Vernon Hills’ Richard Clark puts together strong debut season

SHARE Vernon Hills’ Richard Clark puts together strong debut season

For the last two years, one of Vernon Hills’ fastest runners played volleyball — not track and field — in the spring.

This year, after much internal debate, junior Richard Clark traded spiking for sprinting. It turned out to be one of those decisions that was only obvious in retrospect.

At the Class 2A Grayslake Sectional on May 23, Clark finished first in the 200-meter dash (22.61 seconds) and placed second in the 100 meters (11.01). Clark also teamed with Juan Martinez, Ilya Federovich and James Hommer to qualify for the state meet with a time of 44.18 in the 4×100-meter relay.

Clark did not make it to the finals in any of the three events at the state meet May 29-31, but he said he benefited from competing in such a big-time atmosphere.

“The competition was [intense] and the [crowd] made it feel really intimidating,” Clark said. “I learned not to let the surroundings get to you. [Overall], it was a great experience.”

Clark was a successful track athlete in middle school, but a football injury (broken leg) convinced him to try volleyball as a freshman instead of track. He quickly became enamored with the Cougars’ volleyball program and elected to play as a sophomore as well.

Clark enjoyed his sophomore season of volleyball but realized that if he was going to try track again, he pretty much had to do it as a junior.

“It was a really tough decision because I enjoyed my teammates and loved the coaches but I felt like it was time to start doing track again,” he said.

Clark’s decision certainly put a smile on the face of Vernon Hills track coach Mark Whitney.

“He immediately showed that he had tremendous potential as a sprinter and was going to be a great asset to the team,” Whitney said.

At the sectional meet, Clark was in fifth place for the first part of the 100 meters before surging to second. In the 200, he enjoyed control for most of the race.

“He was ready to run his best times when it mattered the most,” Whitney said.

Clark said he did not expect to have this type of success at the start of the season. At that time, he was just hoping to make it through each practice.

“I felt sore and out of shape at the first tough workouts,” he said. “That first practice was the most sore I’ve been in a while. I continued to push myself hard and when there was about a week left in the indoor season, I started to feel like I was getting back into it.”

Given his limited experience, Whitney said Clark is just getting started.

“He has all the natural ability and a lot of improvement will come from focusing on technical aspects,” Whitney said. “He’s the kind of guy that when he doesn’t perform [well], he takes it to heart and figures out what to do differently. That’s exactly what you want as a coach.”

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