As a girl growing up, Harriet (Giesselmann) Bloemker was frustrated that there weren’t competitive high school sports for females.
“I come from a family that loves sports,” the 1949 Arlington High School graduate said. “I always loved sports. The fact that I couldn’t compete in high school always made me feel like I had been cheated.”
The Fremont resident, 86, is making up for lost time.
Bloemker, who set a USATF record for her age group (85-89) in the javelin (61 feet, 8 inches) and discus (54-2) last summer at the Cornhusker State Games, discovered recently that her marks are also season bests on the international level.
The World Masters Rankings have her ahead of fellow American Gloria Krug (of York, Pennsylvania), who threw 53 feet in the discus and is in second place. In the javelin, Rosa Pedersen of Denmark is second at 51-3 and Lieselotte Leib of Germany is third at (50-0).
“I was almost speechless when I found out about it,” Bloemker said. “I was surprised I set the records in this country.”
Bloemker’s javelin mark was just shy of the world record in the 85-89 age division. Rachel Hanssens of Belgium threw 62-2 in 2014.
About 21 years ago, Bloemker heard about the Senior Games in Kearney.
“I thought that was my chance to compete,” she said. “My husband (Gene) was very much in favor of it and he really encouraged me. We always enjoyed making the trip to Kearney every year.”
When it became difficult for Gene to travel a few years ago, Harriet opted to compete in the Cornhusker State Games in Lincoln.
“We got to know different people in Kearney when we would go there,” she said. “Each year there would be someone we knew that couldn’t physically compete anymore. When I started, I didn’t think there was any way I would still be competing at my age now.”
Gene died in February of 2017, but Harriet remains active in athletics. She golfs on a regular basis. She has weights and exercise equipment at home. She also works out at wellness centers.
Bloemker does suffer from macular degeneration, but “that doesn’t affect how I throw the discus or javelin,” she said.
The Fremonter is looking forward to competing at the Cornhusker State Games during the third week of July. She isn’t predicting any records, however.
“I can tell you right now that I don’t think my (marks) will be as good as last year,” she said. “Every year we lose a certain amount of muscle mass. It doesn’t matter how much you practice or lift weights, there will be some loss of muscle.
“If you are going to set any records, it is almost always done that first year when you flip to a new group, like last year when I moved up to 85-89. Every once in a while you will see it in the second year, but that is pretty rare.”
While Bloemker does have her eye condition, she is grateful for her overall well being.
“I am thankful I can be out and about and do what I do,” she said. “I thank the Lord that I am still able to compete and that I have a body that will allow me to compete. I get up every morning and I have absolutely no pain. I have no pain in my shoulders, hips or knees.”
Younger athletes have taken notice of Bloemker’s drive. At the Cornhusker State Games, a high jumper asked to have her picture taken with her.
“This woman had just graduated from college and was a good high jumper,” Bloemker recalled. “She asked me about a picture and I said it was fine. I didn’t really know what it was all about until she said she wanted to keep it as a reminder that competition in sports doesn’t necessarily stop when you graduate from college or you get older.”