Her running outdistanced the arts
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She had little trouble staying away from the high school runners this year. watching her win her fourth straight state championship 800-meter run was reminiscent of Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. She assumed the lead about 10 feet into the race and finished 40 yards and seven seconds ahead of a pack battling for second place.Skip to next paragraph
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The race brought Joetta's high school cav reer to a close, a career that established four indoor state records (at 440 yards, 800 meters, 880 yards, and 1,500 meters), seven state outdoor marks (440 yards, 800 meters, 880 yards, 1, 500 meters, the mile, two-mile relay, and distance medley relay), two national high school records (800 meters and sprint medley relay), and an American women's record (two-mile relay). She never lost an 800-meter or 1,500-meter race in New Jersey.
Joetta, however, did lose sight of one of her goals, the 1980 Olympics. As a freshman, she wanted to compete in Moscow in the 1,500 meters. She later amended that to the 800, and recently abandoned hopes of Moscow altogether.
"The boycott must have been a lot more upsetting for those athletes who are older," the disappointed but resilient 17-year-old said of the US-instigated Olympic boycott. "The 1980 Olympics really only entered my life at the end of my sophomore year. Some of the other athletes, like Mary Decker or Bill Rodgers , established themselves years ago and have been working for the Olympics a long time. I only established a name for myself last year."
Joetta may not be as embittered as some of the older athletes, but she definitely feels she is bein gused as a political football.
"I don't think the athletes should be used as bait. It's said. The government has never supported us, so I don't think we ought to be used," the articulate South Orange resident said. "I guess in time of crisis you have to use whatever measures you can, but the boycott's not going to hurt the Russians. And I guess now we can't back down. We have to maintain a strong government."
The boycott has not changed her training schedule.
"Joetta's still trying to peak for this month's Olympic Trials [in Eugene, Ore.]," Klepack said. "I think she understands it [the boycott], but it is complex. She can still look forward to 1984 at least.
"I will never have another opportunity to coach an athlete like Joetta," he added, "but we'll each have other goals."
Flooded with college offers, she has limited her choices to three -- the University of Virginia, Georgetown, and North Carolina State. An honor student with a B-plus average, she has wanted to pursue a career in journalism since her freshman year. Besides leaving behind many records, memories, and friends at Columbia High, she is also leaving her younger brother, J. J., a sophomore who is a promising cross-country and middle-distance runner.
"There's no competition between the two," Joe Clark says. "It's always been a cooperative effort. When J. J. was younger, Joetta helped him into running. I'm fortunate. Through all this my children have emerged as exemplary athletes, and, more important, as good people."