Payson High School cross country and track coach Chuck Hardt might be wondering "what if?"
What if his nephew Shaun Hardt had not moved his family from Payson three years ago to Springerville where he took a job as Round Valley High School's football coach?
If the family had remained in Payson, the Lady Longhorns would now feature the talents of the finest long-distance runner in the state.
Kari Hardt, a junior at Queen Creek High School where the family now lives, was recently chosen Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
As an eighth-grader at Rim Country Middle School, she was a White Mountain League long-distance champion for the Maverick track team.
Her family moved to Springerville at the end of that year.
The tremendous running talents of young Hardt were put on display at the 3A state championships at the Anthem Community Center.
In winning the race in 18:12, Hardt recorded the best time of the day regardless of school size classification.
Last year, her older sister Whitney, now at Arizona State University, won the meet over the same course in 19:03.
Hardt's win is quite an accomplishment considering many feel the large school 4A and 5A conferences field superior athletes.
She also won the South region meet in 20:43, almost 40 seconds faster than the meet runner-up.
As a senior next year, Hardt will probably be recruited by college coaches looking to acquire her talent. Recruiting can be a tedious, trying time, but she will have her sister's experience to rely on.