Another successful Heartland Senior Games has concluded and plans are well underway for 2021. This year, 476 women and men from 50 to 93 years of age signed up to compete in one or more of the events winning a combined total of 611 medals.

The staff of the Corporate and Community Education Department of South Florida State College, led by Tina Gottus and Debbie Gutierrez with great support from Winnie Jarigue, Tammy Snow, Sari Crews and Fred Hayes, coordinated the 2020 Games which attracted competitors from Sebring, Arcadia, Avon Park, Lake Placid, Wauchula, Zolfo Springs and beyond.

The Games couldn’t have run without the great work of our event coordinators:

•Pickleball – Tom Stadler, Betty Schleis, Mary Kloster and Kathy Sponholtz

•Euchre – Marjorie Nelson and Colleen Schenking

• Golf – Kim Best and Travis Kennedy

• Bowling – Jean and Larry Barwick

• Shuffleboard – Cathy Renwick

• Mah Jongg – Therese Mansfield

• Cycling – The Tanglewood team

• Table Tennis – Bruce Lydy

• Track & Field – Chet Brojek and Lee Pearson

• Swimming – Megan Wolfe

• Tennis – Earl Maslin

• Bridge – Pat Reich

South Florida State College wishes to extend a special thank you to the venues that hosted this year’s events; Tanglewood, Sebring G.C., Bowl of Fun Lanes, Cross Creek RV Resort, Sun ‘N Lake, Avon Park High School, Highlands County Family YMCA and the Thakkar Tennis Center.

The Games were made even better for the competitors thanks to the generous support of our gold sponsors; Newsom Eye and Drs. Thakkar, Patel, Avalos & Ferretti as well as the silver sponsors; Edward Jones/Bryant Musselman, Turner Furniture, Alan Jay Automotive Network and Advent Health.

The Highlands News-Sun and the Highlands Sun have contributed greatly to the success of this year’s Games by publishing articles in advance of the Games as well as after each and every event. The amount of space devoted to the Heartland Senior Games is certainly appreciated and it is hoped that, as people read the articles and saw the faces of competitors, they were able to congratulate friends and neighbors who took part. Many of these same readers might even consider signing up in 2021. It is astounding to note that photos of 248 participants, sponsors and volunteers appeared in the paper.

For 2021 there are several changes planned. Billiards is going to be added to the roster with Chuck Hall taking charge at the Sebring Moose Lodge. Euchre is going to be played at Crystal Lake Club with Lynn and Tom Kestler overseeing play. Bridge players will be gathering at the Sun N’ Lake Community Center where Marg Strong will lead the way.

The line up for 2021 has pickleball at Tanglewood on Jan. 30 and 31 with all other events in February. Euchre is on the 2nd, billiards on the 3rd and golf at Sebring G.C. on the 6th. Bowlers will meet at Bowl of Fun in Wauchula on the 8th and 15th, shufflers will be at the Sebring Recreation Club on the 10th and mah jongg players will be travelling to Cross Creek RV Resort in Arcadia on the 12th.

Once again, cyclists will be on the back roads of Sun ‘N Lake on the 13th while table tennis players will be challenging one another on the 18th and track stars performing at Avon Park High School on the 20th. The 2021 Games will close out with a swim meet at the Highlands County YMCA on the 22nd, tennis at the Thakkar Tennis Center from the 23rd to the 25th and bridge on the 26th. Pinochle may also be added to the list of events for 2021.

Athletes who finished in the top five in their age/gender group have qualified to compete in the Florida Senior Games which will be held in Fort Lauderdale December 5 to 13. The 2020 state games are a qualifier for the National Senior Games which will also be held in Fort Lauderdale from Nov. 5 to 13, 2021.