Born January 3, 1951, Adele Marchbank Gillis is a native of New Annan, P.E.I. Around 1965, Adele started to win in the discus and shot put competition at local and provincial track and field meets. She went on to capture the 1969 Canadian Juvenile Discus Crown in Ottawa at the National Age-Class Championships with a toss of 135′, missing a Canadian record by only 5′.
It was a steady, progressive climb that brought Adele to the height of her glory as a Canadian Champion. She entered the Island track and field circuit in May of 1965, when she finished first in the shot put at the Prince County Meet in Summerside, with a throw of 26′. The next month, she took top prize in the shot put again, this time at the P.E.I. Elementary School Meet, with an identical distance. At the Atlantic Open of August 1965, Adele won both the shot, with a 28’1½” taping, and the discus, a new specialty that she had recently taken up at the urgings of her coach Paul Mullin, at 101′. Later the same month, at the Bill Haley Memorial and Nova Scotia Championships held in Halifax, she was again first in the shot with 27′, and set a new Nova Scotia record with her throw of 95′ 7″ in the discus.
Although she continued to excel in both of her chosen events, it was her skill in the discus that would gain her national recognition. After wins in a variety of local and provincial meets, Adele, at 16 years of age, set a provincial mark in the discus of 113’10”. Following this feat, she attended the 1969 National Age Class Championships in Ottawa, where she came away with the Canadian Juvenile crown, thanks to her throw of 135′. At the 1969 Canada Summer Games, Adele placed 4th in the discus and 5th in the shot, despite having injured her hands before the competition.
Adele has served on the executive of the P.E.I. Track and Field Association and has coached with the Islanders Track and Field Team. She was inducted into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame on July 18, 1976, and inducted into the Sports Page Wall of Fame in Charlottetown on December 11, 1993. This recognition is well deserved, not only due to her remarkable track and field record, but also due to her role in breaking gender barriers on P.E.I. by achieving national champion status in what had previously been a male dominated sport.
Updated: July 2009