Gardner prepares for state meet debut |

Gardner prepares for state meet debut

Summit Daily News
Summit County, CO Colorado

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FARMER’S KORNER ” Last year at this time, Sam Gardner was a rookie diver learning the ropes from her coach and teammates at Summit High School.

The talented junior is now the Lady Tigers’ lone representative (among both divers and swimmers) at the 4A state meet this weekend in Fort Collins.

How did she get so good so fast?

Gardner’s athleticism, coachability and strong work ethic were all critical to the process, but bravery was perhaps the biggest prerequisite.

“I’m the type of person who will just go for it,” Gardner said after Wednesday’s practice at Farmer’s Korner. “My thought process, is, ‘The worst thing that’s going to happen is I’m going to slap (the surface of the water) and it’s going to hurt, but (the pain) will go away.'”

Senior Nicole Luby, who’s done competing for the season, but still came out this week to practice with Gardner and teammates Courtney Krause and Savannah Guglielmo, spoke to the level of confidence she saw in SHS’ last hope for this season.

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“She doesn’t get scared, so that boundary isn’t there for her,” Luby said of Gardner. “She doesn’t think about it, she just (dives).”

Gardner has learned how to, “not even let the littlest thought cross my head (while diving),” she said, a trend she’ll hope to continue at Epic Pool before a host of friends and family.

“It’s kind of been made a big deal within my family that I’m going to state,” she said when asked about the nerves factor. “My grandparents own a business and apparently their whole business is like waiting to see what happens. … My aunt’s husband’s parents are coming ” I think I’ve only met them once.”

Gardner’s been keeping calm despite the excitement, thanks in part to her teammates, who came out this week and dove alongside her like they did throughout the season.

“I feel like having them here takes a lot of pressure off,” said a grateful Gardner, who qualified for state at three different meets (only two were necessary). “I’m not thinking, ‘States is this weekend, states is this weekend.’ I’m really just thinking about diving for practice and having fun with my teammates while they’re here.”

“Diving alone is horrible because it’s slow and it just keeps going,” Luby said. “We just wanted to be here for Sam and we love diving. … And we didn’t want (the season) to end yet.”

Gardner, who could perform as many as 11 dives on Saturday, will attempt to be one of 20 divers to make it out of the five-round preliminaries.

Even if she doesn’t advance, Gardner could still leave Epic Pool with her characteristic beaming smile.

“I know what I’m capable of and that’s what I want to do,” she said in regards to specific goals. “I felt like the (4A Jeffco) league meet last weekend was a disaster ” I didn’t dive like I could have.”

Gardner may be relatively new to the sport of diving (although she did gain significant experience on her grandmother’s board as a kid), but she’s clearly a tough self-critic, considering she finished an impressive second at Saturday’s 4A Jeffco League meet.

Tigers coach Shannon Tessier, who instructed Gardner and most of her teammates last summer on the Aerials Diving Team, has been to the state meet before (in 2006 with Shauna Neely, who took ninth) and therefore knows what to expect on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a hard competition,” the fourth-year Summit coach said. “States is the best of the best, but (Gardner’s) worked hard all year and definitely deserves to be there.”

Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at