Leila makes history with hometown win

November 29, 2023 BY

Leila Croker (yellow) standing where no local has stood before at the Mt Gambier Gift

History was made at Vansittart Park on Saturday, when Mount Gambier’s Leila Croker became the first locally born and bred winner of the blue riband events – the 120m Mt Gambier Gift.

The teenager, who is now a student at Adelaide’s Westminster School, finished second in her semi final before upping the ante in the final to take the sash and the top prize in a time of 14.280

Last year, Leila had to endure a tense photo finish and ended up second in the women ‘s final – missing out on claiming the title by .009 of a second.

No need for a photo to decide the race this year though as she beat out Victorian Helena Schwerdt, who won Leila’s semi final, and backmarker Mikayla Round, who powered home for third.

Keith’s Isabel Ross, who attends school in Adelaide at Immanuel College, and who has been a regular Mount Gambier Gift performer, just missed the podium, finishing fourth after entering the final on the back of a stunning semi final victory.

2022 Women’s 120m Gift winner Tayla Phillis finished fifth in the 2023 final – Leila and Tayla are training partners at their athletics club.

By snaring the 120m Women’s Gift, Leila has now a complete set of sashes, having won the 2019 Under 14 120m Gift and picking up the Under 18 120m Gift at the weekend, where she also finished third in the 70m Women’s Gift.

Men’s 120m Gift winner Hayden Rothe literally gave everything to secure his win, ending up prostrate on the ground just over the finish line.

The Camden Athletics Club runner – the club bringing a strong contingent to the Mount Gambier event – won in a time of 12.769, from Victoria Kevin Brittain and Luke Rigby. Rothe also finished fifth in the 70m men’s final.

Leila was not the only reason for locals to cheer at the weekend with Leslie Jagger putting in a strong run to take out the 1600m Open – the event in which he finished third last year.

There was a good array of Little Athletics events as well with competitors from Portland and Casterton joining their Mount Gambier counterparts.