Look around the gym this time of year and it probably seems a lot more roomy than it was a month ago. All the New Year’s resolutions have resolved themselves back into the dust heap until next year; only the real fitness buffs are still showing up and putting in the time and effort to stay in shape. As you pound the treadmill, run ruts in the track, stretch like a yoga master and lift heavier weights than ever before, you might be tempted to feel just a little smug about your dedication and commitment. You might, unless you happen to be in the West Fitness Center when Dr. Reginald Grier is there, working out, getting ready for his next athletic competition, and generally showing everyone what 84 years old can feel like.
Grier said he’s always been athletic, competing in track and field events since he was in high school. A decade ago, he had to give up competing in the Maryland Senior Olympics’ 800 and 1500 meter runs, after having both knees and a hip replaced. He’s a bit sheepish when he explains that since the surgery, he only competes in raquetball, badminton, discus, shot put, javelin, the 1500 meter race walk, standing long jump, horseshoes and basketball.
OK, so maybe he hasn’t slowed down all that much. Instead, the New York native and retired 82nd Airborne Commander is pushing himself to stay competitive, and inspiring others to give their all to physical fitness at any age through his role as a Commissioner on the Maryland Senior Olympics.
“I noticed there were no Blacks on the Commission, and I asked, ‘Why is that?’” said Grier, who has volunteered as one of 16 Commissioners for the Maryland Senior Olympics for the past 15 years.
Commissioners, aside from competing in the Maryland Senior Olympics, also help organize the annual games, present medals to winning athletes, and ensure that each athlete or team is competing against people of their age group. The competition is divided into 5-year increments. This spring, Grier himself will move up to the next age group, as he turns 85.
“In certain events, there’s very little competition, like the standing long jump,” said Grier, “but shot put, discus and javelin? I have quite a bit of competition, there.”
Each state and Washington, D.C. hosts annual games. In even-numbered years, the top three athletes in each event then qualify to compete at the national level.
“I could go in six events this year, but the nationals are in Cleveland. That’s a little farther than I’d like to travel,” Grier said. Since this year is not a nationals-qualifying year, fewer people compete. “Only people who are interested in medals, and people who would come out no matter what, like me.”
The Senior Olympics is open to anyone age 50 and over who can present a driver’s license for proof of age, whether or not they are a resident of Maryland. That makes it easier for athletes who participate in team sports to find enough members to field a team. Approximately 2,000 athletes are registered to compete in the Maryland Senior Olympics.
Events are held in August, September and October at venues near Baltimore, Md., now that the Baltimore City department of Recreation and Parks sponsors the annual competitions. Over the course of the year, though individuals and teams train for their sport wherever is convenient for them. That’s why Grier is so often found at the JBA West Fitness Center. He also spends time in local senior centers, golf courses and bowling alleys, passing out flyers and encouraging people to compete.