Aiming for gold

One athlete's journey to the 2009 National Senior Games

Created date

September 21st, 2009
This past August, more than 10,000 athletes converged on the city of Palo Alto, Calif., for the 2009 Summer National Senior Games, a biennial event with medal competitions in 18 sports and the largest multi-sport event in the world for athletes 50 and older. [caption id="attachment_3037" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Jack Cason (left) earned a total score of 1,699 during the 2009 National Senior Games. (Photo courtesy of Alice Cason)"][/caption] Among all those athletes was one man, an archer whose dedication to his sport represents on a small scale what they all prove each time they approach the starting line that age and athleticism are not mutually exclusive and that striving to do your best is the most noble of human endeavors. An archer is born Jack Cason hasn t been drawing his bow for very long. He first took up archery about five years ago when he lived in Florida. Early on, he entered a contest and earned himself a third-place finish. That success spurred him on, and he continued to compete in state and regional contests. In 2005, he qualified for the National Senior Games, held in Pittsburgh, Pa., that year. He took home the bronze medal and a determination to do even better the next time. He skipped the 2007 games, but when 2009 came around, Cason wanted to test his skills against the best in the nation in Palo Alto. Like so many good sports stories, the story of Cason s trip to this year s games is full of drama and unexpected plot twists. The rocky road to Palo Alto Early in 2009, Cason and his wife, Alice, moved toGreenspring Village, anErickson retirement communityin Springfield, Va. Cason found a range near the historic Manassas battlefield to practice his archery, and things were going well. Cason says that moving to Greenspring was one of the best decisions they ever made. They like the people there and enjoy the spirit of the community. In early April, Cason decided to check in with his new physician, even though he d had a physical back in Florida. His exam unexpectedly turned up severely blocked arteries requiring immediate treatment. Over the next six weeks, Cason was in and out of the hospital and, of course, not out on the range practicing as he planned. Even after his health was under control, another six weeks of recuperation kept him homebound. Doctor-ordered inactivity can be frustrating for anyone, but for an athlete, not being able to practice his sport can be maddening. Once he received the okay to resume his activities, Cason went to work. In a few short months he would be required to shoot 90 arrows a day during two long days of competition. Working with weights at home increased his arm strength, and quality time at the range reconditioned his focus and his aim. Cason was determined to finish in the top three in his age group. As he left for the west coast, he felt confident that he had done his best to prepare, but nothing could have prepared him for the next hurdle. His wife and he arrived safely in California. His quiver and some other pieces of equipment, however, did not. While his gear was lost to the murky netherworld of missing luggage, Cason persevered through the first day of competition without it. You re either a competitor, or you re a quitter, he says. It did arrive in time for the second day of competition. A true competitor As anyone who has competed on any level understands, it s easy to get rattled when even the slightest thing goes awry. Overcoming the seemingly endless snafus Cason encountered along the road to the 2009 Games are a testament to his resilience. As he had done so many times in the preceding months, Cason kept his eye on the target and his mind on the competition. A score of 1,699 earned him the silver medal. In 2011, the Games will be held in Houston, Tex., Cason says. Who knows? Maybe it will be gold for me! A great sport Since becoming an archer, Cason has earned himself five gold medals, four silvers, two bronzes, and a slew of ribbons and plaques in various archery competitions. He loves the sport and believes it s a great form of mental and physical exercise. Says Cason, With today s bows, you don t have to pull a whole lot of weight to shoot and compete. You can add weight as you get better. Children and adults from 7 to 97 can compete and have fun. Cason is happy to offer guidance and share his knowledge of archery with anyone who s interested. Send your phone number and contact information to me at the email below, and I ll forward it on to Jack.