103-Year-Old Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins Storms National Senior Games

Julia Hawkins Senior Games

Photo: Brit Huckabay/NSGA

Proving it is never too late, Julia Hawkins has earned the title of the oldest woman to compete on an American track. At 103 years of age, Hawkins set a Games record for the women’s 100-plus division by running 21.06 in the 50-meter event. She took gold in both the 50-meter and 100-meter races.

Almost 14,000 competitors participated in the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 14 – 25, 2019.

Dubbed “Hurricane” Hawkins, perhaps because she is from Louisiana where hurricanes are a well-known occurrence, she would prefer being called “flower lady,” she said. She lives independently in her own home on an acre of land. “I have 50 kinds of trees and I am working on them all of the time.”

Photo courtesy of Julia Hawkins

Hawkins built her leg strength from a lifelong habit of cycling. She previously competed in four other Senior Games in the cycling divisions at the Senior Games and won gold medals in many of them.

At age 100, she made the shift to running when the shifting gears became too hard and after a spill. She decided to run the 100-meter dash to coincide with turning 100. She says she continues to run because of what it demonstrates to the country.

“I’ve been told that I’m an inspiration to a lot of people and that makes me feel good,” she continues. “I’m helping, in a way, in the health of our country.”

Attributing the importance of family to good health, Hawkins has four children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was married for 70 years to Murray Hawkins. Her husband passed away in 2013 at age 95.

A 1938 graduate of Louisiana State University, Hawkins is a retired school teacher. She was the oldest female competitor at the Games.

“I feel good about it, I didn’t get a good start, but I did pretty well,” she said.

“I hope I’m inspiring people to be healthy and to realize that you can still be doing it at this kind of an age if you keep yourself busy and active. Every day at 103 is a miracle”

5 Centenarians Competed in Games

Five centenarians participated in the Games including Tennessean Hollyce Kirkland, who competed in swimming and power walk, Raymond Lokers from Michigan and Lindsay Tise from North Carolina for their third meeting in golf; and Wyoming trackster E. Gerald Meyer.

More than 202 new records were broken through all categories at the Games and have set a higher bar for future competition. In addition to 17 pending new American records, 185 National Senior Games records were shattered by 124 athletes in eight sports including: track and field, swimming, cycling, triathlon, archery, road race, race walk and bowling.

The most decorated athlete this year is Californian Kathy Bergen with three American and five National Senior Games high marks. This was the ninth appearance at The Games for the 80-year-old track and field elite, and she equally credits hard work and being the youngest competitor entering a new age group (80-84) for her success.

More Athletes Breaking Records

Four athletes set two or more American records, and are all female. They are as follows:
• Kathy Bergen, 80, La Canada, CA
o 100 meter dash with a time of 15.98 seconds
o 200 meter dash with a time of 35.71 seconds
o High Jump with a height of 1.17 meters

• Florence “Flo” Meiler, 85, Shelburne, VT
o High Jump with a height of 0.91 meters
o Hammer Throw with a distance of 18.1 meters

• Colleen Burns, 70, McIntosh, NM
o 400 meter dash with a time of 1:15.68
o 1500 meter race with a time of 6:15.98
• Elsbeth Padia, 81, Belmont, CA

o Hammer Throw with a distance of 26.71 meters
o Javelin Throw with a distance of 20.12 meters

A total of ten individuals now hold at least one of the 17 American records set.

Of the National Senior Games records, Bergen and three other athletes chalked up five each:

• Mike Freshley, 78, San Diego, CA
• Steven Heck, 70, Prairieville, LA
• Penny Noyes, 65, Bowling Green, KY

“Even before we had our first competition, we had already broken a record – that being the largest number of athletes participating in the 32 years of our history,” said Marc T. Riker, National Senior Games Association (NSGA) CEO. “Amazing athletes deserve well-staffed and organized venues to compete in, and Albuquerque provided us with top-notch facilities and volunteers for the event.”

Subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine for All Ages

Receive four digital issues delivered to your inbox. Just $15.00