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Gardner races to a pair of gold medals

The Eastern sprinter won state titles in the 100 and the 200, and had other reasons to rejoice.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. - About the only thing that made Eastern's English Gardner happier than winning two individual gold medals at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions is that Monica Gardner was in the stands watching.

A year ago, when English won the 100 meters as a freshman, her mother was battling cancer.

But last night, an improving Monica was on hand as her daughter won the 100 in 11.88 seconds and the 200 in 24.34.

"That's mostly the only voice I heard in the stands calling my name, my mom, and my dad," Gardner said. "Last year, she was home going through chemotherapy around this time. But we got through it.

"She's healthy. She went from 25 percent chance of living to 80 percent, so I'm pleased, I'm happy. I pulled out two wins, I still have my mom. Next thing, I guess I'm going to Disney World."

Gardner's two golds led a contingent of victorious South Jersey athletes at Frank Jost Field and also proved to the rest of New Jersey that she is more than just a 100-meter runner. She did so in impressive fashion, beating Teaneck's Janay Mitchell by 0.5 seconds in the 200.

"I ran it last week. I really didn't have a lot of strength toward the end," Gardner said. "All we've been doing at practice is getting our mind-set just to be able to hold on those last few meters.

"I definitely felt a lot stronger in this 200. I came in third last year. I figured this is the year to show everybody I'm not just a 100 runner. I ran with a little bit to prove. I think people got the message that I'm capable of bouncing back from one event and getting right back on the line. I think I proved my point."

With all that she's done this year, what's left to prove?

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," she said with a grin.

While Gardner got to celebrate with her family, Brett Johnson kept the MOC 1,600 record in the Ocean City family. The junior won the race in 4 minutes, 9.03 seconds, breaking Ocean City grad John Richardson's 2003 mark of 4:09.20.

Absegami's Demetrius Rooks ran a 53.31 to win the 400 hurdles, while Kingsway's Robert Page won the 100 meters in 10.76. Page edged Absegami's Geof Navarro (10.92).

This was the second straight year Page was seeded second in the 100, although last year he ended up fifth.

"This means a lot, but I kind of expected to win," Page said. "I expect to win every race I run. But I just wanted to come out here and have fun.

"I got out good. Usually if I get out good, then I'm going to win the race. In trials I didn't get out fast, so I was kind of focusing to get out fast on [the finals]."

For the girls, Seneca sophomore Michelle Brown became the first athlete in school history to win an MOC gold medal when she won the 400 in 54.14, beating out Oakcrest's Nijgia Snapp (54.35).