Vicksburg’s Pranger gears up for Senior Olympics

Published 4:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Most weekends, Steve Pranger can be found powering his way to the front of the pack at a race walking event somewhere in Mississippi.

Every couple of years, however, he tries his hand at competing against some of the nation’s best.

The Vicksburg resident will head to Pittsburgh this week for the National Senior Games, an event that features more than 21,000 athletes competing in 20 sports from July 7-18.

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“It’s a fun experience to go and see, and it gives you motivation to stay in shape. It’s a little fun vacation,” Pranger said.

The 64-year-old is one of Mississippi’s top race walkers and will compete in the men’s 5-kilometer power walk at the National Senior Games. The power walk is slightly different from race walking in that it has more relaxed rules on proper form.

Typically, race walkers must keep their leg straight as they move. In the power walk, there is more leeway.

“The big difference at the national level is there are judges. The first year we all went, a bunch of us got disqualified for the race walking because they judge you on the form. You have to have a straight knee and none of us really do,” he said.

He’ll also go back to his roots as a track and field athlete.

When he was growing up in Connecticut, Pranger said, he competed in a number of events for his high school track team. He’s still a capable competitor for his age in the discus and javelin, and qualified for both events at the Mississippi state senior games.

The top three in each event at the state level qualify for the national competition. There are typically about 25 people in each event at the National Senior Games.

“I don’t train for the other ones. I just do them for fun,” Pranger said of the track and field events. “I have a discus and a javelin, but I don’t train. I’ve gotten in the top 10 in the triple jump, high jump and the javelin. If I trained more I could probably do it.”

Pranger has done pretty well in three previous trips to the National Senior Games.

In 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he had three top-10 finishes among nine events. Pranger finished ninth in the 60-65-year-olds’ triple jump, fifth in the 1,500 meter power walk and third in the 5,000 meter power walk.

He’s hoping for a similar performance in Pittsburgh, although he said it won’t be easy. The 60-65 age group is one of the more competitive divisions.

“The 60s is probably the most competitive, because there are people that are still in fairly decent shape and still are active. I’m right in the middle of that,” Pranger said. “If I get in the top 10 nationally, that’s pretty good. That’s my goal.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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