One on One: Osterville Octogenarian Goes for National Triple Jump Title

For most folks in retirement, it’s safe to say that the youthful, harried pace of earlier life tends to slow down a bit.

Not so for Osterville’s Doris Ferry who next week will turn 80 and then jump on a plane with her husband Bob, 83, and head for the National Senior Games where she will compete amongst 12,000 athletes age 50 and over for a gold medal.

Osterville's Doris Ferry, seen here in Colorado skiing with her husband of 60 years Bob Ferry, will compete next week in the National Senior Games in Minnesota for a national title in both tennis and the triple jump. She will turn 80 next week. Photo courtesy of Doris Ferry

Osterville’s Doris Ferry, seen here in Colorado skiing with her husband of 60 years Bob Ferry, will compete next week in the National Senior Games in Minnesota for a national title in both tennis and the triple jump. She will turn 80 next week.
Photo courtesy of Doris Ferry

The active duo will be competing first for a national title in singles and mixed-doubles tennis and then Doris will trade her tennis shoes for track spikes as she competes – for the first time in her life – in the triple jump. Earlier this week, she met up with former Barnstable High School track coach W.E. Price who agreed to take her on as one of his pupils and at first, Price said, he thought the entire proposition of an 80-year-old woman attempting something as rigorous as the triple jump was just, well, preposterous.

“I was skeptical,” Price said. “But she’s the real deal. She can probably win this thing.”

Working out amongst teenagers at the Barnstable High School Cobb Track this week, Ferry was hitting the triple jump at 15- to 17-feet and two years ago at the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest female in competition turned in an 18.7’ mark.

“He (Price) can’t believe I’m trying this,” Ferry said after working out at the track Thursday morning for an hour. She then played a round of tennis with her husband Bob, the pair went on a 40-minute bike ride and wrapped up the morning with a pool swim. “This is a whole new thing and there’s quite a bit of competition. I’m just going to give it a try.”

Giving new things a try is something the Ferry’s have been doing since the mid-1950s when they both attended St. Lawrence University and learned how to ski together. Married in 1955, they’ve been skiing ever since and have even worked during winter months as ski instructors.

In her mid-40s, Ferry said she took up tennis and along with her husband Bob the two competed at the 2013 National Senior Games but adding on the track & field component was something Ferry said she just sort of happened into but was inspired to do by the late Roger Gentilhomme, an avid tennis competitor who played and competed until the age of 101.

Doris Ferry practices the triple jump this week at the Barnstable High School track. Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

Doris Ferry practices the triple jump this week at the Barnstable High School track.
Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

“We met Roger in Falmouth and he made us promise that we would compete in the National Senior Games,” Doris said. “He was really quite an inspiration… but I had kind of given up on the idea (triple jump) because of the logistics (of competing in two different events), but we got the draw and got a bye in the first round (of tennis) so it became a possibility.”

Ferry said she was also inspired by St. Lawrence University 2013-14 NCAA DIII National Triple Jump Champion Divya Biswal who, Ferry said, she had read about in an alumni magazine and then met in Florida last winter.

But putting it all together, training, and then figuring out how to compete in three different events at two different campuses was proving to be a predicament, not to fail to mention the slim – if even existent – percentage of women over 80 anywhere in the world taking on such a strenuous, physical enterprise.

The National Senior Games are set to begin July 3 and will be held at three locations in Minnesota – including University of Minnesota and St. Thomas University – and, thus, it was beginning to look like competing in both tennis and the triple jump was just not going to be physically possible for Ferry. The tennis competition will be on one campus, and track & field at another, virtually at the same time. But because the Ferry’s received a bye in the first round of the tennis competition, Doris will indeed get to lace those track spikes up.

Ferry qualified in Rhode Island in the triple jump last year on the sheer luck she was the only woman over 60 to sign up on time, she confessed, but that technicality hasn’t stopped her from soliciting the tutelage of Coach Price or from adding inches to her workout each day.

Osterville's Doris Ferry hopes to bring home the gold next week at the National Senior Games in Minnesota. Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

Osterville’s Doris Ferry hopes to bring home the gold next week at the National Senior Games in Minnesota.
Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

“I really thought someone should know about this,” Price said. “I expected her to be fragile and thought she might break, but she’s been doing it and she can do it. It’s amazing.”

— Sean Walsh is the sports editor for www.capecod.com. His column, “One On One,” appears on Capecod.com each Friday. His email is seanwalsh@ccb-media.com. Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm



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