Joe Clark

CROSS COUNTRY AND GIRLS TRACK COACH, LAKES HIGH SCHOOL

At A Glance
  • 24 years coaching cross country
  • 5 marathons completed
  • President, Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association
  • Founder & Director, Fort Steilacoom Invitational Westside Classic
Why I Love the Sport
“Cross country is an inclusive sport: Everyone gets to race, no matter their skill set. Because of that, there’s more of a sense of family and community.”
 
Building Community in an Orange Shirt
If you’re part of Washington’s running community, you probably know—or have heard of—Joe Clark. If you haven’t met Joe, just look for a man wearing an orange shirt at your next meet. There, you’ll find Joe catching up with friends, parents and volunteers. All the socializing made it hard for students and coaches to keep track of Joe.

“They made me start wearing the orange shirt so they wouldn’t lose me in the crowd,” he explained. Joe’s amicable personality has served as a catalyst for community in the South Sound.

Over the years, several of Joe’s former athletes and parents, including his daughter, have joined his coaching staff—simply because of his personal relationship. Other friends with no ties to running have become regular volunteers.

The greatest illustration of Joe’s dedication to community is the growth of the annual Fort Steilacoom Invitational, the largest invitational in Washington state. Each year, over 100 coaches and 100 volunteers help put on the meet, a feat only possible with the foundation of a strong community.

Attention to Inclusivity
During Joe’s 24 years of coaching, Lakes High School’s track and cross-country teams have grown exponentially.
Joe’s explanation? “I focus on promoting the team.” He creates an inclusive team culture through team dinners, annual camping trips, athlete recognition and investing in students’ leadership potential.

In addition, the team works together at each meet to choose an Athlete and Supporter of the Meet. The only rule is that winners can only be chosen once per season, so the team can recognize as many students as possible.

Joe also schedules weekly team dinners—sans coaches. It’s important to Joe that his athletes spend quality time together outside of practice.

“It allows them to build a stronger community and act more like themselves when we’re not around,” Joe explained.

Four Decades of Running—And Enjoying the South Sound
Joe entered the Army because he wanted to stick with something. He ended up sticking with running—and the South Sound.

In the nearly 40 years since he began running, Joe has completed five marathons—including the Boston Marathon in 1982. He has been elected president of Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association for the past 10 years and has won coach of the year numerous times, among many other accomplishments.

Joe isn’t always running. He also likes kayaking, biking, backpacking, gardening and hiking. Living in the South Sound is the perfect place with the perfect pace to enjoy it all.