Keene State alum Gardner to coach at London Olympics
KEENE, N.H. 7/24/12 – A former cross country and track standout for the Owls, Gary Gardner ’94 will serve as a coach at the 2012 Olympic Games in London which begin on July 27th.
Entering his 11th season as head coach of the cross country and track programs at UMass-Lowell, Gardner will be coaching Ruben Sanca, who stared on the River Hawks track and cross country teams and will be representing his native country, the Cape Verde Islands at the Olympic Games. Sanca, who will be competing in the 5,000-meter race, immigrated to the U.S. from Cape Verde when he was 12. He received his Olympic bid through a “wild card” system in which a country is allotted a certain number of entries for their top athletes. “We were waiting on pins and needles to see if he was going to make it,” said Gardner, who left with Sanca for London on Monday.
A five-time All-New England runner for the Owls, Gardner has had a "whirlwind” coaching career since leaving Keene State. Even as a runner at Keene State, I thought I’d coach at some point, but I never thought it would progress to this level,” he said. “I was just happy to get my first full-time job.”
Gardner, a native of North Attleboro, Mass., worked as an assistant at Trinity (Conn.) College and later as the head coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York before taking over the UML program in 2001. “When I was running for the Owls, Keene State and UMass-Lowell were arch rivals in Division II and the New England Collegiate Conference,” said Gardner. “When I got the job at UMass-Lowell, I got shelled from both sides telling me I was a traitor. I was a man without a country for a little while.”
Gardner said folks have gotten over is migration to UMass-Lowell. “I’ve heard from Keene State and UMass-Lowell alums wishing me good luck in London,” he said.
Gardner, who also serves as the head coach of the Cape Verde track team, is no stranger to international competition, attending the past two World Track and Field Championships in Berlin and South Korea respectively. “It’s been a lot of work, but a highly rewarding experience,” said Gardner, who will be going to the Olympics for the first time. “I never thought I’d have an athlete at the world championships and then that happen. And now this happens,” he said. “I’m going to go over and enjoy it because you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again.”