Senior Olympics State meet winners bring home the gold

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On July 14, four men from Socorro County represented Sierra County by participating in the Senior Olympics state meet. All four men qualified for the National Senior Olympics which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, next year.

This year, the Senior Olympics state meet took place in Las Cruces. Larry Cowan, 77, won a silver medal in the archery competition and gold in horseshoes. Richard Gutierrez, 70, won silver in golf and in basketball free throws. Michael Hawkes, 53, won gold medals for 50 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters in track. And Gene Steele, 79, took bronze medals in the five kilometer and 10 kilometer, and gold for the one mile in track. This was a two week competition and ended on July 27.

"The Senior Olympics is important because it helps maintain a healthy life-style, build espirit de corps, amongst seniors," Hawkes said. "To stick together and give them goals throughout the competition."

One of the challenges the participants faced at the Senior Olympics state meet was the large amount of competitive athletes, Hawkes said. At the meet, there were over 2,000 athletes who competed in a variety of athletic events. At nationals, the number of participants is around 15,000, he said. To prepare for the Senior Olympics state meet, each member had different methods and practice routines for themselves. When it got closer to the meet, Cowan, Hawkes, Gutierrez and Steele dedicated two hours a day of training, and off the competition they trained for one hour a day.

"I practiced three months of P90x, a high intensity workout routine, and three months of Insanity and Asylum," Hawkes said. "With each work out, it becomes more intense with cross training. For the last 10 weeks, I worked on sprint and distance work outs. All of the competing members wanted to maintain a healthy diet and life-style as well, sprinting is very demanding, you have to be ready for it."

After participating in the Senior Olympics state meet, Hawkes hopes at the national competition all participants make it to the finals. There are massive qualifiers, pre-qualifiers and the fastest times and the best performers compete in the finals, he said. The finals include only eight senior athletes. All the athletes from Socorro County have qualified for nationals before, some have gone and some have not.

Socorro County didn't have sponsors for the men to participate in the Senior Olympics state meet. Through the state office for Sierra County, the participants found sponsorship with neighboring counties such as Lincoln, Sierra and Valencia. Sierra County went out of their way to sponsor all four of them, Hawkes said. Hawkes participated in the National Senior Olympics in Houston last year, and said first the participants qualified for county level to see if they could move to state and at state there is a national qualifier every two years.

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