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Senior Games State Championships come to an end in Southwest Florida

By Staff | Dec 18, 2008

Special to the REPORTER

The 17th Annual Florida Senior Games State Championships came to a close on Sunday after nine days of competition in Lee County and the City of Cape Coral. More than 2,000 athletes competed in 23 sports in the Olympic-style Sports Festival for athletes age 50 and over.

The 2008 Florida Senior Games State Championships was a qualifier for the 2009 National Senior Games, to be held in the San Francisco area between August 1-15, 2009.

In the second day of events at the Track & Field meet at South Fort Myers High School, Julie Sands of Winter Haven broke the 50-54 age group records in the 800 and 1,500 meter runs to win gold medals. Her time in the 800 meter run of two minutes, 46.98 seconds was 16 seconds faster than the previous record, set by Jocelyn Lowther in 2004. Her record-breaking performance in the 1,500 meter run was even more impressive as her time of five minutes, 43.03 seconds was more than 33 seconds faster than the record set by Lucia Shattelyn in 1996.

Tallahassee’s Bill Tharpe recorded the fastest time of all sprinters in the 100 meter dash running a 12.79 to set a new record in 60-64 age group.  His gold medal winning time of 27.32 in the 200 meter was 1/100th of a second shy of the record in his age group.

Locally, Sanibel resident William Highsmith continued his success at the Senior Games, placing ninth overall in the Cycling 5K Time Trials, staged at Wilmington Circle in Cape Coral. His time of eight minutes, 59.814 seconds was a millisecond behind eighth place qualifier James Campbell of Longboat Key in the 55-59 age group.

Highsmith, who previously had earned two medals during the Olympic-style event, also finished seventh in the 20K Road Race, staged at Gator Circle last Thursday.

Another islander, William Rosenberg, earned a silver medal in the Men’s Singles Tennis competition, held on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. Playing in the 65-69 age bracket, Rosenberg won his first three matches of the day on Dec. 10 before falling to eventual champion Jeffrey Jordan of Englewood in the finale, 6-2, 3-6 and 10-7.

“I kinda did it as a lark only because it was being held in our area and I thought I could have some fun,” said Rosenberg. “But it turned out that I won a medal.”

Calling the Florida Senior Games “well organized and fun,” Rosenberg also added praise to each competitor he faced.

“I thought for a moment I had a chance, but he (Jordan) toughed it out and raised his game to beat me,” he added. “But I’m still glad that I decided to do it.”

The Men’s Volleyball competition, held on Dec. 11, featured first-time Senior Games participant and Sanibel resident Barry Litofsky. Although Litofsky’s team lost in the finals to a team from The Villages, they defeated the eventual winners in the preliminary match. The silver-winning squad was comprised of players aged 62 to 82.

Another well-known islander, Robert Buntrock, took part in the Billiards competition last Sunday. However, because the sport is not a program of the National Senior Games, there were no qualifiers.

The 2009 and 2010 Florida Senior Games State Championships will return to Lee County and the City of Cape Coral for an unprecedented five-year run in the Southwest Florida area. The Florida Senior Games State Championships is a program of the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida, held in conjunction with the Lee County Sports Authority and Lee County Parks and Recreation Department.

Qualifiers for the 2009 Florida Senior Games State Championships begin in January 2009. For complete results, please check www.flasports.com.