Two Ponte Vedra residents recently medaled in the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama.
Blake Stichter, a 64-year-old resident of Marsh Harbor, won a silver medal in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 01:19.9 and a bronze medal in the 50-yard breaststroke with a time of 00:35.7. He competed in the 65-69 age group in both races.
“I was pretty thrilled with my times and obviously my placing,” said Stichter, who has lived in Ponte Vedra since 1994. “I’ve been concentrating all year, putting forth as much effort as a 65-year-old guy can.”
William “Bill” Lanius, an 87-year-old resident of Del Webb’s Riverwood community in Nocatee, won a bronze medal in pickleball mixed doubles in the 85-89 age group. He played with a Tennessee resident named Betty Case, who the National Senior Games Association matched with Lanius a day before the match.
“I thought we did well,” said Lanius, who has lived in Ponte Vedra since 2012. “We played against very good players who had gone to other tournaments as partners before. I think we did fine for just being first-time teammates.”
To participate in the national event, both Stichter and Lanius had to advance through a regional event in the Jacksonville area and a state event in Clearwater. This was the first year that both senior athletes competed in the national event. Over the past four years, Stichter has participated in regional and state qualifying meets but never competed in the national event until this year because he said the site was always too far from Ponte Vedra.
Stichter noted he prepared for the competitions by swimming 2,000 yards almost every day at The Lodge & Club, which he said required significant discipline. Lanius said he tried to play pickleball at Del Webb four times a week leading up to the competition.
According to the Florida Sports Foundation, Stichter and Lanius were two of 900 senior athletes from Florida that participated in the national games. Their three combined medals contributed to the state’s overall medal count of 576.
Men and women 50 and over from around the country compete in the biennial National Senior Games, which also include archery, cycling, racquetball, table tennis and tennis.