TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the days count down to the registration deadline for the 2020 Florida Senior Games, a check of the registration database finds 14 previous Athletes of the Year registered, along with the 2019 Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year, Peggy Peck and Ed Scheid.
Among the 14 previous Athletes of the Year, two have suffered significant physical setbacks in recent years. Essie Faria and Mike Welter have persevered through the setbacks showing the same determination that earned them their Athlete of the Year honors.
The 2020 Florida Senior Games will be a triumphant return for Essie Faria, the 2011 Athlete of the Year. Faria has not competed in the Florida games since 2016. On her way home to North Miami Beach, from the competition, Faria was involved in a traffic accident on Interstate 95. She was hit from behind and was severely injured.
“The back of my car was around my neck,” Faria said of the impact of the crash. “I had whiplash and back problems. It took me a year to learn how to walk again. I’m not the same athlete I was, but I’m back.”
In past Florida Senior Games, Faria participated in the 5K and 10K Road Races, multiple Track and Field events, Pickleball and Table Tennis. In 2020, she is registered for the 1500- and 5000-meter race walk events, the 50-meter dash and shot put in the 85-89 age group. Since the accident, Faria has relocated from North Miami Beach to Melbourne, where her daughter lives, and is within 30 minutes of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy track and field facility.
“I’m grateful to be there, and I’m going out to do it,” she said.
Another Athlete of the Year who continues to overcome a setback to be playing in the 2020 is Cape Coral’s Mike Welter, the 2017 Athlete of the Year, who suffered a stroke in September 2018. He competed in the 2019 National Senior Games and the 2019 Florida Senior Games but admits he’s no longer the player he once was.
“I can only see with my right eye,” Welter said of the lasting effects of the stroke. “It’s tough to see the spin, speed and depth of the ball coming at me, but I’m having fun.”
Welter is playing win the Men’s Doubles 65-69 age group with Andy Gutierrez, a pickleball instructor in Lee County.
The 2019 Florida Senior Games Female Athlete of the Year Peggy Peck is a multi-sport athlete from The Villages. She is registered in 12 track and field events (6 running events and 6 field events) at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, in Melbourne, and will play for a 60+ basketball team.
Scheid, a golfer from Bradenton, will play in the 18-hole competition at Duran Golf Course, in Viera. The 2020 Games will be Scheid’s 20th appearance in the annual Olympic-style Sports Festival for athletes age 50 and over, since 1999.
Peck and Scheid will receive their awards during competition at the 29th Annual Florida Senior Games, to be held December 5-13 in various locations around the state.
Previous Athletes of the Year registered to compete include:
Brian Hankerson, Track and Field, Hollywood (2018)
Deb Harrison, Pickleball, Table Tennis, The Villages (2018)
Carol Teel, Bowling, The Villages (2017)
Mike Welter, Pickleball, Cape Coral (2017)
Kathy Petrillo, Cycling, Jupiter (2016)
Rudy Vazmina, Swimming, Sarasota (2015)
Danuta Kubelik, 5K Road Race, Track and Field, Crystal River (2014)
Essie Faria, Track and Field, 5K Race Walk, Table Tennis, North Miami Beach (2011)
Patrice Hirr, Swimming, The Villages (2009)
John Shultz, Table Tennis (2009)
Claudette Braswell, Basketball Shooting, Horseshoes, Racquetball, Lake Wales (2007)
Madelaine “Tiny” Cazel, Track and Field, Softball (2003)
Pat Sargeant, Pickleball, Tallahassee (2005 for Swimming)
Janice Lathouwers, Golf, The Villages, (2002)
For competition and registration information, visit www.floridaseniorgames.com. The registration deadline is Friday, November 20 for all sports with the exception of Archery, 5K Road Race and Table Tennis. Entry fees vary by sport.