Soccer, hockey and softball are the kinds of sports that follow athletes from their childhood days into adulthood. Track and field generally gets left behind, along with gymnastics and dodgeball.
But that’s not the case for the Martin-Brower Blaze, a sprint team from Maple Ridge that is now up and running.
The 2015 Harry Jerome Indoor Games will be run Feb. 7 at the Richmond Olympic Oval, and the hometown Blaze will be competing against university track teams.
The Blaze started with the ageless Bobby Lefever.
The local trucker tried out for a Washington State arena league football team in his late 40s.
He didn’t make his namesake, the Tri-Cities Fever, which plays out of Kennewick, Wash., but says he didn’t embarrass himself out there, either.
His son is a top-flight sprinter, and Lefever found that in a race he was only a step behind his boy.
Apparently, the guy who was once the fastest back on the James Bay rugby team hadn’t lost it yet.
Lefever prefers sprinting to jogging, as a workout routine, and soon found himself on the track at Maple Ridge secondary working on his speed. He has taken a technical approach to improving his stride.
“I had never done track and field before, and there’s so much science to it.”
Short arm movements, a straight torso, the proper stride, the right amount of training and rest – he immersed himself in sprinting, training three times per week, and working out at Club 16 on off days.
His workouts and passion for running soon rubbed off on guys he knows through work, and after kicking around the idea for about six months, they formed a sprint team. Lefever is 55, and the rest of the guys on the Blaze are all 20-somethings.
MRSS grads Cody DiSaldo and Ty Lum were track athletes at the high school level and Jordan Crowe was a high school football player. Vancouver resident Hugh Murray and Delta’s Kevin Zimmer round out the team.
“We push each other to be better,” said Lefever.
They will compete this weekend in the 60m individual races. Lefever will compete in an over-35 age class, and his goal is to make the final eight.
The team will also compete in the 4x200m relay, each of them sprinting 50m.
Generally speaking, the people training seriously in sprints are university-level athletes, with goals like trying to make the national team, and that’s who they will be up against on Saturday.
“I think we’ll do well,” said Lefever. “It’s a huge accomplishment for us just to have a team.”
Some of the Blaze members have got some chops as athletes.
Lum has a long history of track training, having been with the Golden Ears track club and local coach Ken Elphick. In Grade 11, Lum finished sixth in B.C. in the 100m sprint.
The training has become a habit.
“I never really stopped training. I came out to the track on my own a lot. And now I’m picking it up again with Martin-Brower, officially joining a team again. So it’s fun, and it’s exciting,” Lum said.
His goals are simply to improve his stamina, and his pace.
“So it’s just more for myself, rather than placing.”
He’s been playing “beer league” soccer, but hopes the running will help when he moves up to a more competitive standard next year.
His goal is to get faster, and the workout has been phenomenal for the quinquagenarian Lefever.
“Before Christmas I was 225. Now I’m down to 204. I haven’t been down to 204 in 26 years,” he said.
But one shouldn’t be left with the impression it has been easy. When Lefever jumps on cardio machines at the fitness club, his goal is to burn off 600 calories in 30 minutes. He goes at it hard.
But Lefever wants the track club to be fun. He feels great after a session of sprints.
“If we don’t enjoy this, what are we doing it for?” he said.
“It releases those endorphins and you feel great about life, and a feeling of accomplishment.”