Carson swim great returns to coach Tigersharks
One of the most recognizable names in Northern Nevada swimming has come home.
Dr. Julie Hardt, 32, has returned to Carson to become the coach of the Carson Tigersharks club program. Hardt took over the reins on June 1.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to come home and coach, and give back to the kids and the community,” said Hardt in her office at the Carson Aquatic Center on Thursday. “I heard about the opening. I was in town visiting family. I’d been keeping an eye on openings in the Carson and Reno area the past four or five years.
“The Tigersharks have had a couple of tough years. It’s kind of how swimming goes. There are always ebbs and flows. It’s the same with cities and towns in terms of economics. I want to see the club do well. I want to get us going again.”
And, the Tigersharks’ community is happy Hardt has come aboard.
“Julie is a local product, and she knows what it takes to be successful in swimming from the high school level to the national level,” said Becki Boehnke, the Tigersharks’ administrative manager. “She has vast experience coaching many levels and ages throughout her career. Academically, her PhD in psychology will bring something to our program that we haven’t had before. I’m excited to work with her and I believe she will bring some necessary excitement to the Carson Tigersharks and the sport of swimming.”
Many of the current Tigersharks swimmers probably don’t know who their new head coach is. The oldest current high-school age swimmers in the program were likely in kindergarten or first grade when Hardt was tearing it up at Carson High School. In fact, she still holds the 500 freestyle record at CHS.
After a brilliant high school career, Hardt attended the University of Georgia in Athens. She helped the Bulldogs to an NCAA championship her freshman year, swimming a leg on the winning 800 relay squad.
The Bulldogs finished second in the country the next three years, and when the proverbial smoke cleared, Hardt was an eight-time All-American and a top-10 finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year honors.
“I feel that Carson City is very lucky to have a head swim coach with Julie’s experience and education,” said Kur Meyer, who runs the Carson Aquatic Center. “It is also great that she has come back to her hometown with ambition to build a bigger and better swim team.”
In 2000 and 2004, Hardt competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but came up short each time, something that still bothers her. She did bring home a gold medal in a freestyle relay event at the 2001 World Championships in Japan.
“No doubt I still think about it,” Hardt said. “It was always shoulda, woulda, coulda. If I’d made the Olympics I probably never would have gotten into coaching. It shouldn’t have been that hard. One of the times I swam like a 2:04 (in the 200 free) and it took a 2:01 to qualify. I’d swam like a 1:59 during the season. I just didn’t swim well enough.”
After graduating from Georgia, she stayed in the area and helped coach for the Athens Bulldogs Swim Club. The following year she coached in Edina, Minn. She spent two years there before leaving for the University of Western Australia to pursue a masters degree in sports science.
“I originally went over there for one year, but I didn’t want to leave, so I stayed for my PhD,” she said. “And, I spent a couple of years coaching (at several different levels). Seven years is a long time to be away from your family.”
Hardt, who works six days a week as head coach, says the numbers are not a problem with the Tigersharks’ program. She has approximately 180 swimmers in the program. Helping her with the team are Paul Chang, Cassidy Russell and Stefanie Signorella.
“The numbers have been steady,” Hardt said. “We have 100 competitive swimmers and 80 non-competitive swimmers. That is a group that likes to swim, but isn’t sure they want to do it at the competitive level. There is room for both. There is room for kids that just want to learn how to swim; how to do different strokes. And, there is room for the competitive swimmer.
“I’m biased. I think everybody should be swimming if nothing else but to learn water safety with Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake so close. I’d like to see swimming become one of the biggest sports in Carson and Northern Nevada.”
Hardt said I-580 freeway could help boost the numbers should swimmers in south Reno want to join the Tigersharks. Hardt isn’t recruiting, but she’s not about to turn down any interested swimmers.
One of the things working in the Tigersharks’ favor is their facility. The Carson Aquatic Facility is the best in Northern Nevada. The facility is used by almost every high school in the Reno area for competitive meets during the high school season.
“It’s a great situation for kids on the high school team,” Hardt said. “It’s easy walking distance. The kids can just walk over for practice.”