JUNIORS: Gateshead's Torrie Lewis breaks long-standing Australian little athletics record | photos

TORRIE Lewis only took up athletics at the start of last year.

Since then she has been diagnosed with Coeliac disease. 

And now the Gateshead 12-year-old is the proud owner of a national record previously held by an Olympian.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Lewis said.

“I thought mum was joking when she told me.”

The official correspondence came through from Little Athletics Australia via email last week.

Her recent time of 25.74 seconds in the under-12 girl’s 200 metres broke a 38-year record for that age group.

It eclipsed the 1979 effort of Nicole Leistenschneider, who went onto clinch Olympic bronze with the West German women’s 4x400m relay team at Los Angeles five years later.

The outstanding performance, which improved Lewis’ own personal best by 1.26s, not only scored a gold medal in that final but secured a sprint double at the Little Athletics NSW State Championships.

Lewis also collected the under-12 girl’s 100m title at Homebush in March, going inside 13s for the first time and stopping the clock at 12.76s.

The results completely exceeded her own expectations, especially over the longer distance.

“I was only focused on the 100m,” Lewis said.

“I wasn’t even worried about the 200m, let alone the record.”

It has been a rapid rise to the top for Lewis.

While striking success naturally during primary school carnivals at St Paul’s, Gateshead, including a 100m fourth on debut at nationals in Canberra in 2015, her main focus was always gymnastics.

From the age of seven Lewis would train 20 hours per week at the Bennetts Green-based Blackert Gymnastics Academy, but in 2016 she decided to make the switch.

Lewis signed up at Glendale with Macquarie Hunter Little Athletics Club and hasn’t looked back since. 

Throughout the last 18 months she has teamed up with former Australian sprint champion and two-time Commonwealth Games representative Gerrard Keating, who coaches her from Queensland.

Midway through that same period Lewis noticed a major improvement in output after changing her diet to avoid wheat and gluten in dealing with her newly found auto-immune disorder.

“I felt really heavy and pretty much had no energy,” the year 7 student at St Paul’s, Gateshead, said.

“I just thought I needed more sleep, but we didn’t really know what was wrong.

“Now I just feel lighter and that I can run faster.”

* STILL on athletics and New Lambton’s Emily Whelan has been named in the Australian team to contest the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas in July (19-23).

Whelan was one of three high jumpers announced in the 23-person squad on Friday.

* TO surf lifesaving and Redhead’s Nicola Owen has a chance to represent Australia at the world championships next year.

She was on Monday named in the 24-person national under-18 squad, which included 16 from NSW, ahead of final selections in early 2018.