MISSOULA — Anna Bruning, the adult programs coordinator at Missoula Parks & Recreation, gets excited when she looks out her office window and sees people on the pickleball courts.
There will be plenty of action on the pickleball courts and around the city of Missoula later this summer when the Montana Senior Olympics take place from Sept. 9-11. The return of the event for people 50 years and older is another step toward normalcy after last year’s rendition was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Especially after COVID and a really tough year for seniors who were an at-risk group, they had isolation and lacked activities, so this is a great way for seniors to get back out and do what they love and be socially and physically active,” said Bruning, who’s in her first year as the MSO games director.
There will be 15 sports in which people can participate: Archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, racewalk, road race, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, tennis, and track and field. Events will be divided by age group and some will be broken up into singles and doubles.
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The MSO hub of action will be at Fort Missoula Regional Park. Competition will also take place at City Life Community Center, Dornblaser Field, and PEAK Health and Wellness Center.
“I think it’s really nice to have it in Missoula because it’s more compact and less spread out, so our participants can meet each other and socialize,” Bruning said. “When seniors do activities, socialization is right up there with doing physical activities.”
The MSO this year is unique in that it’s a qualifier for the National Senior Games because last year’s NSG, which is held every four years, was postponed. Those who qualify can participate in the 2022 NSG May 10-23 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The only event that’s not a national qualifier is horseshoes, which Bruning said was kept in the MSO by popular demand.
Over 100 people have registered since the start of June, and the goal is to get between 300-500, according to Trey Magnuson, a special events coordinator for Parks & Rec. They’re coming from Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Nevada and Arizona, he added; there aren’t any Canadian participants so far because the border between the countries remains closed.
The MSO normally takes place in June but was pushed back to September to allow more time for a vaccine rollout and the loosening of restrictions on group gatherings. Missoula County guidelines regarding COVID will be followed, unless new regulations on the state or national level are imposed.
“I’m excited just to get back to some normalcy and do these events because last year we were huddled into our houses and now we’re encouraging people to come out and do many of these events,” Magnuson said. “How active our elderly populations are is surprising.”
Registration runs through Aug. 20 at a cost of $28 to sign up, while registration after Aug. 20 through Aug. 27 is an additional $5. There’s an added $4 fee for each event entered; while there’s no limit on the number of event entries, some sports take place at the same time, making certain combinations impossible.
There will be medals handed out, an opening ceremony banquet and raffles. Participants must turn 50 by Dec. 31, 2021, to be eligible for the MSO.
Online registration is at bit.ly/3j2sXLZ.
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at email@example.com.