Let's Discus(s)... Sun Devil Matt Turner (Track & Field)

July 18, 2008


by Jason Lewis

More than likely, you will hear Matt Turner before you see him. Yes, some people may label Turner as “loud,” but only because he chooses to be so. Calling him obnoxious would be a matter of opinion, and people of that opinion would prove to be quite unpopular at Arizona State University.

Turner arrived at ASU via California State University at Fullerton (CSUF) two years ago in order to fill a niche in the jumps department. At 6’4” and 165 pounds, one would not accuse Turner of the throwing the shot put or playing offensive line, but his lithe frame does quite well for the long jump. Turner recently placed fifth at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. While he was two places away from the Olympic team, 21 year-old Turner was selected to represent the United States in the NACAC (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean) Under 23 Championships in Toluca, Mexico.

Turner’s rise in track and field begins in his younger days when he was still an innocent, although heady 7th grader. During a physical education class, Turner, in his own words “tried it out,” and, before long, found himself head over heels with the high jump.

“The first event I ever did was the high jump,” remarks Turner, but at the time it just was not meant to be. “I tried to run track my freshman year, but me and my family moved around a lot, so I never got a chance until 10th grade.”

When his home life stabilized enough, Turner was able to give athletics another shot. According to Turner, he made up ground in no time.

<A HREF=Matt Turner' width='150' height='250' />“I knew how to hurdle, I had never hurdled before,” Turner said. “I picked up the high jump technique fast. I knew how to run.”

He picked things up so well in fact, that his high school track coach retired after Turner graduated.

“I was the first athlete at my school to ever go to states, for any sport,” Turner said. “My coach had been coaching for 23 years, and I was the first person to get him to state, and actually medal at state. He was really excited about that.”

Over the span of his collegiate career, Turner accumulated four All-American honors in the long jump, but according to him, he is far from done leaving his mark on the event.

“I’m only 21 years old and, to achieve as much as I’ve achieved, I feel like I have a lot more potential to get a lot better.”

Despite feeling like he could have done much more in college, which guaranteed every athlete does, Turner looks optimistically towards his future.

“This year was a very good learning experience for me,” commented Turner as he prepared to embark on his trip to garner some valuable international exposure at the NACAC meet.

Turner is tremendously excited for the chance to represent his country in international competition. Before coming to ASU, Turner was never given a practice shirt with his school’s name on it. Prior to his first day of practice, he marveled over what most of us just see as a t-shirt.

“I put it on for the first time and I stood [looking] in the mirror,” Turner said. “You know what ASU says backwards right?” Turner took that omen to heart, and it looks like his labors are finally coming to fruition.

Turner is an undeniable talent who simply refuses to be ignored, which is part of makes him so good at what he does. However, his ability to jump far – tremendously far – is not the only thing he has to offer track and field. Turner has aspirations to contribute to the sport for years to come.

“If my track and field career doesn’t work out, I want to be a coach,” Turner said. “I don’t care how much I get paid. I want to be around track and field the rest of my life.”

Beyond his enthusiasm for the sport itself, Turner simply wants to reach out to the community and help kids who otherwise might not get a chance.

“There are a lot of under privileged kids that get turned away from sports because of what is going on in their lives.”

Things were not exactly easy for Turner growing up and his experiences have left him with a strong urge to guide young athletes and make a difference. If his personality does not convince you of bigger things to come, than his deft movements into the pit will. The spectator becomes emotionally involved with every jump, usually at Turner’s behest. On nearly every attempt, Turner will raise his arms in the air and signal to the crowd for a rhythmic clap. Try as they might, even the biggest spoilsport among spectators will find it nearly impossible to resist the cadence. Turner is a self-contained experience, an interactive show that never disappoints.

With no end in sight of an already stellar career, the only question left is, “How far will he go next?”

Editor’s note: The: Let’s Discus(s)… series are written by current Sun Devil student-athlete Jason Lewis, a member of ASU’s NCAA Championship Track & Field program. A local product of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Lewis competes in the throwing events, including the shot put, hammer, weight throw and, of course, the discus. The school’s record holder in the indoor weight throw, Lewis is entering his junior season of competition in 2009.


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