Julie Hardt leads Carson swimmers

Julie Hardt can be pardoned for thinking a little bit ahead on Saturday. That still didn't prevent the Carson High School senior from enjoying what turned out to be a banner performance during the Northern 4A Region Swimming and Diving Championships, held on Saturday at the Carson Aquatic Club.

Hardt, who is bound for the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer and then to the University of Georgia, swam to meet records in the 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle, plus she helped Carson win the 200 and 400 freestyle relays in home water.

Younger sister Kate Hardt also won the 100 freestyle (53.33), Megan Keller won the 100 butterfly (1:00.16), Carson won all three relays and the Senators went on to finish second in the girls team standings by a 415-367 margin behind Reno.

Carson also finished second behind Reno by a 379-305 score in the boys team standings thanks to Evan Fischer, who won the 100 breaststroke and then came back minutes later to join teammates Joe Hurzel, Ryan Costella and Justin Barber on a winning 400 freestyle relay team.

The top four individual finishers in each event qualified for the NIAA/U.S. Bank state meet next Saturday at UNLV.

The Carson girls didn't win on Saturday, but they secured enough qualifying spots to put the Senators in position to contend for their fifth straight state championship.

"I thought we did a great job," Julie Hardt said. "This is one of the strongest teams we've ever had. We're going to do awesome next week."

Hardt put on an impressive show herself. For starters, she led a Carson sweep in the 200 freestyle with a meet record time of 1:50.84, followed by sister, Kate (1:53.34), and teammate Tara Theilemann (1:58.74). Julie came back to break the 500 freestyle record with a 4:53.04 clocking.

"I was excited about today, this being my senior year," Hardt said. "In the past, I've come to this meet and just tried to qualify for state. Today, I wanted to try some different things out as far as strategy."

She was thinking ahead to the Olympic Trials which will be held Aug. 9-16 in Indianapolis.

"I'm really not good at taking a race out fast," Hardt said. "With the competition I'm going to see this summer, I'm going to have to be able to do that, so today I wanted to go out hard and see what happened.

"It felt fine ... until the last 50," she added with a smile.

Overall, six meet records fell in the fast Carson Aquatic Club water during the day. Hardt accounted for two, while Charlene Rigdon of Douglas sped to records in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Brittany Reichardt also set a mark in the 100 breaststroke. Rigdon went 24.94 in the 50 freestyle and 58.30 in the backstroke, while Reichardt was 1:05.74 in the breaststroke.

"They were awesome today," Douglas assistant coach Sarah Govan said. "They were both pumped. I know Charlene wanted that 50 free; she was disappointed about the false start last year (disqualification at state), and today she came back. She requalified for junior nationals today and got the records."

Reichardt, another Olympic Trials qualifier who set the previous zone breaststroke record as a sophomore two years ago, is quite a comeback story after having her entire 1999 season wiped out by a stomach virus.

"She's a miracle," Govan said of Reichardt. "It's been about a year-and-a-half, but the virus is not quite done yet, the doctors are still holding her back as far as her training. And she broke her wrist a month ago, but she has a way of pulling off incredible things.

"She was behind going into the last turn, but she grabbed that wall and was off of it, you could tell she wanted it."

Reichardt, Rigdon, Konnie Seamons and Sarah Edwards led most of the way in the 200 medley relay and still qualified for state with a third-place effort of 1:58.10.

Carson's team of Jessie Hong, Lauren Costella, Kate Hardt and Keller won the medley relay in 1:54.68. Keller turned a 26.87 clocking on her butterfly leg and Hardt anchored with 24.77 on her freestyle leg to bring the Senators from behind.

Another Carson highlight came in the boys 400 freestyle relay, as the Senators won in 3:26.55.

Fischer won the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.51, placed second in the 200 individual medley (1:57.34) and was part of the first-place 400 freestyle relay team. Joey Hurzel, a late addition to that relay team, blazed to a 52.30 split to help the Senators win.

The meet was described as an overall success by Dave Huffmire, who is winding down his seven-year run as the Senators' head coach.

"I was very pleased with the kids," Huffmire said. "Being able to showcase our pool and having people come up and compliment us on a nice production, that was great. And we couldn't have done it without Mike Fischer and the Tigersharks, who ran the timing system and volunteered their services."

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