Now, just look at her putting her talents on display, running on a much bigger stage, at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at her home Hayward Field.
The 5-foot-6 speedster, who marked her 20th birthday on April 22, needed just 11.27 seconds to advance out of Friday's preliminaries of the women's 100 and into the Saturday semifinals, with the top eight out of those semis set to run the final two hours later, when trips to the London Olympics will be on the line.
She placed a close second to ex-Texas star Bianca Knight, who ran 11.26, their prelim decided in the final inches.
This rainy day was fit for Ducks, Oregon's own Ducks.
And Gardner, who has found happiness in the Pacific Northwest, reveled in it.
"My start wasn't my best, a little bit off, but it was good enough," she said. "This is a lot bigger than NCAAs, for sure, and I know how much is on the line.
"But don't ask me about pressure. I'm not feeling any. I'm the youngster running against all these vets. I'm just having fun, really. Whatever happens, happens, from here on out. To me, everything is a bonus."
First-round action in the women's 100 hurdles saw Nia Ali, the Southern California grad who prepped at West Catholic High and New Jersey's Pleasantville High, advance to the semis in 12.94, as one of 16 qualifiers led by Kellie Wells in 12.68.
Moving to the semis, too, were the last two Olympic champions, 2008 winner Dawn Harper in 12.79, and 2004 winner Joanna Hayes in 13.06.
But this was a tough-luck day for Shericka Ward and Latavia Thomas.
Villanova's Ward false started out of the women's 100 hurdles, and Thomas, the West Catholic High School and Louisiana State alumna, bowed out after taking a tumble in the heavy traffic of the 800.