Many youngsters loathe running, but for young Whitney and Kari Hardt, it's a way of life.
Growing up in Payson, the sisters have excelled in the sport especially long-distance events whether it was in a school physical education class or on a track and field team.
The Hardts' natural abilities, coupled with a strong work ethic, have resulted in both earning berths in the most prestigious amateur track event in the country the National Junior Olympic Championships.
Part of the Hardt's success might be attributed to their genes they are daughters of a former Lady Longhorn basketball star and a Payson High track standout.
Ellie Hardt (then Teach) has been called by her former coach Tim Fruth the best point guard to ever play at Payson High School.
Shaun Hardt was a long-distance star at PHS who, in 1980, established a school mile record (4:30.5) that still stands.
Thursday, the youngsters escorted by their father left Payson bound for a four-day stay in Buffalo, N.Y., where the championships will be contested.
Whitney's winning ways
In the meet, Whitney will compete as a member of the Arizona Cheetahs track club. Kari is a member of the Phoenix Bobcats.
Whitney has qualified for both the 800- and 1,500-meter events in the youth girls (13-14 years) age division.
The youngster, who will be a freshman at Payson High School next year, earned a berth in the national championship by virtue of a third-place finish in the 1,500 and a second-place showing in the 800 at the USATF Region 10 championships held last week in Pueblo, Colo.
Whitney was able to nail down the national berth despite the fact she was not up to par for the competition in Pueblo.
"She really wasn't feeling good," her mother said.
A check of her times reveals just how sick Whitney was. In the 1,600 meters, she was clocked in 5:13, which is a full 21 seconds slower than her personal record. In the 800, Whitney's time of 2:26 was four seconds slower than her PR.
In addition to the two individual medals, the Rim country speedster also helped a pair of Arizona Cheetahs relay teams qualify for nationals. Both foursomes, however, decided not to compete in the national championships.
Kari's road to Buffalo
Competing in the midget girls (11-12 years) division, Kari qualified for Buffalo in three events the 1,500 meter, 4x800 relay and 4x400 relay.
She narrowly missed earning a berth in the 800-meter event, finishing fourth at the Region 10 competition.
In the 1,500, she turned in a clocking of 5:14 which is four seconds slower than her PR.
The two relay teams she competed on 4x800 and 4x400 finished second and will compete at the nationals.
Another local trackster who showed well at Region 10 was 9-year-old Jim Paul Beall.
Competing in the bantam boys (9-10 years) division, Jim Paul ran his way to a fourth-place showing in the 1500 meters. Although he didn't qualify for nationals, his clocking of 5:36 bettered his PR by 11 seconds.