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Clever senior standout Clark looms as contender for State gold in triple jump

CLEVER'S MALIYA CLARK lands in the sand at the SBU Classes 1-3 Invitational last week.
CLEVER'S MALIYA CLARK lands in the sand at the SBU Classes 1-3 Invitational last week.

Maliya Clark’s premonition her skill-set would make her a perfect match for the triple jump and long jump couldn’t have been more correct.

The Clever senior has proven herself a legit contender to medal in both events and perhaps earn a Gold medal in the triple jump.

Her PR of 38-4 during her first go-around in the triple jump last season ranked number one at that time statewide in Class 3.

Clark’s background as a gymnast during her formative years triggered her optimism regarding the triple jump and long jump.

“I told coach (Luke Brosius), ‘I feel like I can be good in the long jump and triple jump and gymnastics is going to help me with it,’” Clark said. “I did a lot of (the same) movements in gymnastics. I practiced (jumping) by myself one day and taught myself through it. I realized I wasn’t that bad.”

Brosius was already well aware of Clark’s exceptional athleticism, but her immediate success in the triple jump last year shocked him.

“We were blown away,” he said. “At that point, we were thinking, 'Maybe she has (NCAA) D-I potential.’”

Indeed, Clark signed a letter of intent earlier this year to continue her track career at Missouri State.

With Clark also having experience in the high jump, pole vault, hurdles and sprints, MSU coaches have expressed intrigue in tapping into her versatility. She may give the heptathlon a try in college.

The heptathlon consists of the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200, long jump, javelin and 800.

“I would like to do the heptathlon,” said Clark, who owns Clever school records in the pole vault, high jump, long jump, triple jump and 100 hurdles and as part of the Lady Jays’ 4 x 200 relay. “There are some events I haven't done, yet, but think I could be good at.” 

Clark enters Districts this weekend in much better shape than a year ago. Last spring, she was greatly hindered by a hip injury.

“It was basically a strain that could lead to further damage,” she said. “It was giving me a lot of pain. My hip bone could have broken if it kept getting worse. The muscles around it were tight and pulling on the wrong spots.”

“Down the stretch, she didn't do as well because of her hip,” Brosius said. “Our jump coach had to alter her steps so she could jump from her non-dominant leg.”

Clark was able to persevere and qualify for State, but certainly wasn’t at full strength.

“When I first tried it, it wasn't good,” Clark said of changing which foot she jumped from. “It was awkward, but not as bad as I thought it would be. It was a little easier than I thought it would be. With gymnastics, I kind of did things on both legs. That helped me do it. But it took a while to get used to.”

Surgery wasn’t deemed necessary. Rest and rehab in the off-season strengthened Clark’s hip.

She’s been delighted to jump with no pain this year.

“Stress-free,” Clark said of competing with no injury holding her back. “It makes you happy when you can get better every meet. Last year, I started at 11-7 (meters in the triple jump) and ended at 10-2. This year, I've been building and getting better marks at each meet. I'm getting better as the season goes on.

“My hip is feeling a lot better,” she added. “I did lots of physical therapy and I rested. It feels so much better. I've learned stretching helps a lot, too. I do extra stretching.”

Clark has momentum on her side, after turning in a 37-10 3/4 and winning the triple jump at the SBU Classes 1-3 Invitational last week.

Most notably from her perspective, she beat Versailles’ Kylee Richey, who was second while posting a 37-2 1/2.

“She is a really big competitor of mine and she has always beaten me,” Clark said. “She pushes me and has been ranked above me all season. My number one goal is to be up there with her and I beat her. I hope that sticks.

“I think I can get gold (at State) in the triple jump,” she added. “A lot of my competition was (at SBU) and I beat them. I feel like I have a pretty good chance. That's my goal.”