Valdosta Daily Times

Features

October 8, 2013

Senior Olympian

VALDOSTA — At 80, Frank Lathron could run down an extensive list of aches, pain, injuries and wounds.

Though he served in Korea and Vietnam, he was hit by two bullets in the mid-1990s when a gunman opened fire in a Valdosta establishment.

He’s survived cancer. In the past, he’s injured his arm. His right knee is wrapped in a bandage ...

These instances come up in conversation, but he doesn’t bemoan them, or run through them as a menu of woe.

Instead, Frank Lathron concentrates on his experiences in the Senior Olympics held late last month in Warner Robins. The only thing Lathron lists are his wins as he points out the trio of medals he earned.

In the 80- to 84-year-old classification, facing competitors from four states, Lathron won the gold in the 50-meter, with a time of 12.45 seconds. He won silver in the 100 meter, with a time of 26 seconds. He won bronze in the 200 meter, with a time of 62 seconds.

“In the 200 meter, you’re supposed to pace yourself,” Lathron says, “but this 83-year-old, he sprints the entire 200 meters.”

Lathron attributes keeping active throughout his life as the reason he overcomes his physical ailments. The reason why he can concentrate on races rather than becoming disabled by infirmities.

Lathron’s pursuit of the strenuous life started as a boy. His father, Myron “Kid” Lathron was an Army master sergeant and a championship boxer. He pushed Frank to participate and excel in sports from playing halfback in football, wrestling, and lettering in four sports during one year of school in Rochester, N.Y.

At 5-foot-2, Lathron learned at an early age to overcome crushing pain and obstacles as he faced the comparative Goliaths on the football field. When they tackled Lathron, he didn’t just go down, he often was bucked into the air before crashing into the football field. He recalls a high school sweetheart being reduced to tears upon seeing the punishment he endured on the field, but Lathron laughs, saying he never considered quitting. Besides, even if he wanted to quit football, his father would have never let him.

During 33 years of services, he served in the Navy, Marines and Air Force. In 1980, Lathron arrived in Valdosta, assigned to Moody Air Force Base as the security police superintendent. He and wife Mauring raised six children and have more than a dozen grandchildren. Together, they swam, played tennis, and exercised. His wife now stays at the Fellowship Home, while he trains for races in their Lowndes County residence.

Though 80, he lifts weights two or three times weekly at home. He regularly rides a stationary bike. He has painted a white line on the street in front of his house so he can practice starts to sprint 50 meters, which he considers to be his race, though he won a gold medal in 2009 racing the 100-meter dash in the 75- to 79-year-old category.

And he plans to train for more races in the future. He credits several people for helping in his training and his competing: Ed and Mary Crane, Dr. Joe Morgan, Dr. Mark Roland, Angie Crawford with State Farm, and Dr. Leon Smith.

Lathron admits his training has slowed since the September Senior Olympics, having gained about 10 pounds, adding, “Oh, Lord, do I love to eat.”

But he also loves training and competing, and he’ll be back on the road soon.

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