BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Neal Grob had barely walked in the door from his flight home from Minneapolis when my message was on his phone's voice mail. Grob had returned from a victorious first-time try at the U.S. Senior Games, the national competition for Senior Olympians all over the country. Grob, at the ripe old age of 50, was showing that 50's-the-new-30 all over the place.
"I got a silver medal in the long jump and a gold medal in the triple jump," he said.
"What is the triple jump?" you might ask.
"It's a track and field event where you hop, step and then jump," he explained.
Grob jumped 11.1 meters to win the gold, he said that's about 35 feet.
Turns out, Grob had run track as a teenager in 1982 at Lutcher High for Coach Arthur Harper. He had first done the triple jump back then. He excelled in high school and was a walk-on for LSU's track program while a freshman for Coach Boots Garland, but studies grew in importance. The classes got tougher because Neal was in chemical engineering. He put aside his track cleats.
"It was about a year ago that I started practicing."
Grob hadn't thought about where he would practice.
"There wasn't really a place to train that I had access to. A lot of high school tracks were closed, and locked to the public. So I went to BREC parks," said Grob. "What I found there was that kids had playgrounds, and there is a big old sand lot in almost every playground. So I would back up and start my run on the grass, and would jump into the sand as my practice."
I laugh as I imagine little kids watching this grown man hop, skip and jump into the sand. Neal said he also uses a little rake to smooth the area for repeated runs. Turns out he didn't do the full-fledged jumping but once a week.
Other days, he "did a lot of exercising though, sprinting, working out, that was the main part of training. I would also go to meets and compete as practice. At meets I had an official-grade track to perform on, with actual measurements."
Grob said he went to a meet in Natchitoches, so he had to be willing to travel for the experience. Neal said there are not that many chances in Baton Rouge. Grob said sometimes they declare a "masters track meet" which means people age 30 and above.
So a process engineer at Rubicon in Geismar who has 20-plus years on the job can brag that he's America's Best for age 50 to 54. But he's seen a 90-year-old in Baton Rouge who continues to compete.
I suppose for Senior Olympians, 50's-the-New-30, and 90's-the-New 60 maybe. Congrats to all!