World Masters Athletics Day 5 Roundup

of Pacific Association Athletes' Performances

by Bob Burns

Link to All WMA Articles and Photos

With a heads-up from an in-law, Greg Schuler won a world championship. How about that?

“It’s been a blast,” Schuler said.

Schuler, a Folsom resident who hadn’t high jumped in a dozen years after a collegiate career at Sacramento City College and Chico State, didn’t realize that the World Masters Athletics (WMA) Championships were going to be held in his backyard this summer. It wasn’t until his brother-in-law e-mailed the news to Schuler two months ago that he began training again.

Eight weeks later, after one warm-up meet, Schuler won the WMA men’s 35-to-39 age group title on Monday at Sacramento State, clearing 6 feet, 51⁄2 inches. He cleared six heights on his first attempt.

“I used to open at 6-4,” said Schuler, who had a lifetime-best of 7-0 from his Sac City days. “Twenty pounds and 12 years later, my goal today was to clear 6-4. I have to get it out of mind that I can’t jump as high as I used to, but that’s OK.”

Joining Schuler in the winner’s circle were fellow Pacific Association athletes Daniel Besmer of Rocklin and Michael Venning of Cupertino. Besmer cleared 13-91⁄4 to win the M45 pole vault. Venning won the M50 hammer with a throw of 165-2.

Peter Grimes of Sacramento placed second in the M40 400 hurdles in 58.20, and Mihcael DeStefano of Campbell finished second in the M70 300 hurdles at 51.92.

Dwayne Dodson of Santa Cruz finished fourth in the M40 pole vault at 13-111⁄4.  James Hollister of Turlock was fourth in the M65 300 hurdles in 49.96, just 0.05 seconds off the bronze-medal time.

The fifth day of the World Masters Athletics (WMA) Championships featured world records by a Canadian, Russian, Australian and an American.

It also featured a gritty performance by Willie Banks, the former world record in the triple jump who now, at 55, finds his spirit more willing than his legs. One of the track world’s most popular entertainers in the 1980s, Banks showed some of his old verve when he improved from fifth place to first in the final round of the M55 triple jump.

Banks came to Sacramento – where he won a Golden West Invitational title as a high school senior in 1974 and set his first American record at the 1981 U.S. Championships – feeling good about his chances.

“I’ve been training four or five times a week, feeling really good,” Banks said beforehand. “Maybe that’s too much for a guy my age.”

Maybe, but that’s a common thread in masters track, where injuries are part and parcel of the package. Banks tweaked his hamstring on a warm-up jump and struggled through the first five rounds, mired in fifth place. Unable to run at much more than a quick jog, he leapfrogged the field with a sixth-round jump of 40 feet, 4¾ inches. He emerged from the sand with a broad grin.

But on the final jump of the competition, the previous leader, Georg Werthner of Austria, answered the bell with a winning jump of 40-11 1⁄2. It didn’t seem to matter much to Banks and the crowd of about 100 spectators in the east grandstands of Hornet Stadium. Banks posed for pictures and thanked the crowd of coming.

Werthner, no slouch himself as a younger athlete, having placed fourth in the 1980 Olympic decathlon, insisted on taking a picture of Banks with his cell phone.

“I couldn’t run, but I came here to compete, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Banks said. “I gave it the old (UCLA) Bruin try.”

The WMA Championships began July 6 and continue through Sunday, July 17. The biennial world track and field championships for athletes 35 and over features more than 4,800 entrants from 93 countries.

Age-group world records were set Monday by Canada’s Ed Whitlock in the men’s 80-84 10,000 meters, Neni Lewis of the United States in the women’s 50-54 weight throw, Vladimir Porokhin of Russia in the men’s 75-79 javelin, and Marge Allison of Australia in the women’s 65-69 300-meter hurdles.

In Saturday’s M45 triple jump, Dmitri Piterman of Oakland won with a best leap of 45-61⁄2.

Piterman, a Ukrainian-American businessman who owns a professional soccer team, had a triple jump best of 52-10 while at attending the University of California in the early 1990s. In the WMA final, France’s Andre Briscan had a consistent series but was undone by Piterman’s fifth-round 45-6½.

“Nobody likes losing, so it’s nice to win,” Piterman said. “It’s a nice memento to have.”

For complete results and meet schedule, see wma2011.com.