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Perham senior Olympian wins 17 medals in Wyoming Senior Olympics

Jerry Huebsch, Perham, took up running in 1997 and has since gone on to win over 100 medals and plaques in local running, biking and swimming competitions. He also has earned 17 Olympian medals. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Elizabeth Huwe

What started 17 years ago as a challenge amongst brothers has led a Perham man to become a serious contender in sporting competitions around the state and beyond.

It was 1997 when one of Jerry Huebsch’s six brothers decided all seven of them should try running in Lake Country Gardens’ Otter Tail Lake Chase.

“Well, I hadn’t run in 20 years, and I thought it would be a piece of cake,” Jerry said of the two-mile event.

It wasn’t.

“That was a wakeup call. I came in last among all my brothers, and I was sore for three or four days afterwards,” said Jerry. “I thought, ‘Gosh, this is terrible.’ So then, I decided I’ve got to get in shape.”

He started going to the Perham Area Community Center to work out and use the pool, and that didn’t go so well either – at first.

“I started to try to swim,” he said. “I struggled even doing five laps the first day. I struggled, and the lifeguard called me ‘shark bait.’ But I didn’t give up, and I came back the next day.”

Two weeks later, as he continued to work on his swimming, Jerry said he started to do better and even lost some weight. He got tips from the lifeguard and continued to improve.

“I ran that race again a year later with all my brothers,” Jerry said. “Instead of coming in last, I came in second among my brothers. I even got an award!”

Since then, he hasn’t stopped competing and working to improve his fitness level.

“I wanted to enter a triathlon, just to see if I could do it,” Jerry said, so he did. “I didn’t medal or anything, but I was so proud of myself because I did it. See, it takes more courage to enter something than it does to finish it.”

Jerry now has, by his count, more than 100 first place medals and plaques from running in races around the Perham area. He has also done at least 17 triathlons and won awards in skiing, canoeing and biking in addition to running and swimming.

After hearing about the Wyoming Senior Olympics from a friend, Jerry decided he would give the games a try. He entered 18 events in his age group, and brought home 17 medals: 10 gold, five silver and two bronze. He took fourth place in the final event.

The Wyoming Senior Olympics were held July 8-12 in Casper. The events were open to people ages 50 and up who are residents of the United States or Canada and who could physically participate in the given activity. Jerry is 66.

As a medalist, Jerry qualified to advance to the National Senior Games, which will be held next July 3-16 in the Twin Cities metro area. More than 12,000 athletes are expected for the national event. He hasn’t decided yet whether he will participate in the national competition, but does plan to return to the Wyoming games.

For those who have had a hard time establishing their own fitness routine, Jerry suggests finding a partner or two to work with regularly.

“Start out slow,” he added.

He recommended setting a workable goal, such as running a half mile around the track, and slowly adding laps from there. The running pace should also be slower, so as not to strain any muscles that are not used to the activity.

“You can’t do it all at one time,” Jerry said. “But, you can’t give up. Goals have to be step by step.”

Finally, Jerry recommended doing more than one type of activity to use all of the body’s muscle groups and avoid soreness and boredom. He and his friends swim, run and bike in the summer. In the winter, they snowshoe or cross-country ski when the weather allows.

At the Wyoming Senior Olympics, Jerry won gold medals for the: 100 meter backstroke swim, 100 meter freestyle swim, 1,500 meter freestyle swim, 25 meter freestyle swim, 25 meter sidestroke swim, 500 meter freestyle swim, 50 meter sidestroke swim, 1,500 meter run and softball throw.

He earned silver medals for the: 200 meter freestyle swim, 25 meter backstroke swim, 50 meter backstroke swim, 50 meter freestyle swim, 400 meter dash run and long jump.

His bronze medals were won for the: 100 meter dash run and 50 meter dash run.