For Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins, no amount of years can stop her from running to international stardom.
At 105-years-old, Hawkins became the first female track and field athlete and first American to set a world record in the 100-meter dash for her age group (105+ division) at the 2021 Louisiana Senior Games competition on Saturday, according to the National Senior Games Association.
With a fresh flower in her hair and a crowd of cheering loved ones surrounding her, the track star completed the 100 meters with a time of 1:02:95.
"The older you get, the more passions you ought to have... Keeping active is one of my most important passions," Hawkins told USA TODAY on Wednesday.
"I keep thinking, 'Why am I left here?' Why haven't I been called by now?'" she continued. "People say that they want to be just like me when they grow up... And I think if I can please people and give them hope, then it's worth living longer."
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Hawkins started competing in sprints at age 100. Her children registered her for running after she decided to quit biking, which she did for about eight to 10 years prior. She chose the 100-meter dash.
"When I started running, I found it was a pleasure. I enjoyed doing it. So it was a new challenge, and I took to it like a duck to water," Hawkins said. "I felt that would be a neat challenge to run the 100 [meter] dash, at 100, in under a minute."
And she did. Saturday's competition wasn't Hawkins' first record-breaking race. According to the National Senior Games Association, the retired educator and Louisiana native also set a world record in 2017, when she ran 100 meters in just over 39 seconds at the National Senior Games, the fastest in her then 100-104 age level. In 2019's Games, she completed the 100-meter dash in a still-impressive 46.07 seconds.
Hawkins says that she doesn't run every day anymore but stays very active. She'll usually walk or jog about one mile each day, sometimes two. Every now and then, she'll do a 50-meter dash to practice. "When you're 105, you don't have too many 100 [meter] dashes left in you, so you save them for when you need them," she said.
Saturday's race was particularly special because it was held less than 10 miles from Hawkins' childhood home in Ponchatoula,, where she later taught middle school. Some of her former students even came to cheer her on. Hawkins added that she often feels supported by her loved ones – including her four children and her late husband of 70 years, who passed away at the age of 96.
"He died ahead of me, and so I think of him as being my little angel out there watching over me," she said, adding that during Saturday's race she "felt right at home."
When she's not lacing up her sneakers to be "Hurricane Hawkins," Hawkins prefers to be called "The Flower Lady." In addition to her successful running career, Hawkins is very passionate about gardening – caring for a beautiful home garden with bonsai trees and abundant flowers. Like her signature look on Saturday, she almost always wears a flower behind her ear whether she's racing or not, a habit that started when Hawkins was in college.
The Louisiana Senior Games serve as the state’s qualifying event for the biennial National Senior Games, which will take place in May 2022 in Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hawkins said she's still deciding on whether or not she'll compete.
“She has time to decide, and we aren’t pressing for an answer,” National Senior Games Association Media Director Del Moon stated in a news release. “As usual, Julia Hawkins calls her own shots and will wait for the right time to decide if and how her track career will go on.”
Until then, Hawkins hopes to continue to inspire people of all ages to live active, healthy lives. She'll also keep chasing "magic moments" – on and off the track.
"I believe in magic moments, thinking of things that you see and do and feel that more than just usual. They're absolutely out of this world, they're so unusual. And wonderful," she said. "Every time I race it's a magic moment."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 105-year-old woman sets world record at Louisiana Senior Games