Last track coach dies at 68
Marshall Clark led Spartans from '84 to '88

By Justine DaCosta, Daily Staff Writer
October 07, 2002

Friends and family close to Marshall Clark said he loved to be on the track with a stopwatch in his hand.

He had a passion for running and shared it with others through his 45 years of coaching track and cross country.

Clark, who was the last coach for men's track and cross country at San Jose State University, died of an apparent heart attack on Sept. 30 while training the Saratoga High School girls cross country team.

Clark was a runner and a positive coach who was always upbeat, said Augie Argabright, head coach of SJSU's men's and women's cross country teams. Argabright met Clark four decades ago, when Clark was Stanford University's head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach.

"He could relate to everybody," Argabright said. "He was a super gentleman." Clark's three children, Richard, Shannon and Stacy, all shared their father's love of running.

Argabright coached Clark's twin daughters when they were beginning their own athletic careers and running for San Jose's Cinder Gals, a private running organization.

Clark also coached his own children, and Richard Clark said he was not a typical father-coach.

"It was an honor to have him as a coach," Richard said. "Training with him made us closer -- it bonded us."

Shannon Clark, who ran competitively for 15 years, said her father was a coach because there was nothing else he wanted to do.

"He was a champion for the sports of track and field and cross country," she said.

Shannon said her father loved his athletes and did everything he could to increase their confidence.

"He built up the whole person, not just the athlete," she said.

While running was a huge part of the elder Clark's life, his family always came first, Stacy Clark said.

"Running didn't affect his home life," Stacy said. "He was mellow and easy going. He had a calming effect."

Marshall Clark was born April 27, 1933 in Santa Monica, Calif. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1957 and began his coaching career at a high school in Hacienda Heights, Calif., where he coached cross country and track for nine years.

In 1968, he joined the athletic department at Stanford where, Argabright said, he started the university's cross country team.

Dick Gould, the athletic director at Stanford, said he began working at Stanford after Clark's departure in 1978, but that Clark was well known within the department.

"He was the foundation of what we have today," Gould said.

After spending two years at the University of Montana as the head coach of track and cross country as well as an assistant athletic director, Clark moved back to California and joined the athletic department at SJSU.

He took the positions of head coach for the men's cross country team and assistant coach for men's track and field and was the head coach of both programs from 1984 until they were discontinued in 1988.

"He tried to save his teams up until the very last moment," Argabright said.

Even after the programs were dropped, Clark remained active in the athletic program at SJSU, serving as an assistant athletic director for facilities and game management until his retirement in 1991.

Lawrence Fan, SJSU's sports information director, met Clark in 1980 and said he was quiet in terms of his coaching style and the way he related to people. "He was very low key, and a very effective coach," Fan said. "He was also very approachable."

After his retirement from SJSU, Clark began coaching the boys and girls track and cross country teams at Saratoga High School.

Mike Navrides, the athletic director at Saratoga High School, said that Clark was a positive person that everyone at the school admired.

"If you were to mold the perfect coach, he's as close as you could come," he said.

Clark was a coach purely for the kids, and he shared his passion for running with them while never losing sight of their needs, Navrides said.

Navrides, who knew Clark for five years, said that he never received a single complaint about him.

"If all of our coaches followed Marshall's lead, there would be no need for an athletics director," he said.

George Wightman, who had retired as Saratoga High School's track coach, came out of retirement for the opportunity to work with Clark.

"He was the most respected coach I ever worked with," Wightman said. "Even the opposing coaches liked him."

Wightman said Clark was very well organized, and would arrive hours early for home track meets to prepare for the events.

Clark was also known for keeping meticulous records of his athletes' finish times.

"Every kid's time was recorded," Wightman said. "He'd go home and put the times on forms for every single kid."

Wightman said the most enjoyable years of his coaching career were the 10 years he spent working with Clark.

The two exchanged novels weekly, mostly mysteries and westerns, Wightman said.

Clark's wife, Carol Clark, said he could read a book a day, and enjoyed authors Larry McMurtry, Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey.

Carol Clark also said her husband was an animal person who adored cats. "We have a family of cats," she said. "His favorite was Princess. Every night she would wait for him to pick up his Louie Lamore book and sit down so she could jump onto his lap."

Shannon Clark said that her father was a loyal man who wasn't happy unless everyone else was happy.

"He was the greatest father anyone could wish for," she said.

Aside from his own athletic accomplishments, Marshall Clark will be remembered for his upbeat personality and the positive influence he had on so many athletes throughout his 45 years of coaching, Wightman said.

"He was the ultimate gentleman," he said.

Shannon said her father was a man who never promoted himself and encouraged his athletes and family to make their own decisions.

"As great of a man he was," she said. "He had movie star good looks." Richard Clark said his father was humble and quiet when it came to taking credit for his accomplishments.

"He's now gone, and we try to think of his success," he said. "He didn't speak about his personal successes."

Navrides said that Clark cannot be replaced and that letters from Clark's former students have been pouring into Saratoga High School since his death.

"People are going out of their way to honor the man," Navrides said. "His death has left a big void in the athletic program."

Argabright said the sports of track and cross country will not be the same without Clark.

"We're all going to miss him," Argabright said. "You go to a high school track meet and he was always there."

Marshall Clark is survived by his wife, Carol Clark; three children, Richard Clark, Shannon Clark and Stacy Clark and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Saratoga High School.  end of article dingbat