‘The Legend’ sprints out of hibernation: Phil Raschker enters National Senior Games at 72

Eileen Philippa Raschker of Georgia leads the 100 at 2009 National Senior Games. Ten years later, she's baccccckkkkkkkk.

Nine years ago, Phil Raschker was quoted as saying: “At times I have stepped away from being competitive and gone into hibernation for a while. But when I don’t have the object of being able to compete, I find that I’m not quite living the lifestyle that I want to.” Don’t look now, but Mama Bear is coming out of her cave. Now 72, the Masters Hall of Famer I’ve long called “The Legend” is entered in seven events at the mid-June National Senior Games in Albuquerque, where the elevation will help her have a shot at records. She’s in the 100, 200, 400, high jump, long jump, triple jump and the event (pole vault) she mastered three decades ago when women were discouraged from doing such silly things.

She’s also said to be entered this weekend in a combined events meet in her native Germany, but I don’t see her name in the participant lists for the pentathlon, heptathlon or decathlon. (However, the site says she might be the focus of TV coverage.)

Phil (short for Philippa) has been absent from the oval for most of the past five years according to mastersrankings.com. (Her last big year was 2013 at Porto Alegre worlds). She reportedly has been taking care of her mother in Germany, away from her home in Marietta, Georgia (near Atlanta), where she had a career as a tax accountant.

I’ve written a lot about Phil, and been quoted on her career. One less-than-stellar moment was when I admitted to a New York Times writer that I investigated a claim that Phil was born male. (That’s what a transgender female athlete told me in Maine.) Turns out she’s all-woman, but Phil was a little peeved with me for checking out the story. Please forgive me, Phil.

I’m surprised she didn’t compete at Torun worlds this year, but maybe she’s been in training for outdoors (or still busy with Mom). In any case, she’ll be eligible for WMA Athlete of the Year if she competes at Toronto WMA regionals in July.

I suspect she’ll be going for the W70 records in the heptathlon. The listed WR is 6218 points by Austria’s Marianne Maier, and the listed American record is former Oregon professor Becky Sisley’s 5304 set almost exactly 10 years ago.

Phil has won more than 70 world titles and set more than 200 world records. USATF still lists her as holding 23 indoor and 24 outdoor Americans records. Indoors, she has records in every age group from 40 to 65. (Outdoors, it’s 40 to 60.)

At the 1997 indoor nationals, she set eight world records. This is how National Masters News reported it: “Phil Raschker, 50, of Georgia, who broke seven W50 world records in the European Indoor Championships held in Birmingham, England, three weeks earlier, bettered eight listed W50 records in Boston by adding the 400 with a 63.84 to her record performances in the 6Om, 200, 6OH, high jump, pole vault, long jump, and triple jump at Birmingham. In Boston, she improved her high jump record from 1.50 to 1.53 (5-1 1/4) and her triple jump record from 10.14 to 10.49 (34-5).”

Here’s what I wrote about her incredible grit at 2003 Puerto Rico worlds:

In 1978, I interviewed four-time Olympic discus champion Al Oerter. In my story for Track & Field News, I repeated what Oerter had famously said years before: “These are the Olympics. You die for them.” Now we’re seeing that creed play out in Carolina. The latest example: Phil Raschker.

Phil, a Masters Hall of Famer whom I call “The Legend,” has won countless world titles and set dozens of age-group records since her masters emergence around 1984. Nearly 20 years later, competing in W55, this self-employed 56-year-old tax accountant from Marietta, Georgia, is huffing and puffing through pain — and a flu bug — in Puerto Rico.

On Monday, the rest day of the 15th World Masters Athletics Championships, Phil wrote me:
Good news is I got the gold (in the heptathlon). Bad news is that after the first 200 meters in the 800 race, in which I felt very strong, the hammy just tightened up again to the point that I almost had to come to a walk then picking it back up a bit, then slowing down again. Overall I was very surprised that I even came up with a 3:15. I never saw/felt this one coming, and at this point will have to wait and see what and how much I will be able to do from here on in.

The first day of the heptathlon went really well.

Hurdles: I decided to use the correct lead leg this time but take it easy, which I did and it gave me a 13.5 against a 14.5 with the incorrect lead leg.

HJ: Here things were going really great and at one point I cleared 1.48, which was a world record only to find out that they had all along measured from 10cm instead of 0. Everybody thought they were jumping personal bests, only to be shocked back into reality when the officials finally informed us of the error that was detected after the first height and the head official decided to let us continue with the “error.”

Anyway, so I did not jump a new world record but was fortunate enough to still have some jumping left in my leg. So from then on we went from 1.38 instead of 1.48 to 1.41, 1.44 and 1.47 and yes, that finally turned out to be a legal, official world record, which also did not previously belong to me.

Shot Put: The usual around 8.50 since I have not practiced it much. 9.00m would have been better. Next year — yes, famous last words.

200: Did not expect to run a great time. The track is kind of spongy. But I had Lane 3, the other competitors in front of me and so I used it to not loaf around the curve as I usually do and it showed in the final time of 27.54 which would have been a new record but — 2.2 wind. 2.0 is legal for an individual event record but the heptathlon record would still be OK as they allow 4.0 wind speed.

So I was very happy after the first day. The body had held up with nothing more than the usual soreness after competing in four events and the antibiotics seemed to finally kick in and made my flu and cough easier to deal with.

Today then I started with the long jump at 7:30. I used the incorrect leg (right) for the first two jumps. The long jump board is one of those new, incredible hard ones and I have not jumped off a board in a number of years. But since this was close to the pit I could not choose to just jump off the runway track. So I decided on my last jump to go with my jumping leg and had a great jump but it was a small foul. Small or big, it did not count.

Still my score was well over world record pace and now up was the javelin: The scariest event since the new 500-gram javelin comes down mostly flat for me. Anyway, my last throw was 24.97 which made me extremely happy. Then came the 800 and you know all about it.

She also shares a weather report:

Getting up at 5 every morning is no fun, but the weather has been OK with very little rain. 100 prelims and semi tomorrow as well as the 300 hurdle semi. I am icing, stretching, massaging — the whole 9 yards. So please send out some healing vibes so that I can continue having fun competing.
Injury worse than expected but with massage, epson salt and taping I have managed to pick up:

Gold in the high jump (lot less height than in the heptathlon)

Bronze in the 100.

Tomorrow morning PV, where I hope to still pick up a silver and the 200 final in the evening. Medal chance there are slim to none. I barely qualified in 8th place — lane 8 which is good because I have less of a curve, bad because I am out there all by my lonesome self. At this point I am even more so required to take one event at a time. On we go. I’ll keep you informed.

Weather great, very windy (swirling) but few showers.

For the record, Phil today won the pole vault at 2.70 (8-10 1/4) and took silver in the 200 as Germany’s Ingrid Meier ran a legal 27.70 to break the listed W55 world record of 27.90 by Canada’s Avril Douglas in 2001. Phil was timed in 28.35 — well off the barely windy (2.2 mps) 27.54 she ran on the first day of the meet in the heptathlon 200.

Methinks she has a hankering to update the W70 record books as well. The only question: How many?

Welcome back, Phil!

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at TrackCEO@aol.com or kens@timesofandiego.com. Story tips always welcome!

4 Comments on "‘The Legend’ sprints out of hibernation: Phil Raschker enters National Senior Games at 72"

  1. Weia Reinboud | May 29, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Reply

    Welcome back indeed!

  2. It’s exciting when a legend returns.

  3. Alan Kolling | June 1, 2019 at 8:53 am | Reply

    Will be great to see her back in action. Just wondering what her marks were from last year’s qualifying meet. Wouldn’t that have been when she emerged from “hibernation?”

  4. …or not.

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