Inexperience no hurdle for Auburn Riverside's Turner

Auburn Riverside senior Josh Tuner has his sights set on state in the hurdles and triple jump. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Auburn Riverside senior Josh Tuner has his sights set on state in the hurdles and triple jump.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

As the track and field season came on, nobody was quite sure what to expect from Auburn Riverside hurdler Josh Turner.

It wasn't a question about the senior's athleticism. He had already proven that during the Ravens football season, his first with the varsity squad. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Turner was an exceptional performer on the kickoff and punt coverage units, earning first-team All-South Puget Sound League North 4A recognition.

Turner had also proven it on the basketball court, where he helped Auburn Riverside by contributing 6.1 points per game from his wing position.

The question was whether Turner could step it up in his technically demanding events – the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and the triple jump.

"I know he's a good athlete, I just didn't expect him to pick up the hurdles this quickly this year," said Auburn Riverside coach Bill Sumner. "All of a sudden, from this year to last year, the first race I'm thinking, 'Oh, my God, he is ready to run and compete.'"

Out of the gate, Turner smashed his previous personal best in the 110 by .32 seconds, posting a 15.30 in his first race of the season. On April 5, at the Arnie Young Invitational in Renton, Turner ran a personal-best 15.09, the 10th fastest 4A time in the state.

At the same meet he ran a 41.86 in the 300.

Even more astounding has been the triple jump, in his first season competing in the event.

"That has just been an extra gift," Sumner said. "I didn't even pencil him in as being a big event for him. He's really just picked that up this year."

Turner's personal record is 45 feet, 4 inches, the fourth-best distance in the 4A ranks this season.

Turner admits even he's surprised by his performance.

"I knew I'd have a little advantage because I started off jumping in the 40s. That's not average for most people who are just starting out," he said. "Once I got the technique down, I just rose to the occasion."

Turner, a native of Memphis, Tenn., moved to Auburn in 2010 after his eighth-grade year.

Although he had played youth football and participated in kung fu as an elementary school student, he had yet to find his athletic niche.

"I just played piano and did my own thing," he said.

Soon, however, his athletic prowess came to the attention of Auburn Riverside's coaches.

He turned out for basketball as a freshman but played little.

"I didn't get that much playing time because I was new to the game," he said.

As a sophomore, a pair of inguinal hernias that required surgery hampered his progress.

"I had to overcome (them)," he said. "I had surgery my 10th grade year after the basketball season."

Turner played basketball his junior year, then turned out for track and field.

"I came out, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," he said. "I always knew I was fast from running around on the corners in Memphis, playing hide-and-seek and everything like that.

"When I did turn out, I came up to the hurdles," he said. "I thought that would fit me well. And I met (Auburn Riverside coach Julie Moberg), and she took me under her wing and coached me. And I had to teach myself, too, reviewing and YouTubing slow motion videos of hurdlers.

"I felt as though I had an advantage because I'm tall," he added. "I just thought, 'Why not?' Running is a little too basic. It's just running. There is technique, but it's not as a challenging, and I like challenging things. I just wanted to overcome it."

As a junior, Turner made it as far as the SPSL sub-district meet.

Prior to last football season, Turner said incoming coach Bryant Thomas convinced him to turn out to play.

"When the new coach came, he came up to me and said they could use me out there," he said. "They saw the athletic ability in me and told me to come out. So I said yeah."

He said playing for the resurgent 7-3 Ravens was the best decision of his athletic career.

"I was super glad I did," he said. "It was the best time of my life with all my friends."

On the field he excelled as a defensive back and special teams player, averaging 6.9 tackles per game.

More important to him than the team's success, or his personal accolades, was the camaraderie.

"I met a lot of friends and one them was Toni Villa. He's become one of my best friends," he said. "I didn't start getting to know him until football this year, but we've become best friends."

For the track season, the duo is also Raven co-captains.

After his senior basketball season came to an end, Turner prepared for track.

He credits his early success to playing three sports this year.

"I wasn't as strong last year as I am this year," he said. "I'm as strong as I've ever been my senior year. I think doing three sports this year, football, basketball then track, kind of gave me an advantage over most people. I'm way stronger now."

Turner is determined to qualify for the state meet on May 29-31 at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

"My starts definitely need to get quicker, though," he said. "I need to master my form, going over the hurdle and running. It's the little details that matter."

For Turner, it's all about stepping up to the competition.

"I love when the competition gets harder," he said. "I'm a pretty competitive person. I love to step up."

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