'Perfect' weekend for Natoma's 125th
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
NATOMA -- Just a few days earlier, people were scrambling indoors, trying to escape the 100-plus degree heat.
On Monday, they took advantage of sunshine and pleasant weather, coming out in full force on the final day of Natoma's 125th Anniversary Labor Day Weekend.
"That sun feels good," 82-year-old Arvin Doty said while sitting on the east side of the Midland Marketing elevator with a fellow Natoma resident.
"My thermometer said 55 (degrees) this morning," Doty told 77-year-old Delmer Chrisler as they watched runners race toward the finish line of the 5K run.
A former schoolmate of Doty's, Marvin Hachmeister later classified the weather as "perfect."
That was just after the 82-year-old Manhattan resident ran the 5,000-meter distance and once again told the story of how his running career began more than 60 years ago after legendary Natoma basketball coach John Locke learned he had a first-class runner in his school.
Hachmeister was a junior at Natoma High School, the second oldest of six siblings, and if he wanted to play basketball, he had to find a way home after practice.
So Hachmeister ran the 4.5-mile distance to his home. When Locke found out, he started timing him.
Hachmeister soon became Natoma's first state qualifier in track -- and placer.
He never won a state title because he happened to be competing in the same class (Class B) as Wes Santee from Ashland, who went on to compete in the 1952 Olympics and set the world record in the 1,500 meters in 1956.
Hachmeister went to Fort Hays Kansas State College on a basketball scholarship, then ran track for another legendary coach, Alex Francis, before getting drafted and serving in the Korean War.
These days, especially in Natoma, Hachmeister still is a local celebrity.
Several runners many years younger came up to Hachmeister after Monday's race to say hello and to tell him they did their best to try to catch him.
Hachmeister, who still runs 25 miles a week and competes in 20 races a year, showed Monday he still has it.
Wearing race No. 27 on his chest, Hachmeister coincidentally placed 27th among the 105 entrants,
Hachmeister's sister, Mary Ann Beisner of Natoma, teased him he should have asked for a lower entry number.
Hachmeister laughed, saying "I never change my pace. I pass some runners, some runners pass me. I just keep the same pace."
Of course, Hachmeister's time of 30 minutes, 21 seconds blew away his competition in the 60-and-older division.
Hachmeister, retired since 1997 from teaching at Kansas State University, still teaches four sections of a gerontology class that focuses on how to stay active while you age.
"I take five T-shirts to each class and give a quiz at the end," he said, "and give them to students. I have so many shirts, I gave 186 of them to Goodwill a few years ago."
Monday's jam-packed day ended a three-day celebration that began with mud volleyball and a dance in the park. Sunday's events included a vintage baseball game and music festival featuring numerous area groups.
There was something for young and old, and everyone in between.
Children competed in bike races and turtle races. Also scheduled for Monday was a greased pig contest, an appearance by re-enactors Abe and Mary Lincoln, a parade that included numerous antique cars, a free barbecue and live music.
By mid-morning Monday, Natoma residents involved in the event were calling the weekend a huge success.
"We've got to energize these communities and get them to come back," Laah Tucker said while showing visitors various historical displays in the American Legion Hall.
"Couldn't have asked for better weather, and all the people," Tucker said.
She then echoed Hachmeister's assessment of the weather -- and the weekend as a whole.
"Perfect," she said.