Anchorage's lord of the shot put ring continued his reign Saturday.
Jordan Clarke, a Bartlett High graduate, captured his third consecutive NCAA Division I national title with a lifetime-best effort at the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
A junior at Arizona State, Clarke's winning throw traveled 66 feet, 11.25 inches. He beat runner-up Stephen Saenz of Auburn by more than 2 feet.
The victory was the third NCAA crown for Clarke in 12 months. He won last year's NCAA outdoor championship in June, claimed this year's indoor title in March and successfully defended his outdoor title Saturday.
"When it comes down to the grind and pressure of high competition, I always do my best," Clarke said in a phone interview. "I'm a natural competitor. I love to throw my farthest at the best time."
The NCAA championships, in particular, bring out the best in Clarke. All three of his titles came with personal-best efforts.
He showed tremendous consistency Saturday at Drake University. His five throws ranged from 64-2.25 to 66-11.25. He was in the 64s twice, the 66s twice and had one in the 65s.
After two throws in the preliminaries (a third didn't count because the 16-pound shot landed out of bounds), Clarke was in fourth place heading into the eight-man finals.
He claimed the lead -- and the victory -- with his first of three throws in the finals.
"I could feel it right when I released it. I felt good, definitely one of my better throws," he said. "But there's still so much more left in the tank. There's still three or four gears that I haven't tapped yet."
At 21, Clarke is young for his sport. Most men in the weight throws peak in their late 20s or early 30s.
"I have at least another decade ahead of me if I stay healthy," he said.
Clarke has one more season at Arizona State, where his winning throw Saturday ranks as the third-best in school history.
He is the 15th person to win back-to-back outdoor shot put titles since the NCAA began hosting national track and field championships in 1921, according to Arizona State.
Clarke said he didn't let the pressure of being the NCAA's defending outdoor champion and reigning indoor champion get to him.
"When you look at it from an outsider's point of view, I guess there is quite a bit of pressure," he said. "People are kind of gunning after you, 'So-and-so's won twice in a row; I'm gonna go after him.' But I really, honestly try not to think about it. When you start crowding your mind with thoughts like that you start putting pressure on yourself.
"The bottom line of why I'm here is because I love to throw and I love competitions like this. If you start putting added pressure on yourself, it's not as much fun."
Clarke was one of two Alaskans who earned first-team All-America honors at the national championships. On Friday night, Kodiak's Trevor Dunbar, a sophomore, captured sixth place and was the top American in the men's 5,000 meters.
Clarke earned second-team All-America honors Friday in the hammer throw, where he placed 10th with a toss of 208-10.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News