Clark is a special guy

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday’s second annual Larry Clark Invitational Track and Field Meet was a truly special event.

Named for Jones-Wheat Elementary School principal and long-time, highly successful Bainbridge High School Bearcats track coach Larry Clark, the meet drew 14 strong out of town track teams from South Georgia and North Florida to challenge Coach Larry Cosby’s Bearcats and Coach Tandria Phillips’ Lady Cats.

Coach Clark was recently inducted into the first class of the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame along with four other outstanding men and role models: long-time outstanding Bearcats head football coach Spencer “Onion” Davis, former outstanding major league baseball player Ernest Riles and former Auburn University Tigers All-American lineman and professional football player Ken Rice.

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The young people of Bainbridge and Decatur County have had many great role models through the years and Coach Clark, Coach Davis Ernest Riles and Ken Rice are four of the best.

I have talked to many athletes and students whose lives coach Clark has positively impacted through the years and they have told me that, while he could be stern at times, they are on the right track today because he loved and cared about them.

Ty Akins, a state championship hurdler under Coach Clark, who went on to earn All-American honors as a hurdler with the Auburn University Tigers, was a special guest at Saturday’s meet.

Akins, who is now competing in professional track meets throughout the world, talked about how much Coach Clark has meant to him.

“I’ve known coach Clark since I was in the third grade at Jones-Wheat Elementary School,” Akins said. “He has always been there to push me to do my best in the classroom and on the track.”

The Bearcats’ Coach Cosby and the Lady Cats’ Coach Phillips are outstanding young educators and coaches who have benefited greatly from Coach Clark’s positive influence.

To have an athletic event named for you is the ultimate honor for a coach. It is an indication of how much local folks think of you.

In today’s sports section are a story and pictures on Saturday’s meet. The Bearcats finished first and the Lady Cats finished a strong fifth.

Young people today are fortunate to have role models like coach Larry Clark in their lives.

Even those who came under his influence as youngsters and are now adults have told me they often still call Coach Clark for advise when they have a problem.

While he is an outstanding educator, coach and all around good guy, Larry Clark is first and foremost a supporter of and role model for young people.

What a great legacy for anyone to have.