USC’s Hardwick dominates the waters

Published Jan 8, 2014 at 9:26 am (Updated Jan 8, 2014 at 9:26 am)

Alex Hardwick is no wolf on Wall Street yet. Once he completes his accounting and business finance degree from Emory University, Hardwick plans to take Manhattan by storm. Until then, the Upper St. Clair senior remains the shark in the pools around Pennsylvania.

He enters the 2014 season with the fastest numbers in the PIAA for the 100-yard freestyle. He ranks second in the 200 free and fifth in the 100 backstroke. Hardwick is the defending district champion in the 100 and 200 freestyle races. His best times are 45.79 and 1:39.96.

“Alex is special,” said USC head coach Dave Schraven. “In addition to being a great swimmer, Alex is also a great kid. He’s a natural leader, intelligent, hard-working, conscientious, polite—everything you’d want your children to be.”

Hardwick was everything that Emory University, which is located in Atlanta, wanted for its’ nationally ranked school (19th in accounting and close to top 10 in business) as well as swim team. In addition to being a 4.3 honors student, who belongs to the Junior Mentors Club, Hardwick is a 10-time scholastic all-American and Junior National competitor. He owns eight school and pool records.

“Emory is the perfect place for Alex to continue his career,” Schraven said. “It is a great school and one of the top Division 3 swimming programs in the country. He is looking forward to helping the team position itself for a national championship. Individually, he is walking into a situation where he can make an immediate difference and compete on the national stage. I have no doubt he will experience a lot of personal and team success during his four years at Emory.”

Hardwick expects as much. While he will major in accounting and business finance, with the hopes of one day working on Wall Street, the 18-year-old son of Georgia and Daniel Hardwick has lofty expectations when he becomes an Eagle.

“The academic opportunities are there,” said Hardwick, who picked Emory over Pitt and Florida. “Plus, Emory has a close-knit team and set a goal of winning an NCAA championship and as a freshman, I can be a large contributor.

“I aspire to be a NCAA champion. That’s part of the process. One thing after another,” he added. “Swimming is a process.”

Eleven years ago at the Valley Brook Country Club, that process began as a summer activity. “When I joined (the team), I fell in love with (swimming). What I love about it is that it’s all about you and the clock. Your are racing yourself, your training and the work you put into it.”

Years of swimming and training honed Hardwick into the 175-pound amphibian that he is today. In fact, he laughs when he thinks his 100-yard free mark today was his 25-yard free time of yesterday. After recent hard sets between 8,000 and 9,000 yards, broken miles with the longest swims of 1650 yards (or 68 laps in the pool) during the two-week holiday break, Hardwick enters the season with an increased appetite for success.

He hopes to retain his WPIAL titles and better his 2013 state finishes. During last year’s PIAA finals, Hardwick took third in the 200 free and secured seventh in the 100 free. He gained all-state honors in both races.

Pleased with his Junior National efforts earlier in December, Hardwick said of his times, which were just off his personal records, “it’s a good start but there is room for improvement. It’s not where I need to be to accomplish what I want to do in March.”

Hence, he rises at 4:45 a.m., packs his lunch, which includes a sandwich, banana, orange, apple sauce, almonds and walnuts, and heads to his 5:30 a.m. practice. After a full day of classes, it’s back in the pool. If it’s a meet night, Hardwick may get to stay up until 11 p.m.

“Alex has lofty goals,” Schraven said. “My hope for him is that he will continue to improve and that he will compete for state titles in both the 100 and 200 freestyle this year.”

Schraven also anticipates Hardwick will help the Panthers contend for the WPIAL team title as well as the state crown. “I hope he will continue to be a great leader and help us to reach our lofty team goals.” During his freshman season, USC captured its first district championship since 1973. The Panthers have never won a PIAA team title for swimming.

In addition to defending his two individual titles, Hardwick will swim on two relays for the Panthers, most likely the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Hardwick remembers fondly being on the 400 that clinched the WPIAL title for USC.

“Winning that freestyle relay was the coolest moment in my career to this point,” said Hardwick of the race, which is the final event of a meet.

While USC and North Allegheny met recently in a dual meet, with the Tigers trumping the Panthers by 14 points, Hardwick described the action as “back and forth” and “fun.” In fact, USC set three pool records and smashed four team marks in the competition.

Harwick swam a 46.47 in the 100 free, shattering the pool record, set in 1996 by Bethel Park’s Jerry Koller. The mark fell several races later when Zachary Buerger led off the 400 relay and earned the record back for NA.

“It was a goal (to break the record),” said Hardwick. “To break it the first time in such a long time was special.”

Significant also for Hardwick would be going out the way he arrived in his high school career. “We won the WPIAL title our freshmen year,” he said. “It would be fantastic to close out my career that way, too.”

Alex Hardwick File

Age: 18

Parents: Georgia & Daniel

Sibling: Nikki, 19

School: Upper St. Clair

Year: Senior

GPA: 4.3

Favorite class & teacher: A.P. Economics & Ben Edwards

College choice: Emory University

Major: Accounting & business finance

Dream job: Working on Wall Street.

Sports: Swimming, track

Achievements: WPIAL champion in 100- and 200-yard freestyle races; Scholastic all-American, 10 times. Holds eight pool and school records. Junior National qualifier.

Activities: Athletes Taking Action, Junior Mentors

What’s in your lunch: Sandwich, banana, orange, apple sauce, almonds and walnuts

Secret vice: My mom’s homemade cookies. “When I come home from practice and I smell something good in the kitchen, then I know it’s going to be a good night.”

Favorite restaurant: Mitchell’s Fish Market. “I love their salmon and the tilapia is good there.”

Best vegetable: Asparagus

Favorite fruit: Mango

Favorite snack: Buffalo wings

Favorite athlete: Olympian Nathan Adrian, who holds American records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races.

Twitter or Facebook? I’m not on any social networks. I just don’t see a big need for it since I see my friends every day. Anything I have to say to them, I can tell them in person.

People might be surprised to know this about you: I sing tenor in the Pantheon Choir and run track. People think if you swim, you can’t do anything else. I promised Mr. (Terry) Jackson I would give him one year because in middle school I was a pretty good 400-meter runner and my mom (Georgia Geronymos) was a good runner at Keystone Oaks. The singing, I really enjoy. In the last musical, I sang “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins. I love singing. It’s a good release from school and swimming.”

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