By Robert Elkin
Kemar Clarke, a junior at South Shore High School, is one of the premier hurdlers among the athletes competing in the Public Schools Athletic League. Head Track and Field Coach Phil Zodda has been lately impressed with Clarke’s performances, especially after he pulled away to win the championship race of the 55-meter high hurdles during the Yale Indoor Track and Field Classic at the Coxe Cage in New Haven, Connecticut. Clarke had to compete in three sections within a span of two hours to take the title. In the finals, he got out slowly, a little better than he did in his previous two races of the meet. “I got out maybe third over the first hurdle,” the resident of Flatbush said. “Then I pulled away using my arms. Once I did that, and got good at it, I thought I could win.” Before the final started Zodda had confidence in him. Zodda told his athlete that he would have to get a good start and use his arms between the hurdles. The coach stressed that if Clark doesn’t use them, he wouldn’t be able to win. Clarke listened to his coach and put it all together in a time of 7.59. In the semi-finals, he got out smoothly and ran a 7.73 to qualify for the final. Winning the event didn’t mean anything as long as he mastered his technique. “Clarke has been moving up quite nicely this winter and is becoming a State class hurdler,” Zodda said. “He has one of the top times and has been ranked among the top five hurdlers in the State. “We’re trying for him to continue improving throughout the season, and drop a couple of ticks off the clock. Consistency is the name of the game.” He certainly has been consistent during the winter. “During the cross country season, he stayed in shape and did some competing,” Zodda went on. “Let’s call it pre-season training for track. He’s a sprinter who is capable of running up to the 400 meters. If he shows a little bit of efficiency he’ll try some of the jumps-long and triple- and slowly move into that (these events) as the year goes on.” The 17-year-old Clarke is only in his second season on the South Shore High School track and field team. Last year he took a break to concentrate more on his academics as he posted low grades in the class room. During the off season of 2005 he trained with coach Zodda. As a freshman, he felt that he was good, and made it to the nationals, where according to him, “I ran slow as a coward.” Now he feels that he is improving. Clarke credits his success a great deal to his coach. “Zodda helps me a lot,” Clarke added. “He teaches me about my start, how to use my arms, what to do between the hurdles, and the snap downs. He teaches me to ‘keep cool’ and all the aspects of the hurdles.” For the most part, Clarke and his teammates practice within the school halls. He feels that the facility is all right but not great. Track is now his only sport and the one that he is pursuing and mastering. “I also play basketball in gym class,” the 6-2 Clarke went on after his victory at Yale University. “I don’t play that much for I don’t want to hurt my legs. At one time I thought I would be a basketball player, but I found out track is more fun as we go all over (travel) around. If (I’m good enough) I can get a scholarship to college.” Clarke came to Brooklyn from Jamaica, West Indies at the age of 11. He had played some soccer. But he really wasn’t interested in the booter sport. Instead, he was interested in track and kept running. When he arrived at South Shore, the coaches told him that he would be a good athlete for their team and he can get a scholarship to some college. “My goals are to master the hurdles and get to college,” Clarke said. “I have one more year left. I want to go to Baylor or Penn State.” His main objective right now is to do well and lead South Shore to individual and team triumphs.