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Imagine a regional Olympic competition for the restless over-50 crowd and you have the Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games.

For the next seven days, around a thousand participants will be competing in sports ranging from basketball and soccer to track and field and volleyball.

A swimmer is flying in from Australia, along with women's soccer teams from Oregon and Washington, and a men's basketball team from Las Vegas. Filling out the lineup of non-traditional sports, competitors will go head to head in square-dancing, horseshoes, bocce ball and pickleball.

Three years ago, when the Council on Aging created the games, "we were looking for a way to engage our healthier seniors and encourage seniors to stay active or to get active," says event director Amy Crabb.

The first year, 450 seniors signed up. Last year, 850 competed. Horseshoes and track and field are new sports introduced this year.

"It's fun because they have this energy and this enthusiasm about life that you don't see all the time," Crabb said.

Just as the games are getting under way, here's a look at two of the competitors — one a "master senior" in his 80s, the other a "young senior" in her late 50s — both pursuing a sport they fell in love with at an early age. In a sense, they've been training for this moment their entire lives:

The Runner: Maggie DeMaria, 58, Santa Rosa

Running up the steep Canyon Trail on the backside of Annadel State Park, Maggie DeMaria leans in to say, "Right now I feel nauseous and I feel tired, but I know I don't warm up until about 6 miles."

At this point, we're only at 2 miles in, most of it rising in elevation.

"It's always best after you run, as your whole body is pulsating and circulating," she said. "You know that saying, 'No pain, no gain'? The more you push your body, the better it feels afterwards."

She's been running competitively almost her entire life, ever since running the fastest 50-yard dash at St. Catherine of Sienna school in Burlingame when she was 12.

Since then, she's run dozens of 10k races, several half-marathons and the Big Sur marathon.

Over the years, she's seen many would-be runners take up the sport and quickly abandon it.

"I think people expect too much from themselves in the beginning and they don't give it the time or the patience to make it through," she said.

A 35-year veteran of the food and beverage industry (these days, DeMaria works at Oliver's grocery store in Santa Rosa), she's thought about becoming a motivational speaker one day.

"What better example than to be 100 and still be running? Wouldn't that be a trip?"

For her, the Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games has extended her competitive racing career "and given me a whole new perspective on the sport."

If she had any advice for people thinking about competing in the games, it would be, "Even if you don't feel you can do a sport, just come out for the inspiration. Come and participate as a spectator or a volunteer or do the 5k walk instead of the run."

After the hilly 10k Annadel run wound down, DeMaria walked to her car and pulled out a Post-It note she wrote early one recent morning after waking. It read, "Running allows my physical reality to merge with the non-physical source energy and inspire my life."

It sounds almost like something a motivational speaker might say.

"You can keep that," she said.

DeMaria was registered to compete in today's 10k race, but it was canceled due to a shortage of participants. Instead she was planning to participate in the all-day track and field running events yesterday at Healdsburg High.

The Archer: Burrell Wyle, 83, Santa Rosa

Just before he pulled back his compound bow to aim at a black bear target 40 yards away, Burrell Wyle revealed, "My middle name is 'One More Time.'" Ready to move on to the next target, his buddies groaned as he took his sweet time and shot an arrow just off the bull's-eye.

On this day, the Sonoma County Bowmen are engaged in 3D target training while roaming around Rancho Neblina, a windswept cattle ranch doubling as an archery range out in Two-Rock, west of Petaluma.

Wyle is decked out in a wide-brimmed hat, binoculars around his neck and a quiver of arrows at his waist. Considering it takes around 50 pounds of pressure to pull back the bow each time, it's hard to imagine this is the same guy who had five-way bypass heart surgery back in 1985.

His archery buddies are young by comparison at 61, 66 and 72 years old.

"I keep telling them they should create a category for the master master senior," he says. "But they don't listen."

He's been an avid archer ever since he fashioned his own bow out of willow sticks as a teenager growing up in Illinois. Moving to Oakland soon after, he would later relocate to Santa Rosa in the 1960s to work as general manager for the North Coast division of an auto parts company based in Oakland.

Retired these days, Burrell spends around 20 hours a month shooting arrows, whether hitting the range with the Redwood Bowmen or taking a trip out to Clear Lake to bow-hunt carp.

"The mental part of it is just as important as the physical," he said. "It keeps you sharp."

He sees the Senior Games as the ultimate leveler, no matter your age or livelihood.

"It doesn't matter if you're a doctor or lawyer or you work with your hands. We're all equal in sport," he said, before pulling back his bow one more time.

Burrell competes in the archery competition from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Sunday, June 9 at Lake Sonoma.

(Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, john@sideshowvideo.com and follow on Twitter @becksay.)

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