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Athlete of the week: Clark sets record at local course
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North Hall cross country coach Jonathan Lillie discusses the strengths of his top runner, Nolan Clark.

North Hall cross country runner Nolan Clark doesn’t let anything get in between him and running.

After hanging out with his friends on a Friday night following a North Hall football game, Clark wakes up at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning to go for a run, rests, then goes on another run, sometimes as far as 16 miles, at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

“I don’t get much sleep on the weekend,” Clark said.

The lack of sleep didn’t keep the senior runner from setting a new course record at Chestatee High’s course, considered one of the hardest courses in the area. He finished in 17 minutes, 16 seconds to win the Hall County Cross Country Championships last Tuesday.

Clark’s time shattered the old record set by Pickens’ Tyler Dunn earlier this season by 24 seconds.

“It felt good, actually great,” Clark said. “It was the first meet that showed how hard I’ve worked, and I happened to break a record in the process.”

Clark, the only senior on Class AAA’s fourth-ranked Trojans, has had a productive 2008 season, finishing in the top five of all of his Region 7-AAA races, including two wins, both at Chestatee. He also set a personal record with 16:42 at a meet in Carrollton earlier this season.

The rewards for his performance can been found in his mailbox throughout this season, as he receives letters from more and more colleges. So far, he has received interest from West Georgia, Presbyterian, Miami and several others.

“Right now they’re just sending information, just seeing how my senior year goes,” he said.

The season only gets more competitive from here. Clark is scheduled to race in a meet at Unicoi State Park today where he faces off against his two biggest rivals: Dunn and Flowery Branch’s Daniel Martinez, who finished second to Clark with 17:34 last Monday.

“Unicoi is a preview of the region race, so winning it would be huge,” Clark said.

While Clark has been hard to catch this season, his efforts have also elevated his team around him. In last week’s race, Clark’s teammate Ty McCormack finished fourth with 17:49 and Cody Barger finished seventh with 18:01.

“We have a lot of good kids and they have all their good characteristics and leadership roles,” North Hall cross country coach Jonathan Lillie said. “But Nolan, being the only senior and being the fastest runner on the team, is given a lot of respect.

“The kids follow behind him. It’s a silent leadership, but he’s a strong leader.”

Clark learned a lot about being a leader from his former teammate Nick Long, a 2008 North Hall graduate now running for the University of Georgia. They competed as North Hall’s top two runners last year and also represented the Trojans in distance running at the 2008 GHSA State Track Meet.

“I just want to break even with Nick,” Clark said. “He’s a runner at Georgia, and if I can match his times, then I’m going somewhere.”

But first he must finish his senior year, and lead the Trojans as they look for their second state championship in three years.

“If we can be even with the region, we could be in the top three at state,” Clark said. “Or maybe even winning.”

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