SAN JOSE -- Dozens of seniors drawing their bows this weekend on a panoramic hillside in south city brought the annual over-50s archery competitions to a close. But they vowed their sight-setting is far from over.
The last of the regional competitors in the eighth annual Bay Area Senior Games aimed at a yellow circular bullseye 20 yards away, and in between rounds described lofty ideals in the release of their arrows.
Mique Redding, a 70-year-old retired Valley Transportation Authority superintendent, called it therapy. Redding took up the sport when his wife of just six months died in 1982. "It helped me refocus," the Fremont resident said before a graceful pull on his intricate Hoyt compound bow. "The quiet allows you to get inside yourself. In order to shoot well you have to clear your mind."
Seventy-three-year-old E.B. Parkell, a former San Francisco deputy sheriff, enjoys having her bow and her quiver of arrows, a different kind of weapon and ammo, strapped to her side. And Kay Whipp, a 74-year-old retired administrative analyst from Pinole, described the simple satisfaction of the sport. She would rather shoot foam instead of live animals. "But you still get a big thrill when you hit something," Whipp said.
Wish come true
The Bay Area Senior Games end Sunday at San Jose's Black Mountain Bowman Range and venues throughout the region. The event is run by CEO Anne Warner Cribbs, who was just a 15-year-old swimmer when she won a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Now in its eighth year, the event spanning the month of May included 1,356 men and women over age 50 competing in 22 sports -- from pickleball all the way to rough-and-tumble rugby.
At the Bowman range, arrows slicing the air at speeds of more than 250 feet per second, made a satisfying smack when they sank into the fat foam cushion targets. You can't beat it, said San Jose's Harvey Stray, 85, and a lifelong archery enthusiast.
As this year's most senior competitor, Stray still remembers his first bow and arrow set, purchased in 1938 from a Montgomery Ward catalogue when he was 10 years old. His family lived on the Great Plains of North Dakota when Stray's father asked what the boy wanted for Christmas.
"A bow and arrow," he responded. And Stray recalls his father asking, 'What the hell you want that for?'"
Still, his wish came true and throughout his adult life as a merchant marine in World War II, a lumber yard employee, and a 35-year automotive technician at the Ford Motor Company, Stray kept up his enthusiasm for bows and arrows.
"I just like the idea of a bow and arrow," he said. "If it's archery, I'll be there."
At the archery games Saturday, the mood was more than nostalgic. There was plenty of ribbing going on as well. Just about everyone would get a medal by the time the 23 competitors were divvied up by age, gender and shooting style.
"Good thing I'm in a category by myself," joked organizer Karen Keating, 53, not too excited by her performance by late morning.
"What is that, the over-90?" joked 69-year-old Ben Armentrout.
Tugging their arrows from pock-marked target boards, other competitors kidded that they were going to go home and take up fishing -- "or billiards!" Redding quipped.
But they didn't mean it.
Whipp echoed the sentiments of her fellow senior archers when she noted: "This is something I can do until I fall apart."
Contact Karen de Sá at 408-920-5781.