June 29, 2014
STORRS, Conn. - J.J. Clark, who has two NCAA national championships to his credit, has been named the Head Women's Track and Field Coach at the University of Connecticut.
Clark comes to UConn after coaching at Tennessee since 2001 where he served as the women's track and field coach until 2011 and then as Director of Track and Field/Cross Country with overseeing both the men's and women's programs.
Clark led the Tennessee women to the NCAA national indoor championship in 2005 and 2009 and the Volunteers had nine NCAA combined indoor/outdoor top 10 finishes during his career.
He was named the national coach of the year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) in 2009 and the United States Track Coaches Association (USTCA) in 2005. In his time at Tennessee, 46 different athletes combined to earn All-America honors on 192 occasions.
"I am elated to have been selected to be the next women's track and field head coach at the University of Connecticut," said Clark. "I am overjoyed because the vision of the UConn administration and mine are uniquely similar. I want to thank Director of Athletics Warde Manuel and his staff for allowing me this opportunity.
"I am committed, along with my coaching staff, to education and a superb track and field program. We will work diligently to compete at the highest level. It's quite apparent that the athletic programs at the University of Connecticut are exemplary and we will follow their example with great zeal and fervor."
The academic success of the Volunteers under Clark is equally as impressive as his teams had two Academic All-Americans in both 2010 and '12 and both the men's and women's teams earned the highest GPAs in program history under his direction.
"We are very proud to welcome J.J. as our new women's track and field head coach to UConn," said Manuel. "J.J. brings incredible experience to our program with success on the highest levels of the sport of track and field. His student-athletes have not only incredible athletic success, but have also excelled academically. Our women's track and field student-athletes will receive the finest coaching and mentoring with J.J. leading our program."
Clark led the Tennessee women to three SEC indoor championships and five SEC cross country titles. Athletes won 61 individual SEC titles during his time there while six set American records and two world records. Clark was a three-time SEC indoor coach of the year and a three-time SEC cross country coach of the year at Tennessee.
"I admire J.J. Clark mainly due to his great character and work ethic," said USC women's track and field coach Caryl Smith-Gilbert, who served with Clark on the Tennessee staff from 2003-07. "He is a very honest person who mentored me at Tennessee and taught me how to think with an NCAA Championship mentality. UConn will be the perfect place for him to continue his legacy of building and graduating student-athletes and winning championships."
On the international scene, Clark was the United States women's middle distance assistant coach at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic games. He was also the United States head coach for the World Championship Team in 2002 and an assistant coach in 1997 working the middle distance.
Clark came to Tennessee after serving as an assistant women's track and field coach and head women's cross country coach from 1992-2001 at Florida.
Clark has been recognized in track and field and cross country, earning a total of 21 coach of the year accolades (11 track and field with 10 cross country) during his combined time at Tennessee and Florida.
Additionally, Clark's team and individuals are consistently honored by the USTFCCCA and SEC for academics. In 2008 and 2009, Sarah Bowman was named both the USTFCCCA Indoor Women's Track Scholar Athlete of the Year and the SEC Women's Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. In 2010, Phoebe Wright was named the H. Boyd McWhorter SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, SEC Track and Field Scholar Athlete of the Year, an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient and USTFCCCA Indoor Track Scholar Athlete of the Year, giving UT the honor three years running.
In 2004, Clark returned the Tennessee women to Philadelphia's Franklin Field as the Lady Vols contingent pulled off a three baton event victories at the Penn Relays. Tennessee once again pulled off a triple at the Penn Relays in 2009 and 2010.
Clark was part of a historic moment as he coached his wife (Jearl Miles-Clark) and two sisters (Hazel Clark, Joetta Clark Diggs) to a first, second and third sweep in the 800-meters at the 2000 United States Olympic trails. The trio went on to represent the United States at the Sydney games.
In international competition, Clark had 11 Lady Vols perform for Team USA and others represented Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland, Canada and Jamaica in international competition. Dee Dee Trotter won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in the 4x400 meter relay and also was fifth in the 400 meters.
Clark advanced two athletes (his wife Jearl and his sister Hazel) to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Hazel also qualified for the 2008 Games in Beijing.
A native of Maplewood, N.J., and a graduate of Columbia High School, Clark won the New Jersey high school state title in the mile and two-mile as a senior in 1982.
Clark is a 1986 graduate of Villanova with a degree in communications. With the Wildcats, he developed into a sub-four minute miler in his competitive days en route to qualifying for the 1988 U.S Olympic Trials.
Clark returned to his prep alma mater in 1986 and served as assistant track coach. While at CHS from 1986 to 1989, he worked with the girls' and boys' middle distance and sprints corps. Then, in 1991, he made his transition into collegiate coaching, serving as a graduate assistant at Florida for one year before being hired full time there.
Clark studied anatomy and physiology coursework in graduate school at UF. Bridging the gap between his high school coaching and college experience, he also took courses in nutrition and exercise physiology in 1990 at Kean College in Union, N.J., and became certified as a licensed sports massage therapist in 1991 from the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville.
Clark and his wife Jearl have a son Jorell. Clark is the son of Jetta Clark and Joe Lewis Clark, the bat-wielding principal of Paterson, New Jersey's Eastside High School, depicted by actor Morgan Freeman in the 1989 movie "Lean on Me."