Early this month, local Masters track and field athlete Jim Patterson, who works for the county of Hood River, set a new men’s 55-59 age group shot put record (American) with a distance of 16.23 meters (53-5) at the Seattle Parks and Recreation USATF-sanctioned meet.
“It was very satisfying to break the record, but like most athletes I believe I can improve,” said Patterson. “Competition with yourself is what makes track and field unique and challenging.”
Patterson’s record setting throw was achieved on his third attempt, beating the former record of 16.06 (52-8 ¼) set by late Masters Hall of Famer Ladislav Pataki.
The Masters programs begins at the age of 30 for track and field and race walking, and at the age of 40 for long distance running. Competitors are grouped in five-year age-groups starting at age 35, and athletes within the program have continued into 100-plus.
“Track and field competition doesn’t have to end after high school or college,” said Patterson. There are plenty of opportunities to compete for Masters athletes in Portland, Seattle and Eugene; upcoming events can be found at www.usatf.org/groups/Masters.
“It’s very casual and welcoming for every one of every ability, and all running, jumps and throws are available at these events,” said Patterson. “I would recommend that anyone who wants to get involved start slowly, especially if they have not competed in years or never competed.”
Patterson has been competing with the Masters program since 2013, but began throwing when he was in middle school.
At the start of his throwing career in middle school, Patterson had his older brother to look up to, who was a high school state champion in the 440-yard dash and ran in college.
“I wasn’t a fast runner, but throwing events came fairly naturally to me,” said Patterson.
Competition continued for Patterson into his early high school career, but at the age of 16 he decided to put down the six-kilo ball due to injuries.
However, after calling it quits for 34 years, Patterson picked it back up at the age of 50.
“I’ve always been active, but shot putting and throwing the discus have unique demands of the body and it was painful at first,” said Patterson. “The same is true of sprinting and jumping. Injuries are likely if you’re not careful. Find a coach, online or in person, think long term and learn to enjoy the training. Competitions are great, but in track and field, the preparation is where the time is spent. You’ve got to enjoy the day to day work.”
These words of encouragement and passion from Patterson come as no surprise, as he’s one of the many community members that not only help with the middle school and high school track and field programs around the county, but advocate for kids to get out and get active.
“Running, jumping and throwing are natural activities for kids. It’s what they do, or should do, when they play,” said Patterson. “Track and Field is just organized and competitive running, jumping and throwing. It’s great to start early to learn the technical aspects of the events when in middle school where kids are most open to learning the basic movements.”
But for Patterson, it goes beyond “just organized and competitive running, jumping and throwing,” for kids interested in track and field.
“It is a great social experience for kids as well,” said Patterson. “It allows them to do individual events, while at the same time being part of a team. In this way it is unique and ideal for some kids who may not enjoy field sports.”
However, despite wanting more kids to try out track and field, the first experience for many children in the county isn’t what it should be, as Patterson explains:
“Our problem is our middle school facilities are terrible and that is where we need them the most. Last year the district helped with a new throwing circle at the Hood River Middle School, but the same is needed at Wy’east. Poor facilities increase the likelihood of injuries and inhibit learning the events. Track facilities are very expensive but have relatively long lives and will pay off in the long term. It would be great to see the community get behind an effort to upgrade the tracks in both locations. It is undoubtedly a huge challenge to raise the needed money, but it would be a great long term asset to the students and the community.”
Patterson plans to continue his summer of throwing at the Outdoor Championships in Spokane in late July.