Julia Clark doesn't have many bad days.

The Van Buren senior track standout is rarely without a smile.

But last fall, as the Lady Pointers' long-distance runner was trying to stay on course, rehabbing a nagging leg injury in hopes of getting back for her final season of cross country, there were some difficult days.

A spell of injuries, including the stress fracture to her femur that kept her sidelined as a sophomore, were always in the back of her mind.

Sidelined at the start of her senior cross country season, Clark was told it was "unlikely" she would be able to compete at at high level.

Yet, with encouraging words from coaches Rod Ray, Hays Lemley, and her teammates, Clark persevered.

"I was really devastated, but I tried to stay positive," Clark said. "It's always been my dream to run for a DI (Division I) school, and I felt like that was no longer possible."

Clark made it back last fall, signed with the University of Central Arkansas, and today will show off her signature smile as she zooms around the track in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Pointer Relays.

Julia Clark is back.

"I've had a pretty great season," Clark said. "I love being able to put my feet down hard and run. It's been really good to compete again. I felt like God had a bigger plan through all of this.

"Now, looking back on it, I can't believe how all of it was orchestrated so perfectly."

Clark has enjoyed a nice spring for the Lady Pointers. Two weeks ago, she dominated at the Alma Relays. She hopes to finish strong today while pushing her times in preparation for next month's state track meet in Lake Hamilton.

Clark missed a huge chunk of the 2018 cross country season. But it wasn't as if she was MIA.

She took to the pool to strengthen her legs, traversing Hwy. 59 north to Summer Mulloy's house to swim.

It worked.

"I would do really intense strength workouts while they were running, and then when they were done, I would go to Cedarville and swim for about an hour," Clark said. "I usually swam for 30 minutes to an hour."

Back on the course, Clark didn't just make it back, she had a PR at the 2018 Arkansas-Oklahoma All-Star meet, placing third overall.

Clark has carried the momentum into track as well.

"It definitely feels good to compete for our home town, and especially now that we get to compete on our home track," she said. "To have the support of our community, it means a lot. It's great to have people honk at us whenever we're running and yell supportive things at us, because we know they're proud of us and the work that we're doing. It's great to have some ownership at this point, too, to know that we're not just representing ourselves, but our teammates and our community of Van Buren.

"It's an honorable thing to be a part of this and to have such amazing training from coach Ray and coach Lemley and coach Brown."