When you put yourself out there, you sometimes have to push through some fear and discomfort. Julia Curran-Villarreal figured out a new way to push through it: jump over it! After decades away from track and field, this almost 55-year-old Marietta mom picked up her old sport of high jumping and now competes at the Masters level all across the country. Last season, she won gold in 10 of her 11 meets, and she is currently ranked number one in the country and number eight in the world. Curran-Villarreal says, "I am trying to approach this phase of my life with a sense of fearlessness. If there are things I've dreamed of doing, I am going to try them." High jumping could be just the beginning.
In high school, what originally interested you in track and field?
I participated in gymnastics in elementary and middle school and thought that was "my sport," but one day in ninth grade, I walked by someone high jumping indoors. Someone suggested I try that, and it stuck. I jumped very successfully throughout high school.
How did you get back into high jumping as an adult?
My first competition as an adult was in 2013 at age 53. I loved that my boys, then 8 and 10, were doing sports, and I was reminiscing about my time on a team and how much I loved high jumping. On a whim, I Googled "track and field for grown-ups" and found the Masters track and field community. I was thrilled to find out there were competitions for adults.
How did your first competition go?
I went to my first meet here in Georgia just to observe, but I wore a T-shirt and shorts just in case I got up the nerve to register and compete – I did, and I won my age division. I haven't stopped since. I got more serious in 2014 and began working with a trainer who specializes in competitive athletes.
Tell us about your trainer.
My trainer is David Schrader of Neurosport Functional Training. He works with me on flexibility, balance and strength training. He understands the challenges of an older athlete and is very encouraging but pushes me incredibly hard.
What competitions are on the horizon this year?
My 2015 indoor season began in February with the USATF Southeastern Masters Championship in North Carolina. I will also compete in the USATF National Indoor Championships this month. I have also qualified for the 2015 National Senior Games, which are in July in Minnesota, and the World Masters Athletics in Lyon, France in August. The WMAs, held every two years, are like the Olympics for Masters athletes, and it will be an exciting competition.
What have you learned about yourself since resuming your sport?
It can be scary to put yourself out there and compete. You may fail. You may get hurt, look silly or not perfect. We Masters athletes can't perform like we did 30 years ago, but we continue to compete for the love of it. It's the absolute definition of doing "your personal best."
What inspires you about your fellow Masters athletes?
Most of these Masters athletes are in better shape than most people half their age. They train hard, have a great attitude and never give up. They epitomize the belief that whether you succeed or fail is not as important as putting forth the effort.