Larry Lagesse, 68, the former Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School athlete and current Chebanse retiree, picked up another gold medal at a national masters track meet Thursday. He might earn a couple more Saturday afternoon.
Decades after former teammates have given up all but maybe bowling, golf and slow pitch softball, Lagesse, won the pentathlon in the 65-69 age group at Elon Stadium in Greensboro, N.C. He’s usually the unchallenged champion of the pole vault, but this time, he was most pleased with his performances in the discus and javelin.
“I’ve been studying these things and I learned some of the nuances, the footwork and form so I’m getting better results,” he said. “But I think I also like the time you can spend just watching it fly. It doesn’t work that way with the shot put or the high jump or pole vaulting.”
That’s right. He still can do all of those things, plus the hammer throw, hurdles, sprints and a mile run.
“But the problem right now is that I still have that hamstring problem I was fighting this last year at the international championships in France,” he said. “I had to drop out of a run recently because I felt like I couldn’t take one more step before I tore something.”
Lagesse sees a physical therapist specialist at Oak Orthopedics for treatment of the hamstring that he said is weakened by multiple “mini-tears” that slow recovery.
“I’m always a little hesitant about a flat-out run so that has an impact on my vaulting,” he said. “At the recent state competition at Benedictine University in Lisle, I won the vault, but I only do my first jump low, just to make sure I get some points. Then, on my second one, I shoot for about seven-eighths of what I think I can do.
“So, instead of 10 feet, I went 9 feet something. But I still won,” he said. “It’s a crapshoot though. I never know how hard I can push it. I just know when I can’t do anymore.”
A report in the Daily Journal first revealed the dedication Lagesse was showing when he built an asphalt runway for his backyard pole vaulting and high jump pit. He found a way to practice all of his events there, southeast of Chebanse. He wound up getting more help from the track staff at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais and then found a personal trainer, Kris Kalmese.
“The problem with his hamstring is really in his lower back,” he explained. “His problem is that he’s too tight in the lower back, the groin and the hamstring.”
Kalmese credited Lagesse’s diet for his endurance as an athlete.
“He’s cut his dairy. He eats a lot of seeds,” he said. “And he eats a lot of fish, a lot of vegetables. He reverses inflammation before it starts.”
Right now, though, Lagesse isn’t focused on food. He’s thinking about ice.
“The first thing we’re going to do [he and wife, Jayne, after the Thursday session in Greensboro] is get back to the hotel and cool off. It was 98 degrees and real darn humid down here,” he said. “Then, we’ll get something to eat. But I’ve got to get right back and start icing the hamstring. Then, I’ve got a massage thing I do on it with a softball. Then more ice.”
He said he hopes to feel better for Saturday’s competition in the discus and pole vault.