By Tony Burns
El Dorado’s Breya Clark finished 12th as a last-minute entry into the Arkansas High School Heptathlon last year. With a year to prepare, the junior believes she can do even better this year.
“My goal is to try to win it,” said Clark. “I’ve gotten stronger. I’ve been working on the stuff I wasn’t good on last year.”
Clark and sophomore teammate LaDiamond Maker will compete with the state’s top athletes in this year’s heptathlon. The grueling two-day competition begins today at 11 a.m. in Cabot.
“I’m very excited. I think I’ve got two kids who are going to represent El Dorado very well,” said El Dorado coach John Koonce.
Clark is coming off a solid showing in the Meet of Champions on Saturday. She finished second in the high jump, third in the triple jump and, despite a fall, fifth in the 100 hurdles.
The heptathlon’s events include long jump, high jump, shot, discus, 100, 200 and 800. Clark listed the 800 as her weakest event. She has focused on it.
“Coach Koonce has me do like a 200 in 40 seconds to keep the same pace because that’s the main thing about it, keeping the same pace and then at the end, putting it all out,” said Clark, who scored 3,638 points last year.
Although Koonce wasn’t her coach last year, he believes she has improved.
“I can just look at her marks. I know what her marks were at the heptathlon last year. If she does what she’s been doing in track season this year, she will improve significantly,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to compare because it’s a long day and it’s a lot of events. Sometimes your marks are going to suffer a little bit. But, if those compare, if they translate, she’ll do better this year.”
As for her goal of winning it?
“Yes, it is realistic,” he said. “But, I’m not going so far as to say, it’s a given. There’s a ton of great athletes there. She’s definitely going to be in the mix if she performs to her capabilities.”
Clark said she will focus on herself and try not to worry too much about the competition.
“The best I can do is handle my events I usually do at my regular track meets. And then, compete in the other events,” she said.
Experience might be the best teacher for Clark, who learned how to throw the shot and the discus last year and said the 800 wasn’t as daunting as she had feared.
“I learned that my body can actually do more than I thought it could because we had to do the 800 and I did OK. It wasn’t too bad.”
“I think (experience) is very important because you understand how long the day is going to be,” said Koonce. “You understand you have to be mentally prepared and be focused. There are so many kids that some of those events just take forever. And, you’re sitting there a long time waiting and waiting. When your name gets called, you have to get up and be ready to go. I think that year of experience will be very valuable.”
Maker won’t have that experience in her pocket. But, Koonce said she is built for an event like this.
“It’s tough to say because of the shot and the discus. That’s two things that are completely foreign to her. We’ve been practicing about a week or so with it. And, I definitely think she’s going to compete well,” he said. “I think she might surprise a few people. She’s a very, very athletic kid. She’s very competitive. When you take those two things and add them together, you have what it takes to make a good heptathlete.”