The motto of the Vermont Senior Games is fun – fitness – fellowship. Sandra Wall of Rochester embodies this spirit. This spunky all-around athlete competed in the 2018 VSG track & field competition for the first time, and qualified for the 2019 Nationals in all four of her events. Yet Sandra is humble about her accomplishments as she prepares to go to Albuquerque in June, quick to credit others for helping her out and admirably balancing her track & field ambitions with all of the other moving pieces in her rather busy life.
Sandra Wall just turned 62 years old. Born in Long Island, she originally trained as an orthopedic prosthetic technician. With that skill she joined the Peace Corps and live in Brazil for the two-year commitment. Not sure of her next move, Sandra applied to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and was accepted to study under a full scholarship, specializing in the violin. Eventually she “migrated” (as she put it) to Vermont about two decades ago, to be near her family in Stockbridge. Her home was one of many in Rochester that was seriously damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and she had to rely on help from FEMA to rebuild.
While Sandra continues to study and play violin with the Castleton Orchestra, her main career of 30 years is that of a dog groomer. She has worked at the Eastwood Animal Clinic / Catamount Pet Supply in Rutland since 2002. “I love this job,” she confessed, “every day is a good day because I get to be with dogs!”
Sandra first became aware of the Vermont Senior Games when she heard a VPR story on one of the athletes. She said to herself, “hey, maybe I can do this,” but some physical issues delayed her a couple of years. Heading into the track & field meet last June, Sandra didn’t know what to expect, but she won gold in the 50, 100, and 200-meter sprints.
“I like the 50 and 100 because I’m smaller,” Sandra reflected. “Those races come easier to me. The 200 seems more like a match for the longer-legged girls.” In fact, Sandra thanked a fellow competitor for helping her succeed in the 200 by taking some time to discuss pacing strategy for the longer race.
However, Sandra expressed her greatest enthusiasm for her fourth event. “I love throwing the javelin,” she admitted, “even though it’s not my best event.” Sandra took the silver medal with her best throw, impressive anyway considering she had very little experience with this technical event.
“I learned to throw watching YouTube videos,” Sandra explained. “It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube! And, then a local coach, Earl Mills, helped me out as well. I keep working at it, and if I could get it up to 80-100 feet I’d be over the moon.”
As for the upcoming Nationals, Sandra commented, “I don’t know how it’s going to unfold, I’ve got to up my game. There’s going to be some great women there. I just want to do well and hopefully advance out of my heats in the sprints.”
Sandra’s dad, who is 87 years old, will travel with her to Albuquerque to cheer her on.
What is perhaps most interesting about Sandra Wall, though, is how she is preparing for Nationals. With no indoor track facilities in the area, and her go-to outdoor track at Rutland High School covered in snow, Sandra’s preparation mostly involves…skating! She enjoys short-track speed skating at Spartan Arena in Rutland, claiming, “it’s scary how fast you can go, and it’s a great work-out for my legs!”
And, Ms. Wall takes the ice several more times a week for ice hockey, especially surprising in that this petite athlete suits up as a goalie for the Cutting Edge team! “Hockey is great,” she stated, “but now I’m ready to begin serious training for the National Games!”
Sandra Wall will be participating in the Vermont Senior Games track & field event in Burlington on June 9th as a final tune-up for Nationals. She is planning to venture over to Bethel, Vermont several times over the next month for a series of dodgeball competitions as another cross-training exercise!
VSG wishes Sandra and the dozens of other Vermont athletes representing our state in Albuquerque the best of luck in their training, and event competitions.
~ By George Moltz