After a stellar freshman year in which she received ITA All-America honors in both singles and doubles and was named the ITA NCAA Division III Rookie of the Year, Emory University sophomore Gabrielle Clark picked right up where she left off at the start of the 2011-12 season, first sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the 2011 USTA/ITA South Regional Championships and then reaching the singles final and winning the doubles title with senior Zahra Dawson at the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships.
Clark, 19, and a native of Chicago, recently took time to speak with USTA.com about why she chose Emory, her goals for herself and her team this year, competing in track and field in addition to tennis at Emory and much more.
USTA.com: As a nationally ranked junior player, you had a number of schools from every division recruiting you. Talk a little bit about your recruiting process, why you chose to attend an NCAA Division III school and why you specifically chose Emory?
Gabrielle Clark: I was interested in both small and large schools, so I did not limit myself to either DI or DIII three schools but talked to coaches in both divisions. I knew I wanted to go to a school that was academically ranked in the top 25 in the country and where I would be able to compete at a high level. Emory fulfilled these two criteria; thus, instead of focusing on the division, I chose a university where I could thrive on and off the court.
USTA.com: Chicago and Atlanta have vastly different climates and cultures. How was your adjustment to Emory and the South… and the heat!?
Gabrielle Clark: The adjustment from Chicago to Atlanta was fine. I love spending time in new places, so I never felt homesick or uncomfortable at Emory or in the South. From what I’ve experienced, Atlanta is quite similar to Chicago, and the neighborhood I grew up in resembles the community Emory is in. The heat was not as bad as I anticipated. By mid-October, the temperature was consistently in the 60s, and only beginning in April was the temperature back to 75 and above.
USTA.com: You had an outstanding freshman season last year, finishing No. 2 in the nation and your team finishing third at the NCAA DIII Championships. What are your goals for your team and yourself individually this season?
Gabrielle Clark: I believe our team goals are to have an even stronger regular season this spring than we did last academic year and to win the national championship. Individually, I would like to have better results against the DII schools we are able to play in the spring and win both the singles and doubles national championships in May.
USTA.com: Many people don’t know this about you, but last year you also competed for Emory in indoor track. Was this something you had planned to do all along, or did it just come about once you were on campus?
Gabrielle Clark: I definitely had not planned to run indoor track when I came to Emory last fall. Two of my best friends, Morgan Monroe and Jide Lawal, were on the track team, and because they were so dedicated and always talking about practice, the team and the coaches, I mentioned being interested in running to my head coach, Amy Bryant, and she essentially set up a meeting with me and the coaches of the track team.
USTA.com: What is a typical day like for you… practice schedule, strength and conditioning, classes?
Gabrielle Clark: On a typical day, I have the majority of my classes in the morning, and I study, sleep or relax in the time between those classes. In the afternoon, the team has practice for two hours, and we go to weights for about 45 minutes after practice. After practice, I grab food from the university center and spend the rest of the night studying and doing homework.
USTA.com: Do you have any idea what you would like to major in?
Gabrielle Clark: I would like to major in business, but I do not know what my concentration would be.
USTA.com: What players did you admire growing up?
Gabrielle Clark: The players I looked up to when I was growing up were Todd Martin, James Blake and Venus Williams. They all maintain positive attitudes and great composure on the court, and I especially liked Todd Martin and James Blake because they both went to college before their professional careers.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players as they begin the recruiting process?
Gabrielle Clark: Keep your options open, don’t limit yourself to one type of school or program, and talk to a lot of coaches. You never know who will surprise you!