“What about you, Dad?”
That was the question posed by one of Weslie Boyea’s two daughters, after the civil engineer had encouraged her last summer to enter competitions to keep in shape.
“She had graduated from college and had used up her NCAA eligibility,” says Boyea, now 65. He took her question seriously.
“I looked into it and entered the Massachusetts Senior Games last fall,” he says.
According to their website, www.maseniorgames.org, more than 1,100 active adults over 40 participate each year in 23 summer events and seven winter events in the Massachusetts Senior Games as well as an Olympic Fitness Walk, up from 150 when they began with just a “Fun Walk” in 1991.
Boyea, a Vietnam veteran who has lived with his wife, Debra, in Franklin for 20 years, worked out for about three weeks before the senior games. He chose events in which he’d competed in high school – shotput and discus.
“I grew up in upstate New York and went to the New York state finals in Syracuse in both those events. I felt like that was something I’d done in the past, and if was going to try anything almost 50 years later, I was going to try an event I’d done in high school,” muses Boyea.
Boyea competed that fall, and he took home two silvers and a bronze, an achievement that qualified him for the July 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio, presented by Humana. (Boyea explains that athletes can also qualify for the national games through the U.S. Track and Field Association.) Later, in the spring state games, he would take home gold in discus and silver in shotput.
Boyea participated in the National Senior Games on July 26th. With his sister and nephew with his wife and child cheering him on, Boyea made good on his own advice to his daughter. Among the total of more than 10,000 competitors in all the events, with hundreds from Massachusetts alone, Boyea took home 6th place in both discus and shotput for his age group of 65-69-year-old men.
The National Senior Games, according to its website, nsga.com, is 19-sport, biennial national championship for men and women 50 and over. It is the largest multi-sport event in the world for senior athletes. It began in 1985 in St. Louis, MO with just seven men and women who formed the National Senior Olympics Organization (NSOO). Their goal was to promote healthy lifestyles for adults through education, fitness and sport.
For Weslie Boyea, who also volunteers as co-chair of the Franklin Methodist Church, trained as an early responder to natural disasters, the experience was a positive one. He says he will “definitely do it again,” provided he is in good health in 2015, when the games will be held in Minneapolis.
“ It was something I’d really wanted to try, and get out of the comfort zone, I play golf in the summer and volleyball in the winter. For the people that go to that gym – they run and run, or lift weights – to have a goal, getting out there and competing,” makes it worth the effort, says Boyea. He points out how varied the events are, with almost something for everyone. “This has horseshoes and badminton and bocce ball, disc golf, racquetball,” he says.
One extra bonus Boyea found that he hadn’t counted on was the camaraderie he felt from competitors from as far away as Hawaii and Texas.
“When you’re competing at the high school level, the guy from the other school is the enemy,” says Boyea. “At this, if you make a nice throw, it’s ‘Nice throw! Good job!’ from the competitors. There’s more mentoring going on. It’s very competitive, but it’s not to the point that they’re rooting against you. They’re rooting for you. They just hope they do better.”