Chuck and Phil Milliman of Sequim are getting up there. And no, that isn’t a comment on their respective ages.
The duo swept the pole vault events at the Birmingham 2017 National Senior Games in Alabama earlier this month, with both earning top-five all-time seniors games marks.
Chuck, an 85-year-old retired minister who didn’t pick up running until he was in his 40s and has since completed his own “ultra” runs, cleared the 5-foot 8-inch mark to take the third-best Senior Games 85-89 division mark of all time. Arizonians Carl Wafford (1997) and Donald Pellman (2001) share the record of 6 feet.
Chuck was assured of a gold medal in the event after he found he was the only competitor in his age bracket. He joked that “everyone else chickened out when they heard Chuck Milliman was competing.”
“I don’t know why we only had the one (competitor); usually we have around four or five,” Chuck said. “I just lucked out. All I had to do was vault one foot (to get the gold).
“I tried to break the record but just missed it.”
Chuck also took home gold in the high jump, clearing 1.05 meters (about 3 feet 6 inches) that ties him for 10th all-time in the 85-59 age bracket.
In this event, unlike the pole vault, he had a half-dozen competitors vying for top honors.
“This is the first time I have ever placed in the high jump; I always place fourth, fifth or sixth,” Chuck says. “I just felt good. I felt relaxed and jumped; everything came together.”
Chuck also competed in the 100- and 800-meter races, placing fifth in both. He said he was happy with his 100 time (20.69 seconds; John Hurd of Florida won in 17.43) while he didn’t expect much in the 800 after only doing one training run; he finished in 5:29, while Delwin Cobb of Texas won in 4:28.
“I didn’t expect to do much (in the 800),” he said. “I spent most of my time training for the pole vaulting.”
Son Phil made the most of his Senior Games, knocking off a competitive field in the 65-69 age group pole vault with a 10-foot, 6-inch effort that ties him for third place all-time in Senior Games history. Joe Johnston of Arizona (2011) and Boo Morcom of New Hampshire (1987) share the top mark with 11 feet.
Brad Winter of New Mexico placed second behind Phil at 10-2.
“I almost got 11 — just needed more practice,” Phil says.
Phil, 66, also competed in the high jump at this year’s National Senior Games, placing fourth with a 4-foot 8.25-inch effort. James Sauers of Georgia took first (4-11.75).
A pole vaulter in his prep years in Bellingham with a top mark of 12 feet, good enough for districts, Phil Milliman didn’t pick the sport back up until his mid-30s.
“I was kind of shy and I didn’t have my own poles,” Phil says.
He began competing once more when his brother-in-law started a community recreation program and organizing all-comers meets in Bellingham. That led Phil to vie for top spots at all-comers meets, consistently vaulting in the 9- to 11-foot range at the state Senior Games and meets like the Port Angeles Senior Games.
“My goal is to keep my technique consistent. With luck I can keep up in that level,” Phil says.
It doesn’t hurt that the family has a pole vault pit to use, the Millimans say.
“We had a chance to get a used (pole vault) pit so we got it; we have it in our backyard,” Chuck said.
The Millimans are used to pole vault medals. Phil, now 66, is a repeat champ after taking first place in the 60-64 division Senior Games in Houston in 2011. Chuck won gold in 2009 in the 75-79 age category and was third in 2011.
The pair have competed in four of the five recent biennial National Senior Games since 2009.
This time around, however, it was gold and national championships for both.
“I always dreamed of having him and me win golds at nationals,” Phil says.
The Millimans also spent time touring the area near the National Senior Games, taking in the sights at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and more.
Phil says they enjoyed watching their competitors and making new friends.
“W always enjoy seeing old people do their best,” he says. “I love to watch the different age groups doing different events. You make a lot of good friends. It’s just really fun to go to those meets).”
Chuck says he plans on competing at the 2017 Washington State Senior Games in Olympia, with track and field events slated for July 21-22. He plans on vying for gold in the 50-, 100- and 800-meter runs, high jump, long jump, standing long jump and, of course, pole vault.
He said vaulting marks tend to drop off as competitors age because it’s harder to keep strength in the arms and shoulders.
“The older we get, we don’t move around so much; you start getting stiff,” Chuck said. “(But) I can still run pretty good.”
The National Seniors Games were held at Samford University, June 6-11.
For more about the Senior Games, visit nsga.com.