At 103, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins has cemented her title as the oldest woman to compete on an American track after finishing the 50- and 100-meter dashes at the National Senior Games in New Mexico, event organizers say.
The Louisiana resident already holds the world record for her age group in the 100-meter dash. She didn’t beat her previous best Tuesday but crossed the line in just over 46 seconds.
On Monday, she was clocked at 21.06 in the 50-meter event, which appears to be a Senior Games record for the women’s 100-plus age division. That’s because she’s the first to compete in that category.
She says a combination of things keep the retired teacher going — from yard work around her home in Baton Rouge to the challenges of competition.
“I keep active all the time,” she said. “I have an acre of land. I work in it all the time. I have 30 bonsai bushes – some are 40 or 50 years old. That keeps me busy.”
She started cycling competitively in her 80s, participating in the senior Olympics. When she became the only competitor in her division, her children suggested she try running. She liked the idea of competing in the 100-meter dash at age 100.
Her knees, back and hips feel fine; she credits years of cycling for her strong legs. But she says her eyesight is troubling her.
“I keep worrying about that. You feel a little less able when something like this happens,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “I’m hoping I can see well enough to stay in the white lines.”
Born on Feb. 9, 1916, Hawkins graduated with a teaching degree from Louisiana State University in 1938. That’s where she met her future husband, Murray Hawkins. She taught for a while in Honduras while he served in the Navy.
After surviving the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he asked her to marry him. They had four children.
She says eating right and not drinking or smoking has helped her longevity.
She has a simple goal on the track: “I hope I’m inspiring them to be healthy and to realize you can still be doing it at this kind of an age.”
A record 13,712 athletes are participating in this year’s Senior Games, which will conclude June 25. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, local officials and organizers planned to celebrate the athletes during a special event Wednesday night.