Perrysburg sprinter looking to sting competitionWritten by Scott Calhoun | | email@example.com
Cameron Gardner is an openly confident young lady. The sleek 5-foot, 10-inch Perrysburg senior and University of Cincinnati signee has the right to her confidence. She’s likely to be Northwest Ohio’s fastest prep girls sprinter this spring.
The butterflies still flutter when she sets herself on the starting blocks.
“Oh, I get nervous,” she admitted, “but that disappears when the starting gun goes off.”
As a junior, Gardner placed sixth in the 200-meters at The Ohio State Track & Field Championships Division I meet. She finished just outside the final heat of the 100 meter dash in 11th place.
A two-time state qualifier in the 100, she owns 2009 Tiffin district titles in the 100 and 200 and is the defending Northern Lakes League (NLL) champion in the 200. She was the NLL 100 titlist as a sophomore.
Coming off a sixth place finish and personal best time of 7.82 seconds in the Division I 60-meter dash finals at the Ohio State Indoor Track & Field Championships in late March, Gardner bested all other competitors from this corner of the state during the winter.
And she doesn’t even like the 60.
“I hated it,” Gardner said with a laugh. “There’s not enough room to race my kind of race. I like the 100s because I like catching people down the stretch.”
Her personal bests in the 100 (11.88 seconds) and 200 (24.20 seconds) are both times Lady Jackets coach Kevin English believes Gardner will lower considerably by season’s end, suggesting she’ll match or better her top 100 time and get into the 23s in the 200.
“She works hard on her block starts, makes sure her first 50 meters are strong, feels out the competition the middle meters and then through the final 50-60 she can turn on and blow people away,” English said.
And, baby, she was born to run.
Gardner’s father, Ricci, recent director of economic development for Toledo and a 2009 finalist to become Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority president, was an All-American sprinting star at Tennessee in the 1970s. He barely missed qualifying for track & field’s biggest stage at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Daddy’s girl wants to follow in his steps or better.
“I want to fill his shoes and make it to Olympic trials someday and hopefully qualify,” Gardner said. “Now that I know my ability, I want to work on making it great.”
In addition to her solo efforts, Gardner anchors the Jackets’ 4 by 100 and 4 by 200 relay units along with Andrea Wismer, Alyssa Goins and Kirsten Goins. Both have the potential to be Columbus-bound in June. Distance star Kaitlyn Llewellyn and the 4 by 800 relay team are other strong possibilities for state qualifying.
“We all want to go to state as a team,” said Gardner.
Yet despite her impressive results, Gardner still carries a sour taste in her mouth. The past three years she took a perennial backseat to former sprinting standouts Meshawn Graham (Bowsher) and Erika Schmidt (Anthony Wayne).
“She does get nervous against other top sprinters and eventually she let the nerves get to her and it affected her (past) performances,” English said.
As a league foe, Schmidt particularly frustrated Gardner. Last year, Gardner edged Schmidt in the 200 but was edged by her in the 100, a reversal of the results in those two races when Gardner was a sophomore in 2008. Schmidt had the slight upper hand at the 2009 Amherst regional meet in both events, but the win in the NLL 200 last season was a confidence-builder.
“After the 100 I was really frustrated,” said Gardner, “but people kept coming up to me and telling me ‘you’re going to win the 200’ and I did. It was the best feeling to prove Schmidt wasn’t the only sprinter who could win.”
With Schmidt gone to Penn State University and Graham (2008) to the University of Michigan, the door is open for Gardner to make her mark.
“I still feel like I need to prove to everyone that I’m for real,” said Gardner, “but now I have the target on my back and that will make me work hard not to be passed by anyone.”
Tags: Prep Sports