With her back facing the throwing area, Polly Wieczorek took three deeps breaths, brought the shot into the right side of her neck and turned around to throw her second attempt of the final heat.
The shot landed at 11.36 meters, a full meter farther than her first throw, and longer than anyone had thrown it the entire day. Wieczorek, a Woodbury resident, clapped her hands together three times, gave a fist bump with her right arm and walked away with a beaming smile.
However, because Wieczorek’s throw eventually tied the best distance of Indiana’s Karen Myers, the women’s 50-54 Senior Games shot put final was determined in a tiebreaker: second-best distance. Wieczorek’s second-best throw of 10.04 meters fell short of Myers’ 11.30-meter throw, and Wieczorek finished with a silver medal at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in St. Paul.
“It’s a wonderful experience, not only competing, but also meeting the wonderful participants from around the country,” Wieczorek, 53, said. “I’m very pleased. I think everybody, especially if you tie in feet and inches, wants to be the one with the ‘1’ next to their name as opposed to a ‘2’, but I’m thrilled just to be on the podium and I’m thrilled to be at the competition.”
Also on Monday, Wieczorek placed sixth in the long jump with a distance of 3.59 meters (11 feet, 9 inches) and competed in the 50 and 100-meter dashes, triple-jump and discus throw.
Wieczorek grew up in the Twin Cities in a devoted track family. Polly’s sister was a celebrated sprinter at the University of Minnesota and on the national level. She herself competed in the heptathlon at the University of Minnesota and held records for “over a decade,” according to her husband Adam.
Wieczorek currently coaches the Lake and Woodbury Middle School track teams, positions she’s held for two years.
“My love of track continues on from my childhood, and now I’m hoping to pass that on to young people as well,” Wieczorek said. “I think that some of the middle school students like that, as a coach, I have been an athlete as well as understanding a wide variety of different events — whether it’s hurdles or how to come out of the blocks or any of the other field events.”
After getting married and having four children, Wieczorek restarted her track and field career just a couple of years ago. Last year’s Minnesota Senior Games was her first official event.
Though she’s also a personal trainer and lifts weights routinely, Wieczorek focused on long distance and stair training for this week’s Senior Games.
“Fitness is something that’s a lifestyle for her,” Adam Wieczorek said. “I’m very proud of her. I’m not surprised though … she’s an accomplished athlete. It’s pretty impressive to watch.”