Chuck Hardt was more than a bit taken aback last spring when a young track and field athlete asked him if he was going to be the starter at the Chuck Hardt Memorial.
“I had to think twice how to answer that,” Hardt said.
Actually Hardt — a retired track and field, cross-country, basketball and football PHS coach — is alive and doing quite well as a part-time high school basketball referee.
And the track and field meet the teenager was inquiring about is actually named the Chuck Hardt Coed Relay Carnival.
This year, it will begin at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 3 on the PHS track, and Hardt will be the starter as he has been for most home meets.
The invitational is called a “Carnival” because it takes on a street party appearance with athletes of both sexes competing alongside one another — sometimes running legs in opposite directions.
The format creates an almost frenzied, unorganized look for some spectators accustomed to traditionally-run meets. But the uniqueness of the Carnival allows athletes to enter events they might not compete in any other time during the season.
Among them are a mixed 4x100 relay, a mixed distance 4228 (400, 200, 200 and 800 meters) medley, a mixed distance medley and a mixed 4x100-meter shuttle hurdle relay.
Few other high schools in the state host such a one-of-a-kind meet.
The Carnival format is the work of Hardt and his former assistant, Chuck Yale.
The pair brainstormed the meet seven years ago and since its inception it has become a popular draw on the prep track and field circuit attracting teams like Show Low, Blue Ridge, Mingus, Sedona and Fountain Hills.
After Hardt retired three years ago, Yale and new head coach Jonathan Ball decided to rename the meet, previously known as the Payson Invitational Coed Relays.
This year, the Carnival will give the PHS track and field team members a chance to show their skills in front of hometown fans.
It is one of just two home meets the Longhorns have on their 2012 schedule.