Unforeseen obstacles made me stronger


Jonas Clarke is a senior at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. He is the defending MIAA All-State Outdoor champion in the 100m and finished third in the 60m at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in March. Enlisted at Harvard University this fall, Clarke is looking to end his final spring season on a high. Below, he recounts the milestones of his career and how it got him to where he is now.

“Even with these adversities stacked against us riders, I quickly learned to embrace the opportunities that come my way.”

By Jonas Clarke – South Hadley ’22

If ever I was asked to describe my high school track and field experience in one word, I would say “unexpected”.

This word stuck with me because of the unique but strong relationship I have with the sport of track and field and where it has brought me today.

Being from a small town in western Massachusetts, athletics is not one of the sports offered to children at a young age. So after playing other sports, like basketball and soccer, I was introduced to a competitive athletics program when I was a freshman in high school.

My first indoor season was spent learning the basics. I spent time working on form, building endurance and learning the nuances of sprinting. I quickly realized that winter is not very favorable for sprinters. The trails were snow covered and the temperatures were well below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. We had to deploy cheerleader mats in the hallways to be able to use our track spikes. We were granted very little access to the trails unless we were racing on them.

This may sound very familiar to runners in the North East, who have had and still have this problem. Being creative was essential to improve. But with our little hallways, we made it work, and time has definitely shown that.

Even with these adversities stacked against us runners, I quickly learned to embrace the opportunities presented to me. Thanks to the creative work that my trainer and I put into my training, I got results similar to those who had access to trails, weight rooms, or even predictable weather forecasts.

What was also unforeseen in athletics was the anxiety and nerves that came with the sport. As I progressed as an athlete, there was an unspoken pressure on me, especially as my times began to drop into more elite ranges.

I have always set myself high standards, expecting only the best, which is a respectable quality to possess. However, it also has its drawbacks.

When I was in my early high school years, I let pre-race anxiety get to me. And sometimes it made me throw all my racing strategies out the window.

Learning how to deal with this has been one of the hardest tasks I’ve had to do, and I haven’t had it until recently. I developed a step-by-step routine, with some superstitions, in order to get the best frame of mind to attack a race without a doubt.

The future is unpredictable for everyone, but with athletics remaining a major part of my life, I couldn’t be happier to have the athletic resources and opportunities that await me at Harvard next year.

Jonah

South Hadley ’22

PICTURES

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If you are an athlete or track and field coach interested in contributing to this series at the regional or national level, please send your essay to Cory Mull, MileSplit USA publisher, at [email protected], or your local MileSplit publisher in your respective state.

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