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English Gardner and Phyllis Francis headline local athletes in Day 8

With Track and Field getting into full swing at the Rio games, English Gardner and Phyllis Francis led the local representation with solid showings in their events, among many other locals participating in the Olympics.

Gardner rolled easily into the women’s 100m final on Saturday. She finished second in her semifinal only to Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, with an impressive time of 10.90 seconds. However, in the final, she wasn’t able to fight her way to the podium, being blown away by the gold medal winner Thompson, as well as American teammate, Torie Bowie who won silver. Her time of 10.94, which earned her seventh place, was slower than her semifinal time, but it still wouldn’t have placed her on the podium. The 24 year old Voorhees Township native’s personal best was a 10.74, with many expecting her to have a chance to make the podium. She will still compete in the relay later in the games.

Francis, who is from Queens, qualified as the top runner in the women’s 400m race’s preliminary stages Saturday, posting a meet-best time of 50.58 seconds. The time was .14 seconds better than the next best runner, topping a field that included Allyson Felix, and the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller. That time isn’t even near her best this year, or the rest of the field’s, so the times will have to improve over the next two days in the semifinals and finals if she hopes to make the podium. Either way, it was a very encouraging start for the 24 year-old sprinter.

Justin Gatlin of Brooklyn also ran in the men’s 100m heats on Saturday. He finished with the top qualifying time of 10.01 seconds, even besting longtime rival Usain Bolt. Gatlin will roll into the semifinals still ramping up to his peak time, which is well below the ten second barrier. He is expected to finish on the medal stand in the final on Sunday night, when he battles against Bolt in the final.

Also in that qualifying for the 400m was fellow New Yorker, Natasha Hastings. Hastings is competing in the individual race for the first time in her Olympic career, after being a part of the 4X400m relay gold medal winning team in Beijing in 2008. She qualified for the semifinals as well, with a time of 51.31 seconds, well below what she is capable of. Hastings will continue to compete for tomorrow as well in the semis.

Two local jumpers participated in the triple jump qualifying as well, with Keturah Orji of Mount Olive and Christina Epps of Morristown both competed, but only Orji will find herself moving on into the finals. Epps finished just outside of qualifying, finishing fifteenth place with only the top 12 qualifying. Orji was able to finish just on that line, placing 12th with a best jump of 14.08m. She will compete for the gold medal on Sunday night.

Morgan Craft, Muncy Valley, PA competed in her first ever Olympics, participating in the women’s skeet shooting. She made the semifinals with ease, finishing in sixth place, hitting 69 targets. In the semis, she impressed, hitting 14 targets, which earned her a spot in a shoot off with fellow American Kim Rhode and China’s Wei Ming, but fell just short to both of them, finishing fifth overall. Rhode ended up with the bronze medal, which was her sixth consecutive individual medal, dating back to the 1996 Atlanta games, an Olympic record.

The men’s volleyball team continues to comeback in the tournament, winning their second consecutive game in pool play, keeping their medal hopes alive. After opening up with two straight disappointing losses, they spurred a fantastic upset against the gold medal favorite Brazil, and then toppled France on Saturday to even their record at 2-2. They will take on Italy on Monday with a spot in the next round on the line.


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Dan is a Staff Writer here at with a focus on Team USA and the Rio Olympics
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