If an old pair of shoes could talk, I am guessing that the shoes in Ray Wall's attic would tell you that they never expected to once again see the light of day...
Ray is an investment banker who works out of Ithaca, which is also where he went to high school and did his undergraduate work at Ithaca College, before earning his MBA at Wharton. Upon his return — medals in hand — from the Empire State Senior Games in Cortland last week, Wall told me, “I didn't run track in high school until my senior year, and when I did, I competed in the 100 and 200-meter races, as well as the 880 relay.”
That was some time ago, and Ray said, “I like to run around the block a few times near my home, and I decided to throw in a few sprints. First, I went about 20 yards, pushed it to 25, then I was doing a half block then a whole block.”
The veteran runner didn't think too much of it, but when he heard a second opinion, so to speak, he started paying attention. “I went in for a routine checkup,” Ray offered, “and I showed my doctor a video I had taken of me doing sprints. My doctor looked at it and told me, 'You should run in the Olympics!'”
Taking that advice to heart, Wall started stepping up his training in March, adding more frequent and strenuous sprints, and threw in some weight training. He said, “Three weeks before the Games, I went up to the track at Ithaca College. I wondered, 'What will it look like, what will it feel like?' I found my old running shoes from high school, and found that they still fit, so I bought some new spikes and did a few test runs. I found that I was pretty good!”
When Ray arrived at the track in Cortland, he saw “quite an age range.” He said, “There were guys from 50 to 80, and the age groups were split into five-year blocks.” He added, “In one of my heats I was running against guys 13 years younger than me, and they blew me out of the water!” Fortunately, his times were measured against runners in his own age group, and when the dust settled he found himself holding two medals. “I was planning on running the 50-meter,” Wall stated, “and I won a [gold] with a time of 8:37.” He added, “I hadn't trained for the 100, and I thought I'd peter out — or have a heart attack — at 65 or 70 meters, but that wasn't the case.” In fact, Ray took the gold medal in the 50-meters and the silver in the 100.
Ray laughed when he recalled what it must have looked like to the meet officials and other competitors when he arrived. He said, “I got there 20 minutes before the race, and they had to show me how to set up the blocks. I hadn't done it since high school.”
In addition to the State games, there are also Nationals, and Wall said, “If I qualify for the Nationals, that will be a different ballgame requiring a different level of training. If the cards stack up right, I might go for it.” Asked if he was very surprised that he was able to get back into competition, he said, “I have been active my whole life. I have been a runner, I have been lifting weights, I have done martial arts. I have also been a lifelong vegetarian, so I know I will continue on a personal level, but as for competing, I will think about it.”
Of the State games, Ray said, “It really was a great experience. There is great camaraderie, and many of these guys have been competing against one another for years. I am really grateful to be able to do this.”
The Tompkins Girls Hockey Association (TGHA) is gearing up for another full season of play, the 49th consecutive year of ice hockey for girls aged 6-19. The first practice for girls on the 10+ teams begins Saturday, Sept. 11 and runs through mid-March 2022. The 8U team begins practices on Thursday, Oct. 7. All ice times are at The Rink at 1767 E. Shore Drive in Lansing. A full calendar of practices/game times is posted on the TGHA website. Registration is open for parents to register their daughter online at the TGHA website: www.ithacagirlshockey.org.