Oregon sprinter English Gardner highlights women's field at Penn Relays

Oregon sprinter English Gardner, a former Eastern High star, ran the fastest 100-meter time of 2013 - 11.00 seconds - in California on Saturday.
Oregon sprinter English Gardner, a former Eastern High star, ran the fastest 100-meter time of 2013 - 11.00 seconds - in California on Saturday. (MATT CILLEY / Associated Press)
Posted: April 26, 2013

The Penn Relays once again will welcome some of the world's top women's sprinters on Saturday to the USA vs. the World events. But if you can't wait that long, you can see on Thursday the woman who has recorded the fastest time in the world this year at 100 meters.

Her name is English Gardner, a junior at Oregon, who has been running at the Penn Relays since she was a teenager and competed for Eastern High School in South Jersey. She ran the fastest 100-meter time of 2013, 11.00 seconds, Saturday at the Mount San Antonio College Relays in California.

"English is running spectacular again," Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. "She has an opportunity to make the world championship team for Moscow, but first and foremost will be the Penn Relays. We have a mantra here that 'the most important meet is the meet that we're going to' - and that's the Penn Relays."

Gardner is one of the many outstanding athletes who will be coming to Franklin Field for the 119th staging of the Penn Relays. Some of them are Gardner's teammates on the Ducks, who won their fourth consecutive NCAA indoor title last month. Senior Anne Kesselring was named the carnival's outstanding female track athlete last year after leading the Ducks to wins in the 4x800 and 4x1500.

With NCAA champion Elijah Greer and 400 runner-up Mike Berry, Oregon also will be strong in the men's competition, as will Louisiana State and Texas A&M.

"I don't know about our best event," Johnson said. "I think we're going to be pretty good in just about everything we enter or we wouldn't enter it. I think we have great opportunities to get one of [the Penn Relays'] traditional wagon wheels [given to the winner]."

Many eyes will be on the men of Penn State, who captured Championship of America titles last year in the sprint medley and 4x800 relays. They would like to win more - the Nittany Lions are entered in seven relays.

"It's exciting to be defending champion on those two squads," Penn State coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said. "We were also runner-up in the 4x4 on the men's side last year. So we're definitely going to get up and get after those three relays. We're excited about it."

The Lions' Casimir Loxsom, one of the nation's best 800 runners, was a part of both winning relay teams at Penn last year. Loxsom could duel with Greer in a rematch of the close NCAA indoor final, in which the Penn State runner took second by 0.1 seconds.

"He ran a very heavy indoor schedule and had a tremendous season," Alford-Sullivan said. "We started a little bit more casual outside, but he looks to be in true form now. It's on his agenda to have just a tremendous Penn Relays."

That's always the agenda for Villanova, which is looking to make an impact. The Wildcats plan to run in both the men's and women's distance medley and 4x800 relays, plus the women's 4x1500 and the men's 4-by-mile.

The Wildcats will try to defend their title in the women's distance medley relay, the first Championship of America event on Thursday. They were beaten in NCAA indoors by Michigan and are craving a rematch.

The Wildcats' top runners on the women's side should be Emily Lipari - who will anchor the distance medley relay - Nicky Akande, and freshman Angel Piccirillo. Samuel Ellison, an Upper Dublin High graduate, will see action in multiple races, as will Chris Fitzsimons and Sam McEntee.

Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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