Ed Clark

Ed Clark, with his family.

Photo by Obrey Brown

By OBREY BROWN

Sports Editor

There were, said retiring coach Ed Clark, a couple years when he had to scheme his teams against Yucaipa High School.

His San Gorgonio High track teams would likely win the sprints. Yucaipa’s distance-running specialists naturally dominated those events.

Difference in this meet would come down to the jumps — long, triple and high. In preparation, Clark brought his jumpers to practice at Yucaipa’s all-weather jumping pits.

“Jim Clendaniel,” said Clark, referring to the one time Yucaipa coach, “was livid. He thought the facility should be closed.”

That ploy worked in favor of San G’s jumpers, whose home jumping pits were on dirt surfaces. 

“It was a chance to get our steps right,” said Clark, whose boys squad reached its magic number, 69 points, to win that San Andreas League meet.

“I don’t apologize for it,” he said.

Names come streaming out of 61-year-old Clark’s mouth, who has a remarkable memory over a lengthy coaching career.

Clark, who moved his family to Yucaipa 21 years ago, can’t help it. He’s talkative. Generous. Spreads the cheer.

He remembers almost everyone that lifted him into a teaching career that included coaching San G’s track squad over 14 seasons between 1998 and 2012.

His first coaching job, in fact, for the Pacific High graduate was slung on him by a guy named McGarry.

“I can’t remember his first name,” said Clark, who was hired way back in 1979 at Golden Valley Middle School over on North Waterman.

“I just called him Mr. McGarry,” said Clark, happy to rattle off a key name from his past career.

Names have a deep meaning for Clark. San G, for its part, has saved a spot for him in the Spartans’ Hall of Fame.

Three others made this year’s grade — track and basketball’s Tykie Harris, soccer’s Kayla Humphries and football’s Steve Quinlan, who Clark also coached in track.

Highlights? Look no further than 2000. That’s when San G posted CIF championship relay teams — a girls’ team and a boys’ team.

There was anchor Celeste Robillard, plus Cashondra Reid, Tabetha Dandy and Nicole Campbell, who posted a combined 48.47.

One race later, Jabari Fields closed out for Elliot Fowler, Freeman Charles and Quintin Williams, sizzling to a 42.23.

“First time in San Bernardino County history,” said Clark, “that a boys team and a girls team won the (CIF) relay in the same year. Really a longshot, too. If someone drops a baton …”

Some of those names are, in fact, San G Hall of Famers.

On Dandy: She died in her sleep recently, age 37. “That hit me hard,” said Clark.

Another of this year’s Hall of Fame class will be Harris, the 2001 state 800-meter champion, a senior who had just five weeks of racing before pulling off, perhaps, the biggest upset in over a century’s worth of California finals.

“The assistant basketball coach that helped me get Tykie Harris out for track was John Tibbles, now (athletic director) at Ramona High School,” said Clark, still piling up names.

“Coaching track takes a lot out of you.”

How about that Clark kept his four-man coaching crew — distance coach Chuck Sanchez, jumps coach Tom Kutzera and throws coach Julio Blanco — together over his entire 14-season run as San G’s highly successful track coach that lasted between 1999 through 2012.

“I coached the sprints,” said Clark.

During his Pacific High coaching days, he picked up a few nuggets from Chuck Pedersen, the Pirates’ football coach “who taught me loyalty and consistency.”

That he’d pick Randy Jensen and John Powell to co-present him at the Feb. 20 Hall of Fame gala is yet another tribute to his somebody-else-first mentality.

“Randy showed me how to build a track meet,” said Clark. “John (former San G athletic director) hammered this into me: Always make it about the kids.”

Did someone say Hall of Fame?

So how many San G Hall of Famers did Clark coach along the way?

“There are seven already in,” said Clark. “There’ll be another 15 come in when they’re allowed to come in.”

Current athletic director Matt Maeda prefers athletes be graduated for 10 years before eligibility.

All those names! Did Clark leave anyone out?

Probably.

There are some numbers to go along with those names.

Claiming that 313 boys and girls turned out for San G’s 2007 squad is only part of that story.

“We needed four buses,” he said, “for our meet at Arroyo Valley that year.”

Or that San G bagged 20 various league boys and girls dual meet championships in those 14 seasons. Since there were only 28 titles available, it’s a number that makes all those names shine.

“That first year (in 1998),” said Clark, “the boys took third. After that, we were first or second every year.”

Hurdler Cameron Stepney copped the CIF-SS 300-meter in 2008 (37.72).

One year earlier, Darryl Drake cleared 6-8 to win the high jump.

Ryan Hunter-Simms was 2011 CIF-Masters discus champion (192-5).

Fields was 200-meter champion in 2000 (21.6).

Think of all those San G athletes that didn’t win a CIF title.

Miler Terry Vega raced at state in 1998 — fifth in 5:05.52.

Speaking of Vega. And Clendaniel. And Yucaipa. All were sitting in the Cerritos College grandstand during the 1998 state finals.

“Terry was an alternate that year,” said Clark. “She didn’t expect to get into the finals.”

Clark said Vega “went to the beach that day … then came to the meet. She was sitting in the stands when they called out her name as an alternate.”

Someone in the 1600 meter had dropped out, leaving room for Vega — who had no racing gear, shoes, jersey or shorts. 

Clendaniel, sitting near Vega, rallied his own team, helping produce enough of a uniform for Vega to run that 5:05.

“That’s just a coach helping out a kid,” said Clark. “Any one of us would’ve done that. We take care of each other.”

A few years later, Clark mulled over a move to Yucaipa. New coach Jason Carney invited him to coach T-Bird sprinters.

“I really thought about it for a little while,” said Clark, whose own four kids — Travis, Mallory, Jared and Cody — graduated from Yucaipa.

“I decided to stay where I was at and let my kids run there without me looking over their shoulder.”

Correspondent Obrey Brown may be reached at obreybrown@hotmail.com .

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