By Michael Kinney
Vernon Turner is too competitive to be satisfied. Even though he made it to the NCAA championships as a freshman, the Yukon High School alum was still upset with how his first season ended at the University of Oklahoma.
Held at the historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon June 6 to June 9, the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships was a chance for Turner to come up big in the biggest event of the season. That was not the case by his standard.
Out of 22 competitors, Turner finished sixth overall in the men’s high jump after clearing 7-foot-1.75-inches.
Turner said he didn’t jump well in the meets that mattered.
“That is the main thing I took away,” he said. “No matter how good you do all year, that last meet is the only one that matters.”
While Turner was hard on himself, OU coach Jim VanHootegem liked what he saw.
“I think Vernon wanted to have a little bit better of a day,” VanHootegem said, “But I think his competitive effort was very good.”
A fellow freshman from the Big 12 took the high jump championship. Tejaswin Shankar of Kansas State cleared 7-foot-4.25-inches.
During the regular season, Turner set a new personal record of 7-7.75 in an indoor event and hit 7.5.75 during an outdoor event. Both would have won him NCAA titles at both the indoor and outdoor championships.
Knowing he could have placed higher makes not winning a championship sting a little more. He described that as his “welcome to college moment.”
“A lot of the people I was going up against, I had the second highest height coming in,” Turner said. “I ended up placing sixth, so it was kind of one of those things. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Of the top 10 finishers, four were freshmen, so the competition won’t get any easier for Turner as a sophomore.
The top-eight finish at the NCAA championships earned Turner a spot on the outdoor first-team All-American list. He is one of six Sooners to make All-American this season. But only he and Jess Woodard, who took second in the women’s shot put, were on the first team.
Turner was also a first-team All-Big 12 and first-team All-American during the indoor season during his freshman campaign.
“I wouldn’t say it was a successful year,” Turner said. “I would say it’s something to start to build on. We can only go up from here.”
Turner said he is taking the rest of the summer off from competition. He is just planning to practice and rest his legs so he can come back for the indoor track and field season ready to avenge his defeats.
“I just want to see progress,” Turner said. “A constant 2.30 (meters) mark next year. And just keeping my heights up there to where people can’t even touch them. Just blow people out of the water next year.”