Retired -- but hardly retiring Woman, 75, revels in athletic life

June 28, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Even though she's 75, Janet Hull has little time to sit around growing old. So when she's not chasing softballs or swinging a racket, she grabs her towel, heads for the track, gets a running start and leaps into a sand pit.

Last weekend, the retired school secretary from Brooklyn Park jumped nearly six feet across a pit in Baton Rouge, La., becoming the fifth best long-jumper nationally among women her age. She jumped 5 feet, 9 1/2 inches; the winner jumped 10 feet.

Wearing sneakers and shorts, with a green ribbon pinned to her T-shirt, Ms. Hull returned Friday to the track behind North County High School. She plans to keep training there until the next U.S. National Senior Sports Classic in two years.

She warmed up by flexing her calves and pulling her ankle to her back to stretch the muscles of her legs. She eyed the asphalt strip and pit beyond it, crouched over and rested her hands on her knees. She straightened, then began to run in short strides with bent arms. She took off from the edge of the asphalt and landed a distance she estimated at about four feet.

Ms. Hull says she can't think of a better way to unwind. "Just to sit -- I can't do that," she said. "To sit and watch TV -- it's got to be real good."

Always a sports enthusiast, Ms. Hull played basketball and softball and ran track in high school in New Oxford, Pa., and later coached women's softball and basketball.

But competing with the best remained just a dream until her retirement 10 years ago from Brooklyn Park Elementary, where VTC she'd worked as a secretary for 25 years.

She wasn't about to spend her golden years in a rocking chair. She rode her bike, played tennis four or five times a week and joined a softball team for women over 45. She often spends evenings at square dances and international folk dances. "God gave me good health, so why not use it to do what I like to do? Keep active," she said.

In 1990, she entered the Maryland Senior Olympics, placing third in tennis and second in the running long jump.

That qualified her for the 1991 nationals, where she won no individual event but played softball on the team that won the gold medal. In October, she again entered the state competition, this time placing third in long jump and discus throw, fourth in javelin throw and sixth in softball throw and standing jump.

Amazingly, Ms. Hull has never suffered an injury worse than a sore muscle since high school, when she broke her nose playing basketball.

Ms. Hull hopes her success will inspire other women her age to play organized sports. She would like to start a Maryland softball team for women over age 50, patterned after Virginia's Golden Girls, which has grown from 15 to more than 100 members in five years.

"Five years ago, you didn't hear of women softball tournaments," Ms. Hull said. "People out there think, 'I'm too old and can't do it,' but senior women are just beginning to come out and do this."

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