At age 75, Jeff Harrell continues to leave his mark on the National Senior Games.
Earlier this month in Birmingham, Alabama, Harrell came out of retirement to establish a new record of 131 feet, 5 inches in the 75-79 age division of the discus en route to another national championship.
Harrell’s throw also ranks second in the world out of 175 competitors, and topped the previous national record of 122 feet by almost 10 full feet.
Due to injuries, Harrell — who stepped away from active competition in 2011 — had to receive a medical waiver just to compete at nationals.
“Because of arm pain in my elbow and shoulder, I decided to call it over,” Harrell said of his first retirement. “But in 2015 I decided I wanted to go back to the national championships in 2017 and try to win and set a new record in the 75-79 division. Since I had to qualify at the Texas Seniors Meet in 2016, I started working out in September of 2015. In December of 2015, using weights, I hurt my shoulder and was in surgery two weeks later. In January of 2016 I had surgery again because I had more problems with my throwing shoulder. Because I couldn’t throw at the Texas meet, I got a medical waiver to compete in Nationals. After a lot of work after therapy I was ready for the meet.”
With the national meet just a week away, a back injury threatened to keep Harrell out of the competition.
“One week before the national meet I strained my back and didn’t workout all week,” Harrell said. “At the meet, I told my wife, and I meant it, ‘I’ve come all this way and I’ll throw if it kills me.’”
Adverse weather conditions also presented a challenge to Harrell.
“The weather was 100 percent wrong the day of the meet,” he said. “There was a slight breeze to our backs which leaves no air to lift the discus. I could have gotten several more feet on an ideal day. I knew my first throw would be my best because of my back, and it was. I found out that our throws to get in the finals would count, so I was happy. After the last throw of the meet, my wife walked up to me for a hug and I said, ‘We did it.’”
Harrell also owns the 70-74 age division discus record of 149 feet, 9 inches, which he set in 2011 while winning the national championship.
“This time I really am retired from throwing the discus,” Harrell said. “I currently have two national records, so I’m just going to sit on the front porch and throw the bull.”