Assistant Head Coach
Entering his eighth season at Florida, Assistant Coach J.J. Clark is one of the most respected distance coaches in the nation.
Southeastern Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year two of the last four years and one of the two first recipients of the United States Track and Field Nike Elite Coach of the Year award in 1998, Clark has had an unprecedented impact on Florida's distance program. In 1998, he led the cross country squad to their second consecutive Regional championship and the squad's fourth trip to the NCAA Championships in the past five years. The year before, his harriers took home their second consecutive SEC Cross Country Championship. In 1996, he was responsible for the team's first conference crown since 1984 and earned SEC Coach of the Year honors for the first time. Since joining the UF coaching staff, Clark has coached 12 Gator distance runners to All-America honors and eight SEC championships. He has led his teams to four national cross country championship appearances and seen nine school records broken. In the 15 seasons prior to Clark's arrival, Florida produced only six All-Americans in the distance events and had never qualified for the national championships.
Clark's distance squad has played a large role in the Gator's SEC Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships over two of the past three years and its fourth place finish at the indoor national championships in 1999. Hazel Clark, Clark's younger sister, became just the second female SEC athlete to win four consecutive 800m indoor titles last February and went on to a third national title at the distance and the 1500m outdoor title. In 1998 she became the first women to win indoor and outdoor 800m crowns at the NCAA Championships since her sister, Joetta, did so in 1983 when she competed for Tennessee. Her two national championships made her one of only three Lady Gators to win an indoor and outdoor championship in the same year. The last person to accomplish the feat was another of Clark's athletes, Becki Wells. In 1998, Yolanda Brown-Moore, Beth Cranston, Shannon Grady and Beth Reed teamed up as indoor All Americans in the distance medley relay.
In the 1997 track season, Clark put his coaching skills on display with not just one but four runners in the SEC indoor mile finals and one runner in the finals of every event 800m and up in both the indoor and outdoor conference finals. Wells ran away with her third Commissioners' Trophy as she won the indoor mile, 3,000m and anchored the winning DMR team. Clark's prized pupil would end up winning the outdoor 1500m, the first outdoor SEC title of her career; the NCAA indoor mile championship, becoming Florida's first individual track champion since 1993; and the outdoor 1500m national championship, becoming only the second Gator at the time to ever win an indoor and outdoor national title in the same year.
In 1996, he was responsible for the cross country team's first SEC Championship since 1984. The team title coupled with individual champion and conference Runner-of-the-Year, Becki Wells, earned him his first honor as SEC Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year. The 1996 track season saw continued success for Florida's distance corps. UF's distance medley relay shattered the school record, won the SEC title and qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships where the foursome finished seventh and earned All-America honors. Wells won her second SEC Commissioner's Trophy for the indoor season with titles in the mile and 3,000-meter run, while Hazel Clark also brought home a league title in the 800m. Kim Fisher broke the school record in the mile run indoors, clocking 4:41.99.
In 1995, the Gator harriers recorded what was then their best SEC finish since 1988, placing third behind Arkansas and Auburn. Becki Wells won the individual SEC title, the first Gator to do so since Tricia Clifford in 1986. Four Florida runners earned All-SEC honors, the most in school history. The squad went on to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second straight year after a third-place finish at the NCAA District III Championships. Wells placed 12th at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors, leading UF to a second consecutive top-20 team finish.
In 1994 following a third-place team finish at the NCAA District III Championships, Florida was selected to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Since women's cross country was included as a championship sport by the NCAA in 1982, no Florida team had ever qualified before. During the 1994 indoor and outdoor track seasons, the distance runners continued to turn in strong performances. Marny Westphal completed her final indoor season with her third consecutive trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships and was accompanied by Jessica Scafidi, who earned All-America honors, placing 10th in the 3,000m.
In 1993, Clark coached three Gators, Westphal, Kuntz and Fisher, to all-district honors at the NCAA District III Cross Country Championships. Westphal also earned a trip to the NCAA Championships. Florida earned four team titles in 1993.
In Clark's first year as a full-time coach, he guided Coralena Velsen to the 1992 NCAA District III individual title. Velsen was the first Gator to win the title since Shelly Steely in 1984. During the track season, Westphal broke Steely's eight-year-old school record in the indoor mile, clocking 4:42.03.
Clark's strong work ethic helped him make the move from graduate assistant during the 1991 92 season to take over UF's distance duties in 1992 93. An All American middle distance runner at Villanova, he graduated in 1986 with a communications degree.
After graduating, he was head coach of the women's cross country team at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., until 1989. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 1,500m in 1988.
In addition to coaching Gator athletes, Clark was named to the U.S. coaching staff for the 1997 World Track and Field Championships as an assistant coach for the women's team. Clark has also coached several world elite athletes such as Joetta Clark (his sister), Jearl Miles Clark (his wife) and Mark Everett, all of whom qualified for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Miles Clark, the world 400m champion, set the American 800m record in August of 1998 and is ranked second in the world at the distance. At the 1993 World Track and Field Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Miles was a double gold medalist for the U.S. team, winning the 400m and anchoring the world 1600m relay team. Miles also anchored the U.S. to a 1,600m relay gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. In 1997 Miles-Clark became the American record holder in the 800m (1:56.78). Clark and Miles were married in November of 1996, a wedding listed as one of Ebony magazine's Best-of-the-Year.
|All-Americans Coached by Clark:|
|Hazel Clark||800m (i, o)|
|Jessica Scafidi||3,000m (i), DMR|
|Coralena Velsen||Cross Country, 3,000m (i/o)|
|Marny Westphal||Mile (i)|
|Becki Wells||Cross Country, Mile (I), 1,500m (o)|
|SEC Champions Coached by Clark:|
|Hazel Clark||800m (i,o), 1500 (o)|
|Becki Wells||Cross Country/Mile/3,000m/1,500m|
|Distance Medley Relay - (1996-Hazel Clark, Kim Fisher, Angela Fitts, Becki Wells; 1997 - Hazel Clark, Megan Newcome, Carrie Ullmann, Becki Wells)|