Anne Sluder has a story for her next high school class reunion.
Last week, Sluder set a new USA Masters track and field record for the pentathlon in her 40- to 44-year-old age group by doing something she hadn’t done since she graduated from George Wythe High in Wytheville, Va.
At the 2015 USA Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships on July 23-26, Sluder reached 5 feet, 5 inches in the high jump – one of the pentathlon’s five events – for the first time since her high school senior year.
Sluder, a 42-year-old Pineville resident, is used to breaking national records, specifically her own. She set a new pentathlon mark last year, in her first attempt, and again this year just a month prior to the national meet.
“People look at the scores and say I have to jump this far or run this fast,” said Sluder. “I’m not into the numbers too much. I just try to do my best.”
Sluder played basketball and volleyball at Radford College and has been teaching at Sterling Elementary for 18 years. As a physical education instructor, it has always been important to Sluder to stay in good physical shape.
Her exercise routine included lifting weights and riding the elliptical machines at the Harris and Morrison Ys and running outdoors. Occasionally, Sluder ran in 5-kilometer races, including an annual race in her hometown.
“People would ask me, ‘What are you training for?’ and I would say I am training for life,” said Sluder. “Track and field gave me extra reason to train, goals to shoot for, and the competition.”
Five years ago, Sluder’s husband, Doug, a P.E. teacher at Charlotte Country Day, heard about the Run For Your Life Summer Track Series at Myers Park High, a competitive program for adults and youths.
“He said, ‘I think you should go,’” said Sluder. “I said, ‘You don’t know what you’re starting.’… Once I started track and field, I was hooked.”
The first events Sluder tried were the long jump, triple jump, high jump, hurdles and the 4x100-meter relay. Eventually, she gave up the triple jump because of the back pain it caused her.
Because of her versatility, onlookers told her she should try the pentathlon, which includes the hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, and 800-meter run. But Sluder had never tried the latter two events.
In Masters Track and Field, especially with an event like the pentathlon, athletes sometimes run against history more than other competitors. There are times when Sluder has been the only athlete competing in her age group.
Still, the first time she tried the event, at the 2014 Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Sluder tied the national record of 3,529 points, set in 2008. In March, Sluder also set an American mark in the indoor pentathlon at the USA Masters Indoor National Championships in Winston-Salem.
If you’re keeping score, that’s two national records the first two times Sluder tried the event.
“Anne is just an incredible athlete,” said Terry Ozell, an Atlanta Track Club Team Elite member who met Sluder during the record-holder’s first year of Masters competition. “She’s just so fun to watch. I’ve never seen her come to a competition without a smile on her face and a great attitude. She’s very humble and very talented.”
Sluder’s streak continued in June when she competed in the outdoor pentathlon for just the second time. She was at the Southeastern regional meet in Raleigh preparing for nationals in July.
At the regional meet, Sluder was the only female in a field composed mostly of men. She scored more points than when she tied the national record but meet officials debated whether she should get credit for a record since there were no other women participating.
It became a moot point, because Sluder shattered her previous best score when she totaled 3,746 points at this year’s outdoor nationals.
Sluder says she probably will take a break from track and field until the indoor season and play club volleyball in the meantime.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.