Joetta Clark (© Getty Images)
A remarkable era will end Friday night: Joetta Clark Diggs will make her 24th and final appearance at the Millrose Games.
"The Millrose Games was my first international meet when I was 14," Clark Diggs, 37, said. "So I thought it would be fitting to retire this year and retire in good fashion."
"The sport has been very good to me," she said.
Clark Diggs, who was married last Sept. 24 to Ron Diggs, is not ending her athletics career just yet. She is waiting until the end of the year, after the Olympic Games.
But she has a special fondness for the Millrose Games, an event she began attending at 10 with her father, Joe Clark, the noted educator who was portrayed in the movie "Lean On Me," and her brother, J.J. Clark.
Clark Diggs ran in her first Millrose Games in 1977 and finished third in the women's 800 metres. Since then, she has missed only one Millrose Games, because of illness.
This Millrose race will be special in several ways for Clark Diggs. In addition to being her finale, she will be running against her 22-year-old sister, Hazel. And meet director Howard Schmertz will honour her long career, which includes six Millrose titles, seven U.S. indoor victories, five U.S. outdoor championships and three Olympic teams.
"I have to look at Hazel like any other competitor in the race even though she's my sister," Clark Diggs said.
"But I have told her, ‘Don't be afraid to cut me off or give me an elbow.' I'd do the same thing," she said.
Looking past the Millrose Games, Clark Diggs is hoping to make her fourth Olympic team and run in the Sydney Games in the same event with her sister and sister-in-law, American record-holder Jearl Miles Clark, J.J.'s wife.
"That's a great possibility," Clark Diggs said. "My father has been talking about that already.
Schmertz has mixed feelings about watching Clark Diggs in Friday night's meet at Madison Square Garden.
"I'm happy to see her run, but I'm sad to see her go," he said.
Bert Rosenthal (AP) for the IAAF