Bob Arledge, left, standing with Ohio Representative Steve Wilson, right, receiving an award after Arledge won the 2018 World Masters Track and Field Championship in the 85-89 division for pole vault. Photo courtesy of Bob Arledge. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Patrick Keck
Photo: Patrick Keck

He started in high school 7 decades ago. Now this 85-year-old from Lebanon is one of the world’s best.

From his career in the U.S. Air Force to his pole vaulting success, Bob Arledge has soared high during his 85 years.

Arledge, a resident of the Otterbein Senior Life Community in Lebanon, has won multiple state, national and international medals at the Senior Olympic level.

The current world champion, crowned last September in Malaga, Spain, remains at the top of his game through a rigorous training and diet regimen, but he still finds true enjoyment to this dedication and that’s what keeps him going, he said.

RELATED: Local man a pole vault champion at age 85

“Exercise is probably one of the better medicines a senior citizen can take, but most people don’t do it,” Arledge said. “It lowers your blood pressure, improves your cardiovascular system, makes you stronger, makes you sleep better.”

Recently, Arledge was inducted into the Ohio Senior Olympic Hall of Fame in Westerville. Since 1979, Ohioans above the age of 50 have competed in the Senior Olympics in sports including softball, swimming, tennis, and others. Athletes compete in age divisions in intervals of five years. Arledge competes in the 85 to 89 division.

Deanna Clifford, OSO board president, worked on a committee to choose this year’s inductees. Clifford described Arledge, who was among four in his class, as a wonderful ambassador for the games who shares a message of a healthy lifestyle.

“When we look for inductees, we don’t just look at those that do well at their level,” Clifford said. “But we also look for those that are involved in their community and spread information about the games through word-of-mouth.”

Athletes compete in Ohio to qualify for the National Senior Games, held every two years. The 2019 games were held between June 14 and June 25 . Clifford said that Ohio typically has more than 1,000 compete at the state games and sends about 600 athletes to each games. Ohio finished with 331 medals, which was the sixth most of all states.

Arledge began pole vaulting in high school when the poles were made of bamboo and he landed in a pit of sawdust or sand. He continued his academic and athletic careers at Otterbein College, now named Otterbein University, where he studied biology.

“I preferred landing in sand,” Arledge said. “The sawdust would sometimes get in your eyes, and it seemed to stay there forever.”

Following college, Arledge enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he earned the rank of Colonel and Associate Chief of the Biomedical Science Corps. He also served on the Medical Readiness Committee under the Reagan administration.

Arledge first served for three years, earning the rank of Lieutenant, while going to Ohio State University to earn his Master’s degree before re-enlisting on 1964. He retired in September 1988 at the age of 55 after 31 years of service.

He did not pole vault during his service, but remained in shape to stay “fit to fight.” After retiring, that training stopped, which led to unhealthy weight gain.

“My doctor said I was starting to get some heart things going on and that I was pre-diabetic,” Arledge said.

Soon after that visit, an old college friend reached out to Arledge, who was competing in the Senior games.

He “failed misreably” when he took up his friend’s offer to come practice pole vaulting in Canton, but that failure pushed him back into being competitive.

Almost at the age of 70, Arledge returned to pole vaulting to get back in shape. Through swims, twice-a-week lifting sessions, and some running, he has been able to get in better shape than what he was in 2002 when he took up the sport again.

“Here at Otterbein, we have an indoor pool and a beautiful fitness center and indoor track,” Arledge said. “So it’s very conducive for someone who wants to maintain an athletic lifestyle.”

Arledge trains with Lebanon High School under head coach Graham Morgan primarily but will also go to Miami East and Troy High School for their indoor facilities during the winter.

As important to his training is Arledge’s diet. He mainly follows a Mediterranean diet, which stresses a high amount of fruits and vegetables. Arledge rarely eats red meat, but will eat chicken and salmon, which is high in Omega-3. He will even eat seaweed, which is high in anti-oxidants and helps lower chances for cancer.

Arledge is an adamant believer in hydration, as most senior citizens are dehydrated or underhydrated. He believes that medication has a large part in this.

In addition to building on his own fitness, Arledge volunteers at Bishop Fenwick High School to coach boys and girls in the sport. This year was his last season coaching after three years with the team.

Arledge will compete next at the U.S. Masters Championships at Iowa State University on July 15. At this point, he is uncertain whether he will participate at the OSO State Games at Otterbein University, held between July 26 and 27.

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