Sport: Track & Field
Born: October 3, 1977
Town: Maplewood & Livingston
Hazel Mae Clark was born October 3, 1977 in Livingston. Her father, Joe, was a school administrator in Paterson, made famous by the movie Lean on Me. An athletic child, she tried a number of sports, including soccer, lacrosse and basketball, to find one she liked. She thought about being a figure skater until she fell and broke her arm and opened a gash on her chin. At the urging of her dad—whose older daughter Joetta was an Olympic sprinter—Hazel finally agreed to give the family business a try and entered a race. She finished last.
Hazel began getting training from her brother, J.J. , whose wife, Jearl Miles-Clark, was a runner, too. Within a year, Hazel was unbeatable. She attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, where she was recognized as the #1 prep sprinter in the country. She accepted a scholarship to the University of Florida, where J.J. was coaching.
Hazel specialized in the 800 meters. She was undefeated in SEC competition and won 5 NCAA titles, including three in the mile. She was All-SEC in various events 15 times and won 56 races in a row during one stretch.
At the 2000 Olympic trials, Hazel, her sister and sister-in-law swept the top three spots in the 800 meters, with Hazel breaking the tape in front. Hazel went on to set a personal best time in this event in Sydney with 1:58.75, but that was only good for 7th place. In 2001, Hazel stepped on a pinecone during an outdoor meet and suffered a stress fracture in her foot that kept her off the track for all of 2002. She thought about quitting, but her family kept her spirits up and she was back at world-class level by 2003.
Hazel remained a Top 10 runner in the years that followed and competed in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games. She won several major 800 titles, including the Millrose Games twice and the 800 in the 2008 Olympic Trials. Her last major victory came at the USA Outdoors in 2009, where she won her fourth 800 meters title in five years.
Hazel was under contract to Nike for many years as an athlete, model and spokesperson. She married Wenston Riley in 2007 after he proposed to her on national TV during the 2004 Olympic Trials. They later divorced. Today, Hazel works with young runners in clinics and academies around the world.