COLUMBIA – The sound of bouncing basketballs echoed through Columbia College's Southwell Gym on Friday as participants in the Missouri State Senior Games competed in free throw shooting and around the world.
Ron Snipe, a substitute teacher from Port Angeles, Wash., was impressed with the turnout.
“There’s more competition in basketball events than I’ve seen anywhere in the United States,” he said. “My age group is like 15 people, and (normally) you’re lucky to get four or five.”
Snipe spends his free time taking part in senior games around the country. He has been to 32 different state games at a rate of eight to 10 per year.
“I love to participate and meet people, but the real secret is the travel,” Snipe said. “I love to do sight-seeing. If there’s a sign, 'Welcome to Kansas,' click click. Welcome to Missouri,' click click."
Snipe, who previously lived in Kansas, got his start at Kansas' Sunflower State Games. After participating for about 10 years, Snipe and his wife moved to Washington, where he became a substitute teacher. It was then that Snipe started traveling across the country.
“I didn’t want the high school kids to see Dr. Snipe with a big gut,” Snipe said. “I sub 140 days a year, and then I’m on the road and at games 40 days.”
For Snipe, his stop in Columbia holds special significance. His mother attended Stephens College while his father was running track at MU.
“I don’t like track and field, but I do it in memory of my dad,” Snipe said. “I do the 400 meters, and I’m horrible. It’s a full sprint, and then you get three quarters of the way around, and the bear jumps up on your back and starts clawing at you. It's a hard race.”
Although Snipe participates in a wide variety of events at each state’s games, swimming is his strength. At Friday’s basketball events, Snipe wore a shirt from the 2009 State Games of America, where he won seven swimming medals.
“I came in, and this guy said, ‘Where are your goggles?’” Snipe recalled. “‘There’s 600 swimmers, and you’re the only one without goggles.’ I saw him two days later, and he said ‘Hey, No Goggles. How did you do?’ And I said ‘two gold and five silver.’ And he said ‘You don’t need goggles.’”
Snipe plans to participate in 42 different state games before he is done. For Snipe, the experience never gets old.
“It’s really nice,” Snipe said. “You meet nice people. It seems like every place you go it gets better.”