SCARBOROUGH – Audrey Lary took her final strides, then congratulated Barbara Jordan, her closest competitor in the 200-meter dash at the Maine Senior Games.

After a few deep breaths, Lary focused her attention on her next endeavor, the 400. She wasn’t doing it to hold up her designation as one of the nation’s top age-group athletes. Instead she prepared to run as a tribute to her late husband, Ralph. He was a track and field athlete, a military veteran and a 1951 graduate of Scarborough High.

“He would proudly show me the cinders embedded in his wrist from the one time he ran the 400,” said Lary, a resident of Frederick, Md., who holds two U.S. track and field age-group records. “It means a lot to run here. It’s almost like I feel his presence. We all do.”

At the finish line was Lary’s daughter, Debra Hallen, one of the seven family members in the stands cheering for her, all wearing stenciled white shirts that said, “Go Audrey Go.”

“She’s got so many good friends and it’s nice to see her so active,” Hallen said. “She’s not alone. It’s very inspiring.”

Lary, 76, was one of more than 100 competitors who took part in the Maine Senior Games track and field meet Saturday at Scarborough High’s Mitchell Sports Complex.

The Maine Senior Games is an Olympic-style competition made up of 15 sports, including track and field, archery, tennis, basketball, swimming and golf, and is divided by age group for its participants, who are 50 and older, and who each have a reason for participating.

“You never lose your competitive spirit,” said Jerry LeVasseur, a 73-year-old Brunswick resident who photographed other competitors when he wasn’t competing in one of his five events.

“Part of it is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying fit. With more people from different states, you’ve got more of a variety. The competition is great.”

Ann McGowan has competed in the Senior Games since the start of Rhode Island’s Ocean State Senior Olympics in the 1960s, and traveled to Maine from Providence, R.I, with a group of her friends who participate in various Senior Games events.

After the death of her husband when he was 49, she started walking on the track at Rhode Island College to cope, meditate, and make sense of what she would do as a single mother. Then she saw an advertisement for the Rhode Island Senior Olympics in the local newspaper.

“I followed through,” Mc-Gowan said. “I did race walking, running and the long jump, and as time went on, I entered more. That took me through the hardship.

“Single mothers wonder what it takes to get through, and this was one of my outs.”

Saturday, McGowan competed in the 100, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus and javelin. Her goal is to compete in the national Senior Games next June in Houston.

“I’m 87 and my goal is to live to 90 and beyond,” McGowan said. “My primary doctor has been very happy with my health and she told me, ‘whatever you’re doing, keep it up.’ “

And at every visit, McGowan’s doctor asks how many medals she has.

“I have a trunk,” McGowan said, “and I’ve lost count.”

Hugh Wilson participated in the Maine Senior Games less than 10 months after undergoing surgery for colon cancer in October 2009. Fitness, he said, helped him recover and return to running, an endeavor that has taken him to races in New England, Canada and Florida, where he spends the winter.

Wilson traveled from Montreal with two friends, Jean Bernaquez and Harry Daghavarian, and they ran together in a heat of the men’s 400. Wilson finished first in the 70-74 age group in 1:23.52, and Bernaquez captured the 75-79 age group in 1:37.92. Bernaquez, Wilson and Daghavarian will return to Montreal with 14 medals.

“This is my second year here,” said Wilson, 71. “It’s the Senior Games and there are five age groups, so you get a chance to compete against people who are the same age as you. It helps because as you get older, you slow down a bit.”

Mary Harada set an American age-group record in the 3,000, a one-heat race that combined men and women but was scored separately. Harada, 75, of West Newbury, Mass., kept pace with Wilson for the first half of the 71/2-lap race and finished in 15 minutes, 38.98 seconds, nearly two minutes ahead of the previous best in the 75-79 women’s age group — 17:37.2 by Bess James in August 1985.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to stay in one piece to do it,” Harada said, laughing.

Harada has been running for 40 years and competing for 30, and holds four American records in the 75-79 age group — for 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters, and the mile.

“This is my retirement hobby,” Harada said. “I started running marathons but it was too hard on my body. In 1980 I did the indoor mile for the first time and I thought, ‘this is it!’ You run around, you don’t have hills and the track is easier on my body.”

The records mean something to Harada. But she believes the camaraderie she finds at each meet is the key to the experience.

“You don’t get famous doing this,” Harada said, “but you like to be able to stay healthy and continue to compete at a good level and encourage your friends to do the same.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]


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