Monday, June 20, 2011
John Sanmartini: Huntsman Hall of Fame inductee
by Tom Behrens
John Sanmartini, 82, has been involved in cycling ever since he was a young boy. He started his racing as a youth in southern California, but his racing fame is known in the senior circuits all over the United States. Last year he was inducted into the Huntsman World Senior Games Hall of Fame.
The Huntsman World Senior Games, conducted every year in St. George, Utah, requires athletes who want to compete to be 55 years or older. The National Senior Games, which rotates between different cities in the United States every two years, requires competitors to be at least 50 years old.
The Huntsman website states that all persons considered for the Hall of Fame must make exceptional contributions to the Games in one or more areas, including athletic achievement, support or promotion of the games, positive impact on the Games, volunteering or leadership.
The Huntsman World Games also looks at how many Games an athlete has participated in. Sanmartini has played in every World Games since their inception 25 years ago.
In the National Senior Games he has raced in Baton Rouge, Santa Rosa and Palo Alto events. He took top cycling honors for his age class in Palo Alto.
Sanmartini has three bikes: one he practices on, another he uses for time trials and another is a regular road bike.
“I just road race, don’t have a mountain bike,” Sanmartini said.
At the National Senior Games he participates in all race categories in his age division.
“It takes a couple of days. Usually two races a day, 5K and 10K time trials, then 20K and 40K road races on the second day,” Sanmartini said. “Sometimes the courses are flat, sometimes hilly.”
Another race he likes to ride in is a criterium—a preset race course where riders race against each other—like the Tour de France, but much shorter. He rides in criteriums at the World Games.
The hardest part of racing for him are the hill climbs. At the 5K in St. George, part of the route has an incline of 8-10 percent, which he says is very steep.
“The road races in St. George that I do every year have three big hills,” Sanmartini said. “Three years ago I crashed. I don’t do the road races anymore. If you have a flat tire you don’t have any way to stop on the hill.”
One of his favorite races is a 12-mile race in southern California, complete with hill climbs.
“It starts in Pasadena and goes up into the mountains, really demanding,” Sanmartini said. “I’m not too heavy so I am able to go up hills. If you are too heavy, you have to carry the weight up there.”
Sanmartini cycles five days a week. The other two days he is in a lawn bowling league.
“The National Senior Games doesn’t have lawn bowling,” Sanmartini said. “If the Games did have lawn bowling, I would have signed up for that, too.”
In the Men’s 20K on Saturday, Sanmartini finished in eighth place in his age division with a time of 46 minutes 44 seconds. He still has two more races.
What is the attraction that bicycling has for Sanmartini?
“I don’t do it just for bicycle riding; I like to race, be a little competitive,” Sanmartini said. “It is good for your health. You have to be in some kind of shape; you got to have enough sleep, eat, and drink to be able to race. It’s competitive. It takes work to do it. At my age if I stay off too long it is hard to come back racing.”
Lacing up the running shoes again
by Tom Behrens
Billy Collins, who holds 17 world and 165 national running records, describes his student, 76-year-old Bobby Whilden, a student of excellence. That’s high praise from Collins, a man who has been called at times the world’s fastest man. Whilden’s specialty is breaking records in the 100-meter dash.
“I was always a sprinter. I was always fast as a little boy and throughout my college career,” Whilden said. “I never cared about the long distances. Fortunately I was successful enough to end up at the University of Texas, win a number of races and be on several world-record relay teams.”
Whilden, a Houston native, graduated from Lamar High School in 1953. He was the Texas State High School Champion in the 220-meter dash and second in the 100-meter dash.
He received a track scholarship to the University of Texas. In 1956 he won the 100 at the Border Olympics, West Texas Relays, Kansas Relays and Southwest Conference Meet, and he was a finalist in the 100 and 200 in the U. S. Olympic Trials. He represented the United States in Europe in July–August 1956.
“When I did not make the Olympic team they took the people who just missed making the team and sent them to Europe that summer,” Whilden said. “I ran the 100, 200 meters in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.”
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas Whilden went on to law school, achieving his jurisprudence degree in 1960. He started work with Vincent and Elkins and remained there until his retirement. After college Whilden ran in the Masters at age 40 and won the 100 and was co-holder of the world record with a time of 10:7 seconds.
“I didn’t run after that,” Whilden said. ”Running took so much time away from my law practice and family, I decided I just couldn’t spend the time.”
He didn’t start competing again until he was 70 years old. Upon retirement, he decided to lace up the running shoes again.
“I thought, ‘I’ll just get back into running again, get in shape,’” Whilden said. “I had played golf and tennis those years while working, but never did any running. I just
wanted to give it another try.”
In 2005 Whilden won the 100 in 12:77 in the Pittsburgh, PA, National Senior Games, setting another world record.
In 2006 he won the 60-meter dash in a world record time of 8:0 and won the 200 in 27:1 at the National Masters Indoor Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. He competed in the Penn Relays in May, taking first in the 100 with a time of 13:68. Another world record is in his sight for The 2011 Summer National Senior Games presented by Humana. The current record for his age group is 13:54.
“This guy deserves all the recognition you can give him, one fantastic gentleman,” Collins said. “Some runners think of all the different things they have to accomplish to become a better runner. For Bobby it’s just perfecting the efficiency of his movements on the track. He expends less energy in every stride pattern that he takes.”
Collins said he and Whilden have learned a lot together.
“There are certain things as a coach you can’t teach. They just have to be there. He has those talents; you just have to guide him.”
Whilden sums up his running philosophy: “I run because I can.”
Serving up intensity
by Christine Frankson
The sound of whistles blowing and shoes squeaking across the courts echoed through the first floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center Sunday morning as volleyball competitions began. Matches were tight as each team hoped to break through the early rounds to win the gold.
Games started at 8 a.m., pitting 52 teams in fierce competition to come out on top in the second round. Each team proved the importance of communication and teamwork as points were long. Players exhibited youthful exuberance as they cheered on their teammates in between points. The intensity and passion during each game rivaled those of young competitors.
In their third trip to the National Senior Games, the New York Gold-diggers 50+ women’s team wore shirts that boasted “50 is the new 30.” Their sentiments rang true for each team as they played with a bounce in their step.
Gold-diggers player Lois Campbell has been playing volleyball most of her life. She even played at the collegiate level. Campbell said even though she can’t play at quite that level, that her team has passion and loves the game.
“It’s great because we meet women at these events from all over the country. We share the same interests and everyone is so friendly,” Campbell said.
Donna Brake from the Surf City women’s 50+ team grew up playing volleyball as well. Her dedication for the sport brought her to the Games.
“I grew up on a volleyball court. I played while pregnant with both of my daughters until I was 6 months along,” Brake said.
Brake, who lives in Houston, said there are a lot of women in the area that play volleyball and love it.
“I play with my mother who is 73,” Brake said. “It’s great to play the game. It’s important to start early to help avoid injuries while learning the skills of the game.”
Brake’s husband Michael was there to cheer on his wife and her team.
“I love to watch her play. I like it when it gets down to the end of a game and they are neck and neck, it’s exciting.” He said they used to play volleyball with each other often, but now he just comes to watch.
While a sport often thought to be female dominated, men’s teams from all around the country showed their love for the game. Net height is the only difference between the men’s and women’s game. The net is set at 7’ 11 5/8” for men and 7’ 4 1/8” for women.
Maryland native Doug Sievers, from the Frederick Volleyball Club said, “I started playing in county leagues when I was 35 for exercise.”
In his first trip to the National Senior Games, Sievers said he loves everything about the game. His advice for those starting to play later in life was, “Play with people better than you to best learn the game.”