Forever Young

Local athletes fuel second-place finish at National Masters Track and Field Championships
By: Nick Pecoraro
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Age is nothing but a number.


A team of forever-young athletes competed in the USATF National Masters Track and Field Championships in Spokane, Washington, from July 26–29.


The Sierra Gold track and field team, based out of Grass Valley and Nevada City and featuring athletes from Auburn, Lincoln and other surrounding local areas, finished behind only SoCal Track Club as a team among over 100 teams from across the country.


Nine of Sierra Gold's 27 athletes returned home with a National Championship status, including Auburn resident Betts Stroh.


Stroh earned her team 30 points by winning the women’s 100-and 200-meter dash and long jump and placing second in the javelin – all at the spry age of 85.


“There are so many world-class athletes up there,” said Stroh, who emphasized the importance and success of Sierra Gold as a team. “If young people see old people competing, they’ll be inspired to get off the couch.”


Stroh leapt 1.69 meters to claim the women’s 85–89 division long jump title. The next day, she slung her homemade javelin 8.15 meters for a runner up spot before running a division-best 23.70-second 100. On the final day in Spokane, Stroh claimed a third gold with a 55.15 in the 200.


Lincoln resident George Patterson, 81, claimed a silver medal in his age group’s hammer throw (32.01 meters), a bronze in the weight throw (11.98m) and took fourth in both the shot put (8.86m) and the discus (23.55m).


Patti Baker, 67, also of Auburn, took fifth overall in the women’s 65–74 division in the shot put (6.10 meters), discus (13.02), weight throw (8.22) and javelin (20.23) while taking sixth in the hammer (19.12).


Participants for the Masters Championships range from age 30 all the way to 100-year-old Orville Rogers of Potomac Valley Track Club in Washington, D.C., who competed in the 100, 200-and 400-meter dashes.


In just its second year, Sierra Gold impressed the competition in Spokane, said head coach Clyde Lehman, who formerly coach track and field at Jesuit and Nevada Union High Schools.


“People would come up and ask me, ‘Who is Sierra Gold? Where do you come from? How did you get so many outstanding athletes on your team?’” said Lehman. “These people are an inspiration.”