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Powell senior qualifies for national games

Powell senior and lifelong athlete Martin Garhart qualified for the National Senior Olympics while competing in four events at the Wyoming Senior Olympics in Casper July 11-12.

Garhart, a track and field enthusiast, qualified for nationals in his age group with a second-place finish in the 50-meter dash, took second in the 100-meter dash and third in both the 200-meter dash and discus. All track and field events were held at Kelly Walsh High School.

Garhart, 68, said that while he didn’t place as well as he did last year, he was happier with this year’s results because of the increased competition.

“That part of it was really fun,” Garhart said in a phone interview Tuesday. “In all ages, even in the 70s you have guys that are really kicking. Men and women.”

This year, unlike last, is a qualifying year, and since Wyoming is an “open state,” athletes from all over the country can come to Wyoming in an attempt to advance to the national games.

“This year is a qualifying year and boy did the guns arrive,” Garhart said. “Last year I had the fastest time in the 100 [meter dash] of all age groups. This year I wasn’t even close.”

Garhart still took top-three finishes in all four of his events and had the top Wyoming time in the 50 and 100.

More experienced at medium-distance runs than sprints, Garhart wasn’t expecting to advance in the 50.

“To be quite honest I’m surprised because I didn’t think that would be my race at all,” he said.

Garhart is undecided if he will travel to Minneapolis for the National Senior Olympics July 3-16, 2015.

“If it were in Florida I would say I’m not going but Minneapolis is pretty close,” he said.

If he does choose to compete at the national level Garhart will likely make some changes to how he sprints.

“I’ve become sort of a heel-toer so it might be good to have a coach look at me while I’m running,” said Garhart, who trained with former South Dakota State University athletes Jordan and Ketty Paula last year.

He would also consider wearing spikes, on the suggestion of a fellow Senior Olympian.

Garhart once again traveled out of state this year to train for the discus.

“I went to Arizona and did a week of hour-a-day workouts with an Olympic qualifying discus thrower,” he said.

Luke Sullivan, who threw for UCLA’s track and field team in the late 1990s and qualified for the Olympic trials on two occasions, trains throwers of all ages out of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Garhart, an accomplished artist, camped in a nearby recreation area and enjoyed the desert scenery when not working on his discus technique.

“It worked out real well, I got a nice painting,” Garhart said.

But Garhart was disappointed in his ability to put his training to good use.

His first of four throws traveled 108 feet, just five and one-quarter feet short of the national standard. But none of his next three throws came close to surpassing that mark. His second throw sailed out of bounds, his third throw fluttered and on the fourth try Garhart “panicked and it went 2 feet in front of me.”

“I was fairly disappointed in this because I can control (the discus) a lot better than that,” Garhart said.

His first throw was still good for third place, and his failure to best it didn’t take away from the fact he qualified for nationals.

“To qualify for nationals takes something,” Garhart said. “But I’m a guy that likes to do better than that.”

Though his aspirations are often higher than his accomplishments, Garhart, a former college football player, realizes he is doing well, all things considered.

“I ran track in high school but that was 100 years ago in a small town,” he joked.

Garhart encourages any active senior athletes to choose a sport or two and give the competition a try.

Next year’s Wyoming Senior Olympics are in Sheridan.

“I really encourage any senior athletes to go over the mountain and compete,” Garhart said.

He also thinks Powell should consider hosting the event.

“It seems like we have the facilities with the aquatic center and the high schools and the golf course; good biking,” Garhart said. “We could do it. It just takes a lot of volunteers.

“It would be a good thing for Powell. There’s always going to be a need for a place.”

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