Senior Games rekindles competitive spirit in Vidalia native
Published 7:22 am Friday, December 24, 2021
FRISCO — Vidalia High School alumnus Raymond Cage qualified for the National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in May 2022. Now a short distance runner, he won a gold medal in the 50-meter dash at the Kansas Senior Games, silvers in the 50 and 100-meter dashes at the Oklahoma Senior Games, and gold in the 100-meter dash at the Texas Senior Games.
Cage is 35 years removed from his initial start in track, a career that lasted a year. He graduated in 1987 and played defensive back for legendary head coach Dee Faircloth. Cage was a four-year letterman who made all-district for the Vikings. He was also on the Natchez Democrat’s All-Metro first team his junior and senior years.
In addition to playing safety, he played on the offensive side of the ball as a split-end receiver. At the time, he joined Vidalia’s track team. They did not have a track, and practices were on grass.
“It was my sophomore year. We didn’t have a competitive team. I didn’t think we placed,” Cage said. “It was more to stay in shape for football. I enjoyed running track. In football, I was one of the fastest people on my football team. I had the fastest time in the 40 yard dash by running a 4.44.”
His favorite football memory was from a playoff game where he scored a touchdown on a kickoff return to help his Vidalia win 10-7.
Senior Olympic Games
Tokoyo’s 2020 Summer Olympic Games, held in 2021, reignited the track flame, he said. They were watching the Olympic games together when he googled the senior games and thought he could come back.
Runners competing in the senior games have to meet a minimum standard of performance. He competed in the 50-54 age bracket and had to run the 50-meter dash in at least 7.51 seconds and the 100-meter dash in at least 13.89 seconds. On the track this July, his wife timed him as he got close enough to the time he needed.
“We decided to give it a shot,” Cage said.
Not only did he give it a shot, but he also qualified for nationals and has goals set for Nationals. If he can place in the top 8, it would qualify him to run in the World Master Games. His goal for 2024 is to qualify for the 2024 World Masters Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is his dream to represent the US on the world stage.
Military Boxing Career
At the end of his senior year, he was awarded the National Army Reserve Scholar-Athlete of the year. Before he left high school, he joined the Air Force and was assigned to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Athletics and sports had always been a passion of his, so when he found out the academy had a boxing team, he met with the coach. He trained and boxed with the Air Force Cadets but could not compete with the academy teams since he was not a cadet, he said.
However, he could box with the Air Force team. At the time, they took the top 20-25 boxers and had a box off in San Antonio for six weeks. The top three boxers in each weight division made the team and would compete at the golden gloves championship, and if they won, they would fight in the armed forces championship.
“If you won the Armed Forces Championship, you would get an automatic bid to the Olympic team. My goal in 1992 was to become an Olympian,” Cage said. “After about two years of boxing, I ended up getting married and had a kid. I changed my career path, and after serving a few more years, I got out.”
He did win a golden gloves title at Fort Carson. In addition to boxing, he won five area championships in flag football with his duty station. He took Miss-Lou’s athletic legacy wherever he went, he said.
Family athletic tradition
In 1996, he moved to Dallas where he pushed his children to play sports and spent time coaching them in youth sports. His son earned a scholarship to Texas A&M-Commerce to play football, and his daughter ran track at Southwest Missouri State, now Missouri State.
His wife Angela Cage ran track in San Antonio. She is now his coach working with him to improve as a runner. Track requires runners to have technique. One of the technical forms is how to get out of the starting blocks, which Cage did not have any training on in high school. She taught him how to execute the start, the drive, top speed and the finish phases of a race.
“I was in San Antonio with my last duty station, and I met her through a mutual friend,” Cage said. “I was in my fifth year. We met on a blind date. I wanted to marry someone athletic like myself. She helps me out with training now. We partnered well together, and she supports me.”
As a coach, she can be very demanding, and she has him run longer distances. He races in the 50 and 100-meter dashes. In practice, she asks him to run 200 to 150-meter dashes at 75-85 percent speed. The distance helps his endurance, he said.
A competitive spirit
As a 52-year-old, he does have to take better care of his body than he did when running track in high school. He said when he ran for the first time in July, he pulled both of his hamstrings. It forced him to take stretching seriously.
“The key to battling soreness is you have to know your body and listen to it,” Cage said. “You have to have a certain amount of rest, and stretching is key. I use plyometric stretching to get the muscles firing off. When I started doing that, I stopped pulling muscles. I come home and take an ice bath.”
He is a fan of Walter Peyton’s famous workout of running hills. In Dallas, he found hills he could sprint 30 to 40 yards up. Running has kindled his competitive flame again. As a kid, he dreamed of playing in the NFL. His 5-foot 6-inch and 130-pound frame smashed the dream.
When he boxed with the Air Force, he hoped to make the Olympics. He never got the opportunity to represent the United States. Now he has a chance to compete at a high level again.
“It’s energizing. Now I feel like I have a lot of people behind me and pulling for me. It makes me want to win and participate. The spirit is back in me again. In my man cave, I have a case with all my medals. To become a national champion and olympian is obtainable for me. I’m giving it my all to do that. I want to represent Vidalia, where I was raised, and Natchez, where I was born. Even winning the state championships, I feel like I exceeded expectations.”