Joe Harmala of Cokato recently placed second in racquetball at the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, NM, at 75 years old.
Harmala qualified for the tournament by competing at the Minnesota Senior Games last year. He also qualified for the 2017 National Senior Games, but was unable to compete due to conflicts.
More than 13,500 participants, age 50 and older, from across the United States, gathered in Albuquerque to compete June 15-22 in 21 different events, ranging from archery to swimming. All competitors qualified by placing in the top four of their respective state Senior Games in 2018.
Harmala competed June 15-18 in the racquetball event.
“The tournament was well-organized and run,” Harmala stated.
He placed second in his age bracket, losing in the finals to a man from St. Louis, MO, who has won five times.
In November 2014, Harmala was diagnosed with stage-three kidney cancer. He was back to playing racquetball seven weeks after having the tumor and his kidney removed.
Harmala came to Cokato in 1965, to teach. “When people ask me what I taught, I teasingly say, ‘Business, monkey business,’ but you’d have to ask my students about that,” Harmala joked. As a teacher in the Dassel-Cokato School District, Harmala coached baseball, as well as boys’ and girls’ tennis.
Harmala has always been active. He started playing racquetball about 40 years ago, but has been playing tennis since high school. In fact, he met his wife, Ann, playing tennis.
“Staying active has always been enjoyable and important to Ann and me,” Harmala explained. “It was tennis that brought us together, and the love story still keeps us going today.”
Harmala has been a very involved community member throughout his years in Cokato. He is one of the co-founders of the DC Saints baseball team. He currently serves as the chairperson of the Park Association, as well as on the boards of the Dassel-Cokato Baseball Association, the Cokato Community Chest, and the Dassel-Cokato Youth Trust. He was a city council member for eight years in Cokato, as well. This year’s Corn Carnival will be his 52nd year serving corn.
Harmala hopes to qualify for the 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, FL.