p1440: Jay Panther, Cody Caldwell

p1440 Developmental Program: Jay Panther, Cody Caldwell

They are two sides of the same coin, Cody Caldwell and Jay Panther.

One has been tantalizingly close so many times, the other has reached the pinnacle at every level. While Panther, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, missed the 2014 Olympics as a freestyle skier by “as close as you could miss it,” he said, Caldwell won a pair of national championships as an outside hitter at Loyola of Chicago.

While Panther’s skiing career was hobbled by knee injuries that eventually led him to the beach, Caldwell enjoyed professional success in Greece and France, where he made the league finals.

While Panther opted to play baseball at Vanderbilt but eventually turned back to skiing, Caldwell was credited by Rambler coach Shane Davis for turning the program around to the 28-2 power it was in 2015.

The line between their successes is a fine one. As a skier, Panther was among the one percent of the one percent of the elite, able to call decorated athletes such as Bode Miller and Ted Ligety his peers. Tenths of points are what separated Panther from his ultimate. A few swings and blocks are what pushed Caldwell.

And now, as teammates in the p1440 Developmental Program, they’re looking to make that next leap together.

“Just to qualify in some main draw events, which we haven’t done yet,” Caldwell said of their goals. “Get better every single day. That’s what I’ve done my whole career and it’s worked out. We both know how to train at a high level.”

There is little questioning that. One does not simply have the option to play football, baseball or soccer in college, and then pursue another at a national team level for a decade, on accident, just as one does not simply win a pair of national titles with a once-struggling program on luck alone. So no, training will be no issue.

“There’s kind of this in-between ground where you have an opportunity to make some sacrifices and make some gains,” Panther said. “It’s cool to see the guys at the top. Those guys treat it like a full-time job, just like it’s any other sport.”

It’s getting closer to that level of commitment for Panther and Caldwell. Orange County residents both, they make the drive to the South Bay twice a week for p1440 practices while getting reps in Huntington or Corona Del Mar on the other days.

“This is the office?” Panther said, gesturing to the courts on Longfellow Ave. in Hermosa Beach. “Not a bad gig.”

Neither is his other one. Panther runs a non-profit ministry for kids in foster care called Young Life.

“When I’m not in the sand, I’m with the kids,” he said. “Dreaming about how to grow that.”

Other Developmental Program teams:

Chloe Crappell, Carissa Whalen: Discovering community through beach volleyball

Travis Mewhirter, Myles Muagututia: The smoothest athlete on the beach

Madison Willis, McKenna Thibodeau: Let your personality shine

Victoria Dennis, Nora Darrhar: A partnership grounded in gratitude

John Schwengel, Aidan Brown: The youngsters looking to make the leap

Tomas Salava, Martin Mach: Giving this beach thing a shot