Photo courtesy of Nick Gandy. Shollenberger (middle) with Jay Bortner (right) and Julian Rainwater.

Tampa Bay area senior athletes were among the record-setting 2019 Senior Games participants. Nearly 700 Florida senior athletes, including 123 from the Tampa Bay area, competed in the 2019 National Senior Games that were held in Albuquerque, NM from June 14-25. The 2019 games broke the record for the most registered athletes in the organization’s history in its 32nd year.

According to the National Senior Games registration database, all 50 states were represented in this year’s games with a total of 13,712 athletes, which is 30 percent higher than the games in 2017 and 14 percent higher than the previous 12,000-person games in Louisville, KY in 2007.

Florida had the fourth highest participation rate among the states this year with 687 athletes. These athletes qualified at the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, held in Clearwater and Pinellas Counties in December 2018. Since 2001, over 4,000 Florida athletes have competed in the biennial National Senior Games.

Valrico resident Barry Shollenberger has competed at the Senior Games since 2011. He and his tennis doubles partner, Jay Bortner, have had a lot of success at the competition, winning bronze in doubles in 2011 in Houston (65 and older), gold in 2013 in doubles in Minneapolis (70 and older), silver in doubles in 2017 in Birmingham and Shollenberger won the singles gold medal that same year. In the most recent games, Shollenberger and Bortner won the bronze medal in doubles and Shollenberger won the bronze medal in singles as well for the 75 and older age group.

“We have had some pretty good success in the games, and that’s what keeps us coming back,” said Shollenberger. “The competition seems to be getting better and better each time we come. It’s a lot of fun. People at our age you normally don’t think of as athletes, but this is real competition, guys will rip your throat out for a point.”

Shollenberger enjoys meeting new people and staying active.

The athletes traveling to the National Senior Games from Florida shows their dedication to having a better quality of life as they age,” said Marvin E. Green, Jr., Vice President of Amateur Sports & Events with the Florida Sports Foundation. “Whether they are going to compete against the top athletes from around the country in their age group or if they are going for an extended vacation to New Mexico and make new friends from other states, we are extremely proud of their efforts.”

The sports that the athletes competed in include: archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, power walk, race walk, racquetball, road race, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, triathlon and tri relay and volleyball. Shollenberger plans on competing in the next Florida Senior Games and in the next National Senior Games in two years in Fort Lauderdale.

For more information about the 2019 National Senior Games, visit www.nsga.com. Visit www.floridaseniorgames.com for information about the remaining 2019 Florida Senior Games, local qualifying events and the 2019 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, to be held in Saturday to Sunday, December 7-15 in Broward County.