By turning in the fifth fastest 1,600-meter time in the nation this season, Whitney Hardt has captured the attention of college recruiters from around the country.
The Payson High School sophomore running sensation set the mark of 4:54.44 at the Arcadia, Calif. Prep Invitational held last week.
In addition to being a national top-five mark, the time represents a personal record, school standard and the best time run this season by an Arizona athlete.
In setting the mark, Hardt finished third behind Utah and California runners that ran the first and second fastest times in the nation this season.
On hand to watch the sterling performances of the long distance runners were several college recruiters including BYU where Hardt has expressed an interest to attend.
Hardt's father, Shaun Hardt also a PHS track assistant coach accompanied his daughter to California.
"The finish (among the top three) was really close," he said. "Whitney ran awesome."
After receiving the invitation to participate at the prestigious Arcadia meet, Hardt made the decision to enter both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Normally, athletes choose only one because the events are so grueling and sap the runner's stamina.
Once Hardt arrived in Arcadia, she learned the two runs would be held less than an hour apart. Nonetheless she continued with her plans to participate in both.
In the 3,200, she finished 15th setting a PHS school record of 10:51.86.
According to her father, the short recovery time between the two runs affected her less than a troublesome side stitch that hampered her performance.
Hardt is only the second female athlete from PHS to ever participate at Arcadia.
Several years ago, Julie Gunzel entered in the throws events.
Next up for Hardt and her PHS teammates will be the Winslow Invitational April 26.
Also on the slate is the East regional championships May 3 and 4 in Lakeside and the Class 3A state championships May 10 and 11 at Mesa Mountain View High School.