Senior Games brings out more than 200 athletes

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McMURRAY – Buck Shaffer and George Crosby were just two of the senior citizens challenging themselves Friday at the annual Senior Games.


“Between the two of us, we have between 150 and 200 medals,” said Shaffer, 72, of Masontown, who along with his friend Crosby, 78, also of Masontown, have been competing in the games for the past 13 years.


More than 200 athletes from Washington, Greene and Fayette counties competed in this year’s event at Peters Township High School, which carried the theme “Challenge Yourself.”


The games are an Olympic-style competition and are geared toward people age 50 and over with events including the 50-yard dash, one-mile walk, basketball, football throw, bocce ball, softball throw, stationary bicycle, corn bag toss, putting, shuffleboard and horseshoes. The Senior Games is the largest health and wellness event sponsored by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Agency on Agency, said Kathy Costantino, Washington County supervisor for the agency.


“Our mission is to keep older adults healthy and active,” Costantino said. She added that in addition to the games, a health fair was going on simultaneously inside the high school. Area senior centers also set up booths, selling everything from food to handmade blankets and other goods.


Inez Bontrager, 78, of Connellsville, won a medal in the 50-yard dash at this year’s games.


“It’s fun,” she said. She added she’s been participating for about five years. She also competed in bocce at the games.


“We’re going into our second childhood. We have to show the young kids we still have what it takes,” said Elsie Pataski, 84, who was representing the Bethlehem-Center Senior Center. Pataski competed in shuffleboard, bocce and corn bag toss this year.


John Sturlese of Monongahela competed in eight events at this year’s games. The 82-year-old has been coming to the games for 20 years and has made it to both state and national Senior Games competitions.


Sturlese said his favorite event used to be the race walk and the 50-yard dash, but joked, “Now I like all the easy stuff.”


His friend, Bill Morris Jr., 85, offers Sturlese some friendly competition every year.


“We’ve been buddies a long time,” Morris said. He’s been competing in the games for 10 years and said Sturlese talked him into participating. There’s more on the line than just bragging rights between Sturlese and Morris.


“There’s a beer riding on each event,” Morris joked.


“We do the best we can, but don’t take it too seriously,” Sturlese said.


Morris said next year, his son will be 50 and will be competing in the games with him.


“It’s a day with a purpose,” Costantino added. “Mentally, it just keeps them alert. Coming out and being with others is a great mental and social exercise.”


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