Enjoying every moment

SPAR KZN Schoolgirls’ Hockey Challenge

Leah Kriel, co-captain with Georgina Baker of the St Anne’s Diocesan College’s First X1 hockey team, is eager to lead her teammates in the Grand Finals of the SPAR KZN Schoolgirls’ Hockey Challenge that take place at St Mary’s DSG in Durban on July 20 and 21.

The 18-year-old striker, who is also gearing up for her last six months in school, has a string of sporting accolades to her name: She has consistently received colours for hockey for six years since 2014 and also received her school honours for swimming this year. She has played Provincial A team hockey since 2015 and this year represented KZN in swimming. In 2018 she was honoured as her school’s Sports Woman of the year.

Love for hockey

Leah’s love for hockey began in Grade 3 when she started playing at Laddsworth Primary and, other than competitive swimming, she also enjoys cross-country and soccer.

What attracted her to the game of hockey? “I enjoy being part of a team and forming special friendships with my fellow teammates,” she says. “Hockey has given me many opportunities to challenge myself and grow as a person.”

Leah Kriel, co-captain of the St Anne’s First X1 Hockey side, will lead their team in the Grand Finals of the SPAR KZN Schoolgirls’ Hockey Challenge. Picture: Val Adamson

The game itself provides great life lessons, and she says the best advice she has been given by her coaches is: “Don’t focus on your mistakes, always try to improve yourself and never back down from a challenge.”

Significant advice as her team, the current Pietermaritzburg North Regional champs, went up against St Mary’s Kloof in last year’s Grand Finals of the Challenge, having just come out of a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out against Durban Girls’ College. “Unfortunately we lost in the final but it was a good, competitive game,” she recalls.

Sporting role model

It is no wonder that Leah cites tennis star, Roger Federer, as her sporting role model. “He has taught me to be humble and to be respectful towards others on and off the field,” she says. “He reminds me about remaining calm during a game and to have a positive mind set all the time. Most importantly he shows that we play sport because we love it.”

Clearly Leah was destined to be “sporty”. “My older brother Jared played hockey for Maritzburg College and for KZN. My dad Lawrence used to play basketball and soccer at university and my mom Karina used to do swimming and athletics at high school,” she says. “Nowadays my family battle it out at the park run. Not competitively though, we just have fun.”

More Spar hockey news

After school Leah would like to eventually work in a people-oriented environment after studying a BSc in Biological Sciences. She hopes, though, she will be able to join her brother at Tuks in Pretoria.

When not playing sport, Leah enjoys watching movies and series, listening to music, playing the piano and spending time with friends and family.

Defending champs shine

“I would like to encourage others at school to enjoy their time, as it flies by,” she says. “I would also like to encourage them to make the most of all the amazing opportunities that we get, like this hockey tournament and to appreciate all the work and effort that gets put in to what we have.”

St Anne’s Diocesan College joins nine other teams from KZN at the Grand finals, including Kokstad College, Epworth School, Crawford La Lucia, Durban Girls’ College, Amanzimtoti High School, Ferrum High School, Wartburg Kirchdorf School, St Mary’s DSG, and Felixton College.

For more info like the tournament’s Facebook page

Main picture: Front, Jade Brandis of The Wykeham Collegiate and Kelsey Dellar from St John’s DSG. Jumping into action are Cara Waud of Epworth and Grace Kitshoff from St Anne’s.
Picture: Jonathon Burton.