March 5, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Alana Clooten put her name all over the Georgia Tech record books before graduating in 2009, and she became the only Yellow Jacket to win an ACC title in the hammer throw in 2010 when she was a graduate student.
She also was quite the discuss thrower, solid in the weight throw and worked in the shot put as well. Clooten was a field event star; and you weren’t about to see her jogging around Atlanta.
So upon hearing that she competed last fall in a triathlon and is now training to run a half marathon this spring, the question came up: How did that happen?
Clooten has a pretty easy answer.
“Basically,” she said, “I like a challenge.”
This has not been a natural progression.
Although she played basketball and a little volleyball in high school, Clooten had never done a whole lot of running before last year when she decided to give it a try.
“Growing up, I never ran. I would never, ever go out just for a run. Maybe in the summer I’d run a little bit to get in shape, two miles,” she said. “[Last year] I did a couple miles, and the more I got into it I started thinking that a tough challenge would be a 10K.
“I started working at it, got up to five miles and decided if I’m going to break the five-mile barrier then I ought to train for something a little longer.”
Clooten knows the idea of hard work.
She made the ACC All-Academic team as a senior, and was second team All-Academic in Tech’s district. On top of that, she was a national semifinalist for the Wooden Citizenship Cup.
Now, her work includes traveling.
After taking a degree in industrial engineering in `09, Clooten added a master’s in health care systems in `10 and she works for Accenture. Based in Atlanta, she tends to spend about a week per month on the road, and lately that’s meant Baton Rouge.
Wherever she is, she trains. A foot injury may de-rail her plan to compete in the Atlanta Half Marathon next week, but she’s zeroed in on a backup plan: Nashville on April 28th.
She won’t be running home any time soon. She’s from Fairbanks, Alaska, and having spent the past nine years or so in Atlanta, she’s come to call that home, anyway.
Clooten recalls vividly some of the adjustments she had to make when she moved, like NOT having 22 hours of daylight in June, nor 22 hours of darkness in December.
“I distinctly remember my freshman year doing something at the track, and it was warm and dark out at the same time. I just remember stopping and thinking, `This is really weird. In Alaska, when it’s dark out it’s cold,'” she said.
“In August, my dad came, and with the humidity and it being like 100 degrees, I thought there’s no way I can survive this. But I’m used to it now.”
Indeed, Atlanta is now home.
“When I was in high school, coach called me. I never thought I would come but I came on a visit, and this is where the good Lord wanted me to be,” Clooten said. “I see a couple former teammates on a frequent basis. Some of the other throwers have moved back home, but it’s always nice when they’re able to come down or I’m able to go see them. We had a close group; we bonded.”