Growing up with five brothers, Lurline Hamilton loved sports and competition. Whatever games the boys played, Lurline was always up to the challenge.
When her siblings played baseball, Lurline naturally tagged along. The boys positioned her in the outfield to take advantage of her uncanny arm strength.
As a sixth grade student at St. Joseph Parochial, Lurline ventured into organized athletics, joining the basketball team. At St. Joseph’s Academy, she also joined the basketball team, SJA’s lone athletic team at the time, earning All-State honors her senior year. She also played softball and volleyball in SJA’s intramural program.
As a sophomore, Lurline joined the AAU Baton Rouge Track Club. Her coach, A.R. “Smo” DiDomenica, recognized her natural baseball throwing motion and suggested she try the javelin. In her very first track meet, she threw 102 feet and won the event.
DiDomenica knew his prize pupil needed more coaching than he could provide, so he took her to LSU, where track coach Joe May and physical education instructor Bill Bankhead, both former javelin throwers, agreed to work with her on technique. Lurline dedicated herself to daily practice, film study and reading books on the mechanics of throwing. At SJA, she threw the javelin during her physical education classes. Her improvement was so rapid that six months after picking up the aluminum spear for the first time, she entered her first National Indoor Track & Field Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She finished fifth with a throw of 121 feet.
In July of that year, she traveled to the National Outdoor Championship Meet in Dayton, Ohio, winning the national girls title with a throw of 139 feet. She also finished sixth in the baseball throw.
In 1964, Lurline broke the national AAU javelin record with a throw of 153-4½. In the same meet, she broke the Southern AAU records in the 440-yard run and 50-yard dash. She was invited to the Olympic trials in New York City, where she finished third in the javelin. A third-place finish should have earned her a spot on the team, but because the U.S. had recently implemented a qualifying minimum of 167 feet, her best throw fell just three feet short.
After graduating from SJA, Lurline became the first woman in history to receive an athletic scholarship to LSU. There was no women’s track and field team, so Lurline practiced with the men and represented LSU in select U.S. Track and Field Federation events with women’s divisions, competing in the javelin, discus and shot put. She was national runner-up in the javelin in 1964 and 1965.
As a member of the USA Track & Field Team, she competed in the Los Angeles games in 1964 and the Kiev games in 1965. She toured Russia, Poland, Germany and France with the 1965 USA Team. At the NAAU meet in California, she threw 158 feet to repeat as girls’ champion and place third in the women’s division.
Lurline’s love of competitive athletics continued, and she claimed U.S. Masters (age 40 and over) championships in the shot put, javelin, discus and hammer throw for a number of years, setting national records. In 1983 and 1987, she was the bronze medalist in the javelin at the World Masters Games. She set Louisiana Senior Olympics records in the shot put, discus and javelin and was the 1997 National Senior Olympics champion in shot put, discus and javelin. She also competed in Olympic-style weightlifting, becoming the U.S. and world champion in two events in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1992, Lurline became the first female athlete inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Lurline taught in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System for 34 years. She was active in numerous sports organizations, including the LHSAA, AAU, USA Track & Field and NCAA, among others. She presently serves as coordinator of NCAA softball officials for the SEC, Atlantic Sun, Big 12, Conference USA, Southland and Sun Belt conferences.