NEW YORK – When Caitlin Clark was a sophomore at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa – already nationally ranked the No. 1 women’s basketball player in her class – she told a local newspaper that the school was special because she could live out her faith every day.

“We get to live our faith every day. Dowling starts every day with prayer and ends every day with prayer,” Clark told a reporter with the Des Moines Register in 2018. “This is a big reason why Dowling has such a special culture and is such a special place to go to school.”

Fast forward to Feb. 16, 2024, and Clark is arguably the best women’s college basketball player in the country, a senior starring for her hometown and top five ranked University of Iowa Hawkeyes. Inarguably, though, she is the most prolific scorer in the history of women’s college basketball, now holding the record for most career points with 3,569, a record she broke on Feb. 15.

Some who know Clark say that through it all she has continued to live out her faith every day. From the perspective of her high school coach Kristin Meyer, she does so in the way she maximizes her God given talents and uses them to bring joy to others.

“She knows that she has some talents that other people weren’t necessarily born with, and she’s just looking to maximize them not just for herself but for her teammates, and on an even bigger scope for the fans,” Meyer told Crux Feb. 16.

“It’s not just about scoring a lot of points or winning; she loves playing in front of a sold out arena because she gets to entertain people and bring a smile to their face,” Meyer explained. “For two hours she lets them have this great experience and she takes that pretty seriously, and knows that those gifts from God are an opportunity to bring joy to other people.”

Clark entered Iowa’s Feb. 15 matchup against Michigan eight points shy of breaking the previous NCAA women’s basketball career points record of 3,527 set by Washington’s Kelsey Plum from 2013 to 2017. It took Clark just two minutes and twelve seconds to pass Plum’s career point total – doing so as only she could with a pull-up transition three from about 35-feet away.

By the end of the night, she had set another record. The 49 points she finished the game with were the most in a single game in the history of the university’s women’s basketball program.

Meyer was there at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to witness it all thanks to Iowa Women’s assistant basketball coach Jan Jenson, who got Meyer and the entire Dowling coaching staff front row tickets to the game. Meyer said after Clark scored her first two buckets she turned to her assistant coach sitting next to her and said Iowa needed a stop on defense so Clark could get a pull-up three in transition.

“About 15 to 20 seconds later they get a defensive rebound, kick it out to Caitlin, and everyone in the arena stands up because you can feel it sometimes when she’s going to pull-up in transition, and the place just went electric,” Meyer said. “It was an incredible feeling. It’s hard to even describe because it was so awesome; just the energy in the building was so much fun to be a part of.”

Almost a day later, Meyer said it’s still hard to wrap her head around Clark’s accomplishment.

“It’s something that she never talked about when she was in high school or even when she first got to college,” Meyer explained. “It just kind of happened as a byproduct of all of the work that she put in, of the confidence she has in herself, and how she’s challenged herself and grown as a player to be able to achieve that, and so for me it’s still a little surreal.”

Clark, 22, is a native of Des Moines; St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in West Des Moines is her family’s home parish, and she attended St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School – the parish school – for grade school before going to Dowling for high school.

Speaking to Crux, Father Joseph Pins, pastor of St. Francis, who has known Clark and her family for years, said that the whole parish community is “very proud of Caitlin and her family” for both her on the court and off the court success.

“We’re proud of our alumna who has done such a great, great, great, thing in life,” Pins told Crux on Feb. 16. “It’s always good as we form children to watch this go through and see success not just on the basketball court but also in her faith life.”

“[Clark] does a great job just living out the faith,” he added.

Unfortunately, Pins missed Clark’s record-breaking shot. In a kind of misfortune that could only happen to a Catholic, Pins couldn’t watch the game live because he gave up TV for Lent.

“I saw the highlight though, and it was quite the shot, wasn’t it.” Pins said.

Of Clark’s accomplishment, Bishop William Joensen told Crux Feb. 16 that it’s not all that surprising that Clark captured this kind of record considering the incredible athlete she was from an early age, but nonetheless said it’s something all fans, and Catholics, should celebrate.

“For with her parents Anne and Brent, and her brothers who spoke to the centrality of faith in their family life at our Des Moines diocesan celebration of Catholic education last year, Caitlin witnessed that to this day she continues to draw strength, perspective and peace from her presence at Mass and the Gospel values instilled in her,” Joensen said. “She takes seriously her call to be a role model to young girls especially, and to all who mark this phenomenal achievement.”

When asked what it was like to coach Clark at Dowling Meyer spoke to the person she is, first.

“The first thing I think about is her personality and she’s always positive, always looking on the bright side of things, always trying to make people laugh,” Meyer said. “She just loves life. It brings this energy to the room, to the people she’s around whether it’s basketball or outside of basketball.”

Meyer said from the day she met Clark when she was 14 years old it was clear how much she loved basketball. She said no matter if it was a game, a practice, or an individual shoot around Clark would be “smiling ear to ear because she just loves having a ball in her hands.”

Meyer also said she realized early on – as early as the summer workouts before Clark’s freshman year – that not only were Clark’s skills second to none, but her tireless work ethic, competitiveness and drive, and love of a challenge were unique, as well.

She said she remembers how Clark loved it when the boy’s team was brought into practice as the scout team because it was a bit more challenging. And how she would always challenge herself when she was shooting to beat her own goals or shoot from further back.

Something else that contributed to Clark’s success, Meyer said, is her fearlessness.

“I think sometimes the fear of failure or making a mistake holds back athletes, especially female athletes, but Caitlin always thinks about the upside,” Meyer explained. “She just loves the challenge, and she’s always had a great work ethic so that combination of fearlessness and work ethic has made this possible.”

After breaking the career points record, the majority of Clark’s comments focused on how grateful she was for her coaches, teammates, family and fans. But there was a moment postgame where Clark was asked by a reporter what her six-year-old self would think of this accomplishment, and her answer spoke to the effort that it took her to get to this point. That tireless work ethic Meyer spoke about.

“I think just be proud and proud of the way I worked for this more than anything,” Clark said. “Nothing was ever given, and I just worked hard every single day to try and make my dreams come true.”

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