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  English Gardner Ends Glorious Season with 4th Place Finish at Worlds
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  August 11, 2013
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English Gardner Ends Glorious Season with 4th Place Finish at Worlds

By Steve Ritchie / Special to the Statesman Journal
August 12, 2013

English Gardner

Moscow, Russia - Throughout her recently-concluded, sensational three-year career at the University of Oregon, English Gardner was well-known for often remarking that she was planning to "shock the world."

At the IAAF World Championships here on Monday, the tables were turned on Gardner. By finishing fourth in the 100 meter final, Gardner seemed to shock herself. She hit the tape in 10.97 seconds, just missing a bronze medal by a mere .03 seconds.

Never at a loss for words, Gardner appeared to be almost in a daze after the race, taking in the significance of what she had accomplished.

"I can actually say how excited I am and how overwhelmed I am by all of this. There's so much more I have to learn. I just turned 21 and have so many years on me and for me to come out here and take fourth in my first year is (nothing) short of amazing.

"I am so happy. I just have to thank the Lord. I am so happy that He blessed me with such a great year. I never thought I would be taking part here and almost getting third. It has been a wonderful experience. I want to (return) and get a gold (medal).

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won her second World Championship title in the 100 meters, matching her two Olympic titles in the event. Fraser-Pryce dominated the race, breezing to the victory in 10.71 seconds, .22 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast.

While Gardner didn't have her best start, she accelerated well and was running second behind Fraser-Pryce through most of the race. In the last 30 meters, though, Ahoure and Carmelita Jeter caught her and just edged past at the tape.

Gardner thought her subpar start might have been a result of a stomach affliction she suffered the night before the race.

"I was sick last night," Gardner explained. "I'm a little more weaker than I was the day before. I ate some bad food and it affected me, so I wasn't able to eat this morning. I had a beef and broccoli. It affected me today but I overcame it."

Her normally explosive start might have changed the outcome of the race. In the first round of the 100 on Sunday, Gardner had a reaction time out of the blocks that was faster than any other sprinter here, male or female.

A product of Voorhees, New Jersey, Gardner was a star sprinter in high school, who was recruited by all the track powerhouses before she suffered a serious knee injury. She chose Oregon over the more traditional sprint schools because the Ducks stuck with her after her injury.

Gardner won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles this year before turning pro. She now trains in Southern California under legendary sprint coach John Smith, who also coaches McKay High School grad Ryan Bailey.

The dimunitive but feisty Gardner believes that her future is bright, as she works to gain strength and hone her sprint technique.

"I'm really a little, itty-bitty thing. Next year I'll hit the weight room a little bit more. I am 5-6, 125 pounds soaking wet."

Gardner's experience at the World Championships might not be over quite yet, though. She is a member of the U.S. relay pool for the 4 x 100 relay, which will be held on Sunday, and would seem to be a good bet to be a part of that squad. She said, though, that she doesn't know for sure if she will run, or what leg she might run.

"I am so excited for the 4 x 100. It's really up in the air . . . we've practiced so many options. We'll probably find out later tonight. We have a fantastic team."

Asked if she really thought it was a possibility at the beginning of this season that she would make the U.S. team for the championships and then nearly capture a medal, Gardner wouldn't quite admit she shocked herself.

"It always was a goal of mine but I can't say for sure I seen it (coming). I had a rough year mentally and physically so for me to do what I did today, I'm more happy than anything in the world . . .It was a wonderful season and I can't ask for anything more."


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