Without question, one of the most important elements in the success of the Georgia gymnastics program is the top-level talent it is able to attract to Athens year after year. Overseeing the process of maintaining the Gym Dogs' status among the elite is Jay Clark. His recruiting success earned him the title of associate head coach last fall.
Clark, a Roswell, Ga., native returned to the Georgia program in June, 1998 after spending two years as Head Team Coach and Competitive Director with the Athens-Clarke Gymnastics Academy. From 1990 to 1996, Clark was an assistant coach with the Gym Dogs before joining the staff at ACGA. When the opportunity arose, he welcomed the chance to return to Georgia.
Clark coordinates the gymnastics program's recruiting efforts, which includes corresponding with coaches and potential student-athletes, scouting at major competitions, visiting with gymnasts and their families and coordinating official University visits. Among the classes Clark is credited with recruiting are the classes of 1998 and 1999, which consisted of All-Americans Kim Arnold, Julie Ballard, Jenni Beathard, Karin Lichey, Sam Muhleman and Canadian National Team member Stacey Galloway. Those two recruiting classes are regarded as the "two best recruiting classes ever in the history of Georgia gymnastics and possibly in all of collegiate gymnastics," by Yoculan.
Arnold, Beathard, Lichey and Muhleman were former U.S. National Team members. Also due in large part to his efforts, Georgia signed the No. 1 recruits in 1993 (Leslie Angeles), 1994 (Arnold) and 1995 (Amanda Borden).
In the gym, Clark is Georgia's primary uneven bars coach. Under his tutelage, three Gym Dogs won NCAA bars titles (Kelly Macy in 1991, Agina Simpkins in 1993 and Lori Strong in 1994), with an unprecedented five Georgia bars performers earning All-America honors in the 1993 campaign.
In 1999 Georgia's bars team was one of the most successful in the nation as it ended the season as the No. 2 unit in the nation with a regional qualifying score of 49.46.
Individually, Gym Dogs Jenni Beathard and Karin Lichey were both First-Team All-Americans in 1999 in addition to competing in the event finals, where the pair finished tied for fourth scoring a 9.9.
A year ago senior Cory Fritzinger ended her career with a First-Team All-Ameirca honor on the uneven bars and senior Chelsa Byrd earned Second-Team honors. In just her first year Kelsey Ericksen was a Second-Team All-American on bars and during the regular season was tied as the top freshman in the country on the event.
Clark continues to coach at the club level, where his gymnasts from Classic City Gymnastics Academy are regular qualifiers for and winners of regional and national championships at USA Gymnastics Levels 8, 9 and 10. He was named the 2001 USA Gymnastics Georgia Coach of the Year.
He is also a member of the National Women's Collegiate Program Committee, which makes recommendations for the rules that govern college gymnastics.
Clark is married to the former Julie Ballard, who is now a volunteer assistant with the Gym Dogs. The couple has a son, Walton Cole, born Aug. 15, 2002.