Lovejoy’s Imani Clark hoping to continue local track dominance at state

Imani Clark has won 10 gold medals for Lovejoy this season in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Two of those came at the Clayton County Track and Field Championships. (Staff Photo: Luke Strickland)

LOVEJOY — Lovejoy High’s Imani Clark has made a name for herself on the track and field circuit during her four years at the school.

On March 25 at the Clayton County Track and Field Championships, Clark once again proved her dominance with gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. It was her fifth overall individual county championship in her four seasons at Lovejoy.

Gold medals earned this season were even sweeter for Clark. After topping the field in the 100-meter dash as a freshman and in the 100- and 200-meter events as a sophomore, she was shut out from gold as a junior.

Clark said last year’s disappointment acted as motivation heading into the event.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman, so it wasn’t necessarily my main goal,” she said. “It was something I wanted to accomplish. At the end of the day, since my freshman year I’ve wanted to win county because the last few years I’ve come so close but we just couldn’t get there. This year, we did. It was very rewarding.”

Clark has won a whopping 10 gold medals across the 100- and 200-meter events this season. She is also a part of Lovejoy’s 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams, both of which have won gold this season.

According to Clark, it is the 100-meter event that poses the toughest challenge.

“When it comes to training, it’s completely different,” Clark said. “I can deal with both, but the end of the day, my 100 (is the toughest) because it’s the quickest. I have to go. My 200 I have a little leeway when I come out of the curb, but with my 100, if my start is bad the rest is done.”

Track is a simple sport to follow as a fan — the fastest time or the furthest distance always wins. And while athletic ability is the key factor in who wins or loses, Clark said she believes she gains an edge over opponents due to her mental preparation.

“At the beginning of the season, no one is really in shape. I took advantage of the fact that even though I’m not ready, I’m ready in my mind,” she said. “I trained my brain to say ‘OK, this is what I’m running today.’ Even if I don’t feel like I’m at the best of my abilities I still have to be ready.”

Clark’s dominance on the track has pushed her to the forefront of the program, which comes with increased responsibilities. She said she takes her role as a leader on the team seriously and that she hopes to instill the work ethic she displays in the younger members of the team.

“I have found myself being a bigger and better leader every year,” Clark said. “Out here people look up to me because we’re a family. For the most part, they love me. There are other captains alongside me and we all take care of the leadership.”

Clark has been the top performer in the 100- and 200-meter events within the county over her four-year career. However, she wants to add state champion to her resume. Her best finish was last year’s fourth-place time in the 100-meter event.

“I have to remain humble,” Clark said when asked how she could break through at the state championships. “I know my goals and I know my accomplishments, but at the end of the day my accomplishments aren’t finished and I can do better. So there is always something out there for me to do.”

Clark will run track next year in college at Western Kentucky University, a place she fell in love with upon visiting. Before she leaves Lovejoy for the Bluegrass State, her sole focus is on her final races as a Lady Wildcat.

“Even though I’m about to go to college, I still have to finish here and I have to finish strong,” she said. “I have people looking up to me so I have to do what it takes to be on top.”

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Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.

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