Trib HSSN girls swimmer of the week: Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner

Saturday, December 28, 2019 | 12:34 AM

Heather Gardner put pen to paper last month on the first day of the National Letter of Intent signing period for swimming and finalized her commitment to Division I Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

The Mt. Pleasant senior, last year’s PIAA runner-up in both the Class AA girls 50-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke, is set both academically and athletically at the next level, but, she said, she has some unfinished business in her final high school season.

“Right after my last race, I went up to my coach and asked what could I have done better and what we are going to focus on for this season,” Gardner said. “I wanted to do everything I could in the offseason to get even better.”

Gardner entered the season as the two-time defending WPIAL champion in the 50 free and 100 breast, and she hopes to add state titles in both events.

Last year’s state champions in the 50 free and 100 breast were seniors, but, Gardner said, she knows she can’t just show up to Bucknell University in March and assume the top spot.

“I know there are a lot of great swimmers coming back who will also be fighting for those first-place positions on the podium,” Gardner said.

She also knows there will be numerous swimmers hungry to dethrone her at WPIALs.

Gardner kicked off the season in a big way by breaking the 200 free school record by three seconds (1:53.55) during the Vikings’ home meet with Uniontown on Dec. 11.

“It was nice to start the season like that and get really pumped up,” Gardner said.

The previous record of 1:56.74, set by former Vikings standout Amy Cole, stood for 28 years. Cole, a 1993 Mt. Pleasant graduate, went on to swim at the University of Kentucky.

Gardner said Cole reached out to offer her congratulations on the new record.

“It’s pretty cool to see who held the records before you,” said Gardner, who also owns individual Mt. Pleasant school records in the 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 backstroke and 100 breast and is a record holder as a member of the 400 free relay.

Gardner she benefited from high-level competition at both the Mark J. Braun Fall Classic in Ohio the weekend before Thanksgiving and the Pitt Christmas meet at Trees Pool two weeks ago.

“It was great to go up against all of that great competition so early in the season,” said Gardner, who represented the Mt. Pleasant Aqua Club at both events.

“I didn’t taper, so I just went in seeing what I could get and where I stood at this point. It was nice to be able to go up against some of the best AAA swimmers like (Gateway’s) Olivia Livingston and (Butler’s) Laura Goettler.”

Gardner said she is looking forward to testing her mettle again at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet Jan. 25 at Derry. She is the defending champ in the 50 free and 100 breast.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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