Orangeburg resident Vernon Hampton, 60, made it known to all that basketball is not his forte and not in his area of expertise.

Hampton's shooting form, however, was in fine shape on Thursday morning at the 2017 Orangeburg Senior Games free throw shooting contest held at the Orangeburg County Council on Aging center on St. Matthews Road.

Vernon Hampton won the basketball free-throw contest and the softball toss contest at the Orangeburg County Council on Aging Senior Games.

Hampton won the contest, beating out about 10 other senior men for the top prize.

"I feel pretty good, but I am not a basketball player," Hampton said, laughing after his victorious effort. "I don't even like basketball."

In what was a competitive showdown complete with nail-biting and tense moments, Hampton says his strategy to take home the gold medal was all about angles.

"I figured if I hit that backboard, it would come down into that net," he said. "It was like geometry. It was mathematical."

Hampton says his athletic prowess comes from his determination to stay active. He and his wife come to the Orangeburg County Council on Aging five days a week and use its exercise room.

"I do upper body Monday, Wednesday and Friday and lower body on Tuesday and Thursday," Hampton said, adding that the reason he exercises frequently is simple.

"It keeps your elbows from hitting the side of the box early. You know what that means!" he said. "Plus, I want to see my grandkids graduate."

Later, Hampton also won the softball toss and received some good-natured comments from his friends.

"I love to play baseball!" he told anyone who would listen.

St. Matthews resident Allen Davis, 64, came in second place in the softball throwing contest. He tries to keep his arm mobile as well as his entire body.

The reason? Because God created his body.

"He is the one that keeps me going, keeps my spirit up and keeps me smiling," Davis said. "I love exercise like push-ups."

Davis said he also tries to eat healthy.

"I eat collard greens, cabbage, spinach, chicken, fish and not too much of the high-processed foods."

Allen Davis, left, and Wilbert Harrison participate in the softball throw contest at the Council on Aging Senior Games. 

St. Matthews resident Rosa Haynes, 66, topped about 25 other senior women in the free throw shooting contest.

Haynes said the only strategy she employed to win the competition was a "made up mind."

"I said, 'I can do it,'" she said.

Staying healthy and fit is important to Haynes. She walks 10 laps at the Council on Aging facility at least six days a week.

St. Matthews resident Rosa Haynes takes aim as she attempts to make free throws at the Orangeburg County Council on Aging Senior Games. She finished first in the women's division.

"It is important to keep my weight down and to keep my mind focused on what I need to have it focused on," Haynes said. "I want to live long. My mom was 70 and my dad was 89. I want to reach one of them numbers."

Orangeburg resident Helen Bryant, 81, placed second in the free throw contest. She had no strategic approach, she said.

"I don't play basketball, but I exercise a lot," making it a point to exercise daily, she said.

Bryant takes advantage of the exercises offered by the Council on Aging.

"We do arm exercises, leg exercises, heart exercises," she said. "It makes me feel good."

Bryant says staying active is one key to her good looks.

She also credits "good eatin' and good sleeping" for her fit physique. "It is important to exercise because when you get to a certain age, you are supposed to exercise to keep going," Bryant said. "If you sit down, then your bones will go blank. It is good for your health, it is good for the heart and for the mind. I love doing it."

Shawn Taylor, Orangeburg Parks and Recreation Department superintendent, said the games played during Senior Games are the same the seniors played during their childhood.

"This is a national movement that a lot of agencies across the country do," Taylor said. "We like to bring those seniors back out to be able to do those things" (they once did). We modify the games but they love that."

The games also allow the seniors to socialize with their peers, she said.

"It is important for seniors because at this point in their life, sometimes they don't have a lot of activities and things to do," Taylor said. "This gives them another means to ... get out and to get active. We like to say an active community is a healthy community, which is a prosperous community."

The Orangeburg Senior Games event is in its 22nd year. This year's theme was "Winning never gets old."

Janet Antley, Orangeburg County Council on Aging nutrition site coordinator, said the first Senior Games were held on a Saturday at South Carolina State University two decades ago.

The event was moved to the Council on Aging after a few years in an effort to get more participation. Today, the event is held two days in October every year. 

Seniors start signing up ahead of time for the games, which are open to anyone who is older than 55. Antley says that, on average, about 70 individuals participate.

"It is wonderful," she said. "They love it. They just do. They all get in their T-shirts and enjoy the games. It is something they look forward to. It really is."

Seniors win useful household gifts and a cake if they win the cake walk. They also win gold, silver and bronze medals.

"They love collecting them (medals)," Antley said. "They will walk around, some of them, with five around their neck, and they are just as proud as a peacock."

The Council on Aging facility has its fitness room open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Use of the fitness room is free.

Antley said the Council on Aging stresses the importance of being active. The organization provides a fitness class twice a week free of charge.

"They really move," she said. "It is all geared toward senior citizens, and they are encouraged if they can't do it to just modify it. We stress the importance of mobility."

The City of Orangeburg's Parks and Recreation Department and the Council of Aging partner to provide the event for senior men and women each year. Walgreens and Walmart Neighborhood Market also contribute items, such as the cakes, to make the event possible.

About a dozen Calhoun County Council on Aging members also participated in the senior games this year.

The games included: bingo; 100-meter; long jump; shot put; discus; cornhole, disc golf and horseshoes.

Representatives of S.C. Lieutenant Governor Kevin L. Bryant's office attended the event.

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