Going strong at 74
Beck competes in senior track events
By Ben Rodgers
At age 74, Duncan Beck is a competitor.
The Manawa resident has been a competitive high jumper and his most recent competition came this June at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama, where he placed fifth in the men’s high jump in his age division with a height of 3 feet, 7.31 inches and fifth in triple jump with a distance of 18 feet, 11.56 inches.
The games featured 10,200 athletes from all 50 states and eight countries.
“I’m not a good high jumper,” Beck said. “I’ve met the world record holder, I’ve competed against the national champion.”
But Beck is still out there, trying every chance he gets.
Clad in his shirt that reads “Son of a Beck,” he travels the country competing in senior games. He has competed in 35 states in four years.
It all started four years ago when Beck went to the Wisconsin Senior Olympics as a spectator.
He saw high jumpers who could barely clear the 3-foot mark. Even though he last jumped in 1958, he still knew he could beat them.
Beck last jumped as a freshman for Little Wolf High School. He graduated in 1961 when the track program was a little different.
“When I used to jump in high school, we used to land on sawdust and you’d put your hand out to break your fall,” he said.
He had to go to a sawmill and get the sawdust himself and even made his own hurdles.
Beck changed his approach to a scissor-style jump, where he doesn’t land on his hand to brace his fall.
He also walks his route and marks exactly where he will jump from in order to clear the bar.
Beck also doesn’t practice outside of competitions. The world record holder for seniors has a jumping pit in his basement.
Once he rediscovered the thrill of competition in his 70s, Beck can’t stop.
Most states have a senior games. Once someone places in the top at those games, they qualify for the national games.
Beck competed in eight states in 2014 and placed first in four; nine states in 2015 and took first in five; and 13 states in 2016 and took first in six. So far this year, he has placed first in all three state he has competed in this year.
Right now, his sights are set on New Mexico at the end of July.
“I get on the computer and find out how many guys are in the events,” he said.
After doing this for four years, Beck knows most of them, too.
“I don’t care how good you are, you gotta be there, you gotta jump,” he said.
As for any other senior citizens looking to stay active and compete, Beck has the same advice.
“If you’re no good at track, you can swim, play basketball, you can bowl, you can play pickleball,” he said.
Events seniors can participate in include roughly the same amount as the summer Olympics, except no former Olympians are allowed to participate.
Beck even saw a 100-year-old participate in the broad jump.
“It’s between your ears, I guess,” he said. “Sure, he’s only jumping 3 feet, but for being a 100-year-old, it’s probably a world record.”
Beck recommends anyone interested in learning more about the senior games check on the competition in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Senior Olympics take place from Aug. 12 to Sept. 10 in the Milwaukee area.
“You got to be there doing it, whether you are good or not,” he said.