Gameday with Tyler Clark

The significance of Tyler Clark’s jacket is lost on his peers outside the cross country team. To them, it’s just another piece of Ames High merchandise. But he knows it has been decades since the team has purchased new gear. He would not have even dreamed of wearing such a thing had it not been for John Sletten’s retirement and head coach Tim Mooney’s subsequent hiring during his sophomore year. AHS cross country, from coaching to equipment changes, has been through a lot the last three years. And so has Tyler Clark. Two years ago, if he had been told that it would take him until his senior year to make the squad, he probably wouldn’t have believed it. Clark finished just one spot out of the top seven in his first time trial sophomore year, and as one of the fastest returning runners on the team, it looked as though he would compete for a varsity spot all year. Turns out it was just the start of what Clark said was a “sub-par and disappointing” season. As the weeks went by, his place on the team slipped and he began to question why he was still running. “I considered quitting at one point sophomore year,” he said. “I was injured and running slowly.” But after talking it over with teammates, he decided to stick with it. “My teammates said I was stupid for considering quitting. I ran well in middle school, so I guess they thought I had the potential to be good.” Now Clark and his teammates are beginning to see that potential show up on the course. His 19:06 time in the five kilometer time trial was his second fastest ever on the Iowa State course and sixth fastest on the team. The performance earned him a varsity debut for the season opener on August 30th. “This is much different from the varsity races I am used to,” he said laughing, referring to his 110 meter high hurdle events in track. “About 4,890 meters different.” Like Clark, the varsity boys cross country team wasn’t sure what to expect going into their season opener. Pre-season rankings had them picked to finish fourth out of the six teams competing. Cedar Falls came in as the fourth highest ranked team in the state. But Ames proved rankings don’t matter after the gun goes off, finishing in a tie for first with Cedar Falls after the first five runners were scored. Cedar Falls’ sixth man finished ahead of the sixth runner for Ames, clinching the tiebreaker and the victory. “It was better than we’ve done at the first meet in the past,” Clark said. After all of the injuries and frustrations of the last three years, Tyler Clark is optimistic for his final cross country season and said he feels better than ever.