You might expect life to be easy for a Hall of Fame athlete with a couple dozen USA titles to his credit: every day warmed by the glory of accomplishments; every competition an opportunity for yet another victory lap.
Not so for Minnesota's masters high jump superstar Tom Langenfeld, a 29-time USA Master high jump champion and a recent inductee into the USA Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame. Entering this weekend's USA Masters Indoor Championships in Landover, Maryland, the 73-year-old Edina resident faces a stiff challenge from some "youngsters" just entering his M70 age-group.
Langenfeld, who won high jump title #28 at last year's USA Indoor meet with a 4-7 clearance and earned victory #29 outdoors at 4-5, faces strong, new company this year. 70-year-old Emil Pawlik of Texas is entered in the competition with a 5-0 seed. Joining him is another newbie-septuagenarian Gerald Counihan of New York, whom Langenfeld expects to challenge as well.
"Pawlik is indeed a formidable competitor — an exceptional multi-eventer who started out as a high jumper," Langenfeld told DtB. "He ranked No. 1 nationally in the indoor M65 high jump the past two years. Earlier he won world M60 championships in the high jump and decathlon. He and another former indoor champ, Jerry Counihan, are 3½ years younger than I am, with both turning 70 this January. That means that they’ve once again moved into my age group a year and a half before I could escape to the next group."
Still, Langenfeld has had success against his spry rivals when they've found themselves in the same competition before.
"I managed to beat both of them indoors in Boston (barely) after they turned 65 five years ago," Langenfeld recounted, "and I beat Pawlik outdoors in Decatur (barely) later that year (Counihan opting to focus on the pole vault there). But Pawlik has generally jumped an inch or two higher than I have when we’ve jumped together in different age groups since I turned 70. I’ve had a slight edge on Counihan in recent times, though we’ve split about evenly over the years, and he looked better than I did in Boston last year. Jerry Sullivan, another former national age group champ, will also be in the mix. So it should be interesting."
The M70 high jump takes place Sunday morning. Among other Minnesotans competing at the meet are Thom Weddle, a distance runner in the M70 age-group and Mike Moser, an M55 multi-eventer.
Find full schedule and entry information for the meet HERE.