PEMBROKE — Laura Blunt, 88, enjoys staying active while engaging in friendly competition. That’s why she’s been participating in the Senior Games since she was 50 years old.
Blunt drove to Myrtle Beach 38 years ago to participate in the games. She’s traveled to a variety of locations each year since then to take part in the festivities, and on Friday morning the University of North Carolina at Pembroke became the latest addition to list of destinations.
The campus hosted five events — football throwing, basketball shooting, softball throwing, swimming and another ball sport called bocce — on the fourth day of the Lumber River Regional Senior Games.
“I just love the people and I love to do it all,” Blunt said.
Senior citizens participated in the activities with the aid of community volunteers as well as representatives of the UNCP athletic department.
Ursula Selles, Senior Games coordinator and aging specialist at the Lumber River Council of Governments, said approximately 180 individuals are participating in the games this year.
“We’ve had an increase in our participation from last year,” Selles said. “We’ve had an increase in the (age) 50 to 60 bracket. It’s always hard to get those younger participants in. That’s good. That’s what we want.”
Several seasoned Senior Games veterans, such as 90-year-old Lumberton resident Dick Taylor, participated in the games as well. Taylor said he is excited about competing in the 100-meter dash, which is part of today’s events at on the track that has Taylor’s namesake. The slate of 11 activities starts at 9 a.m.
“We have a lot of participants in the 80 to 90 range, which is good. They’re staying active,” Selles said.
The seniors participating in the games found the event to be entertaining, but the volunteers also benefited from their time working with the competitors.
“It’s a great opportunity to serve others,” said John Grinde, offensive line coach for UNCP’s football team. “It embodies what our program stands for.”
For Selles, one of the best features of the games takes place after all of the competitions.
“We have about 30 different events. I love all of the events,” Selles said. “One of my favorite is the closing ceremony. That’s where everyone comes together and we have a sit-down meal.”
Five locations will be utilized for the remaining six days of the games after today.
A doubles bowling competition will take place on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Lumberton Bowling Center, which will also host billiards on May 9.
The competitors will head to the Fairmont Golf Club on Tuesday for a round on the course. It is scheduled for 9 a.m.
Thursday’s activity will be a pickleball competition at Bladen County Park. The event will start at 9 a.m.
The second-to-last event will be horseshoes at Sam Noble Park on Friday.
The Senior Games will come to a close with a closing ceremony at the Bill Sapp Center on May 10 at 5 p.m.
“They’re always energetic and always excited,” Selles said of the competitors’ attitude about the games. “They’re always ready for a new challenge.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.