When Bob Hewitt stepped onto the track to compete for the first time in two years, he wasnt aiming simply to finish an event. Hewitt had his sights on a world record, and he got it.
Eight eye surgeries and a hernia operation have sidelined Hewitt for the last couple years, but this spring he returned to a regular training program to prepare for the masters multi-event track and field championships two weeks ago in Charlotte, NC.
None of the surgeries were really that serious, but you cant practice when youre in recovery, Hewitt said.
The world record holder in the ages 75-79 decathlon Hewitt, who turned 80 in March, was ready to put his name into the record books at the next age group.
He didnt waste any time getting ahead of the numbers.
I give myself a target for each event something that will take a good effort to reach, Hewitt said. I got through my first four events and had exceeded my goal on all of them.
Hewitt piled on the most points in his favorite event, the long jump, stretching out to 13-feet-8-inches for 1,128 points. He would exceed 900 points in three other events (see box) and his record pace was never in doubt.
In fact, his clearance of 7-8 1/2 in the pole vault gave him the world record with two events remaining.
At that point, I was just trying to build a cushion so that the guys following me will have a hard time beating it, Hewitt said.
It was like watching a Super Bowl that was decided by halftime. Hewitt finished with 8,360 points, nearly 1,200 ahead of the previous record. His score was the best of the entire meet scores are calculated on a sliding scale based on age group.
Hewitt picked up decathlon in his 70s, getting some private tutoring along the way, but largely teaching himself each of the 10 required events. That includes the pole vault where within three months he ranked at the top of his age group with a clearance of 9-6.
I enjoy anything that is speed related the sprints, the hurdles, the jumps but the 1,500, they can dump that one as far as Im concerned, he laughs. I enjoy meeting old friends at the meets, and I like to see how I can do its a good way for me to stay in shape.
He expects to compete in several more meets this summer, highlighted by a trip to Cleveland for the National Seniors Championships at the end of July.