April 29, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Being the best at what you do means being able to win anywhere at any time.
Jonathan Gardner has been the best triple jumper in the ACC and he’s proved that both indoors and outdoors.
Gardner won the ACC Indoor Championship on Feb. 21-23 at Rector Field House, in Blacksburg, Va., with a jump of 15.82 meters (a personal record). Eight weeks later, he won at ACC Outdoors at the Paul H. Derr Track in Raleigh, N.C., jumping 15.49 meters — a little short of his outdoor P.R. of 15.71, done at the Georgia Tech Invitational.
While he’s not the first jumper in the history of the ACC or even the first in the history of Georgia Tech to accomplish the feat, it is still a rare and special accomplishment.
That he basically won at Outdoors on one leg makes the feat even more special. Gardner had actually hurt his left hamstring on what proved to be the winning jump at the Indoor Championships.
Sting Daily had the opportunity to talk with Gardner about being the best when not at his best in ACCs, being at his best in preparing for the NCAAs later this month and being the best man at his brother’s side over the weekend.
STING DAILY: What do you remember about winning at the ACC Outdoor Championships?
Jonathan Gardner: The day was actually pretty rough. I had already done long jump the day before (he finished eighth). It was really hot the day before. I was out there warming up for two hours then jumped for two hours, just constant activity. So coming back the next day, I had a lot of tight muscles and I was tired. I had no energy left. I wasn’t optimistic. Once I got on the runway, I was moving kind of slow. I know this isn’t what you typically hear, but it really wasn’t one of my best days (laughs). I would have won on my second jump but my last jump was the further jump, so that’s the one I took. I was kind of disappointed because that mark was actually one of my worst marks of the whole season. I was expecting a lot further. After I jumped I kind of had this look on my face because I know I could have done so much better. But everyone was shaking my hand, saying, ‘A win is a win.’ I’m grateful for the win and I’m just happy about it all.
SD: Your win gave Georgia Tech Men their fifth at ACC Outdoors in seven years and Jhanelle McLeod won the Outdoors for Tech’s women. What is it about Georgia Tech and the triple jump?
GARDNER: I was thinking, ‘Wow, we’re really doing pretty good.’ (laughs) Even Julienne McKee, she didn’t place as high that day, I think she got eighth that day, but she and Jhanelle, as far as personal bests are concerned. So looking at me and Jhanelle and Julienne, as well as those people that came before us, Alphonso Jordan and J.J. Lemons, all those people, I see one common factor and that’s our coach, Nat Page. He puts us through a rigorous workout in practice, every day in practice from conditioning up until now and I think all that and of course of everything that is going to be coming in our workout schedule in the future, really plays the largest of parts in the success that Georgia Tech has had in the triple jump these last few years.
SD: How do you keep your momentum going as you prepare for the NCAAs?
GARDNER: That is a goal. That’s the focus. As soon as I got the medal for ACCs the next thing that was on my mind was Nationals and of course, before that, Regionals, the qualifying meet for Nationals. I’m pretty much trying to keep the momentum from ACCs going. I’m coming out of winning ACC Triple Jump Indoor and winning Outdoor also. It instills a certain amount of confidence. I don’t know exactly where I am but I know I’m ranked top 10 in the nation and I’m in the top 10 in the nation outdoor. So after going to Florida and going to all the other places and still even going to ACCs and coming out on top, it keeps me motivated to know that there are a lot of big names out there, [Florida’s] Omar Craddock and a bunch of other people that people are always talking about. It’s pretty much a mental battle from now until Nationals happen. On the physical side, my main goal is just to stay healthy. I think it was my freshman year I got hurt at ACCs. Even this indoor season I would have been on a good pace to qualify for Indoor Nationals but I got hurt in ACCs. I had a feeling on the jump that I won it that I got hurt. So, for me, probably the biggest thing in my mind, is make sure that I’m healthy, physically ready to run down the runway and hop, step and jump as far as I can without worrying about pulling something or hurting something.
SD: What is the nature of your injury? Were you hurt during the Outdoors?
GARDNER: It was the jump before my winning jump at the Indoor ACC meet this year. It was my left hamstring. I didn’t really know what was going on until I landed. My first jump was a really big jump and I fouled by like a quarter of an inch. As soon as I landed, I got up and was limping. I really didn’t know what was going on but the thing never came back. I jumped again and I won. I’ve been jumping on a hurt leg. The PR that I have right now is on a hurt leg. Alphonso [Jordan] kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to go for the sweep, man. You’ve got to go for the sweep.’ He put me up to the challenge. I’m treating it now and I’m doing a lot better. As I went into rehab, they said it was a strained tendon in my left hamstring right behind the knee. It got so bad to the point that the inflammation, it would swell up so bad, it would almost seep down into my calf and then wrap around to the front of my knee. So I’m just trying to go on the knee with as least pain as possible. But I feel great now and I’m ready to go jump at Nationals.
SD: Was resting your leg a factor in not going to The Penn Relays over the weekend?
GARDNER: My brother was getting married back home in Chicago. I was the Best Man. It’s funny, I didn’t know I was Best Man. My mother called me while I was at work and said something about buying him a present and I said, ‘Isn’t that the Best Man’s job?’ She said, ‘You ARE the Best Man.’ I’m like, ‘When did this happen?’ (laughs). I called my brother and he told me it was supposed to be a surprise when I got home but she spilled the beans as mothers do sometimes. I was looking forward to going home and standing beside my brother while he said, ‘I do.’ I was just hoping I wouldn’t lose the ring.