View photos of the action from today's competition here.
Centenarian Superstar: “Hurricane Hawkins” Sets 100 Meter World Record
A storm has been brewing inside Julia Hawkins for 101 years, and it unleashed its fury full force this week in Birmingham at the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
With a time of 39.62 seconds, and wearing a fashionable golden laurel crown in her hair, Julia set the world record for Women’s 100+ 100-meter dash with every ounce of her energy and determination, and using a body more fit than most people 20 years younger. Two days earlier, “Hurricane Hawkins” blew away a field of runners from the 90-94 and 95-99 age groups in her heat, with only 91-year-old Great Eight athlete Dottie Gray providing a chance to catch her. (Dottie redeemed herself as the lone runner to beat Julia’s time in the longer race.)
As she received the news, the four generations of her family in attendance erupted in applause and swooped in to congratulate her. “My goal was to run it in under a minute, and I have done it in practice in just over 40 seconds, so I hoped maybe I could get under 40.”
“I’m not surprised my mother’s doing this,” says Julia Battle as she hugs her mom. “She’s been active all her life. She’s been cycling for years.”
Asked about her competitive sprinting background,the longtime resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana replies, “This is my first time to run the 100-meter dash competitively! I just thought being 101 and running the 100-meter dash would be neat,” she explains. “My son Warren signed me up [to qualify in the Louisiana Senior Olympics] and didn’t tell me about it! I figured I couldn’t let him down. I had to do it.”
She had actually been thinking and talking about it for some time. Julia competed in the National Senior Games in her 80s as a cyclist and gave it up when there were no other age peers to compete against. She considered doing time trials for 2017 but felt the Birmingham terrain would become too challenging. “Biking is my thing, but I like running too. It’s not a chore.” She also explains that she loves to garden out in her yard, and knew she could run because she jogs inside whenever the phone rings. “It’s fun, especially when you win!”
“I’ve loved the Olympics all my life, and I’ve always been competitive. I like to do well. With biking I went to four Nationals, and I got gold medals in three of ‘em,” she adds with confidence.
Her advice to others is simple and common sense. “Stay active, mentally and physically, and live a clean life. I never smoked or drank. Except for maybe a glass of wine at a party, but no more than that.”
After the family hug, Julia meets and greets with several of her newly-made fans. It quickly becomes evident that she is comfortable in the role of a celebrity as if it’s all in a day’s work.
But make no mistake about the pleasant and loveable old lady. The weather forecast for Albuquerque in 2019 may very well call for Hurricane Hawkins force winds!
By: Del Moon and Ashley Williams
Games Daily Recap
Health and Wellness Q&A with Track Star Oscar Peyton
Oscar Peyton started running competitively in midlife, as he detailed in his 2013 Personal Best profile “Making Up for Lost Time...Fast.” Since then, the lanky sprinter from Accoceek, Maryland has been writing his name in NSGA and Masters record books over three age divisions, and made his first mark in the 65-69 group by nearly breaking a world record in the 100M dash finals on Saturday. He will toe up to go for his second gold medal in the 200-meter event today.
The Games Daily News’ Ashley Williams stepped behind the blocks to learn more about the gentle speedster.
Q: You didn’t start running competitively until you were 49. Now, you win nearly every race in which you compete. What advice would you have for someone who may not have been very active all their life, but wants to start now?
A: It’s never too late to start. And a little [exercise] is better than none at all. And the key is once you start, make it a part of your regular routine. Every day, get some exercise in. It’ll keep you in good health. You can do everything else right, but if some form of exercise is not part of it, you won’t get the full benefits. Living a healthy lifestyle is the most important thing.
Q: So do you think that’s the key to living a long, full life?
A: Definitely. Good exercise. You know, you have to eat and drink plenty of water to survive, but exercise is what keeps you from contracting diseases. It keeps your organs functioning properly because it gets your heart rate up. Once the heart rate gets up, your body starts utilizing all the things inside it and all your organs do work. So, that’s the key to a long, healthy life.
Q: What kind of benefits have you personally seen from running competitively?
A: First of all, I get to meet all these wonderful people. They’re so friendly and helpful. Any way we can, we try to help each other out with health, diet and exercise. Second, it’s kept me out of the hospital. I’m not on, nor have I ever been, on any kind of medication. It’s all because of running. See, I have younger brothers and sisters who are all on some type of medication or have had some kind of health issues. Heart problems run in my family on my mother’s side. But I’m the only one who hasn’t had any mishaps with my health. I’m not on any medication, thanks to exercise and running. The National Senior Games plays a big part in that.
Q: What’s your favorite part about competing on a national level against all these amazing athletes?
A: I get to see them every two years. Mingling with them, dining with them, partying with them like we did at the Celebration of Athletes last night. That’s my favorite part. This competition is on the backburner compared to the camaraderie I experience out here.
Q: I’m 21 years old. I’ll be a senior in college this year. What kind of advice would you have for someone as young as me?
A: I’d give the same advice to you that I’d give to anybody out there. From kids all the way to 110 years old. We’ve got people living to 110 these days. Just get out and do something, ya know? Some form of activity. If it’s just plain walking, then just walk. You know, just do something that stimulates the mind and the body. Make it a part of your life and never stray away from it. Make it a part of your life for as long as you live. And keep your grades up! Stay in school!
By: Ashley Williams
Women’s Basketball: Love of the Game Drives Deb Smith to Help Others
The love that Deb Smith has for her Maine Fusion women’s basketball team is abundantly clear. She is the loudest on the bench, and the first to shake her teammates hand coming off the court. She encourages and cheers while on the sideline. Overflowing with emotion and glossy-eyed, she explains her love for the team. “It’s a passionate group and we’re a family, it’s a family. Basketball is the common denominator between all of us. These are not the people that fill my life everyday, but on Wednesdays and Saturdays, they fill my life.”
Other Maine teams’ athletes filled the stands to support the Fusion. They are close-knit and play together twice a week to sharpen their skills. All of them have nothing but uplifting words for Deb, describing her as passionate and one-of-a-kind.
Deb first got into The Games as a coach, before she was old enough to compete as a senior athlete. “In 1999, one of these women had a little group playing together, and they went to Orlando to play in their first ever National Senior Games. I was asked to coach them,” she explains. “I watched them practice, and saw how I could help them and said yeah I’d like to do this. They wanted someone who could teach them a few sets and they just wanted someone to just be positive with them.”
“I played in high school and then I played at the University of Maine, 1972 through 1974. I saw the court but was never any star,” she adds humbly. “After I graduated with a degree in physical education and recreation, I coached an eighth grade basketball team for 15 years in South Portland.”
Deb has a tremendous amount of affection for the people she meets through basketball. “I am driven and I am passionate, I love teaching people about basketball. We brought three first-timers to The Games this year, that’s more important than if I win a game or not,” she explains. “One of them scored two baskets in a game today.”
This passion led Deb to see the need for a women’s basketball camp catered to the needs of senior athletes. “In 2006 I ran my first basketball camp called ‘Not Too Late.’ Age 70 was my maximum, and I filled my camp the first year. I brought in high school coaches, and a few college coaches. I needed people who would appreciate women for what they were trying to do, and who would teach them basic skills. I’ve had about 240 women come through my camp, many of them year after year. They come from all over the United States.”
In 2016, Deb Smith was honored as the NSGA’s Female Athlete of the Year. She believes her enthusiasm for people and the game keeps participants coming back, and results in her camp’s continued growth. “I’m not Athlete of the Year because I’m a standout athlete. I was shocked about the whole thing. It’s not just about playing this game here; it’s more about doing all the things I do outside of here.”
By: Gracie Murray
Volleyball: New Name, Same Game
The “StLBeaumers” women’s volleyball team is back for the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana, but this time, something’s different.
After one of their players retired following the 2015 National Senior Games, the team decided a name change was needed. After deliberation, they connected on “Live Wires.” Setter Marti Engler explains why it was a good fit: “We were just trying to think of something that would be electrifying.”
The team came together many years ago and has competed in four National Senior Games. Along the way, they have picked up a few new players, including Stephanie Miller and Valerie Liescheidt, who are hitters on the 55+ team. Since they are a close-knit group, they all travel together in one vehicle for competitions. They love to bond during these road trips, mimicking their experiences as younger athletes.
At The Games in Minnesota in 2015, they took home the silver medal in the Division 2 bracket. They hope to take home more medals this year to add to their collection. “We’ve struggled today, but we’ve come through and won games in the end,” says Valerie. “We surprised ourselves!”
Even though all of the players live in the St. Louis area, their busy schedules hinder them from practicing much outside of the National Senior Games and state Senior Games. “We want to practice, but everyone’s been training for so many years,” says Valerie. “I’m gonna try to get us all in one league together to prepare for 2019,” Stephanie adds. The team plans to continue competing as long as they can. When Valerie found out she could still compete as a senior, she was in awe, saying, “I had goosebumps.”
“See what you have to look forward to!” Stephanie exclaims.
By: Madison Lathum
Going the Distance
Four years after the Boston Marathon bombing, Maria Schreiber continues to wear the shirt she wore that day with pride. Over the years, she has completed the Boston Marathon seven times. Yesterday, Maria traded Boston for the the streets of Birmingham during the 10K road race.
Maria, 53, entered her first marathon based on a dare from her dad, and had no intention to complete the race. She made it to the half marathon finish line and realized she never wanted to stop. She came up a few minutes short and barely missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
That night as she replayed the race in her mind, she knew she had to keep running. “I just fell in love with it. I remember the next morning before my eyes even opened, I thought, I’m not waiting a year to do that again,” Maria says.
For her National Senior Games race this weekend, Maria brought along a fan club: her daughters Eden and Riley. The girls are extremely proud of their mom, who inspires them to stay active. Maria, who also competes in half Ironman races, tries to run three days a week. She completes a long run on Sunday, a seven-mile tempo on Tuesday, followed by a track workout on Thursday. She also tries to squeeze in a swim when she can.
“I love training for it, the parts people don’t see,” Maria says, referring to the actual race as “a parade.” Her goal is to run two marathons a year, but this year she is attempting four.
The go-getter says she encourages other women to take up running, saying it’s competitive, but it's a friendly competition. “It’s a sharing sport. I ask, ‘How can I get you to where I am? What can I do to help you?’” Maria adds she runs to challenge herself more so than to beat the person next to her.
People who know Maria regularly approach her with their running questions. She shares training programs in her kid’s school parking lot, and has even taken women to the local track to show them how to get started. Back home in Lagrange, Illinois, Maria and a group of her girlfriends are a part of “The Polar Bears” local running group composed of a bunch of regular working moms "who drive Suburbans and love to run marathons.”
“Running is the great equalizer, it is the great friendship maker, it is an automatic camaraderie,” she concludes. “I don’t know where else you can get that.”
By: Caroline Watt
Humana Game Changer: Nancy Covington, 85, Clinton, LA
Nancy Covington’s love for horseshoes stemmed from her husband – it was the only thing at which she could beat him! Nancy has participated in all of the National Senior Games except for the first one because she was too young! Naturally a very timid and insecure person, Nancy says that pitching horseshoes gave her the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and learn a lot about herself, driving her to keep up her “disgustingly healthy” lifestyle. Nancy will compete in horseshoes at the 2017 National Senior Games.