Up And Over

Whether it's a hur­dle or a pit, Clark leaps over it

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Tony Burns Sports Edi­tor

This sum­mer has al­ready been planned for El Do­rado’s Breya Clark. She will depart for Queens­land, Aus­tralia on July 7 to com­pete in the Down Under Sports Tour­na­ment, rep­re­sent­ing Arkansas on the track and field team.

It’s a big op­por­tu­nity for which she’s been rais­ing money for the last sev­eral months.

“It’s real im­por­tant. At first I wasn’t go­ing to go but then I was like, ‘but it would be a good ex­pe­ri­ence.’ I could see other peo­ple do­ing it that’s good, too,” said Clark. “I think it’ll ben­e­fit me be­cause I’ll be able to ex­pe­ri­ence see­ing other peo­ple run­ning from dif­fer­ent places. I feel like it’ll give me a chal­lenge to see some dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tion.”

While Clark’s sum­mer ap­pears set, her spring has been hot­ter than July. The ju­nior is com­ing off the Cam­den Fairview Car­di­nal Re­lays, where she won the high jump and the 100 hur­dles, took third in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump.

It was typ­i­cal of her sea­son, so far.

“If you want to un­der­stand what kind of sea­son Breya is hav­ing, all you have to do is look at the re­sults,” said El Do­rado coach John Koonce. “She has au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fied for state in four sep­a­rate events: the high jump, the triple jump, the 100 me­ter hur­dles, and the 300 me­ter hur­dles. It is an honor to au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify in just one event. Qual­i­fy­ing for four is re­ally some­thing spe­cial. She is also a very strong leg for our 4x100 team and she is just one inch shy from au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fy­ing in the long jump as well. When you see these re­sults you un­der­stand that she has a level of raw ath­leti­cism that doesn’t come around very of­ten.”

As a sopho­more, Clark es­tab­lished her­self as one of the state’s premier ath­letes when she won the 6A state cham­pi­onship in the high jump and triple jump and fin­ished sec­ond in the state in the 100 hur­dles. She was sec­ond in the triple jump at the Meet of Champions, third in the high jump and sev­enth in the 100 hur­dles. She then capped her sea­son by plac­ing 12th in the Arkansas State High School Hep­tathlon.

“What doesn’t show up on pa­per is her fierce com­pet­i­tive na­ture,” said Koonce. “This was most ev­i­dent at the meet in Nashville when she tripped over the third hur­dle in the 100 me­ter hur­dles, was passed by the ma­jor­ity of the field, but came back and won the race any­way. When you add in her great at­ti­tude it is easy to see why she is per­form­ing at such a high level.”

A fa­vorite in four events at nearly ev­ery meet, Clark could line her walls with high point awards. That’s not her fo­cus, though.

“These next cou­ple of meets I’m go­ing to fo­cus on the ones I need to get bet­ter at,” she said. “Well, I do kind of worry about it but now that I’m just do­ing the stuff I’m sup­posed to fo­cus on, I’m not wor­ried about it that much.”

Not that she has much time to worry about any­thing. Once a meet starts, she runs from event to event - from the high jump to the long jump to the hur­dles to the re­lays. In some cases, she might be com­pet­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously in two events, such as the triple jump and the high jump, on op­po­site ends of the sta­dium.

“It’s not re­ally tough on me be­cause I’ve been do­ing it for so long. I’m used to go­ing back and forth,” she said. “I feel like when I don’t have events that are back-to-back, my body gets tired and I get lazy. It’s just some­thing to push me.”

It’s not like she could eas­ily give up an event, any­way. From the hur­dles to all of the jumps, she en­joys them all.

“I just like run­ning and jump­ing,” said Clark, who ad­mit­ted as a child to launch­ing her­self off the swing sets and sail­ing through the air.

“I’ve al­ways been jump­ing, like, ev­ery­where. On the bas­ket­ball court, I like jump­ing up for re­bounds. I like be­ing in the air. I like to see how far I can go, like, up, jump­ing over the bar.”

She has drawn col­le­giate in­ter­est from schools such as SAU, Navy, Texas, Mis­souri, Yale and Air Force and said she’s re­ally in­ter­ested in Arkansas State. But, like her trip to Aus­tralia, col­le­giate track is still in the dis­tant fu­ture. For now, she’s fo­cused squarely on this sea­son.

“As good as her sea­son has been, she un­der­stands that she is no where near fin­ished,” said Koonce. “Our con­fer­ence is go­ing to have ath­letes in ev­ery event that she spe­cial­izes in that are go­ing to push her to the limit. If she doesn’t bring her ‘A’ game, things aren’t go­ing to go the way that we want them to at the con­fer­ence meet at the end of April, and she un­der­stands this. So I ex­pect her to be fo­cused the next cou­ple of weeks be­cause she wants to do the best that she can not just for her­self, but for her team­mates as well.”

Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Hur­dle cleared: El Do­rado's Breya Clark clears a hur­dle dur­ing the Oil Belt Re­lays at Memo­rial Sta­dium. Clark, a ju­nior, has es­tab­lished her­self as one of the premier track and field ath­letes in the state this sea­son.

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