Chesney Gardner tosses out record for the fourth time

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

Owen High junior Chesney Gardner has made breaking the school's record for throwing the discus something of a spring tradition.

At the all-Buncombe County track meet March 28, Gardner, the school's reigning back-to-back Female Athlete of the Year, set the Warlassies mark for the fourth time. The first time she did it was when she was a freshman.

Owen junior Chesney Gardner prepares to throw the discus during practice. Gardner has broken the discus record at Owen four times since her freshman year.

That year, Gardner shattered the girls discus record with a 105-foot-3-inch throw - nearly 40 feet farther than the previous record. Later that season, she set the standard for the Warlassies again with a 107-foot-10-inch throw during the 2A Western Regional competition. 

Last year, on March 29, she became the first Owen athlete to be named MVP of the county-wide meet with a throw of 108-feet-9-inches. The record fell 364 days later at Reynolds High School when Gardner let loose a county-best 112-foot-2-inch throw.

"It felt good to break it again," Gardner, smiling, said during a recent Friday afternoon practice. "I've been putting in a lot of work."

Gardner first picked up a discus in the eighth grade at Owen Middle, where she was a member of the track and field team. She struggled with the sport at first, she said, but quickly learned that developing a repeatable technique would lead to success. 

"There are a couple different styles of discus throws," she said. "My problem at first was I couldn't decide which one worked better for me."

She experimented with the reverse throw and non-reverse throw, often switching techniques during a meet.

"Toward the end of last year I kind of figured out my own technique," she said. "It's different from everyone else's, but it feels right to me."

Chesney Gardner lets go of the discus during practice at Owen High School. Gardner has broken the school's discus record four times since her freshman year.

Kyle Silva is in his fourth year with the track and field team and his first year as the head coach. He believes Gardner, who played other spring sports during track season as a freshman and sophomore, is more prepared for discus this year. 

"She's definitely been more mentally prepared going into this season than she has been in the past," he said. "She's had more time to work on her throwing, and that's made a difference."

Helping kids from the Owen Middle School team has also helped Gardner see the sport from a different perspective. 

"I wanted to do a senior project related to coaching, because that's something that I definitely see in my future," Gardner said. "I heard they didn't have a throwing coach at the middle school, and I wanted to help out." 

Watching the younger students throw the discus has helped Gardner with her own technique, Silva said. 

"It's really fun as a coach to watch her have to analyze another athlete's performance," he said. "It makes her really focus on the intricate details of technique and form. Inherently she's able to correct those things better when she throws."

Coming into the season, Gardner, who scored her 1,000th career point on the basketball court this winter, said it was her goal to break the 110-foot mark. 

"I'm pretty competitive," she said. "So now I want to hit 115 (feet)."

Silva sees that as a real possibility. 

"It's where she wants to be, and she could get there before long," he said. "We're finally getting to the point now where her form is pretty good. Her athleticism is very good, and now she needs build her strength."

Gardner has already increased her production in the weight room, she said. 

"I just worked out yesterday with some of the guys from the football team, and they were telling me certain workouts to do," she said. "I'm hurting today."

Gardner said she plans to keep working on her technique while getting stronger and hopes to beat her record once again. 

"My goal is always to beat everyone else on that field," she said. "I've always dreamed of winning (the) state (title), so I'm going to do everything I can to get there."