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English Gardner Keeps Her Mantra: Shock the World
By Steve Ritchie
April 21, 2012

English Gardner at the University of Oregon, Oregon Relays, April 21, 2012
EUGENE - You have to give English Gardner credit. The UO sophomore sprinter sets her goals very high and doesn't like it when she falls short.

At today's Oregon Relays, Gardner was an easy winner in the 100 meters, clocking a windy 11.27 to win by .40 seconds. But, after waiting for more than a month to run her specialty race, she admitted she was disappointed with her race.

"It was okay. Personally, I'm a little disappointed. I had my goals set a little higher. But it was the first meet of the season . . . I had a good time - 8th in the country - so you really can't complain."

Maybe it was the weather. Gardner said she was excited with the weather forecast all week, expecting to have warm temperatures ("I was bragging it would be 72 degrees") for her race. But the clouds hung around Eugene longer than expected into the afternoon, and it was a cool 56 degrees at race time. At least that is what Gardner reported, as she looked at her coach's phone just before heading to the start.

"I tried not to let the weather get to me."

Well, then maybe it was the nerves. Gardner has been waiting, like "a caged lion," for the chance to finally run an outdoor 100. The long wait gave her a serious case of nerves, she said.

"Too anxious, too anxious. Almost like a NCAA 100 meter (final). I haven't run a 100 all year. I've been forced to run the 400 and 200. It's been a long, long, long time (coming) . . . I was talking to Coach (Robert) Johnson (saying) 'you have to let me run the 100 because I'm like a caged lion and soon I'm going to kick it out. It was exciting."

Or, it could have been her start. Seemingly, her quick start has always a strength for Gardner, the NCAA indoor 60 meter champion this year. But she feels it needs more work.

English Gardner at the University of Oregon, Pepsi Invite, April 9, 2011
"Last year I was so confident in my start. This year I feel a little shaky in my blockwork."

Gardner said the focus of her training this year has been gaining strength so she can maintain her top gear through the finish line.

"Last year we focused more on my speed. This year my body kind of knows biologically what I need to do now so there's not so much teaching, it's more can I hold it. This year is way different - my game plan, my week plan, everything is so different. . . Last year everyone was catching me in the last 10 meters, the last five meters . . . I am way stronger this year . . . hopefully, it will all work out for me in the end."

Gardner came to Oregon from Eastern Senior High School in Voorhees, New Jersey in 2010. Though she ranked 10th nationally in the 100 meters as a high school senior, she was relatively unheralded when she arrived at Oregon. After running a fast 60 in her first indoor meet her freshman year, she sustained an injury and was held out of the remainder of the indoor season.

Healthy again, she opened the 2011 outdoor season strongly, winning the 100 at the Pepsi Team Invite in early April, and then running 11.30 at the Mt. Sac Relays. But few expected her to break the conference meet record by blasting 11.03 to win the 100 meters at the Pac-10 meet at Tucson last May.

Gardner's first NCAA meet last June was a mixed bag. Running the second leg on Oregon's 4 x100 team, she and teammate Mandy White collided on the first exchange, which knocked Oregon out of the race. It also appeared Gardner might have sustained an injury, but she came back to capture seventh in the 100 finals. Not exactly what she had hoped for, but not bad, given the circumstances.

Gardner says she doesn't have a specific goal for what she might run in the 100, but, when talking about goals, she likes to voice her familiar mantra to reporters.

"From the time you guys started interviewing me as a freshman, (I said) I wanted to shock the world, and I'm going to keep saying it until I have shocked you guys enough."

Asked if she had yet "shocked the world," Gardner replied, "No, not yet."

Then she added, "Winning an outdoor NCAA championship would be more than I could ask for."

Winning the 100 at NCAAs and becoming a factor at the Olympic Trials in late June. Maybe that would shock the world.

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