THE affect of COVID-19 has been dramatic across all forms of sport and that includes athletics.
Under the guidance of running coach Sally Taylor, some of the Limestone Coast’s top athletes trained hard for close to a year, but their ambitions were cut short by due to the current health crisis.
The highly anticipated nationals event was the prize at the end of the journey, but the title held at Sydney Olympic Park has been cancelled.
Despite the setback, Taylor said it was a strong campaign for her group.
“Considering it ended up being a shortened season, they went really well,” she said.
Her top performer was emerging runner Hayden Crowe.
The 15-year-old enjoyed a successful campaign at the recent State Athletics Championships in Adelaide.
Crowe claimed two gold medals in the 200-metre and 400-metre events with respective times of 22.99 and 51.78 seconds.
A time of 11.43 seconds resulted in him finishing a close third in the 100-metre event, while all three times were under the Under 17 national qualifying marker.
Crowe continued his strong form with a hat-trick of victories in the same events at the Little Athletics State Championships.
He also attended the All Schools Championships in Perth last December and was invited to attend a national Under 15 little athletics camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
Another highlight was Crowe’s dominant 200-metre victory at his school’s athletics day, where he claimed the Craig Elliot perpetual award for the most outstanding individual performance of the carnival.
Taylor said Crowe’s attitude has impressed not only her, but many within the sport.
“Hayden had an extremely good season,” she said.
“At the Bendigo Gift, he got into many finals off a hard mark and he was the talk of the people.
“They were all going up to a coach who has been around for a long time asking ‘who is this kid’.
“He has got talent and just loves his running.”
The Bendigo Gift marked the start of a new challenge for Crowe.
He decided to try his hand at pro running – a far cry from his usual shorter sprints – and made a promising start, with a goal to participate in the prestigious Stawell Gift.
This season was also the final summer in Taylor’s journey with versatile athlete Kaylee Whitehead.
Whitehead has been coached by Taylor for eight years and has been a strong performer in both running and jumping events.
It was a quiet summer for Whitehead, who focused more on her work commitments, but she still came away with a silver medal in long jump at the state championships.
Taylor said Whitehead’s passion and drive for the sport separated her from others.
“Kaylee is the most focused, she is the one that lives and breathes it,” Taylor said.
“Despite going into the work force, she has still trained four times a week.
“Next year she will go to Adelaide and have a really good season.”
The final talented youngster under Taylor’s wing is Gui Ros-Smith.
Ros-Smith had trained for close to a year preparing for the 400-metre state championships race alongside Crowe.
However, Taylor said an unfortunate accident finished Ros-Smith’s season abruptly.
“Gui was training well for the 400-metre race, but he injured his hip flexor in another sport,” she said.
“He has a lot of potential and I would have loved to see how he and Hayden would go at the state titles.”
Taylor also mentors a pair of runners who are at the other end of the age spectrum.
Respectively aged 70 and 50, Lorraine Baron and Adrian Lynch both took home gold medals at the Australian Masters Games.
Taylor is a highly accomplished runner in her own right, with multiple achievements during her eight-year career representing Australia in veterans athletics.
Since her retirement, she has coached runners of all abilities and ages for almost a decade.
Taylor said it was her way of giving back to the community.
“I train kids and adults four times a week and I just do it for the community,” she said.
“I will never ever deny anybody from coming out to training and hopefully it puts them in good stead for adult life.
“My philosophy is that it is not about winning, it is about the journey.
“It is the hardest thing to tell people, you cannot win all the time, you just have to do the best all the time.”