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Atheletes bring special stories to Cortland competition

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Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Frank Tokarz, 92, of Skaneateles, and Jay Charles, 83, battle it out in the 100-meter dash at the Empire State Senior Games at SUNY Cortland Friday afternoon. Tokarz has overcome quadruple bypass surgery to compete in the games. He and his wife have been married for 69 years.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

The Empire State Senior Games has always been more than a zestful competition between athletes.
No matter the venue, from shuffleboard to basketball to ping pong, there are displays of the human spirit that make this annual event even more memorable. At almost every turn, there are special stories that give this gathering of the 50-plus crowd from throughout the state a unique glow.
You don’t have to search far to find some stirring tales, as a Friday afternoon journey to the SUNY Cortland Sports Complex proved. That was where track and field events got under way on this fourth and busiest day of this five-day affair being hosted by Cortland.
As the heats of the 100-meter dash were run off, there was 86-year-old Regina Purvis from Buffalo lining up with cane in hand to begin her patient yet determined march to the finish line. Sitting on a bench trackside watching the other competitors after her heat, she never heard her official time. She did say, “I did better than I thought I would.”
The swimming pool is where Purvis is more comfortable, where a cane is not needed to support swollen legs. She captured a couple of gold medals the previous day in the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard breaststroke. An Empire State Senior Games regular since 1988, she just couldn’t stay away from the track and field venue, despite being unable to compete in events she has done in the past, like the 800-meter run and discuss throw.
“I have friends here. When you come here year after year, you develop those friendships,” she said, the games are more of a reunion than a sporting event. Local athlete Elsie Adams is among those Purvis cohorts, though she had yet to hook up with the Homer resident. “She will have to find me, I won’t be able to find her,” joked Purvis of her lack of mobility.
Adams was slated to run in the 100-meter but was not on hand.
The use of a cane to finish a race is a family tradition of sorts.
Purvis recalls her sister, Natalie Hamjak, would compete in Senior Games track and field events and always finish fourth, always come up short in the bid for the gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to the top three finishers. She was finally convinced to run shorter races, which found her at an inside locale (moved undercover due to rain) to compete in the 100-meter dash — trusty cane in hand.
Purvis warmly remembers the ovation her sister got for not only finishing the race with the help of the cane, but earning her first medal, too.
The oldest sprinter in the group was 92-year-old Frank Tokarz of Skaneateles, whose career as a track and field athlete has spanned a grand total of three years.
The first race he ran came shortly after a gall bladder operation, which came some six months after a quadruple by-pass heart operation in the year 2003. And in that 2004 race his wife was busy sitting in the stands working her rosary beads certain Tokarz — also a diabetic — was going to drop dead from the effort.
“One doctor told me I could do whatever I wanted. Another said, no, no, that’s not the case,” said Tokarz, who now pretty much does all the chores in and around the house while occasionally hitting the track and Skaneateles High School for a bit of training. Though his wife had another commitment on Friday, daughter Nancy was on hand wearing a homemade placard to help support and urge on her dad.
“They’re all for me now,” said Tokarz of the medical people in his life, who would have been proud of the personal best 26.7 time he turned in.
A lot of athletes here turned things around later in life, like 68-year-old Kermit Cadrette from Rome. He was a heavy smoker until turning 50, and never was much of a serious athlete.
All Cadrette is doing at these games is competing in 16 different events, and gave the 100-meters a try after having run more accustomed races of 5,000-meters and 10,000-meters earlier in the games. He finished third in his age group in 16.8.
“I try to do as much as I can,” says Cadrette, who has been an ESG regular since 1996. “I can’t let a single day go by, they’re too precious.”
He also lends a hand as the Winter Empire State Games in Lake Placid and is now trying to promote the sport of snowshoe racing — an event in which he qualified for nationals this past year.
Cadrette has also gotten involved in the 50-States Marathon Club, a group of runners determined to run marathon races in every state in the union. Ann Singer, a 62-year-old runner from Suffern, was a teammate on hand who has already done marathons in 12 states, who will be running in a marathon in Maine in July.
The 100-yard dash crowd also brought out some local competitors, Bruce Wood and Tony Kissel from Cortland competing in the 55-59 year old age group.
“We’re going to get smoked. There are some good runners here,” was the Kissel prediction prior to their race after surveying his fellow competitors. Of course, Kissel would also point out of the race down the Sports Complex straightaway: “At least we’re not going to get lapped.”
“You just enjoy competing in it,” said Wood of the Senior Games, having taken part in the golf and bowling prior to giving the 100-meters a try. His son ran track and competed at nations at SUNY Oneonta before graduating last spring, and his daughter plays golf at SUNY Cortland.
Wood, a former football and trackman from Dundee, often goes on runs of two to three miles and sprints at the end to stay in shape. Kissel, who used to play recreation softball to stay in shape, has a similar routine these days.
That would not be of help against their age group loaded with experienced sprinters, where the winning time was a brisk 12.4 by Allen Root. Wood was fourth in his heat in 15.7 before heading back to work, while Kissel ran fifth in a different heat in 17.6. For Kissel, tough, it was a good way to limber up before participating in today’s ping-pong competition.

 

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Malarkey vaults to 4th place

CANTON — Amanda Malarkey ended her high school pole vaulting career on a high note Friday.
The Cortland High senior reached a height of 10-9, just a half-inch under her sectional- and school-record best, to finish fourth in Division I and overall in the event at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls’ state track meet at St. Lawrence University.
It was Malarkey’s second straight fourth-place finish in Division I, her 2005 placing (sixth out of 25 overall) also coming at a height of 10-9, then a school record. She was 12th out of 25 competitors in 2004 at 10-0. 

 

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Mets show off some clout

By ANDREW BAGNATO
AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX — New York manager Willie Randolph had a frightening observation for the rest of the National League after the Mets hammered five home runs to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-6 Friday night.
“We’re capable of that kind of offense,” Randolph said after the Mets won their league-high 37th game. “I still think we haven’t even scratched the surface on offense yet.”
Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado each homered twice and David Wright added a solo shot as the Mets won their eighth straight game at Chase Field.
Beltran also doubled and singled to tie a career high with four hits.

 

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