There isn’t a sport that Madison Clark wouldn’t want to try. If the Calaveras High School freshman could find a way to participate in every sport the school offered, she would. Unfortunately for Clark, there’s only so much time she can dedicate to her sports life.
But that doesn’t stop her from doing as much as she can.
During her first year of high school, Clark participated in four sports, three of which on varsity, and reached levels of success that take years to achieve. Clark played freshman volleyball in the fall, was a starting guard on the varsity basketball team in the winter, and in the spring, she split time between track and varsity softball.
“Sometimes I think that a break would be nice, but I also remember that I chose to do this,” Clark said. “I’m just glad that I got to play all the sports because that’s what I love doing. I know this isn’t going to last forever, so why not make the most of it?”
A young leader
After playing a season of freshman volleyball, Clark made the leap to varsity basketball. She joined a team that had four seniors and five juniors. Clark knew that, as a freshman, she not only had to earn her spot on the floor, but prove to her teammates that she belonged.
It didn’t take long for Clark to win over her new teammates.
“What impressed me most was the way she was able to endear herself to her teammates and fit in so well,” Calaveras head coach Jeremy Malamed said. “She is such a positive kid and always puts the team first, so it was easy for her teammates to embrace her.”
While the Calaveras players embraced her, Clark’s opponents began to fear her. From her guard position, Clark ran Calaveras’ offense and was a disturbance on defense. Clark’s 6.9 steals per game ranked her No. 17 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com. When it came to freshman players, she was first in steals per game and fifth overall with 159 takeaways. In California, she was sixth in steals per game, which includes all grades, and was second in California’s freshman class in steals.
With the ball in her hands, Clark could not be stopped. She finished her freshman year with 14.6 points per game with 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Clark scored a total of 335 points and scored double-digit points in 20 of 23 games, which included her final 16 contests.
“The combination of natural athleticism, toughness – both mental and physical – and passion for competition is what sets Madison apart,” Malamed said. “Some people have one or two of those, but she possesses all three, which is a big reason why she is able to be successful in just about anything she commits to.”
The season came to an end in a 60-51 road loss to No. 2 West Campus in the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV basketball playoffs. Although Clark was upset that the season was over, she was proud of the way her team performed against the bigger West Campus squad.
“We were the underdogs and they were expecting to get past us and move on to the next game,” Clark said. “We showed up and played our best game, so that loss wasn’t as bad.”
Clark was named the co-Most Outstanding Player of the Mother Lode League.
Working twice as hard
Clark had to make a tough decision that not many athletes are faced with making. Does she play softball or run track? Clark decided that she wouldn’t choose between the two sports. In the spring, she split her time between the softball field and the track.
“I’m glad I did it,” she said. “I got a good feel for what track is actually like.”
With practices for both sports taking place after school, Clark hit the track during PE and trained by herself with head coach Doug Avrit. With no teammates around for support or fans rooting her on, Clark practiced with only the eyes of Avrit watching her. And day-by-day, she continued to improve.
“I wasn’t really with the team, so I had to do the training by myself, and I was only able to train half the time,” Clark said. “It was harder because I was by myself.”
Avrit added, “Madison is talented. She’s quite possibly the most talented runner we’ve ever had at Calaveras, which includes boys and girls. She has a motor that says ‘Go.’ She will work as hard as it takes and is willing to do what it takes. Work ethic is not an issue for Madison.”
It didn’t take long for Clark to realize that she and track are a good fit. She competed in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter dashes, as well as in the long jump and 4x400-meter relay. In her first season of competition, the freshman ended the year with 12 first-place finishes, 13 second-place finishes, a Mother Lode League championship, a trip to the section and masters meets, and holds two school records.
Clark holds the school record in the 400-meter dash with her time of 58.46, which was set at the section finals. At the beginning of the season, the record of 1:00.14 was held by Mackenzie Theiler, which she set in 2009. Clark, along with Sage Miller, Bridgette Boriolo and Katarina Borchin, set a school record in the 4x400-meter relay with their section final time of 4:10.72.
“Behind the scenes, Madison is just a fun-loving kid who is extremely likable and someone that is easy to root for,” Avrit said. “Her teammates just admire her and love to be part of her success, whether on a relay with her or just rooting for her.”
When Clark wasn’t breaking records on the track, she was patrolling the outfield and helping lead Calaveras to a perfect 15-0 Mother Lode League softball championship. Clark hit .576 with 53 hits, drove in 18 runs, scored 42 times, had five doubles, three triples, two home runs, stole 19 bases and only committed two errors in 53 attempts.
“Her athleticism and speed is something that is unmatched by anyone in our league and possibly even in our section,” Calaveras head coach Mike Koepp said. “She’s a one-of-a-kind type of athlete and she can do things really well. She doesn’t get overwhelmed by the moments. She’s confident with what she does. Being the only freshman on the varsity team, that’s a challenge in itself and she fit in right away.”
In her first year of high school softball, Clark got to play in a section championship game. Unfortunately, Calaveras was unable to bring home the blue banner. For the second time in her freshman year, she was on a team that lost in the playoffs, which includes the basketball loss to West Campus. But one of those losses hurt much more than the other.
“The section title loss was really difficult,” Clark said. “Ripon was a good team, but I feel that we could have competed with them. We beat ourselves a couple of times and we didn’t play very well. We were just off.”
Clark was placed on the Mother Lode League’s first team.
Most athletes are somewhat superstitious. When it comes to Clark, she brings it to a whole other level. In each sport, she has things that she must do before and during each game. Some things are small, like when to put on shoes, while other things are done in front of fans and teammates.
While playing basketball, Clark has to have her hair done the same way for every game. She also needs to put on her shoes at the same time, which is right after halftime of the junior varsity game. In softball, she puts a ribbon in her hair at the same time before each game. While she’s standing in the on-deck circle, she has a specific way to put on her elbow guard and then will repeat the same warmup swings before walking to the plate. And when it comes to track, she makes sure she does the same stretches and the same strides in the same order before each race.
“Everyone has their routine,” Clark said with a laugh. “Even if I do badly, I still do the same routine.”
Wanting to do even more
For most, playing four sports would be enough. But that’s not the case for Clark. If there was a way for her to participate in more sports, she would.
“I actually thought about running cross country and not playing volleyball,” Clark said. “Swimming and soccer would also be fun, but I can’t do that because of basketball and softball. If it was in the fall, I’d probably play soccer. I’d like to try them all. But, I like the four main sports I’m in.”
What about football? Clark has a close relationship with the new head coach at Calaveras, who just so happens to be her father, Doug Clark. If she did put on a helmet and shoulder pads, it wouldn’t be the first time. While in fifth grade, Clark decided to give football a try. She was always around the youth football team and year after year asked if she could join. In fifth grade, she finally got the “yes” she’d been hoping for.
Does that mean she will hit the gridiron in the fall and join the football team?
“I know I’d get a ‘No’ from my mom right away,” Clark said. “I don’t really think he’d (her father) want me to be playing, but I really don’t know. He’d probably laugh. I wouldn’t mind playing again, but I think I’ll keep the shoulder pads retired. It was fun for one year.”
As a successful athlete, it would be natural that Clark likes one sport more than another, but she doesn’t. Her favorite always seems to be the one that is in front of her.
“Whatever sport I’m in is the one that I think is the best,” she said. “If I’m playing basketball, I want to play basketball year-round. But then I go into softball and I want to do that year-round.”