I am visiting my mother and sister in California. Reading the Los Angeles Times is one of the small pleasures I take from my trip.
On Sunday, July 14th the Times ran an article written by Steve Lopez. Mr. Lopez’s subject was Johnnye Valien. Mrs. Valien is eighty-seven years old, a widowed mother of three, a retired Los Angles Parks Department employee, and the reigning world record-holder for women 85-90 in the in the pole vault.
In 2002 Johnnye Valien was inducted into the Masters Track Hall of Fame. She has set world records in the pole vault and the long jump. Mrs. Valien has set American records in the shot put, high jump and 100 meters. She still holds age-group world records in the 80-and 300-meter hurdles and the seven-event heptathlon.
It took Mr. Lopez several attempts before he managed to secure the interview, which was conducted at a West Los Angeles College all-comers track meet. Mrs. Valien has turned down Sports Illustrated. She didn’t want the fuss of getting her house ready for the interview.
She didn’t start participating in masters track until 1988, twenty-four years ago.
Mrs. Valien isn’t sure track is her best sport. Skiing is her true passion. She takes great pride in her ski trophies.
Mrs. Valien ran track at Tuskegee University. Seven of her teammates made the 1948 Olympic team. Mr. Lopez felt not making the Olympic team is the reason Mrs. Valien is still chasing her track dreams.
Johnnye Valien is just another ordinary woman living an extraordinary life.
This is someone who didn’t let a number tell her what she should and shouldn’t do. She continues to pursue her passions and take joy from living each day.
We need to heed Johnnye Valien’s message. Keep chasing your dream. It is in your reach.