Athletic Director Tim Duncan introduced Olympic gold medalist Latasha Colander-Clark as the school’s new cross country and track and field coach at a news conference this morning.
“We’re excited to have someone of this caliber come to Paine College,” Duncan told a packed conference room in Paine’s Peters Campus Center. “I think she’s going to be a star within the community of track and field.”
Colander-Clark won Olympic gold in the 4x400-meter relay as the anchor for the U.S. team in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. After retiring as a professional athlete, she went on to coach track and field at Mount Olive College in North Carolina as an assistant.
Duncan said Colander-Clark took over the Paine track and field team last week when the Lions competed in their first meet. Members of the team were in attendance Tuesday to see Clark officially introduced.
“We were pretty good as a team before she got here,” senior sprinter Mason Rhodes said. “But now you can tell she’s here to develop character. Even though I’m a senior, it’s good to know I’ll be leaving the team in the hands of a good coach.”
Colander-Clark didn’t waste time trying to motivate members of the team at the news conference.
“We are going to set ourselves on fire and let the world come see us burn,” she said. “That’s going to be our motto for this year. We are going to develop ourselves into a competitive team.”
Duncan said more than 100 candidates applied for the job. Colander-Clark’s time as an Olympic athlete and later a professional runner gave her the experience the school was seeking.
“They’re already hungry,” Colander-Clark said of her 30-member track and field team. “They’re interested in learning about track and field as a career. I’ll be able to help them with that.”
Colander-Clark’s gold medal was nearly taken away after relay teammate Marion Jones admitted in 2007 to using performance-enhancing drugs to help her in the 2000 Olympic games. The International Olympic Committee removed the gold medal-winning performance from its record books, but last summer the Court of Arbitration for Sport overtuned an IOC ruling that would have stripped Colander-Clark and her innocent teammates of their medals.