photo by PhotoRun.net
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
DES MOINES, IOWA – The first thing you’ve got to understand is that English Gardner is not a green-thumbed denizen of Chippenham, Sheringham, Ipswich or Tunbridge Wells.
Rakes, hoes and trowels are not her implements of choice. Starting blocks and spiked shoes are the tools of her trade.
The 35th Annual USA Track and Field Media Guide, 2013 edition, is chock-a-block with the full biographies of this nation’s athletics elites, male and female. Alphabetically, they’re Amy Acuff to Rachel Yurkovich. These bios extend 201 pages.
English Gardner would have fit perfectly on page 126. But, no-no-no, it skips from Geena Gall to Justin Gatlin.
Realize that this is not a deliberate slight by general editor Jared Slinde of USATF. There were standards to maintain,
achievements to be assessed. And English Gardner’s performances in 2012 simply didn’t make the cut.
Sure she won the NCAA indoor and outdoor sprint titles, along with the Pac-10 crown, but placed “just” seventh in the
Olympic Trials 100, not good enough, not fast enough to make the bio pages of the book.
But fast forward – the appropriate terminology – to the 2014 edition.
It can now be said – without fear of contradiction – that the English Gardner bio will be there.
That much was assured Friday night at Drake Stadium.
This just in – English Gardner is now America’s sprint queen, winner of the 100 at the USA National Championships in 10.85 seconds, after a 10.87 in the semifinals.
The wind was “legal” – aiding but at 1.8 under the limit.
Oh, this race was close – Centrral Florida’s Octavious Freeman (10.87) and Texas grad Alexandria Anderson (10.91) tracking her all the way. Oh, with Jeneba Tarmoh (of 2012 Olympic Trials “tie” fame) fourth in 10.91 and Barbara Pierre fifth at 10.93.
Proof once again that track is such a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport: St, Augustine’s alumna Pierre had beaten
Gardner in the semis, 10.85 to 10.87.
English Gardner will now take her talents to Moscow in August – where she’ll go for the gold in the 14th IAAF World Championships.
Her dossier will state she is equal 12th on the all-time American women’s 100 list.
Ahead of her only are: Florence Griffith-Joyner (with her 1988 world record of 10.49); Carmelita Jeter (10.64 in 2009); Marion
Jones, before her disgrace (10.65 in 1998); Evelyn Ashford (10.76 in 1984); Torri Edwards (10.78 in 2008);
Dawn Sowell (10.78 in 1989); Inger Miller (10.79 in 1999); Gail Devers (10.82 in 1993); Gwen Torrence (10.82 in 1994); Sheila Echols (10.83 in 1982) and Kelli-Ann Baptiste (10.84 in 2010.)
And, for sure, she will be far speedier as this 2013 season rushes ahead.
Just getting to Des Moines ready to run was the tough part.
“I’ve overcome so much,” he said. A bad ankle for one thing, and the trauma of a false start in her attempted Pac-10 100 title defense, for another.
Nevertheless, on this third Friday of June 2013 she was ready to roll – ongoing ankle pain and all.
“I’m not going to say I shocked the world, but I definitely shocked myself, ” she said.
The big 10.85 was no shock, though, to those charting her pogress since her growing-up years in South New Jersey.
She was sizzly sensational through her junior year at Eastern High School in Voorhees, NJ.
But a mishap playing – would you believe ? – powderpuff football wecked her senior year schoolgirl ambitions.
The University of Oregon, and coach Robert Johnson – were clever enough to realize that once she mended she’d be better than ever.
So, sure enough, Eugene beckoned and she flew west.
After three seasons as an Oregon Duck, she’d have been in line to absolutely torch all the collegiate records books in 2014 – but that won’t happen.
English Gardner – who earned a quick $7000 for her win at Drake – is going pro.
She’s leaving the “college kids” behind – in every way you can imagine.
The 10.85 amply proved she’s ready to hit the world circuit – and challenge the best of the best.
Further proof that great things can be wrapped in small packages – she stands all of 5 feet, 3 inches.
Lots of great sprinters before her were short folks, too. Think Lauryn Williams, think Jim Golliday,
Think Ira Murchison, think Mel Pender.
Height? Never a problem to any of them. Never a problem to English Gardner, either.
She reached 21 on April 22, a young lady clearly coming of age.
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