101-year-old runner sets age group record

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A 101-year-old runner from Louisiana who took up sprinting a year ago set a senior woman's record in the 100-meter dash for her age group last weekend. 

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins ran 100 meters in 40.12 seconds at the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships at Louisiana State University's track stadium in Baton Rouge. USA Track and Field said she's pending a World Record, but that's not even her best score. Last month, Hawkins clocked in 39.62 seconds in the 100-meter dash for women 100 and older at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

"I broke the record and it was nice," Hawkins said. "I did it! I did it." 

Hawkins began her competitive athletic career at age 75, entering as a bicyclist in national and state senior games. A graduate of LSU, she had given herself a bicycle as a wedding present when she married her college sweetheart. The couple eventually settled in Baton Rouge, where they raised four children.

To train for her cycling events, the 5-foot-tall (1.52-meter) Hawkins would ride a 6-mile (10-kilometer) course daily around her neighborhood. She took home a bronze medal at her first National Senior Games, in San Antonio, Texas, before winning gold medals at the games in Tucson, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida. But the 2001 National Senior Games in Baton Rouge signaled the end of her cycling career.

"There wasn't a single woman around in the meet," she explained. "So I quit. It's no fun."

Her athletic renaissance began at the urging of her children, who entered her in the sprint event at the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games. Hawkins said she had never considered running competitively.

"That amazed me," she says. "I never even tried it. They thought I could. And I could."

Her training regimen eschews sprinting and weights for tending bonsai trees and continuing to bicycle around her neighborhood.

"At this age, you're not getting better. You're getting worse," she said. 

Hawkins said her secret to living a long life is a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and family. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.