Queensland junior track sensation Torrie Lewis has been setting the track alight of late, and this is only the beginning.
We have all heard of Freeman, Pearson and Pittman, but Australian track and field has a new heir. Turning 17 in January, Lewis – the Australian U/16 record holder – has been tearing up the track. Improving with every run, she has been determined to fine-tune every aspect of her skillset.
After enjoying a superb start to the Australian Athletics season including a Christmas to New Year stretch at the Tasmanian Carnival Series, Lewis is primed to take the next step in her career.
Lewis and coach Gerrard Keating sat down with The Inner Sanctum to discuss all things past, present, and future.
World on notice
Always having been chock full of talent, Lewis announced herself to the world in December with a stunning time of 11.33 seconds for the 100m at just 16 years of age.
The time made her the third fastest U/18 women in the world, behind Tina Clayton of Jamaica (11.09) and Shawnti Jackson of the USA (11.28). It’s an impressive effort considering the heritage of 100m sprinting in those nations.
Closer to home, the time puts her second all-time in the U/20s behind the great Raylene Boyle’s 11.20 set at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. That figure still stands as the Australian U/20 record.
It’s a figure Lewis would have recently surpassed (11.18) had it not been for an “illegal” 3.8m/s tail wind ruling it out of the record race. What the stats sheet wont tell you is that it was also torrential rain and heavy track; so bad they postponed the very next event.
Furthermore, coach Gerrard Keating “didn’t even want her to run”. Lewis had been feeling under the weather all morning, and with the conditions as they were, Keating thought a miss might be a better choice.
Lewis, using her coaches teachings against him, cheekily responded with “What if I feel this way at Nationals?”. Her response personified the young women she is. The run was ultimately another warning of what is to come.
Feeding off those who came before her
The best way to learn is often from those who have been there and done it all. Lewis is no different. Throughout her short career she has enjoyed numerous opportunities to absorb advice from those who came before her.
In her early junior days she competed regularly both with and against another talented Queensland junior runner in Gabi Taylor. Talyor’s mother often helped out with coaching and advice for the young girls. Who was her mother? None other than Olympian Melinda Gainsford-Talyor.
Lewis also met the inspirational Sally Pearson OAM at the recent official announcement of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games. Pearson shared plenty of advice.
“She told me I shouldn’t expect to do anything extraordinary. Just run how I run at training, and it really stuck with me,” Lewis said.
Her biggest avenue of advice no doubt comes from her coach Gerrard Keating. Keating is a finalist in his own right at the 100m at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. The race sported 100m legends in Linford Christie and Ben Johnson.
The relationship they share is evident for all to see, and shone through when they spoke to The Inner Sanctum.
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The making of a champion
These amazing times Lewis is setting are undoubtedly due to her commitment to training and improvement.
Training four days a week on the track and another in the gym for strength and conditioning, Lewis has a full schedule on her plate. Mindful of this year being a big one for Lewis’ education, coach Keating is clear with his message: “School is the number one priority”.
Lewis is confident it will be easy to balance. She is prepared to make the sacrifices and is determined to meet her goals.
Identifying a weakness in her starting, the beginning of summer was all about getting out of the blocks. Self proclaiming her race beginnings as “Shocking”, Lewis spent the entire week prior to the 11.33 performance on the blocks.
Coach Keating reinforced the focus.
“Her top speed is one of the best, if not the best in Australia. Now we work on her acceleration,” he stated.
Adding strength training into the mix mid last year, Lewis combines resistance work, light weights, box jumping and other strengthening techniques into her regime. It’s a move that will further improve all facets of her race.
Big things to come
With a number of major events due this year, namely the World U/20 Championships in Colombia and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Lewis has a few target options.
Unfortunately these events will be held at the same time in August, meaning attending both is out of the equation.
“It sucks because I would love to do both,” she admitted.
“I have put name down for both. In the end it will be up to the selectors whether they want me to run at World Juniors or at the Comm Games in a relay. It all depends how I run compared with the other girls leading up.”
Keating calling it “unfortunate”, given the world juniors and Commonwealth or Olympic games would normally have a two week window between, making both possible.
“I would love for her first international senior to be a relay,” he said.
The team race is a solid experience for such a young runner. It’s not out of the question for her to be selected for the World Senior Championships to be held in June, as well.
Between now and then Lewis will be focusing on the Australian track calendar. Her first event is set to be the Adelaide Invitational commencing on Saturday.
From there she hopes to get to most, if not all, of the Track Classic events in Sydney, Melbourne and her home event in Brisbane. All of this is on top of the Australian Track & Field Championships in late March at Sydney Olympic Park.
Keating is still adamant of the schedule stopping by in country Victoria.
“We are going to Stawell.”
It’s the premier draw card of Australian professional racing – one Keating has coached runners to success in previously.
A chance to jump on board
Lewis has achieved all of this so far under her own funding. It’s a credit to her mother’s sacrifices, with part time work no option for an elite athlete outside of school and training.
Sporting her favourite Under Armour equipment and apparel, a gracious Lewis shared she now has a “friend of the brand deal” with the powerhouse US company. This thankfully assists her with gear to ease the burden.
Giving inspiration to Under Armour to jump on board Keating indicated with a grin, “If Under Armour fully come on board, I will have to jump ship.”
Keating still holding true to his Nike sponsorship from his running days.
With no other official sponsorship arrangements, all other funding for track hire, registrations, physical therapy, travel and accommodation for events is self-funded. Keating indicating Lewis would need to find $5000 for herself to attend the World Juniors; that’s not including any costs for himself or Lewis’ mother who would also love to attend.
“Torrie is very loyal, she’s one of the most loyal people I have ever come across. If anyone was to jump on and support her they are on an absolute winner,” Keating said.
“She will do anything and everything to make the brand proud.”
An extremely talented, level headed and bubbly young woman, Lewis is sure to be a household name in the not so distant future.
The 2026 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games will be firmly in the sights of this rising track star.
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