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Goss: Even at 57, Graf sprinting with the best

How many pounds did you gain at Taste of Joliet?

Two. That’s not bad. It could have been worse.

If you’re Tim Graf, however, two pounds is headline material.

Graf, 57, is one of the fastest sprinters in the world in his age division. He is winding down his outdoor season, “resting and acting my age.” That included visiting Taste of Joliet last weekend and, yes, tacking on a couple of pounds.

Of course, in his case, the gain will be temporary.

In addition to training others in the art of sprinting at Graf Speed Enhancement, which he operates on the Joliet Junior College campus, the former Illinois state high school 100-yard dash champion at Joliet East and Big Ten Conference 100-meter champ at Indiana continues to compete at the highest level.

Last month, he won the 100 meters in the 55-59 age group at the USATF Open and Masters Illinois State Championship with a time of 12.63 seconds. He then tacked on the 200-meter championship in 25.38.

The 100 time was the ninth fastest in the nation and the 200 was the third fastest. Both were run into a 15-mph head wind, yet both earned him All-America honors.

Maybe he felt there was some unfinished business, however. The next Tuesday, Graf competed in the Indian Pride summer meet at Minooka. He was clocked at 12.25 in the 100, which was second best in the nation and third in the world.

“I’m having a really good year,” Graf said. “I gave up sprinting a little when I was in my 30s. But I’ve been back in Masters for 17 years.”

Like the Energizer Bunny, Graf keeps on going, and he does it in his unique manner.

“The guys I compete against in the 55-59 age group are retired and belong to clubs,” he noted. “There’s only about 150 left in my age group nationwide and maybe 400 to 500 worldwide.

“I don’t do it that way. I run Graf Speed Enhancement and train at Joliet Catholic and lift at Joliet Catholic. It’s real close to where I live.”

It doesn’t matter where you train; what matters is understanding the principle.

“Succeeding in sprinting is all about power into speed,” Graf said. “The definition of speed is maximum force to the ground in minimal time.”

Graf said he never lifted weights in high school and lifted only in the offseason in college. Now he lifts regularly, but properly, and feels stronger than ever.

“I lift light weights, nothing heavy, but with fast reps,” he said. “Lifting alone isn’t the answer. You have to do it in the correct way.”

Graf has been teaching local athletes proven methods to improve their speed for years. Among his clients in the past were college football players, some of them stars at big-time programs, who came to him to improve their NFL draft status.

Unfortunately, the world has changed.

“I haven’t had any college guys trying to get ready for the draft the last couple of years,” Graf said. “The college kids all want to go to Florida and Arizona. They don’t want to train at JJC, which, by the way, is a phenomenal asset to our community.

“I try to explain that it’s not where you train, it’s how you train. But with all that peer pressure and the lure of Florida and Arizona, they don’t come here.”

Everyone is free to train wherever he chooses. But it is hard to believe those hot prospects come away better equipped than they would have been had they visited Graf.

Blackhawks sign Darling

The Joliet area has produced precious few NHL players through the years, but the count may increase by one.

The Blackhawks on Tuesday signed goaltender Scott Darling, a Lemont native, to a one-year contract. Most likely, though, he will begin his Hawks career at Rockford.

Darling, 25, had a 13-6-2 record with six shutouts, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in 26 games last season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, ranking second in the league in shutouts. He was named the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month for December.

Darling was selected by the Arizona Coyotes in the sixth round, 153rd overall, in the 2007 NHL draft.

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