out through the year to keep in shape, and he allows at least two months of hard training. Bishop said training is important, and it’s good to have a lifestyle that allows time to work out and keep in shape.
The three agree that it’s fun to try something different at the games and not limit oneself to one specific event. Lea said the best part of any kind of senior competition is the camaraderie and encouragement from everyone. “It just is amazing and so inspiring,” she said, “to see what people can do and how they’ve made the choice to stay active in whatever capacity they can. And it is just so much fun.”
“They just have a mindset,” Bishop added, “that as they age they don’t need to sit in a rocking chair.”
Lea said the competitions help people stay vital, and their whole outlook can change when they set goals. They encourage residents to participate in the games, as it provides a fun time to mingle with others interested in remaining physically fit, mentally sharp and having fun.