http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/24/291190 ... track.html
Raschker stars in Masters track and field
By John Schumacher
Published: Saturday, Jul. 24, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Jul. 25, 2010 - 6:50 pm
Watch Phil Raschker killing time between events Friday and realize how comfortable she is in the Masters track world.
The 63-year-old sprinter, jumper and hurdler roams around the pole vault area talking with other athletes, then wanders over to the steeplechase water jump nearby and takes a dip.
On a hot day at Hornet Stadium, her impromptu swim is a great way to stay cool during the USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
And Raschker is a great candidate to bring attention to a niche sport often languishing in the shadows of more prominent ones.
Calling her a superstar would not be an overstatement. Raschker, who lives in Marietta, Ga., has won 97 world championship medals in her 30-year Masters career – 71 gold, 19 silver and seven bronze.
She also has set more than 200 world and national age-group records at the Masters (age 30 and older) level and was a two-time finalist for the Sullivan Award, given annually to the outstanding amateur athlete in the nation.
Raschker joined LeBron James, Apolo Anton Ohno, Diana Taurasi and eventual winner Michael Phelps as finalists for the 2003 award and lost out to Tim Tebow for the 2007 honor.
"What an honor to be a Masters athlete and be in there," said Raschker, the oldest athlete to become a Sullivan finalist.
Her brilliant track career likely never would have happened save for a few curious twists of fate.
Raschker, born in Hamburg, Germany, came to Washington, D.C., in her early 20s to work as a governess for a family. She planned to stay for a few months and go back home, but she got married and stayed.
After a divorce 10 years later, Raschker, now an American citizen who is president and CEO of a financial services company, opted to remain in the United States.
"It's a wonderful country," she said. "To me, I think it is so easy to make a living in this country.
"You don't have to fight the dog-eat-dog world like you do in Europe. I just love it."
Raschker, who shortened her given name of Eileen-Philippa to Phil, was a gymnast and swimmer before joining a track club in Germany at 13. She tried various running clubs after moving to the United States, then read about a Masters track meet in 1979.
"I thought, 'I can do that,' " she said. "I love track and field. … I tried a few other things, but I like track and field the best.
"It's a good incentive to stay healthy. This promotes a healthy lifestyle."
Raschker retired briefly after winning 10 gold medals at the 1997 World Masters Outdoor Championships in Durban, South Africa, then changed her mind when a sponsor offered some financial incentives.
"I stopped for, I don't know, six months," she said with a laugh. "I'd always been paying my own way."
The Masters track world is glad she's back.
"She's a huge motivator for a lot of people to get involved in masters track," said Bob Weiner, a 63-year-old steeplechaser and Masters track media liaison.
"Everybody's trying to catch her. … She's an inspiration to everyone else in Masters track."
Like nearly all Masters athletes, Raschker knows she's slowing down. She won the 400 meters Friday in 1 minute, 14.98 seconds, slower than the 56.90 time she recorded in winning a world title in 1983. She competed in two other events Friday, claiming the long jump with a 13-foot 101/2-inch effort and the pole vault at 8-21/4.
But with the World Masters Outdoor Championships coming to Sacramento next July, and the prospect of turning 65 in time to compete in a new age group in 2012, Raschker remains enthused.
"I'll be the young kid on the block," she said.
Raschker said she visits her mother in Germany four times a year for three or four weeks and calls twice a day.
But she said life in the United States is too good to move back.
"My life is over here," she said. "I've made my life, and I'm very happy."
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