Build An Encouragement Bridge

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Remembering Coach Marshall Clark

We forget way too soon when someone passes from this life. The impact people have on you is not fully known sometimes until decades later. You look back and say, "that person made a big difference in my life, more than I ever understood when I was young."

I frequently write about my coaches growing up in youth programs and their difference in my Life. I have rarely written about my college coach at the University of Montana, coach Marshall Clark.

Marshall had a significant impact on my life in many ways. Marshall was a quiet man in some ways. However, when he spoke, his words were profound to me and spot-on. When he talked, I listened. 

Coach Clark spent many years as the Head coach of Cross-Country at Stanford University and the mid and long-distance coach in track. His team finished second in the NCAA Division 1 cross-country championships one year.

Coach Clark was no stranger to success. He coached Olympians Don Kardong, Tony Sandoval, and Duncan McDonald, among others.

Kardong founded the Bloomsday run in Spokane, one of the world's most popular runs, and finished fourth in the marathon at the Olympic Games.

Sandoval was a medal contender in the Olympic Marathon, but the U.S. Boycotted the games the year he won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

It is no coincidence that the golden years of distance running at Montana were during Clark's tenure at the school. World championship marathon participant Dave Gordon (2:11 marathon runner) and the Olympic Team alternate was my teammate. Tom Rauning of the Grizzlies was my teammate as well. Tom ran 2:12 in the marathon, finishing in the top 10 at the Olympic trials.

Nike sponsored both Dave and Tom as post-collegiate runners on the Athletics West Team.

Coach Clark had a saying that has stuck with me all my life. He would say, "self-sacrifice and self-discipline are more than mere words to a distance runner; they are a way of life if you want to succeed in distance running or any other area of life."

How right coach Clark was. In his heart, coach Clark was a teacher of young people.

When I first met Coach Clark, I said something like, "I peaked when I was young. I have not improved".

With quiet assurance, he said to me, "well, we will just have to change that."

I had little self-confidence at that point in my journey. Clark's simple words helped change my attitude for the better. I believed coach Clark could help me improve. His calming assurance meant the world to me at the time.

Coach Clark helped me win two Big Sky 800 meter titles, set one conference record, and break the long-standing 800-meter school record at the University of Montana at the time. I also improved my time thanks to him.

Coach Clark's few words changed my attitude for the better, forever. This amazing man took the time to tell me important life lessons in ways that I could understand.

Never underestimate the importance of encouraging words that you speak into another person's life. The simple phrases uttered by coach Clark still hold a special place in my heart even today.

As the famous quote says, "Build Bridges, not Walls" in life when directly communicating with others.

Encouraging words are the fuel of Life; they take you to places you never thought were possible.

Thank you, coach Clark.


Philippians 4:13

Coach Clark Passed away in 2002. You can read more about Coach Clark's life impact here: