Sports

Medal mania: Waller snags four golds at 2009 World Masters Games

Michael Waller is a world champion four times over.

The Federal Way 51-year-old, who works as the sprints coach at Pacific Lutheran University, recently won individual track titles in the 100- and 200-meter races and was on the gold-medal winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia.

And as a four-time gold medalist, what is the first thing Waller did when he got back to Federal Way?

“I got to drink a pop for the first time in a long time because I’m on a break from my training for a couple weeks,” Waller said with a laugh. “It was a huge splurge from my training. It was a Sprite and it was extremely sweet and strong.”

The World Masters Games are held every four years for athletes 30 years old and up. The Games, an Olympic-style competition that included 28 different sports and 30,000 participants, were held Oct. 10-18.

“It was great,” Waller said. “There were some really friendly people there. I was happy with how I ran, but I expected to get five gold medals. I lost a photo finish in the 400.”

A British runner out-leaned Waller in the 400-meter final, beating him 53.45 to 53.46. Officials needed 45 minutes before declaring Waller the silver medalist in the race.

Waller won the men’s 50-54 age group in the 100-meter dash in a time of 11.59, easily beating the 11.76 of British runner John Wright. He took the 200 in 23.73. Waller also anchored both the relay teams and helped the United States teams win by large margins in each race.

“I had to run a total of 11 races during the event,” Waller said. “I was just jet-lagged a little bit. My body didn’t know where it was. The toughest part was the time difference. I would wake up at 1:30 in the morning and just stay awake.”

Waller had no plans of attending the 2009 World Masters Games and was preparing to not compete in any big-time meets until next year. But at the last minute, Waller decided to make the trek to Australia with his wife, Vanessa.

“Let’s just say that the registration deadline was July 31 and I registered on July 31,” Waller said. “I just heard about it and someone asked if I wanted to go.”

Aside from being a four-time gold medalist at the World Masters Games, Waller also snared three first-place finishes at the 2009 United States Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, held in July in Wisconsin. Waller won the 100, 200 and 400 at the event. He will next compete at the 2010 World Masters Indoor Championships in Kamloops, Canada, in March.

Waller’s coaching background also includes six seasons as an assistant at Decatur High School (1999-2004) and six years at the Federal Way Track Club (1995-2000) as the head sprint coach. Waller helped coach the Decatur girls team to a third-place finish at the state championships in 2004 and coached Princess Joy Griffey, the 2004 and 2005 state champion in the 100 meters.

Waller competed for one season at Utah State University, one season at Spokane Community College and two seasons at Whitworth College in both football and track. At SCC, he anchored the school’s 4x100 relay team that won the NWAACC championship. At Whitworth, he was a two-time NAIA national qualifier in the indoor 55-meter dash and the 4x100 relay.

Waller is also a pastor at Christ Life Center Church in Tacoma. He and his wife, Vanessa, are the parents of three sons: Michael Jr., Joshua and Caleb. Michael Waller Jr. is currently playing wide receiver at Central Washington University and Joshua Waller is playing football at Los Angeles Valley College. Both starred at Todd Beamer High School.

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