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3 Clarks in 800 Running Semifinals

September 22, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Running was the easy part for the Clark clan in the first races held at the Olympics on Friday.

The second, third and fourth heats of the opening round in the women’s 800 each had a Clark running, leaving two of them cheering at all times, while a third was on the track.

It all worked out with Joetta, Jearl and Hazel all advancing to Saturday’s semifinals. It was not easy, though.

Jearl Miles-Clark, the sister-in-law, finished first in her heat in 2:01.79, then waited around while Joetta Clark-Diggs, the oldest of the three at 38, ran the fastest of the family in 2:00.19. Then, their kid sister, Hazel, posted a 2:01.99, finishing second in her heat.

``Making it to the semifinals, we did that,″ Jearl said. ``One step at a time. It was nerve-racking waiting to see if we all made it.″

Jearl and Hazel advanced automatically by finishing first and second in their heats. Joetta moved on by having one of the six other fastest times.

``It was pretty good,″ Joetta said. ``I was a little nervous for the other girls. They did fine.″

Jearl, running first, had a comfortable race to finish first. Joetta ran near the lead throughout her race before dropping back, even though she was fastest. And Hazel came on to take second in her heat.

``I saw the big screen and I said to myself, `OK, I’ve got to get up my time,′ ″ Hazel said.

All of this was no problem for Jearl. ``I knew we’d make it through,″ she said.

Hazel, the one they call Baby, said she was very nervous before the race. ``I had to calm myself down and use my natural skills,″ she said. ``We’ve just got to run smart tomorrow.″

Now it gets more complicated. With 16 qualifiers in the semis, there will be at least two Clarks in the same race.

Now, who does the third one cheer for?

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