Gardner goes from injury to all-around

by Brad Bobel

Freshman Ciara Gardner came to college unable to do much because to a shoulder surgery from the year before.

“This summer, all she could do was hang on the bar. She couldn’t do much more than that,” interim head coach Jenny Hansen said.

But now Gardner is back to full strength, and she flashed her skills last Saturday, competing in all four events for the first time in her collegiate career. She finished fifth.

“It was fun to be back out there competing in all four events again,” Gardner said.

And her teammates and coaches seemed to enjoy watching her compete, mostly because of her smooth style.

“She comes from a club that focuses on the basics, form and execution, and it stands out that way,” Hansen said.

Gardner’s gymnastics ability caught the coaching staff’s eye during recruitment, even though she was far away in her home state of Texas.

“We look for athletes with great techniques and basics, and kids that love gymnastics and want to get better,” Hansen said.

Gardner said her success, especially considering her injury and status as a freshman, depends on strong support from her teammates.

 “It’s nice to know that the team will always have my back,” Gardner said. “It helps that we all push each other each and every day.”

And Gardner’s support system goes deeper than just the team, as many people help keep her on track.

“My family, teammates and coaches are pushing me each and every day to do what I need to do,” Gardner said.

Off the mat, freshmen sometimes find it challenging to juggle academics and athletics.

“It’s a lot different than high school and club gymnastics. There’s always something to do, but I think I’m adjusting well,” Gardner said.

When teammates and coaches talk about Gardner, they often note her personality and humor.

“She brings a lot of goofy and fun energy to the team, and sometimes gymnastics is high-strung, so that lightheartedness is great for the team,” junior Lindsay Mable said.

Her seemingly fluid transition from high school to collegiate athletics is relatively uncommon, especially considering her free and energetic attitude.

Now healthy, Gardner is showing confidence when she competes.

 “I don’t go out there being shy and timid,” she said. “I have more confidence now; it’s easy for me to go out and show what I got.”