When competitive careers are over, many athletes are quickly forgotten. Past accomplishments are overshadowed by the exploits of current athletes, and opportunities to leverage athletic talents into careers related to their sport never materialize.
For Davian Clarke, a former Jamaican track and field athlete, neither of those are true. Clarke has taken advantage of his track and field expertise to become the Assistant Track and Field Coach for Sprints and Hurdles at the University of North Carolina. And as far as not being forgotten, this weekend Coach Clarke will return to Jamaica to be recognized for an athletic performance from 20 years ago at the Championship Cup or Champs.
“Davian Clarke of Kingston College (High School) in the 4x400m relay at Boys Championships 1992 is my Champs Moment. Receiving the baton almost last, I watched in awe as the slender athlete, clad in purple, closed a gap of 80 meters to finish second, just 10 meters behind Jamaica College’s anchorman Carl McPherson.” – Milford Williams (The Jamaica Star)
And great performances for Kingston College High School were just the beginning. Over the next 15 years, Clarke would establish himself as an elite member of the Jamaican track and field community.
Track and Field Athlete
Growing up with two sisters and three brothers in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Clarke took to track and field at an early age. But it wasn’t until he was 14 that he was able to compete on a paved track. “I can still remember what a huge deal it was to run at Champs under perfect conditions.”
In 1993, as a junior in high school, Clarke’s family moved to Florida where he went on to win the state title in the 400 meters. And after finishing high school, Clarke was given a scholarship to attend the University of Miami.
“As a freshman in 1995, he earned All-American honors with a fifth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (45.52 seconds) and set a then-school record (45.22) in the 400 meters at the Jamaican Nationals. “ (Miami Sports Hall of Fame)
“As a student-athlete, he compiled 13 all-Big East Conference Honors, nine Big East individual titles, six All-American honors, two NCAA titles and one All-Academic team honor. He competed in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the 4x400m. Clarke is a two-time World Champion, three-time silver medalist and five-time bronze medalist at the World Championships.” (UNC Track and Field)
Track and Field Coach
In 2007, Clarke retired from his competitive career as a track and field athlete. Was it a difficult transition for him? Clarke said, “No, not really. It was exciting to embark on a new and unknown period in my life.”
Immediately following retirement, from 2007 until 2010, Clarke coached the Pursuit of Dreams Track Club in Austin, Texas. And in 2010, he accepted a position coaching sprints and hurdles at UNC. He would be working for and learning from Head Coach Dennis Craddock, someone with a long track record of success.
Coach Craddock had the following perspective on Coach Clarke.
“First and foremost he is an outstanding human being who just happens to be a really good coach of young people. His transition here has been easy because he was taught at a very early age to respect people and care about them as people first, then as student-athletes. I am very fortunate to have Coach Clarke with me as a friend and as a coach.”
In spite of his youth, Coach Clarke has a deep base of experience to draw from in order to guide his athletes. And his experience is critical in helping keep the team free from injury and peaking at the right time of the season. For example, Coach Clarke is quick to point out that his athletes always want to run fast, even in practice.
“I tell them, you don’t need to break the world record before you go to every track meet. Most people only break the world record once in their lifetime. I want to see you stay healthy. I want to see you win at the meet.”
It is precisely because of his athletic success that Clarke can speak with authority to the student-athletes he coaches. He has stood on Olympic and World Championship podiums, a place where many of them hope to be.
So, congratulations Coach Clarke on being recognized for your athletic achievements in Jamaica and for the successful coaching career you are now building.