Avon swimmer Judi Norton and Elyria golfer and shuffleboard player Walt Westermann were the top Lorain County medalists at the National Senior Games held in Northeast Ohio.
Action began July 19 and concludes with closing ceremonies today.
Medal-less through her first five events, Norton busted loose in her final race for the 55-59 age women’s 500-yard freestyle to win a gold medal.
Norton performed well throughout the three-day swim competition held July 20-22 at Cleveland State’s Busbey Natatorium, but had only four fifth-place performances plus a sixth place to show for her efforts.
But she performed up to her No. 1 seeding in the 500 free with a time of 6:14.01. She easily outdistanced silver medalist Elizabeth Hogan of Maryland (6:30.36).
“My times from earlier performances were good,” said Norton, who turns 56 this week. “My age group was fast. I was happy with what I did, beating my times from five years ago.”
Norton hadn’t competed in national-level short-course swim meets in years, but won two national age-group titles a year ago for open-water swimming. She won a one-mile title in North Carolina and a two-mile title in New Jersey.
“You like to perform well wherever you go,” Norton said. “One of the reasons I entered was that it was in town at Cleveland State. Now having competed in it, I’d probably do it again. This was the first time I did the NSG.
“I pretty much train on my own. Since we moved to Avon two years ago, I train at the French Creek Y for my open swims, then I go to Lakewood High twice a week to train with Ohio Masters, my club team.”
Norton has competed in masters-level swimming for 30 years. She swam in high school her junior and senior years for Lakewood (class of 1975) and for Rutgers University (1979), where she was a two-time All-American in the 200 back and 200 individual medley.
“After finishing fifth all those times, it was nice,” said Norton, who coached Lakewood and Fairview high schools for a combined 14 seasons. “It was a medal, and it’s even nicer the fact it was gold.”
Norton opened the meet with a fifth in the 200 free (2:20.35). She broke the meet record, but so did the four in front of her. Norton also finished sixth in the 200 IM (2:41.85), her other event for the first day.
The second day she earned fifth place awards in the 100 IM (1:13.82), 200 back (2:44.25) and 50 fly (34.20).
“The 500 free wasn’t one my specialties in college,” Norton said. “I probably only swam it twice.”
Norton retired from Fairview schools in 2007. She was a school psychologist 10 years and taught special education for 17 years. She was also an adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace from 2007-12 before retiring.
Westermann earned a gold medal in 95-99 age men’s singles shuffleboard, held July 29 at the Cleveland Convention Center.
“A shuffleboard game can be composed based on a certain number of frames and a frame is shoving your disk down to the far end of the court and back on time or set by a certain number of scored points,” Westermann said. “The first one to reach 60 or 70 points, that’s the game. We played frames. I played two games and didn’t lose either one and picked up a gold.
“I started shuffleboard seriously in 1986. From that point on I had good tutoring by experienced players. I first started competing in shuffleboard at the state level for Senior Games back in 1994, but this was the first time I competed in it at the national level.”
Westermann won a gold medal in men’s 80-84 golf at the 1999 National Senior Games, his only other appearance at the national championship level. He previously medaled many times for shuffleboard at the local and state levels, but this was his first medal for that sport at the national level. He didn’t compete in shuffleboard in 1999 because of a scheduling conflict.
“You’re proud of what you’re doing because you start at one level and you go through each level above that,” Westermann said. “You know if you do it and do it well, the winning of the medal will be the outcome.”
Westermann added a silver medal for men’s 95-99 age golf held over a three-day period from July 24-26 at Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club in Concord. Westermann shot a three-round total of 162, coming in second by four strokes to Michigan’s Ray Lokers, age 95 (158). He fell behind six strokes on the first day and couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“It was very cold July 24 and I didn’t get warmed up,” Westermann said. “Thursday was better and Friday was a very nice day. The weather hasn’t been very good for practicing this year with all the rain. My game hasn’t been what it should be. I didn’t have enough time to work my game back to its normal peak. I made some bad mistakes so it cost me strokes.”
Avon Lake swimmer Tom Laraway won more medals than any other Lorain County athlete for any sport with three bronzes for men’s age 55-59 in 100 breast (1:14.79), 100 IM (1:07.70) and 50 breast (33.04). He was also fourth in both the 50 free (25.80) and 500 free (5:58.96), plus sixth in the 200 breast (2:53.54).
Laraway swam for Akron Firestone High and Wake Forest, and began his comeback as a masters swimmer in 2006.
“The funny thing about my medals for breaststroke is that I really didn’t compete in that stroke much except right when I first started out swimming at age 10,” Laraway said.
The 500 free — his sixth and final event — was the most nostalgic for Laraway.
“I was pitted against Copley’s Scot Tribuzi, who I defeated for the district title in high school back in 1976,” Laraway said. “I out-touched Scot for first that day. We both qualified to state. The tables were turned on me at NSG. Scott won (5:29.08) and I was fourth.”
Avon Lake’s Jim McGaughney also performed well in the pool, placing fifth in the 50
fly (30.09), sixth in the 100 fly (1:14.56) and 100 back (1:14.80), plus ninth in the 100 IM (1:13.34) for men’s 60-64 age group.
Former Elyria High cross country coach Pati Habenicht was the top county runner.
Habenicht earned a bronze medal in the 10K road race in downtown Cleveland on July 20 with a time of 57:08.7.
A 1964 graduate of Elyria Catholic, Bob Kuebler was fifth in men’s 65-69 for the men’s 10K road race (48:16). He was 11th in the 1,500 meters (6:09) and 20th for the 800 (3:14) on the track. Kuebler also placed 12th in the 5K road race (23:53) held at the Cleveland Zoo on July 23. He also participated in the men’s 400-meter relay that was fourth out of five teams.
Avon Lake’s Keith Douglas finished fourth in the men’s 50-54 10K road race (45:00.6).
Janet Michal of Oberlin was fifth in the women’s 55-59 10K road event (50:41.8).
Avon Lake’s Reed Hinman was ninth in the men’s 70-74 for the 10K road race (56:02.9).
He was also 10th in the 5K road race (26:29.8) and 15th in the 800 (3:29.57) on the track.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.