Reeves competed in track and field even after first ‘fatal’ heart attack

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Friday, August 26, 2011
— The spirit of competition burned brightly in Janesville’s Gaylord Reeves, who died last Saturday at age 78.

Reeves didn’t let a heart condition stand between him and the Masters track and field competition he loved.

“Gaylord just kept going and going,” said Bill Jankovich of Racine, a fellow track and field competitor. “He just kept plugging at it all the time.’’

Reeves gathered a trove of medals and ribbons in track and field, including a bronze medal in the 2010 National Decathlon competition in Joplin, Mo.

“I met him when we played softball,” Jankovich said. “I ran against him many, many times. He was very strong man.’’

Reeves’ desire to compete was so strong, he literally came back from the dead to continue in track and field.

While running on the Janesville Athletic Club’s indoor track on Dec. 22, 2000, the 68-year-old Reeves collapsed from a heart attack. Reeves was told he was without oxygen for six minutes and should have been brain dead.

Janesville EMT’s shocked Reeves back life twice. After a pacemaker and a stint were inserted, Reeves was back on his feet six days later.

“I walked into church, and Pastor (Jeff) Williams asked me, ‘What’re you doing here?’ ”

Reeves shed 60 pounds and started to enter shot put and discus competitions, but he made the decision to switch sprint running events and the decathlon.

“I started thinking, I’m 190 pounds and I’m running against 140-pounders. In the sprints, that’s not good. In the shot, I’m competing against 300-pounders, and that’s not good. I said, ‘I’m going for the decathlon.’’’

Jankovich, a top Masters decathlete, said Reeves offered keen competition.

“He was a character,” Jankovich said. “He always wanted to compete even, though he shouldn’t be out there.’’

Above all, Jankovich said Reeves was a good friend.

“Gaylord was into the comradery,” Jankovich said. “He was a good guy.’’

Last updated: 6:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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