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National Senior Games: ‘Hurricane’ Hawkins runs to gold in 100-meter race

Julia ‘Hurricane’ Hawkins, center, a 103-year old from Louisiana, waves to well-wishers after crossing the finish line to win the 100 meters at the National Senior Games.

Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins raced to victory Tuesday morning against what might best be described as a field for the ages.

The 103-year-old Hawkins completed her women’s 100-meter dash in 46.07 seconds at UNM track stadium. It was a bit off her world record time (39.62) for the age division, but Hawkins hardly minded. She raised her arms in joy moments later while accepting a 2019 National Senior Games gold medal.

“It was fun,” Hawkins said of the five-person heat composed of five 90-plus women and one man, 100-year-old Gerald Meyer. “Maybe I’ll retire now — or maybe not. In two years I might be ready for the next one.”

Hawkins, from Louisiana, finished first among the women in her heat, but she did not receive the only gold medal. Alabama’s Mary Kemp, 97, won the 95-99 age division, and North Carolina’s Julia Manigo, 90, took gold in the 90-94 age group. Missouri’s Dottie Gray, 94, who seemed an unlikely participant after breaking her hip last year, earned silver behind Manigo.

While Hawkins has become an NSGA celebrity, no one enjoyed Tuesday’s race more than Meyer, who sported brown-and-gold Wyoming Cowboys gear and drew cheers from several supporters with his time of 36.93 seconds.

“This is great getting to run with all these good-lookin’ ladies,” said Meyer, who served as a Naval commander in World War II. “It’s like mixed doubles out here. I love it.”

RECORD-BREAKERS: NSGA officials confirmed new NSGA marks set Tuesday by the following:

n Swimmer Philipp Djang (age 65) from Las Cruces in the 65-69 men’s age group 50-yard backstroke ( 28.29 seconds);

n Ann Chadwich (81) from Tempe in 80-84 women’s 20K cycling (43 minutes, 56.2 seconds);

n Swimmer Nicholas Decker (52) of Albuquerque in the 50-54 men’s 50-yard butterfly (23.73).

Earlier in the Games, McIntosh’s track standout Colleen Burns set American records in the 70-74 women’s 400-meter dash (1:17.38) and 1,500 meters (6:15.98).

NEW MEXICANS TO WATCH: Among the New Mexicans scheduled to begin defense of their previous gold medals today:

n Janet Blair in the 70-73 women’s high jump;

n Gene Nitz and Tom Douglas in 75-79 men’s doubles bowling;

n Frank Vito in 80-84 men’s doubles bowling;

n David Hsi and Louise Kiss in 85-89 mixed doubles badminton.

Other top New Mexican athletes competing include Miriam Steward, Ross Aragon, Mary Homan, David Salazar, and Ellyn Wong in track and field, Susan Rice in cycling, and Wong in women’s softball.

OTHERS TO WATCH: Among athletes from outside New Mexico:

n 1968 Olympian (modern pentathlon) Tom Lough, who helped organize the 50th reunion of that team last year, is competing in the 75-79 men’s 800-meter run. He won an NSGA silver medal in Birmingham, Ala., two years ago.

n Ron Gauvin had a brain tumor that paralyzed his arm, but his wife Patti (who works as nurse) helped him through rehab and adapted to do archery using mouth release. Patti then also took up archery. Patti will be competing in the 55-59 Recurve today.

n Between biking over 1,000 miles per year through Cherokee lands, Simeon Gipson will be participating in this years’ National Senior Games in the men’s 70-74 40K cycling.

TONIGHT: The big Celebration of Athletes event at Dreamstyle Arena—the Pit, described as a “combination opening and closing ceremony,” with music and a parade of athletes, begins at 7 p.m.

MEDAL COUNTS: Through late Tuesday, Californians led with 141 medals (58 gold, 44 silver, 39 bronze), just ahead of Florida (32-42-53—127) and New Mexico (51-31-41—123).