Trinity leader Gardner the youngest of a track-loving familyPaul Gardner didn’t discover a love for track and field.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Paul Gardner didn’t discover a love for track and field.
He believes he was born with it.
His father, Dan Gardner helped set a state record in the mile relay in the 1960s and his mother, Maureen, has spent much of the last two decades holding a stopwatch or two in the stands and infields of meets.
This weekend, the Gardners will watch the last of their nine children compete at the high school track and field level when Paul Gardner leads the Dickinson Trinity boys into the Class B state track and field meet at the Bismarck Community Bowl. The meet begins Friday and concludes Saturday.
“Running is really in our blood,” Maureen Gardner said.
Paul Gardner, who lives in New England and graduated Sunday as a home school student, is the last of nine siblings.
He also happens to be one of the best — if not the best — of the seven Gardner boys to have competed for the New England, Regent-New England and Trinity track teams, as well as the Dickinson High cross country team, since the early 90s.
“I’ve always been trying to catch up with them and beat their times,” he said with a smile before referring to his brother, Bill, who ran at North Dakota State and his sister, Elizabeth, who still holds three school records at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia.
“I’ve always had a lot of incentive to run after them and beat their times. They’ve always gave me a lot of encouragement, so I’ve always had that competition.”
At an early age, Dan Gardner said he began speaking to his children about the values of a strong work ethic.
Part of that included teaching them to not only give an excellent effort in all they do, but also to push themselves to their physical limits in athletic competition.
“It takes a lot of desire and effort,” Dan Gardner said of track and field. “That’s what I like to see. Not so much what you place, but the desire you have and how much you put into it.”
So, what race did Paul Gardner gravitate toward? The 800 meters, of course.
It’s a race he describes as an “all-out sprint,” and “a real gut check.”
“It’s the toughest race in track, I think,” Paul Gardner said. “It takes a lot of guts. I love that feeling where you have to work hard for a good two minutes.
“When I get to that point where I’m trying my very hardest, that’s when I excel. It’s a great feeling. I love that. It’s that emotional high. You know you’ve worked your very hardest. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Trinity head coach Craig Kovash said he’d very much like to have Gardner back for another season.
“If I could have a Paul around every year, that would be great,” Kovash said. “He’s a competitor. When he gets to state, don’t count him out of anything there.”
Paul Gardner will likely be seeded fifth in the 800 meters at the state meet, coming in with a time of 2 minutes, 1.34 seconds — barely one second off the New England school-record time of 2:00.3 set by Paul Gordon in 1980.
It’s a record Gardner is very interested in breaking this weekend.
“Hopefully with the state competition, there will be a lot of stiff competitors,” he said. “They’ll be able to push me.”
Gardner will also likely run anchor for Trinity’s 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams. The 3,200 team comes to state seeded fourth at 8:32.32 while the 1,600 team sits fifth at 3:36.13.
Because his competitive running career will likely end after this weekend, Gardner said he plans to exhaust himself in an effort to win a state championship — something neither he nor any of his brothers or sisters was able to accomplish individually.
Gardner’s strong work ethic, built by his experiences on the track, is a philosophy he fully intends to use in his post-athletic experiences.
“It’s good for life in general because it gives you that attitude that you have so much more than you think,” Gardner said. “When it comes to giving everything you have, you can give way more than you think. On the track, that’s my way of doing it, giving it everything I have.”