Young Mount Gambier athlete Hayden Crowe chased down a dream as he ran to success at the iconic Stawell Gift over an unforgettable long weekend. Competing at Australia’s richest and oldest footrace dating back to 1878, Crowe gave it his all and did not die wondering against some tough opposition.
Racing against some of the best runners in the country, the 16-year-old took home an impressive runner-up finish in the 200m Open final, while he also competed in the Under 18 100m and 400m races.
Crowe said he was still pinching himself after running in front of the biggest crowd he has seen. Crowe could also feel the history of the event as he ran on the hallowed turf. “It was my first time at Stawell and to make an open final running against men was something special,” Crowe said.
“Stawell is really nice, the track and crowd were amazing and the TV plus streaming added to the experience. “It is such an old event and the significance is amazing because it is the big one everyone aims for. “There were thousands watching in the stands and even more on the stream and TV, but I did not feel too pressured and just enjoyed it.”
Crowe reached the 200 metre final by setting the track alight in just 20.86 seconds and winning the semi-final. In the big race, Crowe put the afterburners on in the closing stages to take second, just behind winner Edward Ware, who also won the men’s main event.
Crowe said the way he charged towards the finish line from the final bend sealed the runner-up spot. “The 200 metre race was my main focus because I had a good handicap for it,” Crowe said. “I do not think I was ever going to win, but was just happy to be in it and the final was my best run. “The guy who won had a very good handicap and started two metres in front of me, but was really fast.
“When we came around the bend I was in the middle even with everyone else except for the winner, so coming onto the straight was when I took off. “That was my plan because the bend was sharp and I felt in control and did not panic.”
Looking back Crowe said he did not expect to finish second and is still coming to terms with it. “I am still on a bit of a high and excited about it,” he said. “We knew I had a good chance after qualifying third or fourth fastest, but it was a pleasant surprise to get such a big improvement.”
Crowe also competed in the Under 18’s 100 metre event and finished fifth after being pushed back two metres from the handicappers, while also competing in the 400 metre heats.
The youngster now turns his attention to the 2021 Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney next weekend.