Jonathan Alder softball player Cierra Clark puts down a bunt in the above photo. Clark was a starting outfielder on the Lady Pioneer team that captured the 2019 Division II state championship. She was a member of teams that earned trips to the state Final Four during three consecutive seasons. In the photo to the left, Clark is pictured with Jonathan Alder bowling coaches Rusty Walter, left, and Jim Walter. She is holding the district championsip trophy won by the team. Clark will compete in both sports on the collegiate level. (Journal-Tribune softball photo by Sam Dillon, bowling photo submitted)
When multi-sport high school athletes advance to the next level, they generally concentrate on just one activity.
Cierra Clark, a 2020 graduate of Jonathan Alder High School, goes against that grain.
Clark plans to play softball and also be a member of the women’s bowling team at the University of Rio Grande.
Clark excelled in both sports for the Lady Pioneers.
She concluded her high school bowling career during the 2019-20 season with a 169.8 game average.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out her final softball campaign. She will, however, always be remembered as the starting right fielder for the 2019 Division II state championship team.
She earned three trips to the Division II state tournament in both sports.
Clark said she was originally attracted to Rio Grande through a former JA bowling teammate, Rena Kirts.
“Rena will be a junior next season on Rio Grande’s bowling team,” said Clark. “She suggested I look into the school.”
Clark talked to softball coaches from Mount Vernon Nazarene University a couple of times.
She had also looked at Ashland University, but said she didn’t want to go to that big of a school.
“I contacted Rio Grande and went for a visit,” she said. “The coaches made me feel welcome and it feels like home.”
Unlike many high school bowlers, Clark didn’t take up the sport at a young age.
“I started my freshman year at Jonathan Alder,” she said. “At first, I just did it for fun.
“Over the years, I became more invested in it.”
Clark said she will have to work hard to break into the lineup for both teams.
“Rio Grande has a very good women’s bowling team and the softball squad has won multiple and consecutive conference championships,” she said.
Clark concluded her final high school softball season a year ago with impressive stats.
She finished with a .330 batting average, hit one homer and drove in 33 runs as the Lady Pioneers finished 30-1.
The speedy Clark covered a lot of ground in the outfield, but could find herself at other positions on the collegiate level.
“I was an outfielder at Jonathan Alder, but I could also play in the infield,” she said. “They are looking at me as a utility player.
“I’ll play wherever they put me.”
The Red Storm squad posted a 12-12 record during an abbreviated 2020 season that was halted by the coronavirus.
Rio Grande had only two seniors listed on its roster for this past season.
There will be a veteran team back in the fold in 2021, along with a few more additions.
“I know there are a handful of players from Urbana University who have transferred to Rio Grande,” she said.
Urbana University officials announced earlier this spring they were closing the school’s doors for good after the spring semester.
Clark was asked what she feels she will bring to both Red Storm programs.
“I’m excited to be going to Rio Grande,” she said. “I think I will bring a lot of energy to both teams.”
It can be difficult for a collegiate athlete to compete in both a winter and spring sport.
Those seasons usually overlap, making it tough for an athlete to play in both seasons.
Clark, though, has already figured out a solution with the blessing of both Rio Grande coaches.
“Softball is going to be my priority,” she said. “I will be available for the bowling team for six weeks before softball practice begins.”
The former Lady Pioneer standout feels the southeastern Ohio school is not only a good fit for her athletically, but also for academics.
Clark plans to study social work.
“I’d like to eventually work in a hospital setting where I can help children,” she said.
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