Four employees share their National Senior Games experiences

The National Senior Games—the world’s largest multi-sport event for athletes over age 50—took place around Greater Cleveland, including at Case Western Reserve University, from July 19 to Aug. 1.

Of the approximately 11,000 top athletes from around the country who participated, at least four were from Case Western Reserve: staff members Sam Arlia, Tom Kelly and Denice Mayer—who competed in archery, basketball and softball, respectively—and faculty member John Lewandowski, who competed in four track events.

From their rigorous practice schedules to their favorite part of the games, these CWRU employee-athletes give us some insight into the hard work and commitment it took to qualify for the games— as well as the experiences they won’t soon forget.


Sam Arlia
Sam Arlia with his granddaughter and number one supporter

Sam Arlia

Position at CWRU: Mechanical Coordinator with Facilities Services

Sport: Archery Compound (50-54 age division)

Finished: 6th Place

How long have you been active in Archery Compound?

I bought my first bow 25 years ago for hunting and only used it for a few years, but I never shot competitively. In 2011, I decided to get back into archery for hunting and joined the CWRU Archery club to hone my skills. The Ohio Senior Games in 2012 was my first ever competition—in which, much to my surprise, I took a bronze medal.

Favorite part of the National Senior Games?

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just being able to be a part of it was great because the games may never be back in Cleveland again in my lifetime. Here my whole family—from my parents to my granddaughter—were able to see me compete, making the experience all that much more special.

How would you rate CWRU and Cleveland as host sites?

I think Cleveland did an outstanding job. The games received a great representation from all areas of the city. CWRU not only had some of the games here but also provided housing for out-of-town participants.


Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly on the job

Position at CWRU: Mobile Security Officer

Sport: Basketball (60-and-older age division)

Finished: 5th Place

How long have you been active in basketball?

I’ve played every year since 1963. I played at Seton Hall University as a freshman and later at the University of Akron. As an Akron police officer, I played with fellow officers for more than 20 years—in police invitational tournaments and in Ohio and National Police Olympics.

How was your National Senior Games team formed?

My teammates—all from south of Canton—played together for many years. They picked me up for their team in recent years because, at our age, a 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound big man like me, who can still run a little, can be of some use in a tournament like this.

What will you take away from the experience?

Sore feet and a desire to go for the gold next time.


John Lewandowski
John Lewandowski near the finish of his 1500m run

John J. Lewandowski

Position at CWRU: Leonard Case Jr. Professor of Engineering

Sport: Track (55-59 age division)


  • 5K: 4th  Place
  • 400 meters: 10th Place
  • 800 meters: 5th Place
  • 1500 meters: 6th Place (earned Masters All-American status for time of 5:02)

How often did you train?

One speed workout on the track each week, starting in April; one hill workout every week; and two long-distance runs on the weekend. Then I’d rest on the other days, although I bike 6 miles to work every day, so that also serves as cross training.

What will you take away from this experience?

Inspiration from a number of athletes, and the recognition that the competitive spirit endures.

How would you rate CWRU and Cleveland as host sites?

The athletes I came in contact with were very impressed with the organization, facilities, and hospitality at CWRU and in Cleveland. I have always felt we have some of the best facilities to offer our student-athletes at CWRU.


Denice Mayer
Denice Mayer with her bronze medal for softball

Denice Mayer

Position at CWRU: Research Assistant in the Department of Ophthalmology in the School of Medicine

Sport: Softball (55-and-older age division)

Finished: Bronze

How did your National Senior Games team form?

The nucleus of the team plays in a Sunday women’s league in Mentor, and we also got some players from leagues in Canton and a few others places around Northeast Ohio.

Favorite part of the National Senior Games?

The opening ceremonies were pretty cool. People were really impressed by Cleveland. Edgewater Park hosted a beach party for all participants one night, and wow—it is all cleaned up and gorgeous now.

What will you take away from this experience?

I have at least three teammates who are battling serious health issues: tingling feet from chemo treatments and another woman who was recently in treatment. We relatively healthy ones were determined to come out of there with a medal because of these folks.

Also, we played a team from Connecticut, and after the game one of their players presented me a special pin that they had made in honor of the Sandy Hook school shooting. That was so sweet.

To learn more about the results of the National Senior Games, visit