Competitors try electronic darts, other sports at Senior Games

Saturday, June 21, 2014 | 6:04 p.m. CDT; updated 12:29 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

COLUMBIA — David Easterla and William Cannon hustled through the doors of Hearnes Center around noon Saturday.

They had just come from the lap pool and were about to be late for their next event of the day, electronic darts.

At the Missouri State Senior Games, competing in multiple events is common.

Dean Homan, 63, said he competes in the basketball skills contest, golf, football and softball throws for distance and accuracy, shuffleboard and electronic darts. He said he enjoys darts because it's fun, quick and easy, but it's not something he practices throughout the year.

"I come here and shoot darts and that's about it," he said. "Free throw shooting and 3-point shooting, I practice that. Those are my events, and that's what started me here 14 years ago. All the other events I just take in because I'm here."

Eighteen "seniors," which by the Games' standards includes those 50 years old and up, competed in electronic darts Saturday.

"We're not over the hill just because we're over 50 years of age," Cannon said. "I'm 83 going on 32."

Easterla, of Maryville, was a multi-sport athlete at Missouri in 1955. He grew up swimming in Lake of the Ozarks, but he couldn't swim for the Tigers because the university didn't have a pool, he said. He wrestled, played basketball and ran track instead.

"I've been in sports all my life, but I didn't realize they had things such as the Senior Olympics until I was 69," Easterla, 76, said. He's been competing in the games ever since.

"You don't quit playing because you get old," he said. "You get old because you quit playing."

Cannon said he has competed in the Games since they began 20 years ago in Mexico, Mo. His main event is swimming, but he takes part in other sports, too. He competed in seven events Friday and had four earlier that morning. He said he likes to encourage people to try other events, too.

"Unless you try something that you haven't already mastered, you'll never grow, so it's really great to try things," Cannon said. "You don't go for the gold; you just go."

He had never tried shuffleboard until about four years ago, and he's placed in the top three every time he's tried, he said.

"Of course, that really ticks off a lot of shuffleboard players because they don't swim," Cannon joked. "So I said, 'Come on swimming. I don't play shuffleboard, but look what happened.'"

Senior Games competitors as young as 50 are placed in groups, each with a five-year range, all the way up to 100-plus.

Some competitors, like Ron Jelinek, 82, and his son, John, 54, make the Games a family affair. Both took home medals for electronic darts.

Scott Schwartz, 58, of Chesterfield, tallied the highest score for the day at 467.

Each participant threw 24 darts, in eight rounds of three. Throwing distance was 7 feet and 9 1/4 inches.

Shuffleboard and washers also took places at Hearnes Center on Saturday.

Everyone who competed in shuffleboard will move on to the qualifiers for nationals, because there were not more than four participants in any age group. The top four out of each age group advance in shuffleboard, said Tyler Garven, an intern at the Games. The National Senior Games will take place July 2015 in Minnesota.

The State Games will continue Sunday beginning with a 10,000-meter road race at 7:30 a.m. The weekend event concludes with team bowling at noon.

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

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