With a Division I basketball scholarship in her pocket, it would have been really easy for Val Clark to mail in her senior season on the track.
That’s just not how the Center Grove senior is wired, though.
Clark wanted one last hurrah with her friends and teammates before she heads off to Eastern Kentucky this summer. She also wanted redemption after what she considered a disappointing performance in the state cross-country meet last fall.
“To me, it was really important on a personal level,” Clark said, “because I didn’t end cross-country the way I wanted to. So I’m doing it for me, but I’m also doing it because I don’t think it’s right to abandon my teammates for selfish reasons.”
So far, the redemption tour has gone well. Clark has again established herself as the area’s premier distance runners, taking first in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Johnson County Meet for the second consecutive year. She’ll be among the favorites in those events at the sectional and regional meets, and she’s hoping to close out her career with a trip to Bloomington for the state finals.
For all of her victories and other accolades as a runner, though, Clark’s legacy at Center Grove will be based on other things.
“The biggest thing for me is how much she’s become a great leader,” said Wes Dodson, the coach of the Trojan girls. “Our cross country team would never have been anywhere near what it was without her as a second coach. Same thing for the track team.
“She shows people how to work; there’s never a day that she doesn’t come in here and work her tail off.”
It’s clear that Clark values those same attributes and wants to be remembered by everyone at Center Grove in the way that Dodson will remember her.
“It’s really cool to look back at varsity letters, county championships, MIC, all the noteworthy things I’ve done,” she said, “but I hope to the team, I left behind more than a good run at this meet or this meet.
“I hope that, more than anything, I leave behind an impact personally, more than just being a name on the wall.”
Of course, Clark’s name will be on the wall plenty. She’s graduating as one of the most decorated distance runners in school history — one that Dodson could easily have taken for granted but never did.
Few athletes have been as consistently reliable on the track as Clark has for the last four years.
“We can count on those points,” Dodson said. “It’s not a question mark; it’s not up in the air. If I tell her to get fourth, she’ll get fourth. If I tell her to get second, she’ll get it. She’ll get whatever I ask her to get.”
After another month, Clark will be embarking on a new mission, leaving in July to start summer classes and basketball workouts at Eastern Kentucky. She plans to major in biology, with an eye toward going to graduate school to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Before she leaves, though, Clark still has a little bit left to accomplish. Her Center Grove story has been a good one, but it’s not quite finished.
“I guess if I could write my final chapter, it’s to have no more bad runs, obviously,” Clark said, “but just finish out and have my last memories here be great ones.”
A look at the postseason track and field schedule:
Thursday;Columbus North Sectional;5:30 p.m.
May 25;Warren Central Regional;5 p.m.
June 2;State meet at Indiana University;3 p.m.
Tuesday;Franklin Sectional;5:30 p.m.
May 23;Franklin Regional;5 p.m.
June 3;State meet at Indiana University;3 p.m.