Can one ever be too old to enter Northern Virginia Senior Olympics?
The best person to turn to on this question is Doris Woodring of Lake Ridge. While the minimum age to enter the NVSO is 50, the 109-year-old Woodring keeps pushing the envelope each fall.
Last year she was the NVSO’s oldest competitor and oldest gold medal winner at 108. She turned 109 in June and is currently honing her game to repeat her gold medal performance in Mexican Train Dominoes on Sept. 19 in Falls Church.
Online Registration for the 2019 NVSO closes Sunday, Aug. 31. To sign up, visit www.nvso.us. You can also volunteer at the games by contacting RSVP-Northern Virginia at www.rsvpnova.org or by calling 703-403-5360.
Is there a strategy or approach that Woodring attributes for her Mexican Train success? “I don’t know, I just like doing it,” she said. “I pour myself into it.”
Woodring has garnered several medals in NVSO competition including gold in Wii Bowling and in Mexican Train Dominoes, a game she plays every Monday night at Westminster at Lake Ridge, a bucolic 62-acres tree-lined senior living community near Occoquan. She said she also enjoys singing with a group of Westminster residents whenever she can.
Woodring has also been an avid Scrabble player and competed in the NVSO Scrabble competition. She first got involved in the Senior Olympics in her late 90s, according to her daughters.
“I suppose there were others doing it and I didn’t want to be bested,” she said of signing up. “I wanted to be in there competing, too.”
She said she also enjoys the social side of the senior games. “I like people. I like to visit with them,” she said.
Woodring was born in 1910 in Glasco, Kansas, a small town located about 200 miles west of Kansas City. Woodring moved to Washington, D.C., in 1935 to marry her sweetheart, Joe, who had gotten a job as an elevator operator at the U.S. Capitol.
After residing in D.C., Alexandria and Falls Church, Joe and Doris moved to the Kings Park community in Annandale in 1965. Joe passed away in 1990 and Doris Woodring left Annandale in 1995 for Westminster at Lake Ridge, also home to the NVSO’s Yo-Yo competition and also a gold patron of the NVSO.
“My mom has always been actively involved,” said daughter Dianne Leone, while talking about her mother’s health and longevity. “Her active lifestyle revolves around the church, her family, sewing and other arts and crafts.”
Woodring also has three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. “She loves fun, adventure and traveling. My mom has a great outlook on life. When we were being raised she and dad always made things fun for all of us,” Leone said.
According to Leone, her mom is also an active volunteer in the true sense of the word “She thanks God for what she has and always helps others when she can,” Leone said.
Woodring continues to participate in the senior games in competitions that take place in venues across the region, thanks to Westminster at Lake Ridge’s activity bus that transports residents to several different activities each week.
Dona Hobbs, a longtime NVSO board member who is Doris’ friend and lives in Westminster said Doris is an inspiration.
“She exemplifies the ideal of the Senior Olympics which is ‘Living Healthy Longer,’ by staying mentally and physically active,” Hobbs said.
As one might expect, outliving your peers with such a high level of spirit and humor comes with a certain level of notoriety.
When Woodring turned 103, the local Giant grocery store where she shopped for many years celebrated her birthday with a cake, corsage and balloons, during a special visit. A TV news report showed her rolling her cart down the aisles, exchanging jokes and pleasantries with shoppers. On another birthday she was given a special proclamation by the Kansas State Senate. It is displayed prominently in her home.
Her daughters think that it’s possible their mom’s involvement with the NVSO in part led to her being featured on the Smuckers jar birthday salute on “The Today Show.”
After she turned 100, one of Woodring’s daughters faithfully wrote Willard Scott every year requesting that a happy birthday announcement for her mom be read on the air.
Willard retired and was replaced by Al Roker. One morning, about a month after Woodring had turned 106-years-old, the birthday greeting finally came.
One of her daughters had submitted a request that year for a 106th birthday announcement and mentioned that Woodring had recently won a gold medal in Wii Bowling in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics.
When Doris’ smiling face adorned a Smuckers jar, Roker wished her a happy birthday and congratulated her for winning a gold medal for “World War II bowling in her town’s senior Olympics games.”
Her 109th birthday in June was a little more subdued. Were there 109 candles on her cake? Woodring quips, “Of course they didn’t do that, they might have set the place on fire.”
Her advice to seniors who may be considering competing in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics is don’t go in expecting to win.
“Go in to enjoy the competition,” she said. The thing she said she enjoys most about the games is “The involvement of being with other people and competing.”
What is Woodring’s secret for staying independent and active for so long? “I have always had a zest for life,” she said.
ABOUT THE NVSO
The NVSO began in 1982 with about 80 competitors. In 2018, more than 800 Northern Virginians took part, making it one of the region’s largest annual senior events.
In addition to offering traditional Olympic-style events such as running, walking, discus and swimming, the NVSO also has games that exercise the mind, including bridge, Sudoku and one of this year’s new competitions, jigsaw puzzle. A new competition being added for those more active is line dancing.
The NVSO is a joint project of the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the counties of Arlington,Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William.