BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Elementary school students in Blacksburg had a special coach today helping them through a track and field clinic.
Charles Clark is a Virginia native, growing up in Virginia Beach before moving onto Florida State to run at the collegiate level.
Now, he's faced with his biggest test yet, competing for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
“Making this Olympic team is the dream,” he said. “And I'm just glad to have the community here that can help me achieve that goal.”
Now living in Blacksburg, Clark joined Kipps Elementary School's Field Day Wednesday to run and speak with Kindergarten through fifth grade students as part of DICK’S Sporting Goods “Grit Before Gold Tour.”
Principal Chris Widrig said, “It was a really exciting opportunity. We have a group that gets together and plans the field days every year and when they found this out, they were really excited about having him here and knew he could be an inspiration for the kids that we have, the ones who really enjoy school and then the ones who are looking for what they want to do with their lives.”
It was opportunity each child was thrilled about, especially those racing against the Olympic hopeful.
“It was nice, he is fast!” said 11-year old 5th Grader Josiah Shrestha. “It was cool.”
Ten-year old 4th Grader Madeline Lansden added, “It was really fun. It was the first opportunity I had to run with someone that might be going into the Olympics.”
But it's not just about the running. Clark also had an important message that he spread to the students in between races.
Nine-year old 4th Grader Sylvia Macnab said, “He taught us to be confident and if you have a goal, really go through and do it.”
Eleven-year old 5th Grader Suzie Kim echoed that saying, “If you have a goal you should work all the way up to it and you can be whatever you want as long as you work hard at it.”
Clark said of what he tells students, “It's important for me to instill in them that they have greatness in them and I'm just so honored that I can come out here and talk to these kids.”
Clark shared the story of his own struggles in school but then pushing through them to now become one of the fastest men in the world.
“It may be hard in school, it may be hard at home, it may be hard wherever you are, you may feel like you're getting bullied, or whatever the case may be, don't give up!” he said. “I was once that kid that struggled, I was once that kid that was bullied, I was once that kid that felt like I was worthless. But persevering, you're going to make it to the top, and you'll see it.”
Clark will compete in the U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon in July.