English Gardner always enjoyed coming to the Penn Relays, the place where she first ran in front of a large crowd while competing for Eastern High School in South Jersey.
Now 25 and with plenty of experience running before big crowds, Gardner will return Saturday to Franklin Field, where a large and loud audience basking in summertime conditions will be excited to watch the 18th annual USA vs. the World competition at the carnival.
"Big crowds don't scare me. I just see showtime and game time," Gardner, a gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics from Voorhees, said Friday at a news conference. "That's just kind of how I am. The louder they scream, the louder they yell, the faster
Gardner, part of the victorious 4x100-meter relay team in Rio, spent three years at Oregon before turning pro. She said her appearance here Saturday will be her "sixth or seventh time" at Penn but first since she was a sophomore at Oregon.
"You don't get that home field advantage like I get when I'm here," she said. "The only time I get that home field advantage is when I'm in Eugene, Ore. But this time I'm actually home, so it's going to be fun."
Another local competing in USA vs. the World is LeShon Collins, a former Darby resident, who was part of the victorious U.S. men's 4x100 team at last weekend's IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.
Collins was set to enter Penn Wood High School for ninth grade, but his mother moved the family to Newark, Del., and he attended Glasgow High School. He did his collegiate running at Houston, where he was coached by former Penn Wood star Leroy Burrell and trained under Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, originally from Willingboro.