Hundreds compete in Senior Games at Charleroi Stadium
By Chris Buckley
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
For Martha Ghilani, competing in the Senior Games initially was an assignment from her former teacher.
“This is my phys-ed teacher and cheerleader sponsor in high school,” the Carroll Township woman said as she put her arm around Ruth Corrin on Wednesday at Charleroi Stadium.
“She told me (last year) to come out to the Senior Games, and I had a blast.”
“I love the competition, and I love the people I meet,” said Corrin, who led the Senior Games oath during the opening ceremony.
“Yeah, you know everyone and their brother,” Ghilani chimed in. “And the women at the Area Agency on Aging are super people.”
Corrin and Ghilani were among roughly 700 athletes to compete at the 27th annual Senior Games.
The Olympic-style event involves individual competitions in the one-mile walk, 50-yard dash, basketball toss, bocce, casting, football throw, horseshoes, putting, shuffleboard, softball throw and stationary bike.
SPHS Aging Services joined the Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency in sponsoring the 2013 Senior Games – designed to promote health and wellness among mature adults.
This year's theme was “energy,” and the slogan, “Spark Your Energy,” was chosen to draw attention to the influence of the energy industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.
But the area's greatest natural resource may be its seniors.
On Wednesday, the seniors displayed their athletic prowess with youthful energy and exuberance that has not waned over the years.
Rich Kundman has enjoyed cycling since he was a youth. He recently completed a two-day bicycle ride to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
A friend encouraged Kundman to compete at the Senior Games last year.
“I enjoyed it last year, so I had to come back,” Kundman said. “It's just fun and good company. There's a little camaraderie and a little bit of competition.”
Being on the gridiron was nothing new for Paul Barton of Washington Township.
As a high school senior, he was the quarterback and kicked the winning extra point when Monessen won the 1961 WPIAL Class AAA football championship, 7-6, over Wilkinsburg.
“It was played before 20,000 people at Forbes Field,” Barton said. “It was an exciting game, right down to the wire.”
Barton was still throwing a football Wednesday among the eight events he competed in during his fifth Senior Games.
Barton taught physical education for 35 years in the Belle Vernon Area School District, where he was also swim coach.
“I like to compete,” Barton said. “I like to stay in shape.”
Barton played in flag football leagues through his mid-40s. He still throws the football around in his backyard.
“I look forward to (the Senior Games) every year,” Barton said. “It's fun. I've met a lot of people over the years.”
Rick Meneskie of Long Branch said he sees the benefit of maintaining physical fitness at all ages.
It's important for not only seniors, but for everyone,” Meneskie said “I see a lot of kids who are not getting enough exercise. When I was a kid, there were only three TV stations, and so we went out and enjoyed ourselves and burned calories.”
Meneskie, competing in his fourth Senior Games, was enjoying himself. He competed in the 50-yard dash, one-mile walk, football and softball throws, horseshoe toss, basketball free throw shooting, golf putting, and stationary bicycle.
Meneskie competes with the United Mine Workers Health and Retirement Fund team.
After 33 years as a coal miner, Meneskie began working part time at Centerville Clinics as an outreach representative.
His responsibility is to encourage not only miners and former miners but the general public to undergo annual lung and pulmonary tests. He began that process at age 50 – after 25 years in the mines.
“The hardest part is that men, especially, don't like to go to the doctor unless they have pain,” Meneskie said. “They don't like to go to the doctor for preventive maintenance.
“I tell the guys, ‘If you buy a brand new truck, you have it inspected yearly. But the guy driving the truck is what makes the truck go, ultimately.'”
Corrin shared her love of physical fitness and competition with special athletes for many years, coaching multiple sports. Ghilani, a special education teacher, was also involved with Special Olympics in the area.
On Wednesday, they were competing against their peers. And the former student was pleased with her assignment.
“Thank goodness I don't have to compete against her – she's in a different age group.,” Ghilani said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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