Kempner man headed to National Senior Games
BY NICOLE M. METTS
John Clark, who is a teacher at S.C. Lee Junior High as well as an author of several books, has been training since 2017 in pole vaulting and finds himself set to compete in the 2019 National Senior Games.
It all started when Clark turned 60. He said age never bothered him before then. He felt old, out of shape and overweight. This all changed after meeting a man on Facebook by the name of Bubba Sparks whom he knew his younger siblings but had never spoken with him. Their families knew each other from little league. Sparks, Clark said, was a kid everybody knew or being a great athlete. Clark learned that at age 64, Sparks won a world championship in pole vaulting in New Zealand.
Sparks agreed to teach Clark how to pole vault and helped him train for a year in Austin, after which Clark began training locally in Killeen with Jack Chapman at Texas Elite Pole-Vaulting Training and Sales.
Clark said he loved it from the beginning and had always regretted dropping out of sports during his rebellious teenage years. He went to the gym to get in shape and attended his first competition after six months in the Texas Senior Games, but realized he had a lot to learn. He was not satisfied to accept not making the top four to qualify for the nationals and kept training.
Then, in October 2018 Clark won the gold medal for his age division in the Oklahoma Senior Games qualifying him for the nationals.
In December, Clark participated in Jack’s Expo Explosion followed by the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno in January, where he met Olympians and world record holders.
Now, Clark is preparing himself for the upcoming National Senior Games.
Clark has also started “Fossil Fit” to help older people get in shape with Sweat Cove Fitness. He is trying to get senior fitness programs started.
“That’s what I really want to concentrate on. Basically, I turned my life around mentally and physically in the last year and a half. I am told I inspire people so that’s what I hope to do,” Clark said. A slogan Clark holds onto is, “You are never too old and it’s never too late to get in shape and be happy and healthy.”
Before pole vaulting, Clark said he was not doing much, just sitting on the couch and that was kind of depressing for him.
“I felt like life was passing me by and I just wanted to get it over with. That’s how I was feeling at the time. Now, there’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do,” he said.
Clark trains once a week in Killeen, sometimes twice. His trainer, Chapman, teaches elementary to professional, but Clark is his oldest student thus far. Chapman is a retired Killeen police officer and now works for the Harker Heights police and has been teaching over 30 years.
“The kids get to see someone his age still participating in sports and get excited. When he has a good jump, they are just as excited as he is for himself,” Chapman said. “It’s a challenging event and it’s hard to repeat the same jump twice. When they see him do a good one, they tell him and share encouragement. It takes a mindset. Someone who is willing to understand failure-there is more failure than there is success. If all you do is dwell on the negative, it will beat you up, it will be a mental disaster for you.
“So with John, he’s encouraging the kids. The kids are receptive. It’s a good fit for him. He wants to participate in all the drill work the kids participate in. He’s willing to adapt and learn. I’m proud of him.”
Cooper Thomas said, “I think it’s cool that even though he’s older, he still wants to do what he wants to do and does his best. He’s always encouraging to those who might be struggling.”
Analice Pursely said, “I love to pole vault. It’s something that keeps you in shape. It’s a fun activity but it can be scary. It feels like really fast and other times it feels like flying. It’s something most people would not expect from older people. It’s a good representation of commitment.”
The National Senior Games will be held June 14-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information about Texas Elite Pole Vaulting go to www.texaselitepolevault.com and for more information about senior fit training with Clark go to www.fossilfit.net.