By Lois Bell
Sheridan Senior Center
SHERIDAN — With July around the corner, many Sheridan County residents have the sounds of rodeo in their ears.
But for resident Jacqueline Jones, it’s the crack of pool and pingpong balls that sound in her ears. Jones, who quickly introduces herself as Jacky, is training for the 2013 Senior Olympics in Casper July 10-13.
Jones has competed in the Wyoming Senior Olympics for five years after she and her husband, Bob, moved to Sheridan in 2004 from Arizona.
Senior Olympics coordinator for Sheridan, Jim Eggenberger, convinced Jones to enroll in the event.
“He was so inspirational and the reason I became involved in the games,” Jones said. “He is an incredible advocate for staying healthy through movement. I started on lark and competed in pingpong.”
Jones discovered that she loved the experience.
“It all started when the YMCA and the Senior Center co-hosted Fitness Days (years ago),” Jones said … “Fitness Days encouraged participants to try different activities. I fell in love with pickleball.”
Jones competed in pickleball in subsequent Senior Olympics.
The vision of the Senior Olympics is to promote healthy lifestyles for adults through education, fitness and sport.
In 1985, a volunteer group of seven men and women founded the national organization.
In 1990 the group renamed itself the U.S. National Senior Sports Organization after the United States Olympic Committee objected to using the word Olympic in their name.
Wyoming, who incorporated Olympics in their state organization’s name since it was founded, is one state that is allowed to retain Olympic in their name. Wyoming has hosted the games since 1987.
“The first Wyoming Senior Olympics games were hosted in Cheyenne,” Wyoming Senior Olympics board member Carolyn Griffith said.
Griffith, who is Casper’s recreation manager, assumed the position of Wyoming Senior Olympics state coordinator last fall after Casper was announced as the host city for the 2013 and 2014 games.
Each host city agrees to a two-year commitment.
After competing in the 2007 Sheridan games, Jones volunteered to be part of a group that organized the Senior Olympics parade in 2008, the second year Sheridan hosted the games.
The Senior Olympics offers 19 categories of events including archery, cycling, golf, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball and road races.
In many states, participation in the state Olympics is closed to state residents.
“Wyoming is considered an “open state” Jones said. “That means anyone from anywhere can compete.”
Jones has met athletes from New York, California and Colorado at the Wyoming games.
This year, Jones is competing in ping pong and billiards.
“I have several coaches,” Jones said, referring to the group of pool players she trains with. “My husband, Bob, taught me a few shots but most of my coaching comes from the other players.”
“It’s healthy to compete,” Jones said. “(The Senior Olympics) gets you out of the house, meeting new people and laughing … a lot. Laughing is good for your health.”
Medalists from the state games are invited to compete at the national games that will be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19-Aug. 1.
The deadline to register for the Wyoming Senior Olympics has been extended to this Monday.
Athletes may register by visiting the website wyseniorolympics.com and choosing the “Registration Info” tab or calling Carolyn Griffith, state coordinator at 307-235-8384.