Cancer patient epitomizes the spirit of the Huntsman Senior Games

Marie Halpin (32) poses with teammates at the Huntsman World Senior Games, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2016 | Photo courtesy Marie Halpin

ST. GEORGE – The Huntsman Senior Games have brought people from all over the nation to St. George for athletics of all kinds.

The Washington City Community Center played host to the 3-on-3 women’s basketball tournament Tuesday and Wednesday. For one woman, this set of Senior Games would be more than just a series of athletic contests.

hunts“There’s one lady who I think epitomizes the Huntsman Senior Games,” said Ann Esplin, who runs the women’s basketball tournament.

Halpin grew up without the opportunity to play high school sports, but went on to become a three-sport athlete at Utah State University in the 1970s. She played basketball, volleyball and softball on her way to becoming a teacher and coach. Her playing days came to an abrupt halt after an injury to her eye.

“I wanted to keep playing basketball,” she said. “When you get to be older, there’s nowhere to play. I grew up all through high school where girls weren’t allowed to play sports. I went to college for five years and played for Utah State. Then I was hit in the eye and blinded in my right eye, so playing athletic sports was over.”

Halpin met a group of ladies that had all played sports at universities in Utah, and they decided to test their luck at playing in the Senior Games.

Marie Halpin (32) poses with teammates at the Huntsman World Senior Games, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2016 | Photo courtesy Marie Halpin
Marie Halpin (32) poses with teammates at the Huntsman World Senior Games, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2016 | Photo courtesy Marie Halpin

“I come here because I heard about the senior games and I wanted to keep playing,” Halpin said. “I always loved competing. When I come to play here, (being blind in one eye) didn’t matter, we just would play. We won; we had a pretty good team.”

This year will most likely be Halpin’s last year at the Senior Games.

“She was diagnosed with brain cancer and given about four months to live,” Esplin said. “She epitomizes these games because of what the name Huntsman means.”

Jon M. Huntsman helped build the Huntsman Cancer Institute in 1995, and now it is world-renowned.

“I was very familiar with what the Huntsman Society was doing. It’s a wonderful thing for people for cancer,” Halpin said. “After the MRI, the doctor said, ‘You have a brain tumor.’ I was very stern and said ‘You have the wrong x-rays. That’s not mine.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Halpin.’ I said, ‘No! They’re not mine!’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Halpin.’ He must’ve said that 50 times because I argued with him for about a half an hour.”

Halpin was able to play this year in two of the games. She scored six points combined in the two games. She said the teams allowed her to go in and shoot until she made it.

“It’s been a real pleasure and a privilege to play down here with all these older athletes that are very talented,” Halpin said. “I got to play so little growing up because they didn’t have sports for girls in Utah. So for me to continue like this is an honor for me. Whether we win or not, I love being here among all these female athletes.”

The Huntsman World Senior Games has been a chance for older athletes to show they’ve still got the talent to play the sports they used to. To them, it’s a quasi-olympics.

“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be an Olympian,” Halpin said. “I’ve still got a paper from fourth grade that says I want to be an Olympian. I didn’t make it. This is kinda like my Olympics.”

Marie Halpin is in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame as an official. She taught at Hillcrest High School and was the assistant coach for girl’s basketball, where she won three state championships. She will also be playing in the softball tournament this year.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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