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Updated: 12/15/2011 04:24:50AM

Shuffling off

to the senior games

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When we think of sports we tend to think about young men and women who are strong, nimble and competitive.

But today, sports isn’t just for the young but for the young at heart also.

Polk Senior Games provide an annual competitive, athletic and recreational sporting event for men and women 50 years and older and Beverly DeLong from the City Mobile Park in Fort Meade, Fl is one of the thousands that play annually.

Delong has been playing in the Polk Senior Games for more than 11 years She managed and played on the Shuffleboard teams for six years winning the bronze and silver in her class. She is also a player in darts and euchre competition, taking the silver and bronze in darts two years in a row.

Many Polk Senior Game players are from the City Mobile Home Park that is primarily made up of Northern visitors. There has been as many as 20 dart players and more than 20 shuffleboard players from the park in any one year.

“We have a lot of players but some are afraid of the competitive levels of the games. The games are fun and for enjoyment, but not our whole league is in it.” DeLong commented.

And, she said, there is more than just the games that participants and supporters can look forward to.

“I have enjoyed every year and the closing ceremonies are beautiful,” she added. “I think more people ought to get in to the games, I think they would enjoy them. A lot of people are in there to get the awards, but some are there just to meet people that you would not otherwise meet, that is real good.”

Nancye Thornberry of Lakeland was inspired to start senior games in Polk County after watching her 70-year old brother compete in the National Senior Games. In 1991, with the support of local businesses, county & city governments, and community leaders, Polk Senior Games was organized as a public charity with the purpose of providing an annual series of competitive athletic and recreational events for men and women, ages 55 and older. The minimum age changed to 50 in 1997. In November 1992, 200 volunteers presented the first Polk Senior Games with 777 seniors competing in 15 sports and games. Over the last 6 years, Polk Senior Games has grown along with the age group it serves. In 2010, 2,650 seniors participated in 36 sports and games overseen by a salaried Executive Director, a 50 member Board of Directors and more than 600 event volunteers.

The 20th anniversary of the game will be held Feb. 25 to March 12 at various locations through Polk County. It is open to men and women 50 years and older and features Olympic-style events. Required pre-registration begins Jan. 3.

Deadline to enter is Feb. 10. Entry fee is $10 for first event and $3 for each additional event, up to a maximum of $28. Participants receive a T-shirt and admission to closing celebration at The Lakeland Center.

For an entry book or information, email or call (863) 533-0055.