Garhart, 67, won gold in both the 100-meter dash and discus events. He posted the fastest 100-meter dash time of competitors in all age groups, and won the discus event in his 65-69 age group.
“No one is more surprised than me,” Garhart said of his success. “I don’t go into things to lose, that’s for sure. But I also don’t go into them heady.”
Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Engaging in feats of not only strength, but great overall physical fitness is nothing new for Garhart, who exercises regularly in his impressive home gym and has an athletic history that includes, on top of track, football and boxing. Nevertheless, training for the Senior Olympics did take him out of his comfort zone, which he said was kind of the point.
“I like to put myself off balance, do things I haven’t done,” he said.
The Wyoming Senior Olympics are held once a year and offer a variety of competitions for Wyoming’s older athletes. Seniors can compete in golf, tennis, badminton, swimming and more, but Garhart preferred to keep it old school.
“I wanted to do things that are actually classic Olympic events,” he said.
Garhart overcame a momentary freeze at the start of the 100-meter dash to run a time of 15.52 seconds, faster than every other racer at the Olympics.
Garhart spent months training for his events.
“It gives you something to focus on and I like having that,” he said.
Garhart borrowed a discus and received some pointers from Powell High School track coach Nevin Jacobs following the conclusion of the Panthers’ track and field season.
To improve his sprinting, he trained with former collegiate athletes (and married couple) Jordan and Ketty Paula in Rapid City, S.D. Jordan was a running back for South Dakota State’s football team from 2006-08 and Ketty played basketball for the Jackrabbits from 2006-2010, was on the track team in 2010-11 and played volleyball for the college in 2010.
Garhart would meet the Paulas at 5:30 a.m. at a park in Rapid City, where he had to completely relearn how to run. Though running comes naturally to most people, there is a specific and right way to sprint successfully, Garhart said.
“I’ve done everything from a 5k to a marathon, and that’s a whole different kind of running,” Garhart said. “It’s changing the way you run. I really enjoy that, I enjoy that kind of learning experience.”
A major difference between sprinting and distance-running is the way a runner conserves — or doesn’t conserve — his or her energy. Ketty taught Garhart to exert all of his energy during his sprint.
He recalled a time in Rapid City when he beat Ketty in a sprint by about five strides. The next race, “she went by me like I was going in reverse,” he said.
“In the 100-meter dash and the 200 you should be absolutely out of gas when you cross that line,” Garhart said.
Jordan taught Garhart how to make efficient use of all his movements to focus every ounce of energy into running faster.
“A lot of what Jordan was teaching me was to shorten your stride,” Garhart said. “With the training that we did, my stride naturally shortened and I was considerably faster.”
Garhart said he had to constantly think about how his body was moving when he was running.
“What you got to learn to do is to drop all the tension in your upper body so you’re not wasting that energy,” Garhart said.
His running mantra was “fast and loose.” Garhart said he’d repeat it over and over on the track, “Fast, loose, fast, loose, fast, loose. Like that.
“When you have to break a habit, you have to be conscious of it,” Garhart said. “It’s easy to fall out of it.”
Garhart also competed in the 200-meter dash but was slowed greatly by a lower-body injury suffered during the previous day’s 100-meter race. He still was able to finish the race in 33.87 seconds, the best time of throughout all age groups.
The injury limited Garhart in the discus throw — he was not able to spin effectively and fouled twice — but he still managed a standing throw of 100 feet, two inches. He out threw the second place finisher in his age group by more than 12 feet.
“I was really disappointed in that, I never really got a good spin down,” he said. “I think I could have been competitive in the whole thing.”
Garhart’s throw was good for fourth overall, and
Garhart said he is considering competing in next year’s Senior Olympics with the hope of qualifying for the national Senior Olympics.
“It’d be fun to qualify for nationals,” Garhart said.
He said he might consider adding the weightlifting to his list of events.
Garhart’s typical daily training routine of weight lifting and cardiovascular work will keep him in shape, but he said he would need to increase his training as the competition nears.
“I think next year will be even more competitive because it is a qualifying year,” he said.
Garhart said he wants to see more Powell people participate in future Senior Olympics.
“There’s people in Powell I really know can do really well in these Olympics,” he said.
He also thinks Powell should consider hosting the Olympics.
The 2014 Wyoming Senior Olympics will be held July 9-12 in Casper. The host city rotates every two years.