Dear Running: Unforeseen Obstacles Have Made Me Stronger

Jonas Clarke is a senior at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. He's the reigning MIAA All-State Outdoor champion in the 100m and finished third in the 60m at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March. An incoming enrollee at Harvard University this coming fall, Clarke is looking to finish off his final spring season with a flourish. Below, he recounts his career's stages, and how it's pushed him forward to where he is now. 

"Even with having these adversities stacked against us runners, I've quickly learned to seize the opportunities laid in front of me."

By Jonas Clarke - South Hadley '22

If I were ever asked to describe my high school track and field experience using a word, I would reply with 'unforeseen.'

This word sticks with me because of the unique yet strong relationship I have with the sport of track and field and where it has gotten me today.

Being from a small town in Western Massachusetts, track and field is not one of the sports offered to the children at a young age. So after playing other sports, such as basketball and soccer, I was first introduced to a competitive track and field program when I was a freshman in high school.

My first indoor season was spent learning the basics. I spent time working on form, developing endurance and just learning the nuances of sprinting. I came to realize quickly that winter is not very sprinter friendly. Tracks were snowed over, and temperatures were well below 10-degrees Fahrenheit. We had to resort to rolling out school cheerleader mats in hallways in order for us to use our track spikes. We were granted very little access to tracks unless we were competing on them.

This may sound very familiar to Northeast runners, who have had, and are still having this problem. Getting creative was a must in order to get better. But with our small hallways we made it work, and the times definitely showed for it. 

Even with having these adversities stacked against us runners, I've quickly learned to seize the opportunities laid in front of me. Because of the creative work my coach and I have put into my training, I have reaped similar results as those who have had access to tracks, weight rooms or even a predictable weather forecast. 

What also was unforeseen about track and field was the anxiety and nerves that came with the sport. As I progressed as an athlete, there was an unspoken pressure that was placed upon me, especially as my times started to decrease into more elite ranges.

I've always set a high standard for myself, expecting only the best, which is a respectable quality to possess. However, it does also have its drawbacks.

When I was in my younger years of high school, I'd let the pre-race anxiety get to me. And at times, it would result in me throwing all my race strategies out the window. 

Learning to deal with this was one of the harder tasks I had to accomplish, and I've only recently gotten ahold of it. I've developed a step-by-step routine, with a couple of superstitions, in order to obtain the best mindset to attack a race without any doubt. 

The future is unforeseeable for all, but with track and field remaining a major component of my life, I couldn't be more excited to be given the track and field resources and opportunities that await me at Harvard next year.


South Hadley '22






If you are a track and field athlete or coach interested in contributing to this series at the state or national level, please send your essay to MileSplit USA editor Cory Mull at, or to your local MileSplit editor in your respective state.