As competitors lined up to compete in bocce, spectators and other competitors watched from the stands nearby.
CLAYON -- Nearly 200 older adults from across the state gathered at Community Park last week to take part in the 28th annual N.C. Senior Games State Finals.
Over two days, the town played host to two championship events, cornhole and bocce, with many games played in cold, rainy conditions. Despite the unfavorable weather, participants said it was a great time to catch up with old friends while keeping their bodies active.
A group of women from Davie County all medaled in their respective age divisions in cornhole, an event that was new to this year’s games.
Nancy Tutterow earned a bronze medal in ages 85-89. An avid games participant for the past 20 years, she said she enjoyed playing all types of sports.
“I didn’t like cornhole until today,” said Tutterow, who was scheduled to play in the bocce finals the next day.
“We didn’t want to retire and then just sit on the sofa,” said Barbara Chapman, a gold medal winner in the 65-69 category.
This is the sixth year Clayton has played host to the Senior Games finals, according to Parks and Recreation director Larry Bailey. “It brings some people to Clayton who would never have come here before,” he said. “We try to give them a good experience. People come here, have a good time and enjoy the community. It’s a great way for us to promote the town.”
The State Finals last for 16 days, with other tournaments held in Raleigh, Greenville and Winston-Salem. All participants had won medals in their local games last spring. Fifty-four regional games are held each year, drawing participants from all 100 North Carolina counties.
“We literally have people come from all over North Carolina, from Cherokee to the Outer Banks,” Bailey said.
Winners from last week’s finals now qualify to attend the National Senior Games next July in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I just love to be with everybody here and get some exercise at the same time,” said Wilson Mill’s resident Betty Creech, a cornhole competitor in the 75-79 age division. “It keeps you thinking young even though you may not feel young. Win or lose, it just doesn’t matter.”
Creech has been a Johnston County participant since 1993 and said she wins about 15 medals a year in the local games. She has won two bronze medals on the state level.
Linwood Hicks, a Cleveland resident, competed in the 65-69 division in the bocce tournament, a game he learned to play only three years ago.
“I couldn’t even pronounce ‘bocce’ a few years ago,” he said.
Bocce, a game of Italian origin, is similar to lawn bowling and played with wooden balls on a long narrow court covered with fine gravel. Clayton’s Community Park boasts eight playing fields.
“This is just a lot of fun, and I’m glad to be able to do this,” Hicks said. “Clayton is lucky to be a part of these games.”