The 2017 Iowa Senior Games were held last month, and Dallas County native Darrell Mitchell, 89, brought home the gold medal in the 400 meter run.
Mitchell outdistanced all others in the 85-89 age range with a time of 1:55.2. His time was fast enough also to have captured silver medals in the two age brackets below his — the 75 to 79-year-olds and 80 to 84-year-olds — but he spared the mere tykes all embarrassment and ran alone.
The track and field events were held Saturday, June 24 at the Valley High School Track in West Des Moines.
Mitchell has lived in Marshalltown for many years, but he grew up on a farm near Perry and was a Methodist minister for more than 50 years. He recently paid a visit to his elder brother, Lester Mitchell, 92, and Lester’s wife, Athene Mitchell, 90, in their home at the Rowley Memorial Masonic Community.
The Mitchell brothers also have a younger sister, Lorna, living in Overland Park, Kan.
Darrell Mitchell recently published a memoir, “Grandpa Darrell Rocks and Runs,” emphasizing the importance of a positive, never-give-up attitude. He said his attitude applies to running just as much as to his long career in the ministry.
His book covers his long life, ranging from his Perry-area childhood to his extensive ministerial career in the Methodist Church to competitive athletics competitions. Mitchell set an Iowa Senior Games record in the 400-meters run in 2009, but winning did not come easily or quickly, he said.
“I’ve been running since I was in my 60s,” he said, “but I never received a medal in my senior running until I was 80 years old. You see, I never gave up. I got better as I got older.”
Chapter titles are running themed, such as “Running in Circles, Away and Back to Finding God,” “The Skills of Running and the Skills of Ministry” and “Passing the Baton (Faith, that is) on to My Daughters.”
“One must never give up in our pursuit of peace and justice,” Mitchell said. “We must not give up in our spiritual journey either. God can help us.”
When not training for the track, Mitchell said he campaigns for peace and justice, tackling with passion such issues as wealth inequality as social injustice, human rights for the LGBT community, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the dominance of the military-industrial complex.
“When it comes to peace, we Christians are often the enemy of Jesus,” he wrote in his book’s final chapter, entitled, “My Marathon of Pastoral Runs from 1953-1992.”
Mitchell was not the only runner with a Perry connection at June’s Iowa Senior Games. Jacqueline Riekena of West Des Moines, who has taken on the Herculean task of restoring the old Woolworth’s building in downtown Perry, came away from the games with a silver medal in the women’s 50-meter dash.
Riekena also won four gold medals, another silver and two bronzes in other events. Her second silver came in the women’s football field goal kick.
“There are less than a handful of women that can kick a field goal,” she said, “but it is my most challenging event as there are no guarantees of the outcome.”