KEELY Henderson has sprinted to a fifth placing in Australia’s richest footrace — the Stawell Women’s Gift.
The South Morang 17-year-old ran the race for the first time last year, but got knocked out in the heats.
This year, with a new coach and training squad, there was no stopping her.
“I joined a squad called Nesp in Doncaster and got a new coach, Craig Mair, who helped me a lot this year,” Keely said.
The 120m Stawell Gift has been held since 1878 and is one of the world’s most famous and prestigious foot races.
Run on grass, athletes are handicapped according to form and ability, and start off varying marks accordingly.
The final is traditionally held on Easter Monday.
“There were 16 women’s heats and then four semi-finals,” Keely said.
“In my heat I came third and progressed through from time.
“The semi-final I won.”
Keely ran off a mark of 13.75 sec, behind winner Grace O’Dwyer who ran 13.39 sec.
“I couldn’t contain myself. I started crying,” she said. “It was really good.”
The love of gift racing came from her dad who watched the gift every year.
“He loved every bit about it and would come home and say, ‘one day you can do this’, and now I’ve actually gone and done it,” she said.
Keely is eligible to be a Whittlesea Leader junior sports star nominee.