Fred Dillemuth has an infatuating sense of humor, and he jokes about anything from dealing with modern technology to the pain of kidney stones. So it only made sense that Dillemuth found the funny in the situation presented to him last month in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

At the National Masters Indoor Heptathlon Championships, the 76-year-old Dillemuth was the only athlete in his age group. The only participant older than Dillemuth was an 80-year-old, and the elder had some sage advice for the younger competitor.

“He told me, 'you're going to have to get used to it,' " said Dillemuth, chuckling.

Dillemuth, a Stockton resident, was the only athlete in the 75-79 age bracket competing Jan. 27-28 at the heptathlon championships, which means he came home as the national champion.

The last time The Record caught up with Dillemuth, the former longtime high school counselor was a 74-year-old with 11 All-American qualifying marks for his age division.

“I was just a kid then,” he said.

Now he’s a national champion in his age group, if only by default. This achievement comes after a year filled with health issues limited Dillemuth to just one meet. He had surgery in August to remove a cancerous tumor in his bladder, then had x-rays that revealed a completely blocked left kidney in December.

“I told the doctor we could have filed an environmental impact report,” Dillemuth said with a laugh about the kidney issues.

It took him about a month to recover and train for January’s meet, Dillemuth said, but he never had any doubts about whether he would return to his days of competing. Coming from someone who regularly works out six days a week and meets with a trainer twice, Dillemuth said he was eager to get back in the gym.

When he hit the track in Kenosha, Dillemuth competed alongside the 80-year-old as the pair completed seven events in the span of a day. It was a bit of a bummer to compete without competition, Dillemuth said, but it comes with the territory. Ever since he restarted his track-and-field career 20 years ago at age 55, the field has steadily declined.

It didn’t stop Dillemuth from his traditional pre-meet jitters, though.

“Every time I get nervous, and I can’t sleep the night before,” Dillemuth said. “I keep thinking of failure, like what if I hit a hurdle or break a pole? Ther nerves are there, and that helps motivate me.”

As much as the events themselves, Dillemuth said the connections he was able to make with other athletes at the meet was a great part of the experience. When he was a counselor, a field he spent 30 years in, he valued the ability to have another person open up to him more than any accomplishment in the blocks.

The same can be said now, where Dillemuth said he enjoys meeting all kinds of neat people, individuals he often sees at different meets around the country.

Dillemuth said he doesn’t see a point where he would hang up the track spikes. In fact, he’s taking every year on the track as a kind of milestone, where each age group means a different set of qualifying marks.

“Every time I hit an age group, I can make hay for a couple of years before more guys cut in,” Dillemuth said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to 80 years. I suppose most people don’t feel that way.”

He’s got a few years to go before the next age class, and Dillemuth doesn’t plan on easing himself into 80. He wants to catch an indoor meet in Illinois this month, with aspirations of entering a decathlon in March and at least a meet every month after that.

Health shut down his 2017 season, which for Dillemuth means 2018 is the year to get caught up to speed.

“I’m going to try and hit it hard this year,” Dillemuth said. “I’ve got to try and make up for lost time, right?”

Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.