Like father, like son

       Charles (Chuck) Milliman, 85, didn’t take up pole vaulting until he was 69.

       The following year, double-bypass heart surgery put his progress on hold. But by age 73, Chuck was back on track, literally, as he commenced a “late blooming” pole vaulting career that culminated in his winning a gold medal last year at the National Senior Games.

       On that same day in Birmingham, Ala., his son, Philip, earned a gold medal for his pole vaulting in the 65-69 age bracket.

       A father and son winning gold medals at a national level in the same sport?

       The rather rare feat has earned the Millimans, who are from Sequim, a visit from Marc T. Riker, chief executive officer of the National Senior Games Association. Riker will honor them both on July 20 as exemplifiers of the NSGA Personal Best Initiative at the 2018 Washington State Senior Games, in Olympia.

       “Chuck and Philip prove it’s not the fastest time or longest distance in any sport,” Riker said, “but rather an attitude of ‘I can do this’ in the face of any obstacle.”

       To say that the Millimans actively engage in sports is like saying a little bit of water goes over Niagara Falls. Both father and son lay claim to hundreds of competitive medals, as well as many sports records and unique achievements, not the least of which is Chuck’s recent run of 85 miles to raise $5,000 for the Sequim food bank.

       “Every five years, I run my age for a worthy cause,” said Chuck, who was also a late bloomer in long-distance running, starting when he was 39. Despite the late start, he has finished 66 marathons, as well as several grueling “Spartan” obstacle-course events.

       When he took gold in pole vaulting at the National Senior Games, he also grabbed first place in the high jump.

       In his leisure time, Chuck has climbed Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood, plus many other local peaks. He conquered Rainier when he was 66.

Philip has his own spectacular stats. He holds the state record for the men’s pole vault in his age bracket. When not earning gold medals, Philip dedicates himself to serving others, most notably as a high school track and field coach.

       Charles and Philip and their wives live side by side in homes on the waterfront in Sequim. There, they work out and coach each other on a raised wooden platform, their runway leading to an official pole vaulting “box and pit” that is fully padded and capable of handling flying bodies going over the crossbar, all day long. No wonder these guys are so good.

       As serious as their preparation is, their personalities are all about fun.

       “We argue a lot,” said Philip. “No we don’t,” said Chuck. “Yes, we do, dad.”

       They kid each other, push each other, support each other.

       Next to his faith in God, said Chuck, the love and support of his family are the most important resource he has for staying strong. No cigarettes or alcohol are another observance.

       “I’ve added one more recently: Drink plenty of water,” Chuck said.

       From Philip’s point of view, it’s the drive to be your best that helps fuel an active, healthy lifestyle.

       “Everyone wants to be known for something. Everyone wants to make a mark, to really shine at something special,” he said. “I take joy in my accomplishments, and use that as fuel for reaching other goals.”

       The public can meet the Millimans as they are honored July 20 at the opening ceremonies of the Washington Senior Games, a free event featuring food, beverages, awards, prizes, athlete parades and sports demonstrations. Additional information is available at


Philip and Chuck Merriman won national age-group pole vault championships on the same day in the National Senior Games last year in Alabama. (Photo by George Sterberg)