YOUNG athletics talent Leila Croker made waves on the big stage after she broke a 40-year-old state record at the School Sport SA track and field championships in Adelaide recently.
Croker was listed to take part in three events at the competition, but it was her performance in the Under 13 girls 800-metre race which stood out.
She won the race in impressive fashion by a comfortable five-second margin and her name will be mentioned in state record books for years to come.
Her time of two minutes, 26.02 seconds broke the long-standing record set back in 1979 by half a second.
Croker said she was proud of her performance at the big event.
“I knew I was up against some strong competition, but I just tried my best,” she said.
“I started the race fast and found my consistency before the sprint at the finish.”
Rather remarkably, Croker said her record-breaking time was not even her personal best.
“I tried hard and it was about three seconds off,” she said.
“But I was still happy to get the win.”
Unfortunately, moments after Croker stormed home to win the 800m race, her campaign came to a heart-breaking end.
In a significant fall from the high of victory, Croker said an ankle injury during her long jump event cut short her day, which meant she missed out on her 200m final – an event she qualified fastest for.
“I was doing my run up on the track and then I rolled my ankle,” she said.
“I got to do the 200m heat and qualified for the final which was after the long jump, so I could not do that sadly.”
The new record is the latest achievement in a busy, but rewarding 2018/19 season for Croker.
At national level she has produced some respectable performances.
In November last year she represented South Australia at the School Sport Australia track and field championships in Melbourne.
She finished fourth in the multi-event which included 100m, long jump, shot put and 800 metres.
In April this year she represented the state again at the Little Athletics Australia track and field championships in Hobart and returned with two top 10 finishes from her four events.
But it is at state level where Croker has flourished.
She won gold medals at both the Athletics SA and Little Athletics multi-event championships in Adelaide this season, in addition to her new record.
Croker has achieved all this while completing weekly duties at the Limestone Coast Sporting Academy, netball and swimming.
She said her busy schedule has caused her to even miss some competitions.
“At the start of the season I qualified as bottom age for All Schools in Cairns, but I could not make it because I was already in Melbourne for SAPSASA,” she said.
“In April I went to Hobart as part of the Little Athletics state team and had qualified for nationals in Sydney, but I could not do that either.”
Croker said her recent multi-event successes inspired her to become a heptathlete.
“My main goal will be a heptathlete in the future,” she said.
“I have not done a full heptathlon before, so I will start training for that soon.
“I have done some multi-events with four stages, but this year will be the first time I am old enough to take part in a heptathlon which has seven.”
Croker said she feels prepared for her new endeavour, despite a switch to a coach who specialises in the area.