Ellen Roberts sat smiling in the shade at the Lincoln Park Golf Course on Wednesday morning, waiting to take a chip shot in the annual Western Colorado Senior Games.
It was her 98th birthday, making her the oldest competitor the games ever had.
"I do it every year," Roberts said. "I love it. I just love doing the sports because when I was a teenager I had leakage of the heart and I couldn't do any sports. After I outgrew that I do all the sports I can do."
Roberts wasn't exaggerating on the number of sports she takes part in. For this year's Senior Games, which began Monday and ends today and includes more than 30 individual events, Roberts competed in bocce ball, cornhole, golf putt/chip, basketball, softball slugfest, and track and field events such as the shot put and 50 meter dash.
"She's like a ringer," said Lorie Gregor, Grand Junction Parks and Recreation adult programs coordinator and coordinator for the senior games. "She's got a really strong arm and great hand-eye coordination, so she's really good at horseshoes and cornhole and bocce."
Roberts's continued presence each year — she has competed the past 15 years at least — is a highlight of the games, Gregor said.
"It is so inspiring," Gregor said. "It's what keeps her going. Every year she says, 'Should I do it again next year?' and I say, 'Yes.' She says, 'Am I going to make it to next year?' and I'm like, 'Yes, you are going to get into my 100-plus category!' That's my goal."
Roberts said she would like to continue competing in the senior games until she turns 100, and she tries to keep active year-round, especially through volunteering.
"I've volunteered for probably 35 years," Roberts said. "I still do volunteer work when I can. We've done hula shows and line dance shows and belly dance shows for all the nursing homes around Fruita and Junction and all the hospitals."
Roberts isn't the only person over 90 in the senior games, but Gregor said they only number a few among the 225 competitors who came out this year. The games provide a range of activities for different ability levels and interests and it isn't taken too seriously, Gregor said.
"People have actually told me that's why they like to do it, because as you get more competitive it gets less fun sometimes — it gets more serious," Gregor said. "People really have fun here. They have a good time. They're laughing. They're joking. They're really, really enjoying themselves for seven days straight."
The length of the games, along with the number of participants and competitions makes the event a challenge to put on, Gregor said.
On top of the normal challenges this year, the Parks and Recreation Department mixed things up by including two new events: disc golf and indoor cycling.
"It takes a lot on the back end to organize everything," Gregor said. "It takes the entire recreations staff and it takes an army of volunteers from the community."
Despite the work, Gregor already is excited for next year when the senior games will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
"It's exciting because we're going to be 20 years in 2020," she said. "So we're going to reinvent it and just come up with some really fun things that people have never done before."
Gary Ambrosier, who is 74 and has participated in senior games for the past decade, said he keeps coming back each year to see friends he's made and to meet new people as well.
This year, he competed and volunteered and has already made a few new friends.
He praised the senior games for its variety of activities, including some non-athletic events such as billiards and the banquet, which allow seniors of many abilities to participate.
"I think if you have an interest in something, find something you can participate in," Ambrosier said. "Go down and meet new friends. I would encourage more seniors, even if they can't do athletic stuff, do the fun stuff that's there for them that they enjoy."