After Walter Thorne won the 400-meter dash in the masters division 65-69 age group Saturday, an Empire State Games official jokingly asked him when he was going to retire.
Thorne, the 69-year-old Ticonderoga track and field coach, didn't miss a beat.
"From running, I don't think I'll ever retire," Thorne said. "My goal is to run the 100 meters at 100 years old."
And if his continued success over many years at the Empire State Games is any indication, he's plenty capable of pulling off such a feat.
Thorne took home three medals in this year's Empire State Games. He won two silver medals — taking second in the 200-meter dash and the 100-meter dash. In 2008, Thorne won gold in all four events he participated in.
Those who know Thorne aren't surprised by his determination, confidence and ambition.
Twin brothers Dustin and Devin Scott, former Ticonderoga athletes and now Plattsburgh State students who competed in the open division high jump, had nothing but positive words for a coach who they still constantly keep in contact with.
Thorne's goal to run at 100 didn't raise any eyebrows.
"That's his motto — he just wants to get under his age," Dustin said.
The brothers both described Thorne as a hands-on coach who trains and warms up with his athletes. Thorne said it helps him stay fit. Devin said Thorne's approach is a welcome.
"It's better to have a coach who's actually working with you instead of just telling you what to do," Devin said. "Athletes learn better by show; a demonstration rather than just telling or yelling at them."
While his skills as on-field coach were lauded, Dustin said he's an even better person off it. Dustin said Thorne helped teach him responsibility when he was made a captain his senior year — it helped him mature as a person.
I learned a lot from him outside the track, too," Dustin said. "He's definitely a role model people should look up to. He's worked hard his whole life, so whatever he gets he deserves."
Thorne, who just completed his eighth season as the Ticonderoga coach, has made adjustments to his training as he has gotten older. He decided a few years ago that he needed to tone down the intensity of his training because it was too hard. In the summer before last, Thorne watched Connie Belkevich, one of his former athletes and now a sprinter for SUNY Oneonta, training.
"I said 'Gee, she isn't doing too much' and I asked her about it. She said 'It's what my coach gave me,'" Thorne recalls.
The workout, a 12-week program, decreases the amount of running Thorne does as the weeks go by. He said it has helped him improve his times.
Thorne's first Empire State Games was back in 1986, and since then he said he's only missed the competition twice. He was disappointed when the games were cancelled in 2009 because he figured the masters division would still be held.
He said he was concerned about attendance because of the one-year hiatus, but it would have taken a lot to keep him from coming to Buffalo.
"I'm dedicated and I love to run, so no matter where they have it I was going to be there," said Thorne, who till turn 70 on Aug. 6.