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60-year-old Owings Mills resident Dorney doesn't let age slow him on squash court

SquashLacrosse

The sound of Stan Dorney's red-and-blue shoes squeaking on the hardwood floor bounced off the three white walls splattered with blue streaks, a reminder of the number of games of squash the court has endured.

Squeaks continue as the ball makes a popping sound, ricocheting off the front wall, then the right wall, then back to the hardwood floors before it is picked up by another racket. Dorney, dressed in a white shirt and white shorts, shifts his weight forward and back, left and right, trying to hit each ball before it bounces twice.

Unlike the worn white walls that house Dorney, teammate Dave Rosen and two other competitors, he shows no signs of deterioration.

"I work pretty hard and stay in shape. I feel fine," Dorney said, laughing off the notion that his injuries bother him.

At 60, Dorney, an Owings Mills resident, has reached the peak of his squash career, having won the U.S. Century Doubles championship Feb. 23 and the over-60 U.S. National Doubles championship March 23.

But playing squash at his age has taken its toll on Dorney's body. First, it was the pulled hamstring in 2003, then a knee injury in 2006 and a back injury in 2011. After each, Dorney nursed himself back to full strength.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Stan is the most athletic 60-year-old out there," Rosen said. "His dedication to his body and staying healthy, you hope he can keep it up. I see Stan outlasting most people."

Rosen is not alone. US Squash director of doubles Preston Quick said Dorney has stood out among his fellow competitors, leading to his first career U.S. championship.

"I would say it is not normal for folks to win their first national title at an older age, but it does happen," Quick said. "He seems to be more mobile than most folks at his age."

Dorney's athleticism came from his days playing lacrosse, basketball and football at Boys' Latin. He was a three-year starting quarterback and a four-year starter in basketball and lacrosse, and accepted a scholarship to play lacrosse at Virginia.

After playing for four years in Charlottesville, Dorney, not having a professional lacrosse league to enter at the time, participated on club teams. He played until he was 25, when he decided to settle down with his wife, Betsy.

But Dorney continued to work out and stay in top shape throughout his 30s. He didn't play sports competitively until a friend, Mike Reed, invited him to try squash, a sport that involves hitting a rubber ball against three walls, forcing a player to be in constant motion.

Squash is "a great workout," he said. "There's a lot of skill involved — the rackets, the shot-making, where you put the ball. There's a lot to it. I enjoyed the competitiveness, and it was something that kept me going and gave me something to work at."

Dorney continued to improve at squash and soon began to see success in tournament play. In his first year, he finished second in a "D" singles tournament, a lower-tier skill level. After four years of practice, Dorney won his first "A" doubles tournament title at Meadow Mill Athletic Club.

At 50, Dorney decided to enter national tournaments and joined with Malcolm Davidson, a player from Boston, in 2004. Dorney and Davidson made it to the over-50 national doubles championships in New York but lost in the final.

A year later, under the stress of near-constant competition, Dorney tore the meniscus in his left knee. He underwent surgery, and afterward his doctor told him he had the knee of a 75-year-old and most likely couldn't play squash competitively again.

Dorney sought the help of trainer Stephen Audain, who helped rehabilitate him back to playing shape.

"When Stan came to me, he knew within 15 minutes that I could solve his problem," Audain said. "The great thing about Stan is that he gets out of his ego real quick. He was about to have his squash taken away from him. … It was fun for me to say, 'You don't have to go down this path, and I can turn it around before you know it.'"

Dorney resumed playing within a few months of his surgery and, four years later, reached the over-55 national doubles championships in Denver, only to lose in the championship match again. The same thing happened in 2011, when he advanced to the over-55 national doubles championship match in Chicago.

After overcoming the knee injury and reaching the game's top level three times, Dorney had no titles to show for it.

"You get to the point [where] you don't know if you're ever going to win one," he said. "It's hard to get there, and to get there three times and not win, I didn't know if I could ever get it done."

Yet Dorney continued to train and found another partner in Rosen, a Toronto native who had come to Towson to be with his wife. Rosen, 44, remembers his first encounter with Dorney.

"One of my first doubles tournaments ever, I actually played against Stan and his partner in 1997," Rosen said. "There was this very athletic, very green rookie playing squash. I thought it was pretty amazing … for someone to take up this game at a late age."

Rosen and Dorney began training together and saw the potential immediately, taking multiple Maryland Club championships, many of which Dorney was the oldest to win. The team decided in 2012 to play nationally in a century tournament, in which the minimum age between players must be 100, but it wasn't until this year that they won a national championship.

Just before the U.S. Century championship in New York, though, Dorney suffered a partially torn calf. For him, it was just one of many injuires he's dealt with throughout his 18-year career.

"I was fighting [the injury] for a while," Dorney said. "But you get all jacked up and the adrenaline going, so you just kind of fight through it. It wasn't that bad."

Dorney and Rosen defeated their first two opponents in three straight sets, then dispatched the No. 1 seed in the semifinals. Dorney was back in a championship match, and this time came out on top, beating the No. 2 seed in four sets.

He didn't stop there. The next month, Dorney found himself on top again in the over-60 U.S. National Doubles championship. He and Andrew Nehrbas of Penn Valley, Pa., swept through the bracket, dropping only two sets.

After winning another national title, Dorney limped to and from the train station. As he walked, his pace now only a third of his normal speed, he had trouble comprehending his accomplishments.

"It was mind-boggling," Dorney said. "I was thinking, 'How did I get this done?' It's just been one of those years."

mahamilton@baltsun.com

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