Bergen bests Mother Nature

There doesn’t seem to be anything that can slow down Kathy Bergen. At 71, she hasn’t let age stop her and Mother Nature didn’t stand a chance when Bergen competed in the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston from June 16 to June 30.

Bergen, a La Cañada resident, mother of five and grandmother of nine, set two meet records (in the 100 and 200-meter events) in the national games. Her meet-record time of 15.22 seconds in the 100-meter was delivered in the rain.

“I’ve never run in rain before,” said Bergen, who set a meet record in the 200 meter with a time of 32.44. “I was wondering if my shoes were going to slip — they didn’t. My time wasn’t that hot but it was a meet record so I was happy.”

The start time for Bergen’s race in the 100 was delayed for over two hours because each time lightning struck the race was delayed for half an hour. Once the runners were called to the starting line for the 100-meter race, they had to wait an additional five minutes.

Bergen also took second in the discus (20.30 meters) and fourth in the javelin (20.82 meters) in the 2011 National Senior Games in the 70-74 age group.

There’s no rest for Bergen and her husband, Burt Bergen, the latter having just switched events from the high jump to the long and triple jump after injuring his neck. The couple will compete in five meets this summer and are currently preparing for the World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento that take place July 7 to the 17.

“There are 4800 athletes from all over the world [competing in the World Masters Athletics Championships] and it’s just track and field,” Bergen said. “That’s really going to be stiff competition and I can’t wait.”

Bergen currently holds seven records, six World Masters marks and one American Masters track and field record. She was named the athlete of the year by the Southern California Striders track club, along with age-group athlete of the year by the National Masters News after breaking six records last year.

Last April in the Mount San Antonio Invitational, Bergen became the first 70-year-old woman to break the 15-second mark in the outdoor 100 meters (14.76). She’ll look to improve on that this year.

“Given the quality of the competition, there’s a chance I could break [the record],” said Bergen, who also world records in the high jump (1.30 meters) and the 200 (32.35). “It’s always harder breaking your own records than somebody else’s, but it’s fun.”

Bergen is preparing to take on Mother Nature again in Sacramento, this time it will be the heat, though. She’s been practicing in the heat three days a week, about two hours each day.

“I try to go midday here to get used to the heat in Sacramento,” said Bergen, who even put in about an hour and a half on the Fourth of July. “I almost killed myself that day. Everybody has to deal with the same weather conditions. If I can get used to [the heat] working out, I will be in good shape for the race.”

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