J.J. Clark is in his 10th year at Tennessee, where he spent seven seasons as head coach of the women's cross country and track & field programs before also assuming leadership of the men's track & field team prior to the 2009-10 campaign.
In 2011-12, Clark adds another responsibility to his list, as he takes over coaching duties of the men's cross country and distance units after coaching only the women's group the past nine years.
A two-time NCAA and six-time SEC champion coach with the Lady Vol track & field and cross country teams from 2002-09, Clark heads up one of the most storied collegiate programs in the nation. The cross country teams have thrived at UT, boasting a national championship and 30 SEC titles between them since their inception. The men's and women's teams also have made a combined 44 appearances at national championship meets and hosted the NCAA Championships together in 1990 at Pine Lakes Golf Course in Rockford, Tenn.
On the oval, Tennessee has won seven national championships and claimed 51 SEC titles (22 indoors/29 outdoors) in track & field through the years.
The architect of an amazing reclamation project with the women's cross country and track & field programs at Rocky Top, Clark spent seven impressive seasons in Knoxville before assuming control of both the men's and women's teams. During that time, the women's cross country program benefited immensely from Clark's tutelage, claiming SEC hardware from 2003-05 and NCAA South Region plaques from 2002-05, and making NCAA Championships appearances from 2002-06. He stands as the all-time winningest women's cross country coach in the history of UT Athletics.
On the trails, his distaff troops carved out eight consecutive top-three performances at the SEC Championships (2002-09), including three runner-up finishes to go along with the three victories. At the regional level, Team Orange has wound up fourth or better in eight of nine seasons under his watch, finishing third three times along with the four triumphs the squad has enjoyed.
During the track & field portion of the season, he has directed the Lady Vols to NCAA Indoor National Championships in 2005 and 2009, SEC Indoor Championships in 2005, 2007 and 2009, and an NCAA Mideast Regional crown outdoors in 2005.
With Clark at the helm, Tennessee has enjoyed six top-five NCAA women's track & field finishes (Indoors: 1st in 2005 and 2009, 2nd in 2010, 3rd in 2007 and 4th in 2004; Outdoors: 4th in 2005) and four additional top-10 outings (Indoors: seventh in 2011, t8th in 2008; Outdoors: t7th in 2004, t10th in 2009) during his stay in Knoxville. UT also has nine SEC top-three outcomes (seven indoors, two outdoors) since 2003, with runner-up efforts indoors in 2004 and 2008 in addition to the titles won in 2005, 2007 and 2009. He now is trying to match that feat with the men's team.
Clark has been recognized far and wide for his acumen in track & field and cross country, earning a total of 21 coach of the year accolades (11 track & field/10 cross country) during a career which also includes 10 seasons as women's cross country coach and assistant track & field coach at Florida (1992-2002).
Among his 10 honors for cross country, Clark is a five-time South Region Women's Coach of the Year (1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) and a five-time SEC Women's Coach of the Year (1996, 1997, 2003, 2004, 2005). His 1996 and 1997 recognitions came while he was at Florida.
The crafty skipper twice has been named national women's collegiate indoor track & field coach of the year, reaping the award from the USTFCCCA in 2009 and the USTCA in 2005. Nike also selected him as its 1998 USA Elite Coach of the Year as well.
Clark has garnered regional track & field coach of the year distinction on five occasions, collecting USTFCCCA South Region Indoor women's accord in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and USTCA South Region Indoor and Mideast Region Outdoor women's kudos in 2005.
At the SEC level, the Big Orange boss was named the SEC Women's Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
While winning national and conference titles now are annual, and realistic, goals, turning recruits into top-flight competitors has long been a hallmark of Clark and the Tennessee program. In cross country, Clark has groomed 14 female athletes who have totaled 30 All-South Region awards in nine seasons and 13 who've accumulated 22 total All-SEC honors. In addition to qualifying women's teams for the NCAA Championships from 2002 to 2006, he also had Jackie Areson (2008, 2009, 2010), Sarah Bowman (2008) and Katie Van Horn (2009, 2010) qualify as individuals, with Bowman placing 36th in 2008 to become the first female cross country All-American at Tennessee since Sharon Dickie in 2000.
During Clark's nine years at the wheel of Tennessee track & field, 38 athletes (35 female/three male) have combined to earn 167 (162 female/five male) All-America certificates, with his charges collecting 12 NCAA titles (nine indoors and three outdoors, all by women). He also has produced 55 SEC championships (53 by women [29 indoors/24 outdoors] and two by men [one indoors/one outdoors] during that time period. Evander Wells was his first male All-America recipient, taking fourth in the 200m outdoors in 2010.
Two of Clark's pupils, 400m whiz DeeDee Trotter and long jump ace Tianna Madison, ascended to stardom on the international stage before their college days were through, resulting in their early departures for the lucrative world of professional track & field.
Among UT's 12 national women's event winners under Clark's watch are 2011 indoor 5000m champ Jackie Areson, 2010 indoor and outdoor 800m champ Wright, 2009 indoor mile champ and NCAA meet-record-holder Bowman, 2005 indoor and outdoor long jump winner Madison, 2004 indoor 800m champ Nicole Cook, 2004 outdoor 400m winner Trotter, 2004 DMR legs Brooke Novak, Trotter, Cook and Lindsay Hyatt; 2008 DMR contributors Brittany Sheffey, Brittany Jones, Wright and Bowman; 2009 world-record-setting DMR members Wright, Chanelle Price, Jones and Bowman, who checked in with a sizzling 10:50.98 readout to rewrite women's history, and 2010 DMR victors Wright, Ellen Wortham, Price and Sheffey.
In the classroom, Clark 's high expectations have been met with equal success, as his track & field/cross country troops have tallied 197 (157 women/40 men) SEC Academic Honor Roll recognitions, 24 female Capital One Academic All-District IV nods and 10 female Academic All-America citations since 2002.
Bowman became his first two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honoree in 2009, as she followed up second-team distinction in 2008 with first-team status as a senior. Also earning accolades in 2009 were first-teamer Wright and second-team selection Amanda Alexander. Wright would repeat and be named Academic All-American of the Year for track & field/cross country, while Areson also made the first team in 2010 and Price followed in 2011. Katie Flaute and Christina Billings were second-team ESPN The Magazine honorees in 2007 and 2003, respectively, while Felicia Guliford garnered Academic All-America acclaim from the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association in fall 2004.
Additionally, Clark's team and individuals are consistently honored by the USTFCCCA and SEC for academics. In 2008 and 2009, Bowman was named both the USTFCCCA Indoor Women's Track Scholar Athlete of the Year and the SEC Women's Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She also joined Guliford and Wright as Lady Vol harriers nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year.
Wright's 2010 campaign was highlighted by the H. Boyd McWhorter SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, SEC Track & Field Scholar Athlete of the Year, an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and USTFCCCA Indoor Track Scholar Athlete of the Year, giving UT the honor three years running. The Lady Vols also were recognized as the USTFCCCA Indoor Scholar Team of the Year in both 2009 and 2010.
Price followed in the footsteps of Bowman and Wright. She became UT's four-straight SEC Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year honoree in 2011 as a co-winner.
In 2004, Clark returned the Big Orange women to vogue at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa., as the Lady Vol contingent pulled off a hat trick of baton event victories at the Penn Relays. Tennessee quartets captured a trio of "Championships of America" in the distance medley, 4x800m and sprint medley relays, with the latter establishing a collegiate record. UT, which also added an SMR title in 2006 and a DMR crown in 2007, had not won that many relays in Philly since 1984.
Tennessee once again pulled off a triple in 2009 and 2010, with Bowman earning athlete of the meet honors for playing a role in UT winning the DMR, 4x1500m and 4x800m events in 2009. The 4x15 unit ran a world-record clocking, while the 4x8 brought the baton home in an American-record readout. Wright, meanwhile, was instrumental in leading UT to victories in those races in 2010.
Those 2009 efforts came after an indoor campaign where the Lady Vols twice posted eye-catching marks in the DMR. First, UT ran 10:56.40 for an American record at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. Then, the Big Orange won the NCAA title in March with the aforementioned world best.
Speaking of records, there also have been some other league and NCAA women's marks set on Clark's watch. Among them, the 2004, 2010 and 2011 DMRs lowered the SEC record to 11:16.61, 11:14.59 and 11:05.37, respectively, while Cook's 2005 collegiate record in the 800m also stands as a conference best.
In addition to the DMR upgrade in 2011, Areson posted a league 3K indoor best of 9:10.49, while Liz Costello lowered the SEC 10K mark to 33:42.96.
Madison's leap of 22-8.50 at the 2005 SEC Outdoor meet, while not a record due to a slight gust of 2.2 mps, stood then as the best mark in the 28 years that women had competed in the long jump at the conference championships. Madison's measurement of 22-3 at the 2005 NCAA Indoor meet, meanwhile, tied Carol Lewis' American collegiate record and was just short of the NCAA standard.
During Clark's first nine years on The Hill, UT women's marks in 16 events indoors and 18 events outdoors have been revised, while one men's best (outdoors) has been eclipsed since 2010.
In addition to that, 21 Lady Vol freshman records (10 indoors/11 outdoors) have fallen, and two Vol rookie standards (both indoors in 2011) have tumbled.
Internationally, Tennessee also returned to the scene under Clark, the 2008 U.S. Olympic women's middle distance coach. His former athletes Bowman (1500m), Cook (800m), Madison (LJ), Trotter (400m/4x400mR), Bennett (800m), Shanna Dickenson (throws), Dickie (distance/XC), Lynne Layne (sprints), Jeneba Tarmoh (sprints) and Cleo Tyson (sprints), and current Lady Vol Price (800m), have performed well for Team USA. Current star Annie Alexander and ex-Lady Vols Rose-Anne Galligan (distance/XC), Toyin Olupona (sprints) and Patricia Hall (sprints), meanwhile, have been fine representatives for Trinidad & Tobago, Ireland, Canada and Jamaica, respectively. Newcomer Justin Hunter became Clark's first international male competitor, finishing sixth in the long jump at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships.
World success showered the Big Orange in 2004, as college junior Trotter ran on the victorious U.S. Olympic 4x400m relay unit and grabbed fifth in the open 400 meters before becoming the first underclass Lady Vol to turn pro. Clark also moved four of his pupils into the 800m finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where Bennett and Cook finished fourth and seventh, respectively.
He advanced two (wife Jearl Miles-Clark and sister Hazel Clark) to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, where Miles-Clark wound up sixth in her fifth trip to the Olympiad, while a freak accident prevented Clark from advancing beyond the prelims in her second visit to the Games.
Hazel would also qualify for the 2008 Games, competing for her brother, J.J., who served as the women's middle distance coach for the U.S. In 2005, Madison would leap to international stardom, winning the long jump at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships.
Clark's impact has been felt beyond the programs he coaches, as well, as his squads' SEC and NCAA finishes have fueled the most extensive department-wide spree of female sport success in the history of UT Athletics. The Lady Vols were declared the SEC women's all-sports winners in 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 by the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. Though the Lady Vols and Tennessee finished second in the SEC all-sports standings in 2006-07, the women's and men's programs combined to place seventh nationally in the U.S. Sports Academy Director's Cup standings, marking UT's highest ranking in history.
One of the most respected distance coaches in the nation, Clark enjoyed 10 successful seasons as an assistant from 1992 to 2002 at the University of Florida and spent the 1991-92 year there as a graduate assistant. His group of athletes played a key role in Florida's SEC Indoor and Outdoor track & field titles in 1997 and 1998, its indoor crown in 2002 and its third-place national finish indoors in 2002. It has been estimated that his charges accumulated more than 650 points in SEC action and 110-plus at the NCAA level during his 10 seasons as a full-time aide.
During his tenure with the Gators, Clark groomed two athletes who combined for three SEC Athlete of the Year awards in cross country and track, and developed competitors who racked up five NCAA Championships, 44 NCAA All-America citations and 32 conference championship plaques. Among those were his sister, Hazel, a three-time national champ in the 800 meters and the SEC Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 1998 and 1999, and Becki Wells, a two-time victor in the mile/1500 meters and the 1996 SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Both own the school records in their respective events, part of a total of 12 such marks accomplished by Clark-tutored athletes at Florida.
In cross country, Clark led the school to its first-ever team appearance at the NCAA Championships in 1994. UF was extended invitations four more times to the national meet under his leadership, going in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999 and charting a top team finish of 16th on the third of its five trips. Clark also guided Florida to SEC titles in 1996 and 1997, and the Gators claimed NCAA regional titles in 1997 and 1998.
Among those drawing kudos for their standout cross country performances were Wells, the 1995 and 1996 SEC champion, and Hilary White, the 2000 SEC Freshman Athlete of the Year. Additionally, Wells and Velsen picked up All-America citations during their careers.
As mentioned previously, Clark's influence also extends into the international arena, and his history of preparing athletes for competition is second to none. Proof of that was evident in 2000, when three of his pupils, sisters Joetta and Hazel and wife Jearl, finished one-two-three in the 800m at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif., and went on to represent America in Sydney.
During his time as head of "Team Clark," the 1986 Villanova graduate prepared Joetta to compete in four Olympics prior to retiring, Jearl to make five appearances and win two Olympic golds and two world championships, and Hazel to make the finals in her initial trip to the Olympics in 2000 and qualify again in 2004 and 2008. His spouse also maintains the American record she set in the 800m in 1999 and was the 2004 Olympic Trials champion and 2003 USATF outdoor victor in the 800m as well as the 2002 winner in the 400m.
In addition to the familial success, he also coached three-time Olympian Mark Everett to a No. 1 USA ranking and fourth-place world rating in the 800 meters. Nike recognized Clark for his work in continuing to develop world-class athletes, naming him the 1998 USA Elite Coach of the Year.
Clark's abilities have also been noticed and rewarded by his sport's national governing body. After serving as an assistant for the U.S. women at the 1999 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Greece, he would receive the honor of being named head coach of the 2001 team in Edmonton, Canada. As previously mentioned, he later earned the distinction of being the middle distance coach for the U.S. women at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
A product of Maplewood, N.J., and a graduate of Columbia High School, Clark made trips to Knoxville during his teen years to watch his sister Joetta compete for the Lady Vols and saw her help Tennessee win the 1981 AIAW National Outdoor Championship. Those examples left an impression on the younger brother, and he blazed his own trail in track & field.
First, he set his own standard of excellence in running, winning the New Jersey high school state title in the mile and two-mile as a senior in 1982. With that kind of effort, he then earned a scholarship to Villanova, where he would develop into a sub-four minute miler in his competitive days en route to qualifying for the 1988 U.S Olympic Trials.
After graduating from VU in May of 1986 with a B.A. in communications, Clark returned to his prep alma mater and served as assistant track coach. While at CHS from 1986 to 1989, he worked with the girls' and boys' middle distance and sprints corps. Then, in 1991, he made his transition into collegiate coaching, serving as a graduate assistant at Florida for one year before being hired full time there.
Clark, who resides in Knoxville with wife Jearl and son Jorell, studied anatomy and physiology coursework in graduate school at UF. Bridging the gap between his high school coaching and college experience, he also took courses in nutrition and exercise physiology in 1990 at Kean College in Union, N.J., and became certified as a licensed sports massage therapist in 1991 from the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville. His father is Joe Lewis Clark, the bat-wielding principal of Paterson, New Jersey's Eastside High School, depicted by actor Morgan Freeman in the 1989 movie "Lean on Me."