Cathy Behrens has a message for her fellow seniors: It’s time to get off the bench and get in the game.
Behrens is one of several Pahrump residents who have participated in the Nevada Senior Games, an event that includes events from archery to weightlifting each year.
The Senior Games was not Behrens’ first competition. The Euclid, Ohio native took part in a Corporate Challenge 12 years ago, when she was working as an esthetician on the Las Vegas Strip.
“A guy had a table in the hallway, and he cornered me as I was leaving to go home,” Behrens recalls. “All I saw was tennis, golf, running … but then there was swimming. I said, ‘Well, I can swim, I’m a pretty good swimmer.’ And he really pushed, because he needed people. So I was in the swimming competition, and I won against eight women, and I was shocked. I was thrilled.”
She entered a couple of other competitive events, including winning a swimming competition and finishing second in a dance contest; she puts the blame for not winning on a wardrobe malfunction with her strapless dress.
Behrens, who remembers coming to Las Vegas with “no job, no furniture and a little bit of money” before “tripping and falling into a good job,” had purchased property in Pahrump by that time.
“I bought the property as an investment and a place to go to be quiet,” she recalled. “I worked on the Strip, and I worked with a lot of people. I wanted a place to be quiet. It took me six months to find my property, and I love my property. I never thought I’d live on it.
“I got a tent, then bought a travel trailer and came out some weekends. Sometimes I wouldn’t talk to anybody for two or three days. It felt so good. I slept outside. People would say, ‘Aren’t you afraid the coyotes will get you?’ I’m like, ‘No, they don’t want me, they want their rabbit.’ “
Behrens, 76, has lived in Pahrump for the past three years. She said she learned about the Nevada Senior Games from the internet, not assuming success.
“I went in there and didn’t know anything and didn’t know what to expect,” she said. If anything, she was a bit intimidated by some of the competition. But, after 1 minute, 3.69 seconds in the pool, she had a gold medal in the 75-to-79-year-old division of the 50-meter freestyle.
“I just love to win, and I was this way when I was 10 years old,” said the self-described tomboy. “I competed. I was really good at roller skating, I was good at running. I’m good at swimming. It comes naturally to me.”
So naturally that Behrens has expanded her activity.
“I’m going to do two competitions,” she said. “The first one, on Saturday, will be backstroke, which will be difficult for me. And Sunday I’ll do the 50-meter freestyle again.”
The swimming competition will take place Oct. 6-7 at Pavilion Center Pool in Las Vegas. Pahrump was well-represented in last year’s games: In addition to Behrens’ gold, Susan Zink brought back three silvers and a bronze in the 65-to-69 swimming division, and Debra Moore won two golds in backstroke in what was her debut in the competition.
Out of the pool, Marvin Caperton added to his hefty haul of hardware with golds in the 50 and 100 meters in the 60-to-64 division in track.
But Behrens wants more seniors out there competing.
“There are swimmers that I swim with that are great swimmers, better than me,” she says. “My goal is to keep in shape, swim every single day of my life, and that’s about it. Do I want to swim a mile every morning? No. But there are people that do. And I mention that I’m in the Senior Games, and they don’t want any part of it. It’s true with everything. It’s not their bag.”
Even though Behrens loves to compete and loves to win, just being there is a victory of sorts for her.
“The people that do this are healthy,” she said. “I’m healthy, and I love being healthy. I strive for that. I do all of the things you’re supposed to do. When I’m at the swimming, I’m with like-minded people, and it feels good. It’s good for me, and I like that.”
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