March 20, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the second time in five seasons, University of Tennessee Lady Vol track & field head man J.J. Clark has been selected as the NCAA Division I National Women's Coach of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
Officially, Clark has been selected as the Beverly Kearney Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year, which is named in honor of the current University of Texas head coach and former Lady Volunteer assistant. Oregon's Dan Steele claimed the men's honor, while Florida's Brian O'Neal and Texas A&M's Vince Anderson were chosen as the men's and women's assistant coaches of the year, respectively. Anderson was a long-time assistant coach for both the Tennessee women's and men's programs, directing the sprints/hurdles/jumps area.
In his seventh season at Rocky Top, Clark guided the 2009 Lady Volunteers to the program's second NCAA Indoor Championship (2005, 2009) and third overall (1981 AIAW Outdoor) title. He also won this award for directing Tennessee to the 2005 NCAA and SEC Indoor Championships.
Bolstered by two victories, one via a world-record time in the distance medley relay and the other from an NCAA meet record in the mile by Sarah Bowman, Clark's second-ranked Big Orange club scored 42 points to hold off top-ranked Texas A&M (37) and the rest of the field for the NCAA Indoor team trophy on March 13-14 in College Station, Texas. The Aggies had previously defeated the Lady Vols in a dual meet, 83-69, on Jan. 24.
Also key to UT's NCAA triumph were second-place finishes in the 800 meters from Phoebe Wright and the 60m hurdles from Celriece Law as well as a third-place effort in the shot put from Annie Alexander. Bowman, Law, Alexander and the DMR all turned in school-record efforts, and Wright managed her result while dealing with the effects of a sinus infection.
Two weeks prior to the NCAA meet, Clark guided the Lady Vol program to its third SEC Indoor trophy in the past five seasons (2005, 2007, 2009). Bowman won two events, Wright and Law won theirs and the DMR was victorious for the third straight season. For those performances, Clark was chosen SEC Indoor Women's Coach of the Year for the third time (2005, 2007, 2009) and added USTFCCCA Indoor South Region honors for the fourth occasion (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009) on March 12.
"It feels good to be nominated and voted the national coach of the year," Clark said. "There are some really excellent coaches and programs throughout America, and for those coaches to feel you are the best this year is very rewarding. Again, it shows the consistency of our program, where we've had this award before and are receiving it again four years later.
"It's a good sign for our program. Hopefully, our team can continue this excellence throughout the years to come and be very, very dominant in the sport of track & field. At the least, we hope to be super competitive year-in and year-out."
With this award, Clark's total of career coach of the year honors reached 20, including 17 in his first 6 1/2 seasons in Knoxville. Clark's tally of personal accomplishments as UT's skipper includes two national coach of the year awards (2005, 2009), five regional kudos (indoors in 2005, 2007, 2008 & 2009; outdoors in 2005) and three conference honors (2005, 2007, 2009) in track & field, and four regional citations (2002-05) and three conference nods (2003-05) in cross country.
During that time, he has directed his troops to two NCAA Indoor titles and five top-five national finishes, three conference indoor championships and a regional outdoor victory in track & field, and four regional crowns and three SEC trophies in cross country. He also had two SEC honors (1996-97) and one regional award (1997) as cross country coach at Florida from 1992 to 2001 while leading the Gators to victory twice in league (1996, 1997) and regional (1997, 1998) action.
Clark and company begin the outdoor season on March 27-28, as the Lady Vols split up to visit both the Stanford Invitational and Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Invitational.