Mead junior Teryn Gardner could earn an athletic scholarship in any of the three sports in which she participates. She could probably pick up a new one and do just as well.
Gardner is a two-time all-league soccer player, earning first-team honors this fall, and a three-time all-league track star, winning the Greater Spokane League 400- and 800-meter individual titles last spring and anchoring the Panthers’ 4x400 relay team.
She placed fourth at state in the 800 and helped the relay team finish third.
But her coaches in those sports understand where her ultimate loyalty lies.
Gardner, last year as a sophomore, helped lead the Panthers’ girls basketball team to an undefeated regular season before a rough shooting week for the team led to a fifth-place finish at the State 3A tournament in Tacoma.
She was recognized as a first-team All-GSL with senior teammate Olivia Moore, and second-team all-state.
“She’s one of the first girls in a while to be first-team in three different sports,” Mead coach Quantae Anderson said. “It says a lot about her work ethic and who she is as a person.
“It’s fun to see that, in this day and age, kids going out and trying new things – and not only trying, but excelling.”
When contemplating his star guard, Anderson recalls a multisport star of the recent past – now a coach in the GSL.
“There’s been some great athletes to come through here and to be able to do those things. Jazmine – Jazmine Redmon – was one of those athletes and she was still able to get a full scholarship at a D-I school at Gonzaga. And it just shows that you don’t need to specialize.”
It’s just a way of life for Gardner.
“I don’t know what life would be like without playing so many sports, without playing sports year round,” she said. “I played soccer since I was a little girl and track – it was just kind of like a new thing in high school that I found that I really liked.”
Liked and mastered.
“I still do basketball year-round, but it would be weird to not have other sports to take a little break from basketball every once in a while,” she said. “It’s just kind of fun to mix it up a bit sometimes and, you know, have some success at them, I guess.”
Both coach and pupil admitted they and the rest of the returning team were disappointed the way their season ended last season.
The Panthers went 23-0 through the regular season and district playoffs, entering the state tourney as the No. 1 seed. They used a second-half comeback to beat Stanwood in the first round at state, but back-to-back rough shooting nights left them in fifth place.
Mead went 3 for 25 beyond the arc in its quarterfinal and third-place games.
Anderson said the frustration from those games lingers.
“I think as a whole team, we (are). As a coaching staff, we (are). To start as well as we did – and not that we played terrible (at state) – we just couldn’t get the ball in the hoop. And we just didn’t like that. So, we have some unfinished work to do.”
Gardner wasn’t immune to the cold streak, going 2 of 13 in the third-place game.
“To be honest, I don’t know what happened (at state), but it was a good run for us for the season,” she said.
“We just couldn’t perform at state, which was really unfortunate. And yeah, I have a bitter taste from that, you know. But this year, we can take that and use it to our advantage and hopefully, go farther than we did last year.”
If the Panthers do go further this season, it’s going to start with Gardner. With last year’s point guard, Moore, off at college, Gardner will be asked to take on the playmaking role.
“The cool thing is she is a very unselfish player,” Anderson said. “And so, she knows that her role is different this year. She’s gonna probably handle the ball a little more. But she also is looking for others to pass the ball to. She’s shown that at practice. I’m just very happy with the development she’s showing at point guard.”
“I think I need to get more offensive during this season and look to shoot more,” Gardner said. “But I think we also have a couple of girls on the team that are going to be good offensively, so we won’t have to be fully reliant on just me.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Gardner this season will be taking on the primary leadership role on the team. Last year’s team was stocked with seniors, allowing Garnder to play and grow into the role.
“The seniors last year – we lost a lot of them, but they prepared us. They were such good leaders that they prepared each of us to be ready for when they left. I think we’ll have leadership from a couple of seniors this year even, but then I know that I have to step more into a role too.”
“She was a captain last year as a sophomore, and that just says a lot about where she is as a leader,” Anderson said. “She’s a natural leader and our players … all look at her and it’s not just because she’s a good basketball player, it’s because she’s a good person.
“She’s a competitor and everywhere she is she wants to be the best and she puts in extra work. And that’s in the books, in the classroom and on the soccer field and on the track.
“Everything she can do she puts a little more in and a lot of our other girls are starting to follow some of that work ethic and it’s pretty incredible.”
Though the Panthers graduated five letter winners, Anderson brings seven experienced players back. Also on the squad are three ninth-graders, all of whom Anderson expects to be in the rotation.
You may recognize the last name of one of the youngsters. Addison Wells Morrison – daughter of Mead and Gonzaga star Adam Morrison – was the first player off the bench in the Panthers’ first game of the season Friday.
The Panthers’ goal this season is simple: Get back to the dome and make good on last year’s promise. It won’t be easy in the competitive GSL, but Anderson thinks as the season progresses his squad will be up for the challenge.
“I know it’s a cliche to a lot of people, but our girls actually understand that we have to get better each day,” he said.
“One of our favorite quotes to say around here is – and I don’t know who said it – but, ‘Good is not enough, if better is possible.’ And last year was good, but we believe that better is possible. And so, we’re gonna go out and try to be better.”
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