Since Oregon has cultivated a well-earned solid reputation for its distance runners, it makes perfect sense that sprinter English Gardner has come a long way.
The Ducks’ sprinter has overcome two major injuries to have the best year of her collegiate career. She won the 60 meters NCAA indoor championship during the spring and claimed the 100 meters outdoor championship just last week – both in her first ever appearance in each competition.
At the indoor championship, Oregon coach Vin Lananna considered English winning the sprint was, “icing on the cake” in the Ducks winning that title. It was huge for the outdoor as well as she needed to knock off Central Florida’s Octavious Freeman, and she did it twice.
|DI WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Results: Men | Women|
|Recaps: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4|
|Turner: Day 3 surge lifts Tigers to title|
|Hendrickson: Gipson’s path to greatness|
|Turner: Feldman captures crucial win|
|Schedule of Events|
A great achievement considering she has come back from injury twice. The sophomore from Voorhees, N.J. ripped up an ACL, an MCL and meniscus playing flag football in high school.
She rebounded from that to become one of New Jersey’s top prep sprinters. Then she gets to Oregon, and one day she wakes up in terrific pain in her leg. From running she had a stress fracture in her leg.
“It was a freak accident,” Gardner said. “No one saw it coming. I know I didn’t. Just woke up one day and I was in pain. Something that definitely was affecting me. Then we had to figure out what we were going to do about it. Could compete like I know I can. It definitely was something that affected me more than I thought it would.”
Both on and off the track. The difficulty watching competition knowing she was better than those winning races was draining.
“It was hard,” Gardner said. “Very hard watching people I know I can compete with, and not be able to do anything. I had to have a talk with myself and come to understand that everything happens for a reason. Thinking that hopefully my chance will come and I will do everything I can to get back on the track and hopefully do everything I could do before.”
If there was silver lining in this it was the injury was not as extensive as the one in high school. The rehabilitation would be far less taxing on her.
“It wasn’t like the last one and was not as bad as I thought it would be,” Gardner said. “It went rather quickly. Facilities here are by far the best in the country, so it made it easy for me to want to come and want to work hard to get the job done and get back [competing].
“When I tore my ACL and that rehab was long and hard. I remember getting hurt because I had just won with an 11.4 as a sophomore and felt like I was one of the top competitors in the country. But I came back from it. It was long. Nothing surprised me about it. But it took over a year, year and a half to find my purpose.”
Oregon, to its credit, didn’t let her injury dissuade it from recruiting Gardner. She came all the way back in high school and started well at Oregon, too. Gardner was grateful for the opportunity.
“They didn’t care about it,” Gardner said. “[Oregon] believed in me. They had confidence from all the medical side of things that I was going to be to come back and run better than I ever did before.”
Gardner that was evident by her strong Pac-12 seasons and this championship. It’s been a big year that has been muted by personal situations at home where her mother has breast cancer and her father suffered a stroke from being weighed down by that. Yet she puts all that in the back of her mind and turns in outstanding performance after outstanding performance and make a name for Oregon sprinters.
The Ducks fell short of a collective win for the school, but Gardner can help it with a strong showing at the upcoming Olympic Trials. Having London calling is something that Gardner has dreamed of.
“It’s been a goal since I was seven years old,” Gardner said. “I want to represent my country. I want to be able to run against the best in the world. That’s a big goal.
“I also want to represent Oregon. We’re getting more attention [for sprinters], and we just wanted to make some things happen [at Des Moines],” Gardner said. We wanted to get out there and win and take home the title. We came up short and hopefully we can get it next year. This is a phenomenal program, one that’s I’m really glad to be a part of.”