While the Empire State Senior Games are for older people, Carl Jurica will tell you he can still get the "competitive juices" flowing as much as when he was a young man.
"[The games] take me back to my youth," the Johnstown resident said. "It's a very serious competition."
Jurica, who said he is not quite 73, is among hundreds of residents from across the state who will take part in the games, which officially start June 8 in Cortland.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Carl Jurica of Johnstown waves while riding his bicycle near the McDonald’s in Johnstown on Wednesday. Jurica, who will compete with a volleyball team at the Empire State Senior Games, said he rides his bicycle every day to help him stay in shape.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Carl Jurica of Johnstown stands behind his bicycle near the McDonald’s in Johnstown on Wednesday.
Peggy Peck, 55, of Gloversville is another local resident who will compete at the games.
While Jurica will play volleyball during the games, Peck will compete in the 100-meter dash, the high jump and the long jump.
"I'm amazed," she said. "Everybody has been very supportive."
Jurica said he will be the old guy on the volleyball team he will play with, which is from Scotia. That does not bother him though, because he is still a strong player, he said.
Many local volleyball players are familiar with Jurica, who has been playing volleyball since 1952.
A football player for Johnstown High School, Jurica said one day he was invited to the YMCA to play a game of volleyball. He said he thought volleyball was a "sissy sport" before playing.
As he told The Leader-Herald previously, "Then Howard Schultz, probably the best volleyball player I ever played with, smacked one by my head at about 100 miles per hour and I said, 'Who's this old guy?' because he was 10 years older than me. I fell in love with the game right then and there."
After high school, Jurica was offered a scholarship to go to Florida State, but opted to attend Cornell. He said as an 18-year-old student, he started its first volleyball team in 1955.
Over the winter, Peck competed in the regional Florida Senior games. She said she was pleased with her performance.
"It was the first time I competed since college 35 years ago," she said, about her performance on the ballfield and as a member of a 3-on-3 basketball team.
This time, her goal is to qualify for the 2011 Summer National Senior Games in Houston.
During the winter months when she is in Florida, Peck has been playing softball for about 3 years, she said. She more recently started playing basketball.
"Since I've been [playing softball]," she said, "I feel like a kid again."
While at her home near Peck Lake, Peck said, she uses an elliptical machine. She also plays golf and takes walks around the lake.
Jurica, a garlic farmer, said he rides his bicycle every day to stay in shape to play. He also lifts weights and is careful about what he eats.
"I eat healthy foods," Jurica said. "Lots of fruits and vegetables."
Jurica also has a secret weapon he has used since his days as a member of the Glove Cities Colonials semi-pro football team - honey.
When he played semi-pro football, he used to drink two pounds of honey before every game. Now, he drinks fruit juice and about a pound of honey during every competition.
As of Wednesday, Jurica said the team he is on had two more practices planned before their games officially begin June 12. Unlike the other senior game events, the volleyball teams will compete at Syracuse University.
According to the Empire State Senior Games website, the games are for people 50 and older as of Dec. 31 of the year in which the games take place.
The website said the goals of the games are to:
Encourage fitness as a life-long activity.
Combine sports and games with fitness, fun, and fellowship.
Provide recreational opportunities.
Promote the positive public image of seniors.
The Senior Games attract almost 2,000 athletes from across the state, the website said. There are more than 20 competitive sports and events for people to participate in, including badminton, pickleball, orienteering and the triathlon.
For more information, visit the Empire State Senior Games website at www.empirestategames.org/senior/