Samford Track athlete discusses balancing athletics, family, faith and student organizations
A student athlete must understand the concept of working hard while knowing one can never work hard enough. Ben Garner, current Samford University record holder in track and field, who also serves as the Samford student-athlete advisory committee co-chair and a Samford ambassador, paves his path through this concept.
Garner was born and raised in Opelika, Alabama. Just 15 minutes from Auburn, he grew up playing basketball, soccer, baseball, and eventually, running track.
In seventh grade, he found cross country and began to run for his school as well. It was not until his sophomore year of high school that Garner began to run track, discovering his love and talent for the sport. There he won countless awards such as being a four-time individual Alabama State Champion as well as a three-time team State Champion, a two-time team MVP, a nine-time All-State athlete and set multiple other school, state records and achievements.
It was during his sophomore year that he decided to focus solely on running. The following year, he realized the importance of his focus. This would be the sport that could earn him a college scholarship.
And as the story goes, the college search began. Garner was presented with the opportunity to visit Samford. Upon his visit, Garner said he fell in love with the school after his visit and meeting some of the athletes he was soon able to call his friends.
Coming into Samford, the tune stayed the same.
“I was already excited about Samford, but then I came and everything just blew my expectations out of the water,” Garner said.
He explained the culture of the track team as “our own little frat,” describing the closeness and comradery shared amongst the team.
He shared openly his approach to track and field, the classroom, and everything he does in life.
“My motto is ‘don’t waste your time.’ Why would I do something to just be average or subpar? If I am giving so much of my time to something, why would I settle with just being average at it?”
He explained that as an athlete, he refuses to settle for anything less than the best he can be. As a student-athlete, serving as a student ambassador, and graduating and going to graduate school in April, he understands the importance of prioritizing certain things.
Throughout his time as a Bulldog, Garner has attempted to be intentional about the way he spends his time and all of the effort he puts into everything he does.
“I’m not perfect, but I really believe that what I do is to the best of my ability,” Garner said. “Setting records and all of these things are the goal, but however that goes, I know I can always walk away and be just fine because when it really comes down to it, I know at least I tried my best.”
Garner recognizes the countless coaches, teammates, and other individuals that helped him along the way. Two individuals, Samford Professor Dennis Sansom and Track and Field athlete Stockton McGuire, were especially influential in Garner’s Samford story.
Dr. Dennis Sansom is the chair for the philosophy department for Howard College of Arts and Sciences. Garner found himself in Dr. Sansom’s Christian Ethics class three years ago. There he learned so much more than the course curriculum and found himself with a new mentor and friend.
I’d probably include some of the details about Sansom in here.
McGuire described Garner as “light-hearted, humble and constantly looking for opportunities to grow.” He also discussed their accountability and time together, saying that they are able to, “develop as men” and said this time with him has “fundamentally changed” his life.
In addition to these two men, Garner credits his family with so much of who he is today. Garner is the son of Trip and Tamera Garner, and also has two sisters, Addy and Emma.
“I try not to flex on myself, but ask me about my family and I will just brag and brag all day long,” Garner said. He credits his work ethic, which is shared with his sisters, to his parents. Addy is a Broadway actress and Emma has followed in the footsteps of her brother, setting records for her high school track team and currently attending physical therapy school.
After Garner graduates in April, he will go to Parker University in Texas for graduate school where he will study to be a chiropractor.