By Aaron Retherford
Jim Ryan never played sports in high school. Up until four years ago, he was a heavy smoker, had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and could barely climb a flight of stairs before needing to catch his breath.
So he decided to sign up for the Vermont Senior Games Track & Field State Championships held at the end of June at South Burlington High School, and he started training by walking two miles a day at U-32’s track.
His wife thought he was crazy and said he would hurt himself. It turns out she was partially right.
When Ryan’s first race at the Senior Games ended with him falling near the finish line of the 50-meter dash, the 66-year-old from Berlin, Vermont was so embarrassed he almost got in his truck and left.
Some fellow athletes encouraged him to stay and finish competing. Ryan is glad he listened to them. Now he has three first-place medals after winning the 100 meters, long jump, and the triple jump in the men’s 65 (M65) division.
Because Vermont is an “Open” state, competitors from all over New England and Quebec showed up to earn medals. But it was a fellow central Vermonter who quickly became Ryan’s rival at the event.
Ryan was neck and neck with Larry Hubner, of East Hardwick, all day. Hubner benefited from Ryan’s fall in the 50 meters, winning the race in 8.51 seconds. Hubner also won the 200 meters. Ryan edged Hubner in the 100 meters by less than a half second.
Ryan said he expects to renew the friendly rivalry with Hubner again next year, and might even try to push his limits by running the 200 meters.
“I do (plan on returning), as long as I’m still above ground,” Ryan joked.
Although Ryan hopes more central Vermonters hear about the Senior Games and decide to compete next year, he wasn’t the only local enjoying success this year.
Peggy Lipscomb, a 73-year-old from Greensboro Bend, won both the 800- and 1500-meter runs in the W70 division. Also on the women’s side, Noreen Karcher (50 and 100 meters) of Waterbury Center and Margaret McCoy (long jump) of East Montpelier placed second in their respective events in the W50 division.
Competing in the M55 division, Marshfield’s Lindsey Simanskas won the high jump and was second in the 50 meters, long jump and triple jump. Waterbury’s Jim Adams took second in the M55 shot put.