Jocelyn Lowther set a goal for herself when she was young: perform a single, aerial cartwheel each year on her birthday to celebrate until she turned 40.
When she successfully reached that mark, she was unsure of what to do next.
When a friend told her about the local Senior Games, she found her answer. The games, which offer Masters Track and Field events, are held by age division for athletes 35 and older.
Lowther is now 61 years old and No. 2 in the world for her performance in the long jump event at all levels of the Senior Games, according to the World Masters Athletics ranking for 2015.
She is coming to Gainesville this weekend to compete in the Senior Games for its 15th anniversary competition in track, field and swimming.
The Gainesville Sports Commission hosts the annual Gainesville Senior Games. This year’s anniversary is a chance for more than 300 participants older than 50 to compete in nine local sporting events.
The commission’s executive director, Joleen Cacciatore, said that while competition is important, one of the main ideas is promoting health in all stages of life.
“We want to bring awareness to the active adult lifestyle,” Cacciatore said. “We encourage our local seniors to get involved.”
The events in the competition include swimming, archery, bowling, cycling, and track and field. Anyone older than 50 can register. The top five athletes in each age group move on to the state-level Florida Senior Games held in December.
Following its creation 15 years ago, Gainesville’s Senior Games became one of the first local races to ever qualify senior athletes for the state competition. Qualifying races are held every other year for spots in the National Senior Games.
While this year’s winners will not qualify for the national level, those competing can win special points at Masters sanctioned events, such as the 14 swimming events to be held on Oct. 18.
Lowther has already qualified for the state competition for track and field but likes Gainesville and simply enjoys participating. She said she comes for the social atmosphere as much as she does for the events themselves.
“I’ve met so many wonderful, wonderful people. I have these friends that are 70-year-old pole vaulters,” she said.
She doesn’t follow any particular training routine, and but says she tries to do something active every day.
Though Lowther takes the track and field events seriously, she also swims for fun. She began swimming at 53 because she had started to develop arthritis. She said it even improved her running. She now also counts yoga, surfing and racquetball among her regular activities.
Lowther believes that anyone can start being active, no matter their age.
“Find one event, find two events — and enter them,” she said.