The competition had ended, but Tom Gage decided to take a few more practice hammer throws.
When done, he talked of his career.
The Billings, Mont., resident was an Olympian, throwing the hammer at Munich in 1972. He continued throwing internationally until age 33, when he tore an Achilles’ tendon.
Like other masters track athletes with his background, the lure of the sport was great and he returned to action at age 40 in lower-key meets. The pace suits him fine.
Now 53, he says, “I had to get out of the world-class mentality. I’m doing it for fun.”
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get a thrill from competing. Gage, an Exxon chemical engineer who attended college at Cornell, holds the men’s 50-54 national record of 209 feet, 2 inches and he won the event again here at 202-4.
He also won the shot put on Sunday at 51-1-3/4, using the spin move he took up five years ago. Gage bombed in the discus.
“I had fantasies of winning all three, but beating Lloyd (Higgins) and (Ladislav) Pataki was questionable at best,” he said.
Since moving to Montana 30 years ago, Gage has helped out at Montana State University and worked with this year’s U.S. Olympic medalist Lance Deal.
“I threw with Lance about a week and said ‘That’s all I know, you’ll be great,”’ said Gage.
That’s how it went when he became internationally known. He subbed for Harold Connolly in a meet, worked a bit with Ed Burke and beat him. That was the end of lessons.
“The way I did it, because of family, was work eight hours, train 1-1/2 hours a day and go to five or six meets a year,” he said.
Performance-enhancing drugs were common then. No one knew of the consequences.
“They were like vitamins,” said Gage, who didn’t take them. “I got a prescription from a doctor, put it in my pocket and washed the shirt. I said it must be an omen.”
Runner comes home: Sprawled out on the track after diving for the finish of his 800 meter run, Rich Tucker had come home.
Tucker lost by one-tenth of a second despite the lunge, timing 2:10.35 in the men’s 50-year-old race. As he lay there, concerned officials came up, but Tucker waved them off.
“I’m OK, I’m only resting,” he said.
This fall, Tucker, 51, will become associate dean for student funded programs at Spokane Falls Community College, site of this year’s USATF National Masters Track Meet, which concluded Sunday.
He graduated from Rogers High School in 1963 and then left on an odyssey that took him to college at Western Washington University and jobs at Washington State and Yakima Community College.
He was a standout quartermiler as a Pirate and has continued running in and out of college. The nine years he spent as an associate dean at WSU between 1980-89, he said, “were probably my best years running.”
Thereafter he coached basketball and was director of student life at YCC.
Tucker finished fifth in the 800 of the 1989 World Veteran Games in 1:57.0.
“I didn’t run much faster in college,” he said.
He ran a 2:05 last year to win a meet in Michigan and also placed fourth in the Worlds at Buffalo.
Tucker timed 51.3 for 400 meters at age 44, not far from his collegiate best of 48.6.
At this year’s Nationals, he not only finished second in the 800, but also in the 400 at 56.43.
“I enjoy running,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to coming home.
For the record: On the final day of competition 48-year-old Edwin Morland, Westmoreland, KS. improved his men’s 45 mark by seven feet with a throw of 210-1.
It was one of four records established at the national meet, three of them in the javelin.
In age 35-39, Ralph Howe broke Spokanite Gene Lorenzen’s mark by four feet with a 222-3 throw. Manuel White, Helena, Mont. in the men’s 80 threw 110-9, a four-foot improvement.
Others came in the men’s 20 kilometer race-walk by 42-year-old Warrick Yeager of Palms, Calif., at 1:38.55 and in the women’s 10K race walk by D. JoAnne Parks, Lapeer Mich., at 1:03.59.
Saturday, in the discus, Ed Hooker set a 70-74 record at 145-4.