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Three decades ago, Florence “Flo” Filion Meiler was approached by her friend, Barbara Jordan, the head of track and field for the Vermont Senior Games, with a big request.
“She says, ‘We are desperate for track people. I want you to try the long jump.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, Barb. I’ve never done track before,’” recalls Meiler, who was an accomplished tennis player and water skier. Jordan responded in turn: “I think you would be good at it.”
With that nudge, Meiler jumped into the world of track and field at age 60, eventually taking on more jump events, including pole vault at age 65, throws, hurdles, pentathlon, and steeplechase.
Throughout her 30-year career, Meiler’s become one of the most dominant all-around masters athletes, setting world age group records and inspiring people of all ages along the way.
“I’m really proud of being an example to other people,” says Meiler, who lives with her husband of 60 years in Shelburne, Vermont, where their home’s den is filled with some 800 medals. “I just do the best I can, and I take what I can get.”
Keeping a Competitive Edge
Well into her eighth decade, Meiler, a member of Sprinticity Track Club, continues to keep things exciting.
At USATF Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Ames, Iowa this week, Meiler, one of the oldest athletes, competed in a dozen events. Not only that, she established new world 86-89 age group records (pending ratification) for women in the pentathlon (4,467 points) and 80-meter hurdles (26.69), the first event of the pentathlon.
She also set a new American mark for her age group in the 2000-meter steeplechase (18:55.84) and tied with Christel Donley, 86, for the American high jump record (3-0.50/0.93m).
“When I did the pentathlon, and I see that I have more points than anybody at age 87, that is quite the motivation for me,” Meiler says.
Potomac Valley Track Club’s Tami Graf, 85, also delivered impressive performances at the championships, posting new American age-group records in the 200 meter hurdles (1:42.04), 5,000 meter run (46:00.64), and 10,000 meter run (1:36:39.48).
Meanwhile, Gloria Krug, 90, made history on the field with five new American records in the 90-plus age group for the shot put, hammer throw, weight throw, javelin throw and discus throw
“There is longevity in the Krug family,” she told Women’s Running by phone, noting both her parents lived to age 100. “This seems to keep driving me on. As long as I feel good, I am going to keep doing it.”
For These Women, Persistence Pays Off
Krug, who picked up throws in her 60s, jogs, lifts, stretches, and swims every week to maintain her fitness.
“I just wish I wasn’t getting so old so fast—I like this stuff,” says Krug, a member of Philadelphia Masters. “The main [message] to anybody is, ‘Don’t quit.'”
Meiler has that same drive. She works out for two hours almost every day, starting every session with a lot of stretching. She trains at the University of Vermont indoor facility during the winter and uses a local high school track in the warmer months.
After running and stretching, she does hurdles, long jump, and triple jump on some days and practices pole vault, javelin, shot put, hammer, and discus on other days. She also uses weight machines at the gym.
“I feel so very fortunate that the good Lord has given me my health,” she says, noting that her bones are “fantastic” at her age.
She credits her strength in part to growing up on a dairy farm in Vermont and doing “heavy duty chores.”
While Meiler remains physically strong, she acknowledges that it’s mentally tough to train alone as she gets older.
Her beloved friend and coach Barbara Jordan, a successful masters track athlete and the one who introduced Meiler to the sport, died this past November at age 85 after a long battle with cancer. Devastated by the loss, Meiler remembers her friend whenever she steps on the track.
“I look up at the sky, and I say, ‘Barb, I’m doing this for you,’” she says.
Although she is happy with her recent performances, Meiler is eyeing her next meet, the New Hampshire Senior Games in August.
“I’m not looking to set any records,” she says. “I just want to get practice and see my friends.”
But she plans to keep pushing herself for as a long as she can. In fact, she says, “I would like to find a sponsor, but I don’t know how to go about finding one.”
Industry leaders: Call Flo.