At first glance, Big Sky State Games competitors Al Vietz and Torie Jamieson may seem as different as two people could be. Vietz is an 80-year old runner from Livingston who has competed in dozens of Big Sky State Games. Jamieson is an 8-year-old karate athlete from Billings competing in her third State Games. However, both athletes share a dedication to their sport and a desire to win during this year’s competitions.
A young champion
When asked about her favorite part of karate, Torie Jamieson pauses for a while and thinks.
After a few seconds, she laughs and exclaims “I like it all!”
Jamieson, who is an advanced yellow belt (half yellow/ half purple), practices kara-hokempo karate, which is a Chinese variation on the sport. One of the differences is that students are not allowed to obtain black belts until they turn 18. According to Jamieson, another difference is that “other people have weapons as a way to show off, but I use weapons as a form of self-defense.”
Torie started taking karate lessons two years ago at the age of 6.
“My sisters did it, and I thought they were cool so I wanted to start,” Torie said.
Torie, who attends Ponderosa Elementary, was looking forward to being in the State Games because she would get to compete against some of her “karate friends” whom she’s met in past tournaments.
Jamieson’s favorite event in the State Games is breaking. She was hoping to be able to break a brick by State Games weekend, but her mother was less ambitious.
“I’m not quite ready for her to put her elbow through a brick yet,” her mother said.
However, Torie has quickly distinguished herself from the competition. During the 2012 Big Sky State Games, she earned two gold medals. The next year she earned three and was named the Karate Grand Champion of the games’ Pee-wee division, which means that she had a higher medal count and point total than any of her competitors.
In June, she competed in a continuous sparring world championship in Las Vegas. She earned one first-place trophy, one second-place trophy and two third-place trophies.
She continued to perform well at the 29th annual Big Sky State Games. On Saturday, during the karate championship at Castle Rock Middle School, Torie won gold medals in breaking and kata. She won a silver medal in sparring and a bronze medal in weapons. She was named Grand Champion for the second year in the row.
“We are super proud of her,” her mother, Echo, said. “Although her skill was good, her level of sportsmanship is what amazed me the most. I loved watching her congratulate others and cheer on her friends.”
Next year, Torie will be competing not only in the Big Sky State Games, but in the State Games of America in Lincoln, Neb. However, she’s got even bigger plans for her future.
She plans to compete in karate at the 2024 Olympics – as long as karate is an Olympic sport by then.
“She’s going to graduate from high school, go to the Olympics, and get her black belt all in 2024. It’s going to be a busy year,” Echo said.
And what’s next after 2024?
“I’m going to be the 51st president of the United States,” Torie said with a smile.
Clearly, we haven’t heard the last of Torie Jamieson.
‘Part of the Olympic World’
Al Vietz’s passion for running goes back to his high school days. However, shortly after he graduated in 1952, he had to give up on his dream for a while since there weren’t many competitive running events available at the time.
After high school, Vietz went to the North Dakota State School of Science to study journalism and printing. While at college, he decided to try a different sport.
“Like a dummy, I went out for boxing,” he said. “I was 6-1 and 125 pounds, so I didn’t last long. I didn’t want to see my blood spread all over the ring.”
Nearly 30 years after graduating from high school, Vietz began running again.
“During the ’70s, I exploded to 226 pounds,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t long for this world if I kept that up so I started running again and I enjoyed it because it enabled me to reconnect with my past.”
As he lost weight and gained stamina, Vietz began running marathons. He has run in approximately 30 marathons over the years and his best marathon time was 3 hours and 11 minutes. He competed in the Boston Marathon five times and earned more than $5,000 for the Livingston Animal Shelter when he ran the race’s 100th anniversary in 1996.
Running marathons also allowed Vietz to race with some legendary competitors.
“The racing world has been good to me,” he said. “I got to meet all the great runners: Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Greta White among them.”
However, Vietz thinks that the most rewarding part of his racing career has not been meeting great athletes, but inspiring others to be great athletes themselves.
“A lot of people have asked for my advice on running because they admire the fact that I do this even though I’m no spring chicken,” Vietz said with a chuckle. “I’ve really enjoyed that.”
Vietz, who owns Marathon Printing in Livingston, has participated in the Big Sky State Games so many times that he has trouble remembering when he first started competing in them.
“That’s a hard thing to define,” he said. “Probably the best way to measure it is through the 50-some medals that I’ve earned over the years.”
Vietz used to compete in the marathon portion of the Big Sky State Games, but as he’s grown older, he’s decided to take it easy on himself. This year, he “only” ran the 5K Road Race, the 60 meters, the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 400 meters.
Vietz enjoys competing in track events at the Big Sky State Games because they’re U.S. Track and Field certified. He also enjoys the atmosphere that the games provide.
“It makes you feel like you’re part of the Olympic world,” he said. “It gives me an uplifting feeling to be a part of it.”
During the track and field events on Sunday at Senior High School, Vietz earned two medals. He received a silver medal in the 400-meter race and a bronze medal in the 100-meter event.