Trio of seniors strike gold in Utah

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You’re never too old to be young.

Three Franklin County residents came home with the gold in their respective sports and age brackets, at The Huntsman World Senior Games held in St. George, Utah.

The Huntsman Games, which include more than 30 sports, is the largest annual multi-sport event in the world for athletes age 50 or over.

Participants compete against their peers within brackets of five years. It takes place in two weeks in October and includes a magnificent opening ceremony event. The Games were not held in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Russ Cumbie, of Carrabelle, and partner Michaelin Watts, of Apalachicola, have been practicing tennis together in Apalachicola and at the St. George Plantation, preparing for the Huntsman Games as well as the Florida Senior Games to be held in Fort Lauderdale in early December.

At Huntsman, Cumbie and Watts competed in mixed doubles tennis, and were seeded #2 in the 80s division, which covers athletes between ages 80 and 84. They had a tough semi-final match, played under lights against the team of Joanne Barthman, of Bluffton, South Carolina, and Don Hales, of Salt Lake City, Utah. The Franklin County team ended up winning the match 6-4 and 6-2.

Because of a rain delay, the play for the mixed doubles final was begun at 2-2 for the first two sets, with a 10-point tie breaker if a third set was required. The team Cumbie and Watts were playing was made up of Sharon Branch, from Reno, Nevada, and Ron Morris, of Provo, Utah. and they had just moved up into the 80s after winning the the 75s, for ages 75 to 79, at the last Huntsman Games in 2019.

Cumbie and Watts lost the first set 6-3 but pulled together to win the second set 6-4, and then took the match with a 10-2 for the third set tie breaker.

Over the past year Watts’ husband Dave could be seen on his bicycle doing his every other day 18-mile practice run on Bluff Road and beyond in preparation for the Huntsman World Senior Games and the upcoming Florida Senior Games.

At Huntsman there are three categories of bicycle events - Recreational, Experienced and Expert for each age division. Watts competed in three bicycle events in the 80s division, for ages 80 to 84, inside the Experienced category, which features a 5k Hill Climb, 15k Time Trial and 38k Road Race.

In the Hill Climb, Watts took top honors with a time of 25:03.31, and in the Time Trial he won with a time of 34:33.23. In the Road Race, his winning time of 1:24:51.51 secured him the gold in a sweep of all three events. In fact, he found that his times are approaching the Expert category, which bodes well for future competition.

Watts rode on his brand new Trek bike, purchased with a gift from his Navy SEAL mission buddy, the late Dante Stephenson. A legendary restaurateur, Stephensen passed away July 25, 2020, and was beloved for his creation of the iconic Atlanta hotspot Dante’s Down the Hatch.

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