Former Rim Country Middle School and Payson High School long-distance running sensation Kari Hardt continues to set the prep sports world on its ear.
Last week, Hardt -- the niece of Lady Longhorn track and cross country coach Chuck Hardt and a member of a Rim country pioneer family -- was named track and field athlete of the year by both The Arizona Republic and Mesa Tribune newspapers.
Hardt, now a junior at Queen Creek High School, also was named to the All-Arizona Track and Field team in the 1,600 meters. Hardt's prestigious awards were the result of her state No. 1 ranking in the 1,600 meters (5:03.43) 3,200 (19:41.79) and mile (5:01.7).
Most impressive about her times is that she set them while competing for a 3A school where she has not had the stiff competition to push her to the new heights that she would have in a 4A or 5A school.
On her way to the new records, Hardt broke several high school marks set by her older sister, former Lady Horn star Whitney Hardt.
At 5 feet, 2 inches and about 100 pounds, Kari Hardt is one of the most diminutive runners in the state. But since she departed Payson with her family four years ago to attend Round Valley High School and then Queen Creek, Hardt has proved that size is no handicap in track and field.
Next up for Hardt is the mile at the Great Southwest Track and Field Championships June 4 in Albuquerque, N.M. There she will face the finest long-distance runners from a six-state area.
Her goal is to train diligently through the summer and eventually earn an invitation to the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in December.