Fueled by competitive drive, Owen sophomore smashing own records

Chesney Gardner improves on impressive freshman year in discus throw

Fred McCormick

As a freshman, Owen High School's Chesney Gardner did some things in the discus circle that had never been done by a member of the girls track and field team.

Entering the midpoint of her sophomore season, the ultra-competitive athlete is once again up to her old tricks.

As a freshman in 2016 Chesney Gardner shattered the record for the discus throw at Owen. Her record stood until March 29, 2017, when she broke it herself.

Gardner, who shattered the previous Owen discus record of 67-feet-3-inches with a 105-foot-3-inch throw at Reynolds last April, broke her own school record by almost a foot on March 29 at the Buncombe County track meet.

Her 108-foot-9-inch throw not only set the new standard at the school, it was also the second time she's broken her own record. Her performance led to her being the first Owen athlete to be recognized as the MVP of the Buncombe County meet, which is attended by every public high school in the county.

"It's only my third year doing the sport," she said. "I only starting doing discus throw in eighth grade."

Gardner burst onto the athletic scene at Owen last year, earning the school's female athlete of the year award as a freshman. She played for the Warlassies volleyball team and earned nod on The Asheville Citizen-Times' all-WNC second team in basketball as well.

"I hated discus at first," Gardner said. "It's all technique, everything is precise. There are so many things you have to think about."

As her freshman season progressed, things began to fall into place for Gardner, who broke her original record with a 107-foot-10-inch throw in 2-A Western Regionals competition in May 2016. She went on to place fifth in the state a week later with a throw of 105-feet-8-inches.

Owen track and field head coach Joe Hyder said Gardner's performance in the event is even more impressive when you consider she's "kind of doing it on the side."

"She's already in the running for a state championship in the discus," he said. "Right now she's ranked number 2 in the state behind last year's runner-up. With a little more concentration she can get there."

Finding time to perfect her discus technique isn't exactly easy for Gardner, who is the starting shortstop on the Warlassies softball team, which is 7-2 through the first half of the season. She also plays travel basketball.

"It's really like competing in three sports," she said of the spring sports season. "But it's worth it. I love basketball, and our softball team could compete for a state championship this year. If I keep working at the discus I could be in the running for a championship in that sport too."

For Gardner, the thrill of playing multiple sports in a season is in the competition.

"My uncles and aunts have state rings in track," she said. "I can't stand that because I want one. Everything in my life is a competition."

Hyder believes Gardner has merely scratched the surface of her potential when it comes to track and field.

"She ran track at Owen Middle (School)," he said. "She was a thrower and a 400-meter runner there, and I'm pretty sure she won every event she entered."

Gardner is working to harness that talent and athleticism before the 2-A state meet in Greensboro on May 19.

"My mom got me my own disc and shot this year," she said. "Having those things not only lets me get out and practice more, but it also makes those sports feel more like my sports."