Let the Peninsula Senior Games begin

PORT ANGELES — This weekend is about how active, and how fit, a mind and body can get between the ages of 50 and 100.

And from now until Sunday, at least one organizer is expecting a number of “goose-bump moments.”

That organizer is D Bellamente, director of the Port Angeles Senior Center, and her baby is the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games.

The cavalcade of competitions, from swimming to racquetball to bowling and bicycling, starts today at the senior center at 328 E. Seventh St. — the headquarters for the games — and there’s still room for registrants, Bellamente said.

Wide age range

The age range of the nearly 500 participants runs from 50 to 90-something, she added.

And the games are all over the map. Spectators can watch tennis Saturday and Sunday at the Erickson Park courts at Fourth and Race streets, track and field events Sunday at the Community Track just south of Port Angeles High School, and kayaking Sunday from Hollywood Beach, as well as disc golf, a sport just added this year.

“What I like about the Senior Games,” Bellamente said, “is they break down stereotypes that people even in our age group have about aging.

“You can come out and watch people high jump, throw the discus and run, run, run like crazy down that track,” she added.

There’s also basketball Saturday at the Clallam County YMCA; pickleball today, Saturday and Sunday at Roosevelt Elementary School; and 5- and 10-kilometer foot races at 10 a.m. Saturday on Port Angeles’ Waterfront Trail.

Late registrants

The 5K and 10K runs are still open to late registrants, as are indoor rowing and track and field events.

Would-be competitors can come to the senior center today or Saturday morning to sign up; the registration fee is $20 plus $5 per event.

Complete information on venues and start times is available at the senior center, where the phone number is 360-457-7004, and at www.OlympicPeninsulaSeniorGames.com.

In at least one event, Bellamente said, passers-by can turn into players.

“We’ve added recreational horseshoes,” so people can come over to Lincoln Park at 9 a.m. today and “just pick up some shoes and give them a toss.”

Lincoln Park, at 1900 W. Lauridsen Blvd. just west of F Street, is also the place for disc golf, which is “a really fun opportunity,” she added.

It’s a demonstration sport, so the curious can come out any time Saturday to watch disc golfers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or take part in clinics starting at 8 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Divisions for 50 to 100 years old

All Senior Games events have divisions for men and women as well as age brackets such as 50 to 54, 55 to 59 and so on up to 100.

And though no centenarians have signed up yet, “we have people in the low to mid-90s,” Bellamente reported.

Anyone who’ll be 50 or older by this Dec. 31 is eligible to participate in the games, so “you can actually be 49.”

The 20 events that constitute the games include bridge, cribbage and pinochle — competitions every bit as challenging as the physically strenuous pursuits, Bellamente believes.

Card games are another way to expend energy, she said, and they’re an excellent way to enjoy the company of other people.

“We recognize that not everybody, for whatever reason, can run or swim. But they can participate in what they love to do,” Bellamente added.

Participants from wide area

The Olympic Peninsula Senior Games have developed a reputation, she said, that attracts people from Canada, California, Colorado and beyond.

“The participants love the friendliness of the people here,” as well as the venues.

“It feels more like a family get-together for me. I just love it. And I couldn’t do it if we didn’t have the caliber of volunteers that we do.”

The games are arranged around a celebration dinner at the Red Lion Hotel on Saturday night — one exuberant time, Bellamente said.

“When I hear that roar” from the crowd of participants from across the west, “it just gives me goose bumps.”

Seeing people around town in their Senior Games T-shirts, she added, brings back that feeling again and again.

Cycling time trials

One of the places where competitors can be seen this weekend is Township Line Road above and east of Port Angeles.

That’s the course for Saturday’s cycling time trials, directed by cycling commissioner Bert Weiner, a volunteer since the first Senior Games in 2005.

This year, Weiner’s competitors range in age from 51 to 80; there’s a 58-year-old from Mercer Island who’s known for riding the 20-mile Senior Games course in 54 minutes.

The cycling race is still open, Weiner said, so riders can sign up at the Port Angeles Senior Center and then bring their bikes to Olympic Christian School, at U.S. Highway 101 and O’Brien Road, by about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The first cyclist will start his or her time trial at 10 a.m.

Weiner, 75, encourages riders to join him for a day of pedaling on one of the most scenic routes around: beneath the Olympic Mountains, high above the Strait of Juan de Fuca, from O’Brien Road to Township Line to Deer Park Road and back.

“It’s about half uphill and half down,” he said.

Both Bellamente and Weiner emphasize that the Senior Games are about friendly competition, with friendly as the operative word.

This is a weekend, Bellamente said, to step out there, meet people and remember how good it feels to just play.

“Don’t bring your computer; don’t bring your cell phone,” she added. “Just come have fun.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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