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Montana Tech title contender Abby Clark has more to give entering NAIA championships

Abby Clark
Posted at 4:01 PM, May 21, 2024

BILLINGS — Abby Clark has shed what she calls her "underdog energy" and now has an adjusted mindset going into this week's NAIA outdoor track and field championship meet in Marion, Indiana.

Last month, Montana Tech's Clark did what she first deemed implausible when she eclipsed 5,000 points in the heptathlon at the Trudnowski Open in Helena to clinch the Frontier Conference title, which firmly places her among the top multi-event performers in the country.

Abby Clark

Clark placed third in the heptathlon at last year's NAIA outdoor championships, scoring 4,826 points. That total was just five points shy of second place and less than 100 short of the title winner, Hinsdale graduate and Dickinson State standout Kaitlyn McColly.

Now with the 5,009 points she tallied in Helena — the second-best total of anyone in the NAIA — Clark isn't shying away from national-title aspirations.

"It was kind of unbelievable at first," the Fort Benton graduate told MTN Sports. "I was like, oh my goodness, I just hit 5,000 points. But then I was like, 'No. I worked really hard for this; I shouldn't be too surprised.' I do feel like I have a lot left to give.

"Going into nationals, now I have the target on my back. I would love to come home with a national championship. That's definitely high on my priority list. But I'm just kind of focusing on what I can control at this point. I have to go into Day 1 thinking, 'OK, let's just do the absolute best I can,' because obviously there's a lot that can happen on Day 2."

The heptathlon consists of seven events — the 100-meter hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, the 200 meters, the long jump, the javelin and the 800 meters.

Clark ran a 25.89 in the 200 at the Trudnowski Open — a PR, by the way — to clinch her 5,000-point effort.

Of course, everything will reset this week in Indiana. And Clark says the field for the multis is loaded with athletes capable of winning it all. That includes McColly, who is also coming off winning the pentathlon title at the NAIA indoor championships in Brookings, S.D., in February.

"This year's multi field is really deep," Clark said. "I think there's already four of us who have scored more than last year's winning mark (McColly's 4,922 points) just in-season."

Coming from Class C high schools, Clark and McColly have been competing against each other for years. Notably, they faced off in a state basketball championship game at the end of the 2020-21 season. Clark's Fort Benton team beat McColly's Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale squad 74-60.

Clark said she isn't putting any kind of target on McColly this week. Clark will keep tabs on herself and then let the chips fall where they may.

"I got third place last year, and hopefully I can improve on that," said Clark, who also wants to reach All-American status in the long jump. "You never know what's going to happen in the multis. But I'm not trying to think about that too much.

"Obviously I want to do the best that I can, and I think eclipsing 5,000 points earlier in the season really puts me in contention, but I'm also just taking things one step at a time right now."