Hardt, Costella set for Olympic Trials

They may be considered long shots, but Carson High graduates Julie Hardt and Lauren Costella know there have always been surprise performers that come out of nowhere at the United States Olympic Trials in swimming.

Hardt and Costella figure they could be two of those surprise performers that come out of nowhere when the Olympic Trials are held July 7-14 in Long Beach. The task will be daunting for Hardt and Costella to make the Olympic team - only the top two individual finishers in each event will compete in the Athens Olympics to be held Aug. 13-29.

But in the immortal words of that great philosopher of sports, former Major League pitcher Joaquin Andujar, "Ju never know."

And Hardt and Costella won't exactly be coming out of nowhere. Both have had success on the international level. Hardt was part of the U.S. women's 800-meter relay team that won the world title in 2001.

Costella is a two-time national champion in the 1,500 free and won a bronze medal at the 2003 World University Games. Hardt and Costella also competed at the 2000 Olympic trials and both said that experience will definitely help.

"In 2000 I think just for the most part I was just happy to be going," said Costella, a 2003 CHS graduate who just completed her freshman year at Stanford. "It was the first big meet I've ever been to."

This time, Costella said, "It's not just about going down there, it's about swimming fast."

Hardt, a 2000 CHS graduate who just completed her career at the University of Georgia, has come a long way since the 2000 Trials. Hardt was awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship this year, the most prestigious NCAA award for student-athletes who will go on to graduate studies.

"I was really uptight and nervous and scared going into that meet," said Hardt about 2000. "I'm a lot more relaxed and a lot more confident in myself. It's like a nervous anticipation as opposed to being scared."

Costella is at a disadvantage since her best event, the 1,500 free, isn't an Olympic event for women. Costella's best hopes of the making the Olympic team is in the 800 free. The 800 free prelims will be held on July 12 and the finals will be held on July 13.

In addition, Costella will compete in the 400 individual medley in which the prelims and finals will be held on July 7. She will also compete in the 400 free in which the prelims and the finals will be held on July 8.

Going into the trials, Costella is seeded 21st in the 800 free (eight minutes, 42.24 seconds), 28th in the 400 I.M. (4:52.58) and 58th in the 400 free (4:19.19).

Hardt will also compete in the 400 free, but her best event is the 200 free. The 200 free prelims and semifinals will be held on July 9 and the finals will be held on July 10.

Her best chance to make the Olympic team is as a member of the 800 free relay. A top four finish in the 200 free would guarantee Hardt a spot on the 800 free relay and a top six finish would most likely earn her a spot on the relay.

She knows it will be tough to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Hardt said if she had to make a prediction, she though that going under two minutes in the 200 free is what will be needed to make the Olympic team, adding in the past a time under 2:01 may have been good enough to make the relay.

Hardt said her goal at the Olympic Trials is 1:59.5. "There's a ton of girls capable of going under two minutes," she said. "There's been some really, really fast swims over the last couple of years."

Going into the trials, Hardt is seeded 19th in the event with a time of 2:01.87. In the 400 free, Hardt said her goal was 4:13, which would give her a chance to place in the top eight. She's seeded 40th with a time of 4:18.04.

"That probably would make finals but if it does not I would be happy with it anyway," said Hardt if she meets her goal.

Like Hardt, Costella, who swims for the Carson Tigersharks, is more concerned about the times she swims than where she places. "I'm just going into the meet going for my times and I'll see what happens," she said.

"I'm trying to make this more like a regular meet," Hardt said about the trials.

Both Hardt and Costella have competed in two meets this summer and both said they were happy with their performances considering they were still training heavily. "I was really broken down and tired going into those meets," Hardt said.

Costella competed at the Janet Evans Invitational at the Olympic trials pool and she said swimming in the pool will help.

"The Trials pool is just awesome," she said. "I'm really excited about trials. Swimming in the pool was definitely an advantage. I feel really prepared."

Hardt's first time in the Olympic Trials pool will be at the Trials, but she's not concerned. "A pool's a pool basically," she said.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. Contact him at cwhisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.

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