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Trackshark.com Q&A with Head Coach J.J. Clark
J.J. Clark

J.J. Clark

Oct. 22, 2008

by Tom Borish

Answers from Tennessee women's head coach J.J. Clark

As we're in the heart of the cross country season, the fall training for your track & field athletes has begun. Let's begin with the throwers. Where are they right now in their conditioning program?

When I walk in the weight room, Coach Frazier has the throwers lifting well. They also are doing some technique work out on the track. They have had some testing in the weight room, and I have seen improvement since last year. Right now, they are doing well.

Annie Alexander had a tremendous 2008 campaign considering she didn't arrive to Knoxville until January. As the SEC indoor and outdoor champion in the shot put as a freshman, how is she being brought along now in her first full fall training program?

John Frazier has done a great job with Annie and our throwing program. There have been good indicators from the weight room that she is being developed very well and getting a base underneath her that should take her through the indoor and outdoor seasons. She seems to be staying very focused and just wants to do better this season at the NCAA Championship meets as she did at the SEC meets last year. She's working on a lot of technical areas in addition to developing her power, strength and explosiveness.

Taking a look at the sprinters, what phase of conditioning are they in right now?

The fall is traditionally your base phase, where you are doing higher volume. That's where they are right now. They are also showing good success in the early phase, getting a better start than last year, and I'm excited about that.

 

 

Who are some of the sprinters who have shown early signs of success heading into the indoor season?

I've had a lot of talks with our sprint coach Pauline Davis-Thompson, who is in her first year with us as a full-time coach this season, and she mentioned that the sprinters all are doing well. Sometimes, some show a little more success than others, but Celriece Law, Lynne Layne and Brittany Jones are really showing some indications of doing great things. We're also very excited about Ashley Harris and Ellen Wortham, a pair of freshmen who are new to the program and have a lot of room to be developed and be successful at the SEC and NCAA levels.

Do you conduct a fall testing program? If so, what events do you test for and at what point in the fall will this take place?

Pauline is testing certain areas, like the jumps. She's talked about flying 30s, and some of those have taken place already. She also eventually will do, as she did last year, 300 time trials. Basically, right now, we're doing controlled training and just building up the process as we're still very early in the season. Pauline has done a great job so far in directing the sprinters to a successful fall.

With a strong group of jumpers this season, where are they in their fall development?

We have three jumpers, and they are all very capable of jumping over 20 feet, and some 21. We have a great volunteer coach in Charlie Simpkins, who was an Olympic silver medalist in the triple jump in Barcelona. He takes them through their phases, their plyometrics, their technical work and development in that area. Everyone is in the beginning phase, the development phase, the base phase, developing strength and power. That's where we are, but we are also methodically moving forward at the same time.

How important is the weight room and other non-track exercises to your athletes as they prepare for the indoor season?

Across the board, from the sprints, to the jumps, to the throws to the distance group, the weight room is very important. You must have power and speed to be successful. It also requires ball work, plyos, core work, the whole `shebang.' We put a nice load on them and cycle it. We've been pretty successful with it over the past several years.

The fall is a great time for each group to get together and know each other, especially for the freshman and any transfers. Who are some of the new faces that could make an impact this season and how have they done so far this fall for you?

We have a freshman, Chanelle Price, who was the top prep runner in the 800m and a good 400m runner. She's come along fine, making the transition as a freshman will, into college with more studying and trying to juggle a schedule. She's done a great job, as she also is a very good student. Ellen Wortham brings a lot to the table for us in different areas. She is a sprinter/jumper type athlete also making a successful transition. Ashley Harris is from right down the road in Georgia, and she has excited Pauline, our sprint coach. She's done a great job of doing everything she's been asked to do. She shows room to be developed and a lot of room for her to make tremendous progress. In the throws area, there are several youngsters who have come in. Akeela Bravo, Christine Coppola and Laquoya Kelly are all throwers who are being developed to be able to score in our conference meets. We're just excited about the new faces, and they have definitely been accepted into our program.

You'll kick off the indoor season on January 16 at the Kentucky Invitational, the same oversized track which will host the SEC Indoor Championships. The schedule also features plenty of opportunities for your athletes to qualify for the national meet on some of the best facilities each weekend. With the schedule in mind, how do you best prepare your athletes for the season knowing that they'll have plenty of chances to get their qualifying marks out of the way?

The objective is to give ourselves the best opportunity to put good marks on the board. That is how the facilities and meets were chosen, and they fit the proper dates that we needed. Actually, we take every qualifying opportunity very seriously, because there are a lot of areas where we have to qualify. We don't want to miss an opportunity, because when you get to the conference meet, you are many times doing more than one event. We try to encourage our athletes to do their best toward putting good marks on the board every weekend by going out and executing a plan. That way, it opens up the rest of the season and allows us to train them in the fashion necessary, versus just going and chasing marks.

What is the general plan for your athletes training for this holiday season?

Sometimes holidays can become a coach's nightmare. I just want them to train. I'd like them to go home, do the best they can, understanding that a lot of facilities close for the holidays. I also understand there are family members in town, or there is a lot of traveling being done, but I would just like them to, in some way, prioritize their training and do the best they can. In the past, everyone has done a good job of going home and staying fit, and that shows the kind of commitment that I am looking for from the student-athletes in this program.

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