Larry Clark Role model to many

Published 6:51 am Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Editor’s Note: The following story is the third in a four-part series about the four men who will be the first inductees into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center.

There is nothing more meaningful to an athlete or coach than to have an annual athletic event named in their honor.

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That is exactly what outstanding athlete, coach and educator Larry Clark experienced last March when the first Larry Clark Invitational track meet took place at the new Bainbridge High School Track.

Many of those that Clark, who is principal at Jones-Wheat Elementary School, has coached, mentored and been a role model to through the years returned to honor him.

They included McKinley Strong, who ran distance for him in the 1980s; Ed Smith, who threw the shot and discus for him in the 1980s, and Fred Thomas, who ran the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles for him in 1983.

Special honored guest was former Bearcats star hurdler Ty Akins, the 2003-2004 Bainbridge High School male senior athlete of the year who won the state 60-meter and 110-meter hurdles championships his senior season. He was also a wide receiver on the Bearcats football team. His outstanding track accomplishments under Clark earned Akins a track scholarship with the Auburn University Tigers where he was a an All-American.

In 2008, Akins won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) 60-meter hurdles indoor championships at the University of Arkansas. He graduated from Auburn in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and he is currently competing around the world in professional track.

He has competed in Spain, England, France and Italy.

During his long-time outstanding tenure as Bearcats head track coach, Clark led the Bearcats to nine Region championships and three Sub-Region championships. The Region championships came in 1987, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Sub-Region championships came in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Clark stepped down as head track coach in 2006, turning the track program over to one of his former top sprinters Larry Cosby.

With Cosby as the head coach and Clark as his top assistant and adviser, the Bearcats won five more Region championships in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In 2010, they also won the State Class AAAA championship under coach Cosby.

In football, coach Clark played three years at cornerback with the Hutto High School Tigers under the late coach David Bonner and one year at corner back with the Bainbridge High School Bearcats under coach J.B. Roland.

After graduating from Bainbridge High School, coach Clark earned a football scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta where he played corner back for coach Michael Gray’s Maroon Tigers.

He coached many of the players as seventh- and eighth-graders at Hutto Junior High School who went on to play for former Bearcats head coach and Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones on his Bearcats 1982 state class AAA champion football team.

Those players included quarterback Bobby Walden, wide receiver Philip Bryant, defensive lineman David Harper and linebacker Jackie Wilson.