Rim Country Athletes Bring Home Medals At Sr. Olympics

"The older the violin, the sweeter the music."

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If that old adage is valid, a pair of Payson senior athletes are playing a sports tune that's honey to the beholder.


Tom Cooka and Donnie Haught set the Northern Arizona senior sports world on its ear last Sunday with athletic feats that would have athletes 30 years younger turning cartwheels in delight.

At the Northern Arizona Senior Olympics held at Coconino High School in Flagstaff, Haught lifted his way to a gold medal in the 54-59-year-old power-lifting competition.


While Haught was overpowering his competition in the weight room, Cooka -- competing in the 60-plus age group --was on the outdoor track running his way to gold medals in five distance events.


Cooka, who retired to Payson from his home in Winslow where he was an employee of the Santa Fe Railroad, won the 1,500 meters, 800 meters, 3,000 meters, 400 meters and the 1,500-meter race walk.


Having never participated in a race walk before, Cooka said he entered on a whim and found it to his liking.


After posting his times and awarding Cooka his five gold medals, officials decided that because his times were much faster than those in younger age groups they'd give him another two gold medals.


Cooka says that was a surprise to him, but welcomed the awards.


Haught opened the power-lifting competition with a 340-pound effort in the dead lift. In the squat, he powered 350 pounds.


The two lifts almost guaranteed his gold medal in the age group, so he decided to coast in the bench press because of recent shoulder injuries, including an operation on his rotator cuff that has limited his effectiveness.


His 205-pound bench was still the best in his age group. Rendering Haught's feat even more remarkable is that he often gives about 60 to 70 pounds in body weight to other competitors.


Haught weights 154 pounds and in some of the senior events, body weight is not taken into consideration when grouping the entrants.


A long-time goal of both Cooka and Haught is to represent the Rim country in the National Senior Olympics held each summer in Orlando, Fla.

B-ball registration begins

Registration for third- and fourth-grade basketball players begins Sept. 27 and runs through Oct. 8 at the Payson Parks and Recreation Department, 1000 W. Country Club Drive. Play begins Nov. 6 and continues on through mid-December.


Entry into the Town of Payson league is $20 per player, said Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider, and includes a T-shirt and season-ending pizza party.


Registration for fifth- and sixth-graders will be in November, and seventh- and eighth-graders in January.


For more information, call Parks and Recreation at 474-5242, ext. 7.

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