Bill Morris takes careful aim with his Smith and Wesson revolver and then fires rapidly.
The sound of the .38 pistol loudly reports and 12 rounds leave his weapon in a matter of seconds. They land in a tight grouping around the bull’s eye.
Morris is among hundreds of athletes now training for the Nevada Senior Games, which will take place Sept. 24 to Oct. 14 in Las Vegas.
Morris has been shooting for more than 60 years. He is now 75 and his shooting is just as good as when he was younger. Morris has competed in the senior games for the past four years.
At his age, he has little problem with his shooting eyes.
“I shoot right-handed with my left eye and I started shooting over 60 years ago; I learned prior to the military to hunt. Seven, 10 and 15 yards is what we shoot at in the competition. You shoot six and six, three times for a total of 36 rounds. At one time we shot here in Pahrump about three or four years back,” he said.
Morris said the spirit of the games is dying in Pahrump and he would like to keep it going. He would like to bring the games back to Pahrump at some point. For about three years, Debra and Larry Strickland coordinated the shooting events at Lone Wolf shooting range. The Stricklands own and operate the range and are members of the Single Action Shooting Society that promotes Western shooting events. According to Debra, the senior events started in 2005 with great fanfare and ran in town for about three years.
“It was great but it is not going to happen again unless someone steps up to the plate,” she said.
Each year hundreds of athletes from all over Nevada gather in Las Vegas in venues all over town to compete.
One of the current organizers is Gary Cotter, who said the Nevada Games is currently running in Reno, Henderson and Mesquite. He said it took a great deal of coordination and a lot of volunteers to put on this event every year in Las Vegas. He said Las Vegas has been doing this for the past 32 years with the goal being to improve the quality of life for seniors who need to stay active physically, mentally and socially.
“We have other towns that have events, but to qualify for nationals you have to come through Las Vegas. This is a non-profit organization. And we rely on sponsors like Nevada Energy to keep us going. The qualifying for nationals is this September in Cleveland in 2013. Nationals occur every other year. We started doing it this way before the nationals did. One of the guys that started, Roger Hall is still active in the track and field events. He is at the age of 94. We have over 100 volunteers that make this happen,” said Cotter.
There are 15 events in the Nevada Senior Games: archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, dance, golf, pickleball, pistol shoot, racquetball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field.
To compete in the Nevada games, you must be 50 years old or older.
“We compete by increments of five years, the oldest participant is 103 years old. Peggy Fleming was shocked that seniors are so fit. We tell people, don’t worry about your scores, and a lot of these people just like meeting old friends once a year. We have people from five different countries, and 32 different states coming to this. There were people who started very reluctant to do this but now they will not miss it for the world because they now have a new social group that is better than their old one. Once they get involved people get excited about it,” Cotter remarked.
Even though Cotter said people do not care much about the scores, there are some things they like to brag about.
“We had a 79-year-old pole vaulter out-vault a high school kid. The 79 year old vaulted more than 14 feet,” Cotter said proudly.
Cotter assures all participants that everything is done with safety in mind.
“We have insurance and EMTs at the events and volunteer nurses. We are complying with everything that the insurance company requested. We have had one injury in the last 32 years. We had a guy who pole vaulted and missed the pit and it was not even a senior. It was a high school kid that got injured,” he said.
Cotter even feels that the officiating is top notch. He said when they first started they would pull anyone off the street to help officiate the games but that did not go over well. So over the years, things changed and has improved vastly from when they first started.
“What we do now is use nothing but qualified people. I will use swimming as an example. We hook up with a high school and they provide us with the 27 volunteers that we need to have at the end of each lane. That worked out well because they are familiar with what needs to be done. In track and field, we use people from UNLV and high school, to help out there. We actually have to pay qualified officials that can check equipment for track and in swimming we pay somebody to bring in the timing equipment,” said Cotter.
Cotter wants to see the interest grow in Pahrump, see more people like Morris. At the moment, he said in Pahrump there is a dance group coming to Las Vegas to compete. He feels there is still interest in Pahrump it just needs to get going. He also added that he is short bowlers. The bowling event will be held at Texas Station this year. A lot of good senior bowlers from Las Vegas will be there. That sounded like a challenge for Pahrump, which has plenty of good bowlers.
Cotter said he has kept the registration fee to a minimum along with the event fees. Registration goes to pay for t-shirts and medals. Each event has a small fee like $3. A person can register for more than one event. Cotter feels the event fees and registration fees also play an important role by making sure that people show up for an event they sign up for. For more information on the games, call 702 889-2951 or check out the website at <a href=http://nevadaseniorgames.com
By Vern Hee