Carson swimmer on her way to Georgia, maybe Sydney

Just what would Julie Hardt do if she didn't occupy her time with swimming.

"Without sports, I'd probably be a couch potato doing nothing," she muses.

Don't believe a word of that. If nothing else, Hardt would have graduated from Carson High School earlier this month as one of the top five in her class academically. She might even be on her way to the University of Georgia as a scholarship student. And it's a good bet she would be active in her community.

In between all of this, however, Hardt has emerged as a phenom distance swimmer in the pool. Not just an athlete who participated on four state championship teams at Carson High School and set four individual state meet records the last two years, but a member of the U.S. national B team and a world class swimmer. Among her achievements:

- Hardt was a member of the gold medal winning U.S. women's swimming team at the 1998 Goodwill Games.

- Was ranked 11th in the world in the 1,500-meter freestyle and 18th in the 400 freestyle in 1999, and has improved since then.

n Placed fourth in the 200 and 1,500 freestyle events and finished eighth overall in the women's high-point standings at the Phillips 66 Spring National Championships.

- Will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials Aug. 9-16 at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, and if all goes well, she will have a worldwide audience at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, which will be held Sept. 15-Oct. 1.

Hardt - who will be joined at the U.S. Trials by Carson City's Lauren Costella - has high expectations about her chances of going to Sydney.

"This summer I'm planning on making the Olympic team ... Because for a goal to work, you have to believe it," said Hardt, who has competed for Reno Aquatics the last five years. "So if I'm living my life like I'm making the Olympic team, then there's a better chance of me making it. All of my plans are in making it... I believe I can make it in the 200 free, 400 free and 800 free."

A long shot? Not at all, considering the top two finishers in each event at the Olympic Trials will make the U.S. team and six swimmers will be selected for the 4x100 freestyle and medley relays.

"It's not so long," Hardt said. "I'm top four in those events and I've been doing a lot of improving lately, I've been working on my strength and I've gotten to where I believe I'm one of the top 2."

She placed second in the women's 400 freestyle at the Santa Clara International Swim Meet on Friday, turning a time of 4:16.28. She also placed third in the 800 freestyle on Sunday.

Hardt has put in the time to do her swimming homework, both from a physical and mental standpoint.

"Because I've been putting in so much work, probably 90 percent of it will be mental ... just being able to keep focused on myself and just trust my work., Hardt said. "By the time you get to a meet, you shouldn't have to think about it. Actually, my best races, if you'd asked me what I felt like after the race or what I was thinking about, I wouldn't remember it. You just swim. You get in a zone, and you don't remember anything."

There's no doubt Carson High coach Dave Huffmire will remember Julie Hardt.

"She's a quality person. She's even a better person better person than she is a swimmer and when I say person, I mean student, individual, the whole package," said Huffmire, who doubles as dean of students at Carson. "It's going to take a big person to fill her shoes. She's not a rah, rah type leader, but the other kids all look up to her. She just shows up to work every day and does her job and does it better than anybody else I've been around.

"It's going to be a big loss for the team having her move on, but I'm excited about where she's going to go and she will just shed grace on any program that she's a part of."

Hardt's next school program will be Georgia, winner of the past two NCAA women's national championships.

"I think it will be a lot of fun," said Hardt, who received a swimming scholarship with some academic assistance. "I know the program is pretty similar to what I have in Reno. It's not so strict. They work hard but they also have fun.

"The first thing I looked at was the success of the distance program, because usually that says something about the coaching and the work ethic. As far as distance swimming goes, it takes a lot of hard work to be good at it."

Hardt has gotten this far through a tireless work schedule. Consider her typical day this past spring ... starting with seminary class at 6 a.m, followed by a 45-minute to one hour pool or weight workout supplied by Reno Aquatics coach Dave Hoover. After that was her regular school day, another pool workout in Reno, and finally her return home at about 7:30 that night.

"I make the time," she said with a smile.

Hardt remembers being a young age group swimmer in Carson City and looking up to Carson High's Erica Fischer, who received a scholarship to Ohio State.

"I remember when I was still in Carson and Erica Fischer was there ... she was the one you wanted to be like," Hardt recalled. "She was so much faster than everybody else on the team. It was like, wow, Erica Fischer is so fast, I wish I could be that fast."

That work ethic paid off with success in the classroom at Carson, where she pulled in straight A's all four years (she had three A-minus grades during that time).

"It takes a lot of work, once you get in a pattern and you make a goal of always doing well, then it's not that hard," she said. "It would be harder to be getting C's and B's and then deciding I want to do well. Swimming has helped with that, just with work ethic. Because you're always striving in the pool to do your best, then it covers every area of life. It goes over into school, work, everything."

That philosophy has Hardt knocking on the door to the U.S. Olympic team.

"I'm going to make it, I think," she said. "A couple of years ago, when I first made the goal for the Olympics, my coach didn't believe I could do it. But I've been setting goals, and step by step, I've been doing a lot better, and now it's becoming a reality. At first, it didn't seem like it was possible, but it took making the goals and being mentally focused, and that's gotten me to where I am."

From U.S. Swimming web site

JULIE HARDT BIOGRAPHY

Julie Hardt

5-10, 140 ... born Nov. 10, 1981 ... from Carson City ... Carson High School '00 ... swims for Reno Aquatics

In 2000

Was fourth in 200-meter and 800-meter free and eighth in 800-meter free at Spring Nationals.

International Medals

Goodwill Games 1998: no medals

Additional Honors

1999 National B team

Event, Best Time

400-meter free 4:13.03

800-meter free 8:42.14 --

1500-meter free 16:32.25 --

World Rankings

1998: 47th, 800-meter free; 37th, 1500-meter free

1999: 49th, 200-meter free; 18th, 400-meter free; 26th, 800-meter free; 11th, 1500-meter free; 56th, 400-meter IM

Career Stats

1996: Junior Nationals - 4th, 400-yard I.M.

1999: Spring Nationals - 3rd, 1500-meter free

Summer Nationals

3rd, 400-meter free; 4th, 800-meter free; 5th, 1500-meter free

2000: Spring Nationals

4th, 200-meter free; 8th, 800-meter free; 4th, 1500-meter free

Personal

4.0 GPA ... plays the trumpet.

1996 U.S. Olympic qualifiers

800 freestyle: 1, Brooke Bennett 8:31.41, 2, Janet Evans 8:33.60.

400 freestyle: 1, Janet Evans 4:10.97, 2, Cristina Teuscher 4:11.59.

200 freestyle: 1, Cristina Teuscher 1:59.50, 2, Trina Jackson 2:00.62.

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