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August 18. 2013 8:34PM

Fun, competition mix well at Granite State Senior Games

CONCORD — Stephanie Herlihy knew she was in trouble early.

“I saw all these guys coming in with their cases and bags and sweat bands,” said the physical education teacher at Manchester’s McDonough Elementary School. “I was like, ‘Oh no, I better stick to shuffleboard.’ . . . I didn’t think anybody even played badminton anymore.”

But they do. And they play it well.

Herlihy, 61 and playing in her first Granite State Senior Games this month, joined the 20 or so competitors — a mix of newcomers, intermediates and tournament veterans — on Sunday at the Racquet Club of Concord and had herself a good time.

“Look at that shirt,” she said as a player with a black jersey with an image of a shuttlecock emblazoned on it walked past. “Yikes.”

A few minutes later, she and her doubles partner, Stuart Goldstein, a buddy and phys ed teacher at Dunbarton Elementary, were playing shuttlecock guy and his teammate in a mixed doubles match.

Herlihy excitedly put away a shot at the net and laughed.

“You let me do that,” she said to her opponents.

Herlihy and Goldstein, 55, came out on the wrong end of the score. That was fine with them.

“I think it’s important to do as much as you can,” Goldstein said. “I’m not out here to win. I’m trying to compete and have fun.”

He had heard about the Granite State Senior Games — which are held over several weeks each August and serve as a qualifier every other year for National Senior Games — and was anxious to get to age 50 to be eligible.

“I couldn’t wait,” he said. “As soon as I turned 50, I started.”

He’s become a big-time proponent and promoter of the Granite State Games.

Goldstein let Herlihy know about the Games and midway through Sunday’s event they were plotting ways to boost attendance further.

“Do you know how many phys ed teachers in Manchester qualify to play?” Herlihy said. “We’ve got to get the word out.”

Both practice what they promote.

Goldstein competed in the high jump and long jump in track and field events at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday morning, but had to skip the 50- and 100-yard dash races to get to badminton. He played racquetball in the Games earlier in the month and he and Herlihy are signed up for tennis next weekend at the Allard Center in Goffstown.

Herlihy — who played basketball with her sister, Margery, at Keene State in the early 1970s — won a couple of gold medals in shuffleboard on Friday at the JFK Coliseum in Manchester.

She thought about entering swim events.

“But I didn’t have the right bathing suit,” she said with laugh. “I didn’t have one of those Speedo things.”

Herlihy and Goldstein were on the younger end of things in age — and badminton experience — at the Racquet Club.

Goldstein pointed to a left-handed player with nice form on the middle of two courts.

“I had to play him when he was in his 70s and he whipped me,” Goldstein said.

Has Goldstein closed the gap since then? “Not at all,” he said.

Jim Catrambone, the lefty, is 81 now and just returned from the nationals in Cleveland where he won a silver medal in doubles and advanced to the semifinals in singles.

He’s retired and lives in New London where he plays badminton with a group of about 15 twice a week at Colby-Sawyer College. Another group plays twice a week at the Racquet Club in Concord.

“This is a tough game, especially singles,” Catrambone said. “I think the nicest thing is that ever since I was about 2 years old, all I ever wanted to do was play. Play baseball, basketball, whatever. I’ve got my aches and pains, but I’m blessed to have a body that lets me play. At this age, there’s a social side where you say, ‘Nice shot,’ or give someone a hug where you used to want to kick butt. I think the social people, the psychologists, would have a field day with the joy of just playing.”

Of course, there is a competitive side, too.

Mark Rynearson is a landscape designer in Goffstown whose wife, Annette, owns Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials. He’s one of the better badminton players around and was coordinating the Concord event.

“I’ve been playing for probably 15 years,” Rynearson said. “But I really learned how about 10 years ago. Before. I just chased it around. Then I started to learn the strategy and the footwork and things like that. The better players get more succinct with their abilities.”

With that, Rynearson, a regular in the Concord group, headed out to his next match.

alessels@unionleader.com


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