Record-breaking Mt. Pleasant swimmer Heather Gardner commits to Liberty

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Saturday, November 23, 2019 | 4:32 PM


Mt. Pleasant senior Heather Gardner is a year away from competing for the Liberty women’s swimming team, but already her times would rank her among top performers in its conference, Flames coach Jake Shellenberger said.

Gardner, 18, signed a letter of intent to the Division I school in Lynchburg, Va. on Nov. 19.

“Heather is an amazing talent,” Shellenberger said. “She will contribute immediately on our sprint relays and in the sprint (freestyle) and (breaststroke) events.”

Gardner, the two-time defending WPIAL Class AA champion in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke, said she chose Liberty because of its team and beautiful campus.

“The team is so well put together,” she said.

She said her goals are to break Liberty records in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke and help the Flames to the conference title. They are defending Coastal Collegiate Sports Association champions.

Gardner hopes to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials while there.

She said she feels less stressed knowing where she is going. She considered Kentucky.

“I am still working hard to make sure I come out on top this year,” she said.

Mt. Pleasant coach Sandra Felice said she can think of only a few other Vikings who have gone on to swim for a Division I team.

“I would love to see Heather finish her high school career earning the title, ‘state champ,’ ” Felice said. “She already has four out of eight of (our) individual swimming event records.

“I feel she is capable of breaking at least two or three more. I would also like to see two more relay records broken this season with Heather as the anchor.”

Gardner placed second in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke in the PIAA championship meet last season and second in the 50 freestyle in 2018.

She was WPIAL runner-up in both in 2017.

She has top marks of 23.24 seconds in the 50 freestyle and 1:2.77 in the 100 breaststroke.

Gardner plans to study criminal psychology and become a state trooper, which Shellenberger admires.

“We’re excited to have that mentality in our program,” he said.

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