Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Outdoors

No age limits on arm strength

BRANDON

It's 10 a.m. on a typically humid May morning when Don Miller pulls into the parking lot behind Brandon High's football field. He takes out a bag full of discuses, a shot, two hammers and a few softballs, grabs his orange javelin and heads to the north end zone.

Miller acknowledges the maintenance staff, who all know him by name, as he sets down the bag and begins to warm up. Once loose, he stands with his back to the field, twirls the hammer — which is a 6.6-pound metal ball at the end of a 3-foot chain — over his head, then launches it as he turns toward the field. It lands about 50 feet away with a loud thud.

"The hammer is my favorite," Miller said. "You can watch it fly and when it hits it explodes into the ground."

On this day, his younger brother, Bob, is there to help retrieve some of his throws. Most of the time, Miller is on his own. After all, it's hard to find fellow 80-year-olds who want to spend a few hours throwing a discus or a shot on an unshaded football field.

"There aren't too many people in the area who do this," Miller said. "So I can't find people to work out with."

Miller is a prime example that you are never too old to try something new. Of course, it also helps to still have good health.

"The luck of the genes," said Bob, who is 70.

Miller moved to Brandon in 1973 with his wife and three kids after leaving his job with the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio. He sold insurance and then worked for the Radisson Corporation before he retired.

Like most of his friends, Miller played golf. He was very good and had a single-digit handicap. A little over three years ago, while in a Brandon theater waiting for a movie to start, he saw an advertisement touting the Senior Games.

"I was looking for something to do," Miller said. "It took me about a year before I decided to do it. Once I decided to do it I went to the YMCA and worked out for three months."

He entered his first senior track and field meet in November 2013 in Sanford. Since then he has won numerous medals in the five throwing disciplines: javelin, discus, shot put, hammer throw and weight throw. He also excels at the triple jump, which he does less frequently.

Miller qualified for the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, last month. He participated in six events and won medals in each one. He won silver in the throw pentathlon, which is a combination of all five throwing events in one day. He won gold in javelin (89.6 feet) and shot put (30.4 feet), silver in discus and bronze in the hammer throw and weight throw, which uses a 12-pound ball.

In his best throw event, javelin, Miller typically ranges between 85-90 feet. He is ranked second in the country and sixth in the world in the 80-84 age group in the latest Masters rankings. He is ranked first in the country and second in the world in the triple jump. He averages just over 20 feet per jump.

"I've been very fortunate and have been blessed," Miller said. "I still have good joints and I stay active."

Miller has no intentions of slowing down. He said he likes to participate in about eight to 10 events per year. Next on his list is the Senior National Championships, beginning June 7 in Birmingham, Ala. He also plans to compete in the National Throwing Championships in Worcester, Mass., in August.

Until then, he'll keep his normal routine. A couple of days on the Brandon High football field, a couple days at his local YMCA. His friends can play all the golf they want — he said he only plays occasionally when his grandkids visit — Miller is quite content launching a metal ball through the air.

"There's always room for improvement," he says as he jogs to pick up his shot put.

   
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