Former Payson Student Signs At Michigan State

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After watching his two older sisters, Whitney and Kari, ink athletic scholarship offers to Arizona State University, Sherod Hardt has opted for Michigan State University.

The Queen Creek senior, now one of the country’s finest long-distance runners, signed a letter of intent last week to run for the Spartans. He signed only a few days after turning in a national season’s best time of 1:58.63 in the 800 meters. The mark was set at the Gaucho Relays.

Hardt was an elementary school student when his parents, Shawn and Ellie, moved from Payson to Eagar Springerville and later to Queen Creek.

Whitney and Kari were standout track and field and cross country performers at Payson High and Rim Country Middle School. Shawn Hardt continues to hold the PHS mile record of 4:30, a standard he set in 1983.

During Ellie Hardt’s high school years, she was arguably the finest point guard to ever play basketball for the Lady Longhorns.

Both Ellie and Shawn also coached at PHS for several years, which means the pedigree in the family runs deep.

Ellie says Sherod went against the Sun Devil family tradition and signed with the Spartans because, “he really likes the coach (Walt Drenth), who was the coach responsible for turning the ASU program around prior to taking the Director of Track and Cross Country Positions at MSU.

“He was also the guy who recruited Whitney to go to ASU and then, unfortunately, left.”

Academics also played a role in Sherod choosing Michigan State.

“They have a great vet (veterinary) program and that is what he plans to study,” Ellie said.

Another bit of reasoning Sherod considered in choosing MSU is that he wanted to get away from running in the Valley’s searing desert heat.

“Now he’ll be running in the freezing cold,” Ellie said. “He’s going from one extreme to the other.”

Last fall, Sherod was invited to travel to Oregon to compete against the premier runners in the nation at the Nike Cross Country Team Nationals. He was originally going to compete in the Foot Locker west regionals on the same date, but opted for the Nike event to take on stiffer competition.

What he did in Oregon made family, friends and teammates proud. Cutting loose with a sizzling 5K time of 15:18.7, he finished sixth against the elite field that included qualifiers from Texas, New Jersey, California, Ohio and states around the country.

Among Sherod’s accomplishments last year was a first-place finish in the 800 meters at the Valley Christian Invitational, a 1600-meter gold medal at the Chandler Invitational and firsts in the 3200 meters at the Desert Classic and North Canyon Invitationals.

He also competed on Queen Creek’s 4x800 relay team.

Talented coaches

Although first-year boys basketball coach Jared Swanson didn’t have the season he was hoping for, he’s being praised as a talented, young coach overflowing with potential. His counterpart, Lady Horn coach Kelly Krieg, is drawing those same plaudits.

Most who laud the two are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping the pair decides to remain at PHS.

Sports fans remember several fine coaches passing through the PHS athletic system only to pull up stakes and move elsewhere. But that’s often understandable. Payson’s coaching salary schedule is not remotely competitive, even when compared to the smallest of Arizona’s schools.

So when the opportunity arrives for young coaches to better provide for their families, they often jump at the chance.

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