Tamara Clark talks almost as fast as she runs. That’s bad news for a coach trying to keep her on pace. It’s even worse news for the runners she competes against, because words shoot out of her mouth in a rush.
Full throttle is the only gear the Alabama track and field sprinter knows, which is both a blessing and a curse for her coaches.
“There’s no half speed with her,” sprint coach Blaine Wiley said. “She goes. And everything she does she goes. I’m trying to harness her energy because you’re more likely to hold her back than tell her to go harder.”
Wiley knew Clark was special before she ever set foot on campus. Despite her undeniable talent, however, Clark struggled through her first indoor season last spring. She capped the year with a disappointing 19th place finish in the 200 meters at the SEC Indoor Championship.
Then, during the outdoor season, she found her stride.
“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t do so good indoor, coming in 19th overall and not making it,” Clark said. “My confidence was even lower. But this year it boosted my confidence because last year in outdoor I did really good.”
Clark qualified for the Outdoor NCAA Championships in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4X100 team relay. As the second leg in the relay, Clark helped Alabama to a sixth-place finish, which garnered her All-America honors. Her decorated finish to the 2018 outdoor season invigorated her offseason training.
When practice began in preparation for this year’s indoor season, Wiley focused on helping Clark run a more strategic race, instead of just running as fast as she could off the blocks. As a freshman, Clark and her best friend on the team, Daija Lampkin, would exhaust themselves competing against one another in practice. They would ignore the set pace, choosing instead to go as fast as possible.
“Last year, our coach didn’t want us to run together because we’re so tough on each other,” Clark said.
This season, they’ve dialed it back. Even after improving her training and race tactics, Clark had one more obstacle to overcome to reach her potential during the indoor season. On an indoor surface, the ends of the track are slightly raised. The elevated “bank” is only found on indoor tracks, and it makes racing harder for Clark, who is a shorter sprinter.
“I’m a smaller runner than a lot of sprinters, and I don’t like bank tracks,” Clark said. “It’s hard for me to run up and run down. Too much confusion. It’s easier for me in outdoor. It’s just running.”
To make things more difficult for Clark, Alabama doesn’t have an indoor track facility on campus, so the sprinter isn’t able to train on a banked track.
Despite those challenges, Clark managed to overcome her animosity for indoor tracks, becoming one of the best sprinters in the country. At the SEC Indoor Championships on Feb. 22-23, Clark finished first in the 200 meters.
“For her to go from not even making the final to SEC champion and No. 4 nationally as just a sophomore, I think is just fantastic,” Wiley said. “It’s a tribute to her hard work. She’s passionate about track. She loves track and field. She wants to be good and she’ll do what she has to do to achieve it.”
Clark’s impressive showing at the SEC Indoor Championships earned her the No. 4 ranking in the 200 meters nationally, which means she’ll be slotted as the fourth seed when she competes at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend in Birmingham. She is also competing in the 60 meters and 4X400-meter relay.
“I’m just hoping to do my best and improve,” Clark said.
UA women’s entrants for NCAA Indoor Championships (seed/mark)
• Tamara Clark, So., 200 meters (4th/22.90); 60m dash (9th/7.23); 4×400-meter relay (7th/3:32.04)
• Takyera Roberson, Jr., 4×400-meter relay (7th/3:32.04)
• Katie Funcheon, Jr. 4×400-meter relay (7th/3:32.04)
• Mauricia Prieto, Sr. 4×400-meter relay (7th/3:32.04)
• Portious Warren, Sr., Shot Put (8th/17.30m)
• Kiara Williams, Sr., Long Jump (12th/6.30m)
• Stacey Destin, Sr., Pentathlon (14th/4122pts)