Ready For Takeoff

March 8, 2013 by University of La Verne

Track & field standout Paul Turner heads into senior season with lofty expectations

Paul Turner is a man on a mission. With numerous triumphs, records and accolades behind him, Turner is ready to forge ahead in spring 2013 and fulfill his own lofty expectations.

Three years into his collegiate career, Turner has already established himself as one of the best athletes in Leopard track & field history. His impressive resume includes an NCAA individual national title, four All-America performances, six conference event championships and a school record.

Go to a University of La Verne track meet and you’ll notice Turner as a study in concentration. On the runway, he blocks out everything with a keen purpose at hand. Then his inner-most thoughts lead to an adrenaline rush as he lets everyone in attendance join in.

“When I’m about to jump I like to get the crowd involved, and get them to start with a slow clap and slowly build up,” he said. “That gets my adrenaline pumping and I become even more focused and hyped. From there, I simply want to attack the board.”

Turner has been in attack mode ever since he arrived on campus as a freshman. That season he established a school record in the triple jump with a leap of 48 feet, 1¾ inches during the SCIAC Championships en route to conference titles in both the long and triple jumps. But his sophomore year saw him take his talents to a higher level.

That season he burst on the national scene when he won the men’s long jump title at the 2011 NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships with a top mark of 23-6¼. Though Turner entered that meet with a season-best distance of 24-0, the elements and fate intervened to earn his place in Leopard history. That day he recorded his winning jump in the first round during a rain-soaked competition and watched the remaining competitors chase his mark but fail to match it.

Turner won the event by a scant one-quarter inch, claiming only the sixth individual track and field national title by a La Verne athlete and the first since 2003. “It was such a great feeling to win a national title,” he said. “I was really focused that day and I refused to let the wet weather bother me. I just battled and was fortunate enough to win.”

He is known by both teammates and coaches as not only a fierce competitor but also as a selfless athlete willing to do whatever is best for his team.

“Paul has always been there for us when we’ve needed him,” said Leopard head coach Pat Widolff.  “He has competed in several sprinting events and relays in many of our conference meets to help us in team scoring. He’s always shown tremendous sacrifice.”

Last season, Turner leaped 50-9½ in the triple jump at the first SCIAC Quadrangular meet in March, becoming the first Leopard to reach the 50-foot mark in that event. His effort established a new La Verne record and was the second-best triple jump performance in Southern California Intercolleg­iate Athletic Conference history. That achievement, along with going undefeated in conference meets in both the long and triple jumps, propelled him to the 2012 SCIAC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year award.

Turner is unbeaten in long and triple jumps in his previous three conference championship meets. Victories in both at this season’s SCIAC Championships would give him an unprecedented eight league titles and a four-year career sweep of the two events.

Though he battled nagging injuries during the latter part of the 2012 season, he still managed to earn All-America status in both events at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Claremont, placing fifth in the long jump with a personal best of 24-1 while securing third place in the triple jump with a 49-7¾ effort. While proud of his performances at the national meets, he feels like he can accomplish even more in his senior season.

Turner doesn’t hesitate to mention his lofty goals for this season, which include another national title, setting the all-time SCIAC record in the triple jump and establishing a school record in the long jump.

On several occasions he has flirted with breaking Kirk Dean’s 26-year old school record of 24-2 in the long jump. Thus far his best efforts have fallen less than an inch short of that mark.  Not bad for someone who did not even compete in the long jump in high school.

While attending Indio High School, Turner was primarily a sprinter and triple jumper, earning modest success with a best of 47-4. During his recruitment process, he received calls from a few NCAA Division I schools and was sent letters by several NAIA institutions. However, it was one coach’s persistence which eventually paid off in his decision to come to La Verne.

“Coach Pat was loyal throughout the entire process,” Turner recalls. “Not only did he call every other week, but he would routinely send me hand-written letters. I knew he was genuine, and that made my decision to come to La Verne an easy one.”

While Turner’s talent on the track is evident, the Public Administration major believes success this year includes gaining a better understanding of the sport in order to improve his consistency with technique. “I think my approach to track and field has definitely changed for the better,” he said.

“Paul not only has matured as an athlete but also a person during his time at La Verne,” Widolff said. “His dedication and commitment to the sport has grown, but more importantly his development as an individual has been tremendous. He has undoubtedly taken more of a leadership role with our program.”

Turner’s focus now is on the 2013 campaign. His plan is to work hard – not just to attain certain marks or numbers, but to achieve his promise and potential. His aim isn’t to be one of the nation’s best at the Division III level; it’s to simply be the best he can be.

Just how far that leap can be is still to be determined.

“When this season is over, I want to give it my all every practice and every meet,” he said. “In the end, I want to say I have no regrets.”

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