A Senior Moment – Dinner with 3-time Olympian and American record hammer thrower Ed Burke

Almost every athlete, the annual U.S. National Track & Field Masters Championships Outdoors attended, had their day in the sun. Perhaps it was in school, college or on the professional circuit, but almost all of these men and women have experienced success on a certain level of competition.

It is therefore more than 1000 men and senior runners this year's National Championships back in Oshkosh (WI), a step on the track or on the spot and test againthemselves. To try and catch a firefly in a jam jar on a hot summer night.

Ed Burke is one of those athletes. Burke was a standout at San Jose State University from 1960 to 1962 and sets a school record with a throw of 192 feet-3 ,5-inch in 1962 that would stand for 16 years.

He started for the United States in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, and then retired. After 12 years, he came out of retirement and not the U.S. team, which was too Boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980th In 1984, at the age of 44 he made the team for the Olympics in Los Angeles.

It was 20 years since his first Olympic competition in Tokyo, and perhaps more importantly, Burke was selected by the U.S. team captains to carry the American flag at the opening ceremony. It was really a moment that the Olympic Burke will never forget.

His personal best throw of 243-feet-11-inch was at Stanford University in 1984, and remains as a> U.S. record for the age group 40-44.

After his retirement a second time, Ed Burke is back at it again. In his first competition in 21 years, he threw the hammer 175-09, breaking the world record for the age group 65-69. Burke, now 69, won the hammer throw at this year's National Track & Field Masters Championships in Wisconsin.

Burke is from Los Gatos, California. I flew from Lacey, Washington, to Midway Airport in Chicago, was taken by my best friendJohn Shaw, of Davison, Michigan, and we went to the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh to meet to obtain. John and I are friends for 49 years.

We both ran cross country and track for Flint Central High School and Michigan State University. John is a former cross country and track coach at Goodrich High School, where he was an experienced team every success and produced some major college talent.

We blew in Oshkosh, and after cruising a bit, prettyquickly finds that the best place for dinner the night before the meet, was Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant on the scenic Fox River. With a small brewery, boat dock, live music and outdoor dining, it was the place to be in Oshkosh.

Born and raised in Michigan after my first 21 years, it was not long until I remembered my Midwest roots. The people of Wisconsin Midwest were friendly, relaxed, confident and clean.

You remember in the Midwest. It was the same place that weMark Twain, Thomas Edison, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffett, Paul Harvey, Charles Schultz, Carl Sandburg, James Dean, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Qunicy Jones, Ronald Reagan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Johnny Carson The Wright Brothers, Benny Goodman and Bob Newhart. No wonder, in the Midwest is a special place, some call it the salt of the earth.

We want Fratellos as well as we again 4 nights for dinner. On the last night we were chatting with ourFood server Jon, a recent University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh grad looking for a job, and Ed Burke walked alone. Burke overheard our conversation (turns out, Jon was a runner in high school), and asked if he could join us.

We had never met before Ed Burke, but he was clearly a master of competitors, especially when we found out that he threw the hammer, saw the size of the hands and checked out the Olympic ring on his finger, which could have easily been mistaken for Super Bowlring.

Both John and I had a great time exchanging war stories with Ed Burke. We talked a lot about the great San Jose State track coach Bud Winter, who coached Burke San Jose State and earned the nickname "Speed City". Winter Olympic medalists and social activists developed Lee Evans, John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Carlos and Smith are perhaps best remembered for the grant of a raised fist salute from the podium of the medal winners at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

We also talked about howAging is not fun, something to compete in shape and recovering from injuries at our age it takes much more time. A high school athlete can get in great shape in 12 weeks, it takes us at least 12 months time to achieve the same kind of progress.

As we talked, and consumed more liquid refreshment, began the sun over the Fox River. John and I celebrated his silver medal in the 2,000-meter steeplechase, but our after-dinner time spent with Ed Burke reminds us justwhat the U.S. national meetings was really all about, camaraderie. They come for the competition and stay for the camaraderie.

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

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