SAN BENITO — “Go Grandpa! Go Grandpa!”
The signs held up by Rey Rodriguez’s grandchildren said it all.
So, he complied, placing eighth in the 400 meter and scoring high in other track and field events at the 2019 National Senior Games.
The event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month was presented by Humana for men and women ages 50 and older, and some were a lot older.
“At every track meet, usually there’s a person, either a man or a female that’s competing out there, that’s a 100 plus years old,” said Rodriguez, who is 73.
Rodriguez, who works as a clerk for San Benito High School, has made exercise and fitness a life-long part of his daily routine, and it shows. He and his wife Nena both reflect the energy and stamina of people who can still get out and do the things they enjoy.
“I feel really, really proud,” said Nena, 68.
“He keeps me going,” she said. “We go out and he walks with me every evening. And it’s not a little pace, it’s a fast pace. I do a little jogging myself.”
Rodriguez recently had a host of medals spread across a table revealing his extensive activities in senior athletic events since age 60. But his exercise routine began much earlier than that. He played football and ran track and field while a student at San Benito High School, and it didn’t stop there.
“After I graduated from high school, I continued playing softball, flag football and basketball in tournaments and stuff like that,” said Rodriguez, who is retired from the Southern Pacific Railroad in Harlingen.
“I’ve been running most of my life,” he said. “I try to run every day, lift weights, whatever it takes to stay in shape and be competitive. I guess that’s what makes me earn some of these medals.”
His family expressed admiration for his continued endeavors to stay in shape. All three of his children flew in from Massachusetts, San Antonio and Utah to see him run in Albuquerque — and they brought the grandkids.
“They wanted to support their grandpa and their dad,” he said. “The grandkids were out there with the posters.”
His daughter, Lorisa Gomez, said they’re all extremely proud.
“It’s an impressive thing that he does,” she said. “Being at his track meets and seeing all these people, it’s something that not everybody can do. It’s a special talent and he’s great at it. It just inspires us.”
They all grew up seeing him engaged in athletic activities, and they try to stay fit themselves. But …
“None of us can live up to what he does,” she said with a laugh.
“We all do a little something but not like that, not at that level,” she said.
When the grandkids come to visit, Rey and Nena take them out to exercise with them.
“We take them out to the resaca trail; we do some running,” said Nena. “Grandma has to run up that hill with the grandkids.”
She gestured toward Rey.
“He helps me a whole lot,” she said. “He’ll say, ‘let’s go put on our tennis shoes, we’ll go out to the resaca trail that we have here,’ and we go out there. And we do a lot of gardening.”
In other words, their exercise allows them to do more than exercise. It frees them to move about their lives and do the things they enjoy, as people often do.
DID YOU KNOW
The National Senior Games are the signature event of the National Senior Games Association.
The 20-sport event is a biennial competition for men and women ages 50 and over. It’s the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
The NSGA is a non-profit organization dedicated to motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement.
Sporting events included in the National Senior Games
Track and Field
Triathlon and Tri Relay
MORE ABOUT REY
WHO: Rey Rodriguez
WHAT: Competitor in National Senior Games
MARITAL STATUS: Married to Nena Rodriguez
FAMILY: Three children
HOMETOWN: San Benito