National Track & Field Hall of Fame inductee Jearl Miles Clark Q&A

11-12-2010

Contact:
Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
317-713-4690

INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field announced on November 4 that all-time great athletes Jearl Miles Clark, Dyrol Burleson, Roy Cochran, Ralph Craig and journalist James Dunaway have been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.

Excerpts from a recent interview with Miles Clark follow. Interviews with her fellow Hall of Fame classmates Dyrol Burleson and James Dunaway are forthcoming.

The Class of 2010 will be inducted Saturday evening, December 4, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with USATF's 2010 Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach, Va.The National Track & Field Hall of Fame is located at The Armory Foundation, at 216 Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights, N.Y. For more information, visit: http://ny.milesplit.com/pages/Hall-of-Fame

In a career recognized for its excellence as well as its longevity, Jearl Miles Clark achieved tremendous success in both the 400m and 800m.

The 1993 World Outdoor champion, 1995 & 1997 World Outdoor Championships bronze medalist and 1997 World Indoor champion at 400 meters, Miles Clark was a two time Olympian in the 400m (1992 - 5th in semis & 1996 - 5th in final), and competed in the 800m at two Olympic Games (2000- 5th in semis & 2004 - 6th in final). A five-time Olympic Team member, Miles Clark is a three-time Olympic 4x400m relay medalist (1992, silver, 1996 & 2000 gold), and she also won 4x400m relay medals at six World Outdoor Championships (1991 silver - 1993 gold - 1995 gold - 1997 silver - 1999 silver - 2003 gold). A six-time World Indoor Championships competitor, who captured the 400m gold medal in 1997 and bronze medals in 1993 and 1999, Miles Clark won two 4x400m relay medals at that event (1991 bronze & 1997 silver).

Miles Clark won USA Outdoor 400m titles in 1993, '95, '97 & '02 and captured USA Outdoor 800m crowns in 1998, '99, '03 & '04. She posted the American women's outdoor 800m record three times including the current AR of 1:56.40 in 1999. Miles Clark won USA Indoor 400m titles in 1993, '95 '97, '98 & '99 and captured the USA Indoor 800m crown in 2001.

Jearl Miles Clark Q&A

Q: How does it feel to know that you have been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: It feels great. I was surprised. I was glad to hear that my name was on the ballot, along with the other athletes that I was told were on the ballot. When I was informed that I had actually made the cut I was surprised and very happy.

Q: What's it like to be elected just one year after your sister-in-law Joetta Clark was inducted into the Hall of Fame?

A: Last year when I was there with Joetta it was a wonderful experience to be there with her. I had no idea that I would be going through the same process the following year. I could've never imagined it. But it's pretty cool that we're going through the same process again. This time I have to make all the arrangements (laughter).

Q: How did you get started in track and field?

A: My sister Sylvia ran track and she's older than I. Like all little sisters and big sisters I started running because she ran.

Q: Why did you choose the 400 meters as your specialty?

A: Actually I didn't want to run the 400. I was a long jumper. I had no intention of running the 400. I was a long jumper in high school and I started running the 400 because at the Bob Hayes Relays in Jacksonville, Florida, when I was in high school, I believe it was my senior year, they had this huge trophy and I wanted to get that trophy, so I had to run the 100, 200, 400 and then long jump. If I won them all I'd get the trophy. I broke the meet record in the long jump and the 400, but I didn't win the trophy. That's when people started looking at me as a 400 meter runner. I didn't get the trophy, but I did get the 400.

Q: What was your high school track and field career like?

A: I was a long jumper and 100 meter runner, and that was it. Then I started running the 400, but that was during the last part of my senior year. I think I ran three more 400s during my senior year and that was at the county meet, the regional meet and state, all of which I won. So I was just rounding into myself the end of my senior year. Not many schools had an eye out for me, and at that time Alabama A&M did, and I believe Florida A&M, and possibly, I want to say Auburn, but Auburn came in pretty late after I made my decision to go to Alabama A&M.

Q: How was your collegiate experience at Alabama A&M?

A: It was cool. It's a small university. I was pretty quiet and pretty shy, so I fit in very well there. Coach (Joe) Henderson was the father-figure that I didn't have at home, so I was comfortable there. Even after winning state in the 400, I was still a longer jumper, and that's all I wanted to do was jump and sprint, until once or twice I hid from coach, who was trying to get me to run the 400 (laughter). I grew a lot during those four years running under Coach Henderson. He's a great coach and a great motivator. He's the one who actually got me to go to the Olympic Trials in 1988. I was done and that was it, I've had my season and I'm going home, and he said 'No Miles, you're going to go out there and run.' So I made the team (4x400m relay pool) and went over to Seoul, and that's what happened.

Q: You won the 400m at the 1993 World Outdoor Championships. What are your memories of that?

A: It was unbelievable. It was either the second or third year since J.J. (husband J.J. Clark) had started coaching me. It was awesome. Can you imagine going out there and you work hard to do it, but it never hits you until it actually happens? I really cannot explain the feeling, but it was great. I am who I am. I go out there and run as hard as I can to be the best, and when I am the best I don't go around bragging. I just put it on the line every time and go run for it.

Q: What was it like being coached by your husband, J.J.? Did it cause problems for you?

A: We were pretty good about it from start to finish. Track was track and once we left the track, home was home, and we were really good at that. I know he's one of the greatest coaches in the world and I know he's not going to do anything to hurt me. Not on purpose anyway. One of the greatest things that I could ask for was to have him as my coach and to know that he is not going to hurt me and that everything he does is for my benefit to make me better and make me the best in the world.Q: In six trips to the World Outdoor Championships you won six relay medals, and you won three medals in Olympic relay competition as well. How does success in relays differ from your individual accomplishments in the sport?

A: I don't know if I can explain it. There's just a difference in the individual and the relay. You go in and you're all by yourself in the individual events. It's you against the other seven athletes that are in there. But then, at the end of finishing your individual event, win, lose or draw you have to get up again because there are the other three athletes that are there counting on you. I'm serious - if you've never gone through it, I really can't explain it to you.

Q: Is there more pressure on you knowing that you're also running for your teammates on the relay?

A: I don't know if it puts more pressure on you or if it's easier. It's easier because we warm up together and we know we have to go out there and put four legs together and we're going to just try to beat everybody else. That's what you do. You focus on getting your job done individually, and collectively you come together and you want to win.

Q: At the midpoint of your career you started running the 800 meters.

How did that evolve?

A: I had been told for a long time that I should experiment with the 800, but I wasn't having it. First of all, you had to coax me into running the 400 and practically kick my butt to make me enjoy and love the 400, and then you tell me I have to run another lap (laughter)? J.J. was pretty smooth about it. At first I looked and I go 'Wow, I think I can do that.' Then he'll put me in one to see how I can do in it, and I thought 'This is pretty cool. I can do that.' I won, and we all like winning. He gradually changed my work-out here, and gave me a little more volume here, without me really thinking about it or realizing it. Of course he told me what to do and I did it, and it came easy. I think I did it three times in 1997 and then we just decided to go for it to see if I could break the American record. I think it was at Prefontaine and I ran like 1:57, and I said 'Whoa, wait a minute here.' And it just evolved from there. Q: After all your success in the 400, what was it like between you and Joetta when you set the American 800m record, which was her specialty event throughout her long and illustrious career?

A: Joetta was always very supportive of me running the 800 from the beginning to the end. To have two of us do well in that event, and then to have Hazel (sister-in-law Hazel Clark, three-time Olympian) come up behind us and just blasting, what more could you ask for, the three of us to medal? Yeah, but that didn't happen. But to have three athletes going 1:57, I don't know that you could say that about any other family in track and field.

Q: Do you miss competing?

A: Sometimes I miss it, and sometimes I think that I could do better if I was still running, but it's not my time now. It's someone else's time right now. I'm enjoying my son, I'm enjoying my husband and my life here at home. Sometimes when the Olympics come around I think maybe I could do this again, and then I watch one of the workouts that the girls do and I'm like, 'Uh...no (Laughter).

Q: What are you proudest of from your career?

A: Some of the highlights would have to be 1993 winning the World Championships outdoors, and in '96, when the Olympics were in Atlanta and we won the gold in the relay. I PR'ed in the 400 there and might've gotten a medal, but everybody decided to run a little faster (laughter). Breaking the American record in the 800 three times and making the team with Hazel and Joetta (2000 Olympics). That was hard. I ran the 400 earlier and made the team in that (at the 2000 Olympic Trials) and came back a few days later and made the team in the 800.

Q: In recent years you've dabbled some in masters track and field. Will that continue?

A: I may just to see what my body can do. I just might, I don't know. The ladies are very competitive. They have a great spirit and I don't want to go out there half-steppin and get my butt spanked. I don't like losing, and if I'm going to do something I'm going to put 100% into it. The camaraderie and the passion is great and it's a great spirit to be around. It would be interesting to go back and see what I could do in masters track.

Q: What keeps you busy these days?

A: My little son, Jorell! He's three going on 30 (laughter)! He's a wonderful young man, he's strong spirited and he loves to run. When we go out to the track to see his father he always wants to go run and he does not like to lose! We're not pushing him, but he's already out there.

For more information on USA Track & Field and the National Track & File Hall of Fame, visit: www.usatf.org