The following appeared in the Pueblo Chieftain on Dec. 30, 2008 and was written by Jeff Letofsky.
Calling her West Point experience thus far "unique", Jamie Clark has her future paved.
Clark, a former South High School standout, is nearing graduation and her commission at Army, wrapping up a stellar educational experience. Along the way, Clark rewrote part of the record book as a Division I volleyball player for the Black Knights.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride of four years," said Clark, who has been back in Pueblo over the holiday break enjoying some down time with her family. "There were times when I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But the last two years, my junior and senior years, have been really amazing and I've really enjoyed it.
"I've figured out that really this is the place I was supposed to be. It's what I want to do."
Leading soldiers Clark, 21, has been studying in the medical field - environmental science in particular. Her final goal is to land a job as a veterinarian.
"I'm really excited to get out and lead soldiers," the 5-foot-10 inch Clark said. "In another year, I'll take an officer training leadership course. I'll find out where I'm going early next fall. Fort Carson (in Colorado Springs) is my first choice because it's close to home. It's a nice post, a highly sought after post."
Prior to that, however, Clark will stay at West Point following graduation to work as an athletic intern for the Army strength and conditioning team.
"I'll be working with branch medical services at West Point," she said. "I'll get to work with all of the Division I sports at Army starting at the end of June. I'll
work throughout the summer and fall."
That, in itself, is a huge honor, especially for a woman.
"We nominated Jamie to be an athletic intern, which is similar to being a graduate assistant," Army assistant volleyball coach Jeremy Sands said. "She was the only female selected. Anyone selected as an athletic intern is truly an honor."
On the court, Clark was selected as one of Army's co-captains her senior year.
"Jamie was voted co-captain based on her hard work," Sands said. "Her work ethic is second to none. She worked harder than anyone we've seen at West Point. She pushed herself and teammates to be better, in a positive way.
"When it comes to working out in the gym, she would work out seven days a week without us even asking. She probably set our highest strength and conditioning records for the women's volleyball team. She was able to squat more than 250 percent of her body weight.
"And at her peak, she was jumping 25 inches."
Athletics has been part of Clark's MO since her days growing up in Pueblo. She was a three-year letter winner and two-time team co-captain in volleyball at South and was voted the team most valuable player her junior and senior years. A two-time first-team all-South Central League and honorable mention all-state player, Clark led the Colts to district play on two occasions.
She was selected to play in the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State game and Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State game. Clark holds school records for kills and digs.
While at South, she also played basketball and ran track.
Clark always wanted to take her game to another level. That's why she opted for Army, an NCAA Division I program.
"It's definitely one of those things I always wanted to do was to play Division I volleyball," Clark said. "I had a good high school career and wanted to continue on with that in college. Going in and not knowing what to expect was exciting. But I was able to have some success."
Behind Clark, Army made it to the Patriot League Tournament all four years. One year, Army was co-champion of the Patriot League, a difficult task since powerful American University is in the conference.
"It was really an amazing experience to play volleyball," said Clark, who was voted to the all-region team this past season. "Getting voted honorable mention to the all-region team was a first for an Army volleyball player. Besides that personal honor, it took a lot to accomplish what our team was able to accomplish."
A middle blocker, Clark was named all-Northwest Region honorable mention by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
“Jamie had such a fantastic career here at West Point that it’s wonderful to see her rewarded with such a great honor,” second-year Army head coach Alma Kovaci said in a press release. “Her hard work and dedication to this program was a huge part of our success over the last four years. Jamie and her fellow seniors are going to be very difficult to replace.”
Clark was a three-time first team all-Patriot League selection. She concluded her West Point career as the all-time leader in career blocks (340) and hitting percentage (.368). A 2008 co-captain, Clark led Army to the best winning percentage in school history with a 26-4 (.867) mark. In the four years with Clark on the floor, Army posted a remarkable 90-24 (.789) overall record.
Clark finished ranked eighth in the nation with a Patriot League-best .405 hitting percentage. Her 0.96 blocks per set also topped the conference, while her 2.99 kills per set ranked eighth.
Quite a character
Sands gave Clark high praise when he called her "one of the greatest leaders Army volleyball has ever had."
Besides the individual numbers and the lofty team record she achieved during her Army career, Clark's character as a person has never been in question. In fact, Sands said Clark's leadership skills are unsurpassed.
"To replace Jamie Clark is going to take some time," Sands said. "Outside the court, she was selected as the respect officer for the core of cadets. That's a big thing since respect is a huge part of leadership at West Point. Basically, she was at the top of the chain of command for respect. She made sure people do the right thing such as the greeting of the day and that conduct is done properly.
"Jamie Clark is one of those kids you get every so often. Every coach would love to have her. We had a great four years with her." Bright future Clark perhaps has more volleyball in her future. She has an offer to join the all-Army volleyball team when she gets assigned to her unit. And trying out for the Olympic team for the 2012 Summer Games remains an option.
"Joining the all-Army team will depend on where I'm training and what I'm doing," Clark said. "I'll have to get permission to join the all-Army team when the time comes. We get to compete against all the other services' all-Armed Forces teams."
And the Olympic team is not out of the question.
"If I do get commissioned to Fort Carson, I'd like to join the World Class Athlete program in Colorado Springs," she said. "By joining that program, I could get a chance to make it onto one of the Olympic or national teams that train for the next Olympic cycle."
Sands says Clark will be successful at whatever endeavor she chooses.
"Jamie has a bright future ahead of her," he said. "Her leadership has been outstanding and she will be a great representative of Army volleyball in whatever she does."