Niles' Bob Root has racked up quite a few medals in track and field. (Daily Star photo/STEVE MORRISON)
Niles' Bob Root has racked up quite a few medals in track and field. (Daily Star photo/STEVE MORRISON)

Archived Story

You can’t keep a good man down

Published 8:00am Saturday, November 7, 2009

By STEVE MORRISON
Niles Daily Star

The “Energizer Bunny”, Wiley Coyote and Superman?, none of these fictional characters represent the robust and age-defying character of Niles’ Bob Root, who probably has achieved more success in the sport of track and field than most individuals in his 75 years.

His home is decorated by two walls and four shelves of 160 ribbons and medals, mostly achieved during his later lifetime.

This story goes way back, more than a half of a century ago, when Bob, a 1952 Dowagiac High School graduate, placed third, as a pole-vaulter, in the State of Michigan Track and Field finals in Lansing, Michigan. In a local interview, Wednesday, Bob described what led him to become an avid runner, jumper, and pole vaulter.

“Actually, when I graduated, I kind of just let it (track) go,” Bob began.

Root then worked as a lineman for 31 years.

“I never got back into any kind of sports activity until I was 60. Then I started running. I ran 5K’s and 10K’s in area races. I did the Sunburst, Thanksgiving Run (in Niles), and any race that came along. I came in second and first all of the time,” he stated, modestly.

Bob has won probably close to 20 first place medals from those days, as he began in the 60-65 division, graduated to the 66-70 age group, and continued into his seventies. His personal best was 21:00 for the 5K and 49:00 for the 10K. Root realized that with the grind on his physique that he couldn’t keep running, due to metaphysical changes.

Then he returned to the event that made him a success from the start, vaulting. In the past three years, Bob managed to with Pat O’Keefe, of Dowagiac, as a mentor and coach. O’Keefe, who has his own website, “Lift Us High Athletics”, has helped program Bob into a regimen to prepare for vaulting events. He also assisted Root in finding and purchasing a fiberglass pole, for $400, which is actually a bargain.

Root recalled the progress through years after original poles were made of bamboo. Then they were changed into aluminum, next steel, and now, with technological influences, fiberglass. Bob has been through them all.

He trains like there is no tomorrow. He runs four 440s, and eight 100-meter dashes three days a week at Brandywine High School’s track. He practices his take-off, which is exactly 67 strides. Then he spends his spare time working in his weight room which he built into his home.

Oh, yes, there’s just another dimension to his preparation for competition. Bob explained that if he were to discontinue training for more than three to five days, it would be very difficult to resume. So he went upon another mission. He built a pole-vaulting pit in his own back yard.

By signing a wavier, Root was able to acquire a used landing mat from the Brandywine High School track, which was undergoing renovation. The Bobcats, due to regulations, had to get rid of the item, so Root just signed the wavier and began constructing his own home practice site. One potential piece of trash, became another man’s treasure.

He trains year round, shoveling snow off the driveway, so that he stays in top shape. His wife, Lois, watches from the window to make sure he has “happy’ landings. She is also his number one fan, photographer, and mother of their four children. “She’s the one who keeps me in shape,” he added.

The Roots also have 14 grandchildren. They travel together… Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas, just in the last year. Bob has won nine gold medals, and set four records vaulting in 2009. Eight feet is his highest jump, while most, in the 75-79 age category, average six to seven feet.

He has had his share of muscle pulls and injuries. He estimates that his recovery from these nuisances is 3-5 days. Despite the challenges, Bob Root is a man for all seasons. Time has no limits.

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