April 8, 2002
Alabama road race honors Moss Point man for decade of dominance
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
MOBILE, Ala.—Wiley Clark, a three-time paralympian wheelchair racer from Moss Point, has been honored by the promoters of one of the southeast’s largest road races for years of excellence.
Bill Cowart, organizer of the wheelchair division of the Azalea Trail Run in Mobile, Ala., presented Clark with a glass trophy for having the most wins in the 15-year history of the Azalea wheelchair race. The presentation was part of the celebration for the 25th running of the race.
“This is pretty cool,” said Clark, 46, who competes for Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson where he was a patient. He has won the quadriplegic division nine of the 15 years it’s been part of the Azalea Trail Run. “When I got involved in this, I never expected to have so much success or to meet so many great friends.”
Clark retired from competitive road racing in 2000 after returning from the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. It was his third trip to the Games, since becoming involved in wheelchair racing after a car accident left him a quadriplegic.
At his first Azalea race, Clark competed in a borrowed wheelchair in his jeans and a t-shirt, said his wife, Cynthia. “He won $75 at that first race and one of the other racers said ‘Hey Wiley, maybe now you can buy yourself some of those fancy racing tights,’ and so he did,” she recalled.
Since then, Clark has won important races all over the country and been a member of three Paralympic teams. At 44, he competed at the Dixie Regionals Track Meet in Warm Springs, Ga., and set two new world and national records for the 800 meter event (2:03.41) and the 1500 meter race (3:49.80).
“I was shocked to find out there were so many people racing wheelchairs,” Clark said. “I just got into it because my kids were getting old enough to be riding bicycles and I wanted to be able to play with them. I guess it kind of snowballed from there.”
Clark climbed back into his racing chair to compete in the 25th Azalea Trail race. He finished third among quadriplegics and another Methodist Rehab athlete, Randy Lavender of Tupelo, finished 11th overall in the wheelchair race.
Methodist Rehab’s therapeutic recreation department offers spinal cord-injured patients an opportunity to get back in the game by participating in organized sports programs. Patients learn that with special training and adaptive equipment, they can enjoy a variety of athletic activities including water and snow skiing, rock climbing, wheelchair racing, handcycling, scuba diving, fishing, tennis, quad rugby and sledge hockey.
Paralympian Wiley Clark