2021-22 Gazette Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Jonas Clarke, South Hadley

  • South Hadley’s Jonas Clarke, shown here during last outdoor track season, is the 2021-22 Gazette Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer 
Published: 5/2/2022 4:21:53 PM
Modified: 5/2/2022 4:20:21 PM

Before he’d ever stepped foot on a track, people knew that Jonas Clarke had wheels. But the real question was — how fast could he go? 

“I first saw him run in a soccer game. Somebody was like, ‘Watch this kid. He's fast,’” South Hadley track coach Nick Davis said. “And obviously he was fast. It's hard to tell — are you soccer fast against other kids, and it just looks like you're flying because that guy playing defense is really slow? Or are you that quick?”

Once he joined South Hadley’s track team, it became clear that Clarke really was that quick. In just four years, Clarke has cemented himself as one of the fastest high-schoolers in the state of Massachusetts, breaking record after record in his pursuit of personal bests. Clarke ran a 6.24-second time in the 55-meter dash at the MIAA Division V Indoor Track & Field Championships, setting a meet record, a state record and tying the best time in the country all in one fell swoop. During this indoor season, he also recorded a 6.69-second 60-meter dash time, another state and New England record and good for third at the New Balance Nationals meet, and ran a 21.57 200-meter dash, which earned him fifth place at Nationals.

Those accomplishments made Clarke an easy choice for the 2021-22 Gazette Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“I would argue that there's a fair chance that he is the best athlete that will come through South Hadley in the next 50 years and probably in the last 50 years,” Davis said. “Off the top of my head I don't know anybody else that has placed that high at a national championship meet.”

He’s got time to improve even more during the outdoor season before he graduates and leaves high school track for good. He’ll continue his running career at Harvard, where he’ll finally have access to top of the line facilities he hasn’t had during his time with the Tigers. They’ve gotten creative and made it work, but running in short hallways, training without a weight room this past winter and working out kinks during meets hasn’t been the ideal setup for a potential world-class sprinter. 

Despite the obstacles, Clarke has flourished under the tutelage of Davis, who was named the MIAA Girls’ Outdoor Coach of the Year in 2021 (Davis oversees both sides of the track program for South Hadley). In fact, Davis is a major reason that Clarke has remained at South Hadley for the past four years – as an underclassman, he wasn’t sure if he would transfer to a new school to finish out his high school career.

“I don't think that if I had any other coach that I'd be where I am right now, to be honest. I don’t say this too often, but when I was a little younger, freshman and sophomore year, I was not really enjoying high school, especially in South Hadley. I was really considering transferring,” Clarke said. “But I kind of stayed because I knew that I wouldn't be offered another opportunity track-wise if I didn't have Nick as my coach. And that has definitely paid off.” 

Davis and Clarke can get technical when talking track, getting into the nitty-gritty of what Clarke needs to change with his blocks, his mechanics, his foot placement – everything. As Clarke has gotten older and matured as a competitor, he’s picked up on those things quickly – often during a practice or after a race, Clarke can turn around and tell Davis exactly what didn’t go to plan and how to change it. He understands the fundamentals of sprinting. He’s come a long way from the soccer kid who’d never gone out of a block start. 

“I wish I had a video for the first time he did a block start. Everybody would just laugh and say there's no way it’s the same kid,” Davis said. “It's come leaps and bounds from where it was, and the fact that he still can do so much more with it, it's amazing.”

Though he’s serious about his training, Clarke has learned that relaxing and making time for fun is just as important as an intense practice. One of the ways he relaxes is by making TikTok dances (he’s amassed over 35,000 followers) with teammate Emma Sanford.

“I feel that especially at the high level that I'm at, I can't be taking everything so seriously or I would actually get anxious and a little nervous about stuff. I kind of realized how nervous I would get my sophomore year of high school, especially when state stuff was coming up and everyone was talking about this really fast sophomore,” Clarke said.  “But doing these TikToks, having friends to be around to just goof around after the workouts makes me feel amazing.”

For now, Clarke is going to enjoy the rest of his senior year and see what other records he can break during the outdoor season. As for what he could accomplish next year at Harvard? The sky is the limit.

“It makes me feel pretty good to be like, ‘hey, I'm running these times now.’ I'm so excited to see what I can do next year,” Clarke said.

FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS

Ben Buffone, senior, Amherst

Tyler Evans, junior, South Hadley

Gulian Marconi, senior, Hampshire

David Pinero-Jacome, sophomore, Amherst

Liam Sibley-Welch, senior, South Hadley

Jack Vecellio, senior, Frontier

SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS

■Josh Denoronha, junior, Hampshire

Diego Lopez, junior, Amherst

Jude Mourad, junior, Northampton

Rowan Hodgson, junior, Northampton

Theodore King-Pollet, sophomore, Northampton

Alex Caldonaro, senior, Northampton


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