BLOOMINGTON, IND. – When Kathy Bergen had crossed the finish line in the W70 200-meter dash during the final day of the Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships, it was as the only woman over 70-years-old to ever break 32 seconds in that race. Her world record of 31.86 was one of six individual world marks set Sunday at the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse.
More than 800 athletes ages 30-95+ are competing in the Masters Indoor Championships in preparation for the World Masters Championships, which are scheduled for April 3-8 in Jyvaskyla, Finland.
Jeanne Daprano picked up her third and fourth world records of the Championships by winning the W75 200m (36.53) and 800m (3:18.48), Robert Lida grabbed his second world record in Bloomington in the M75 200m (27.86) and Christa Bortignon grabbed her third world record of the weekend in the W75 200m (34.53). Phil Raschker also produced an American record in the W65 triple jump (8.52m).
Over the three days of competition, spectators at the Masters Indoor Championships witnessed a total of 16 world records fall.
Bergen best in the world
For Bergen it wasn’t until Saturday when she had taken a good look at breaking her own W75 indoor 200m world record of 32.31. Not primarily a 200m runner, Bergen ran a leg on one of the 4x200m relays Saturday and was recorded with a split of 31.50.
“At first I didn’t believe it,” Bergen said about her time in the relay. “But I figured if I could do that again I had a shot at breaking it. After that I didn’t really think about it.”
Bergen arrived in Bloomington with the goal in mind of setting the W70 world record in the 60m. She won the event, but narrowly missed the world mark Saturday. What transpired Sunday quickly proved to be adequate compensation.
“It is really exciting,” Bergen said, who also became the first woman over 70 years old to run under 15 seconds in the 100m two years ago. “I have been working on my 200 and I just listened to what my coach (Eric Dixon) told me. I heard someone yell to take a deep breath on the last turn and that helped out a lot. I am starting to rethink what is my best race. The 200 isn’t as painful anymore.”
The owner of a total of three combined indoor and outdoor world records in the high jump, Bergen has elected not to attend the World Masters Championships and begin her preparation for the outdoor season. Her next goal is chasing down the W70 200m outdoor world record of 31.45. Bergen began competing in masters competitions in 1994.
A different Super Bowl for McConkey
Phil McConkey plainly summarizes the similarities between racing the Masters Indoor Championships and winning a Super Bowl ring.
“Let me tell you something,” he said following his M55 200m final Sunday. “It’s tough for people to comprehend that nerves are all relative. The first competition I had was in grammar school in the second grade and I had the same sensations then that I had playing football and even today.”
McConkey was a wide receiver for the New York Giants when they won the Super Bowl in 1987. It has been 25 years since McConkey won his Super Bowl ring and still found the same anxiety in Bloomington that he did then.
“You have these middle-aged men that can have the same sensations they did when they were little kids. That’s amazing,” he said. “I ran the 200m in 25 seconds. I used to do that backwards. But this keeps me young. The people here are defying conventional wisdom. Society wants so badly to categorize everyone, but the people here refuse to do that. It is inspiring to see these people. The body ages, but the spirit never does. I want to do this as long as I can.”
A career in the National Football League that lasted until the age of 33, McConkey also spent time with the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers and Phoenix Cardinals. He picked up masters track and field two years ago, which was the first time he had competed in the sport since high school.
For more information on the Masters Indoor Championships see www.usatf.org and for event results see http://www.usatf.org/events/2012/USAMastersIndoorTFChampionships/schedule.asp.