Feature photo courtesy of Amason Photography.
Entering the 2016 outdoor track and field season, Yukon High School’s Vernon Turner had never cleared 7 feet in the high jump competition. Last season, in his sophomore year, Turner won the state championship at the height of 6’8”. But this year, the goal of 7 feet was on everyone’s mind.
“We were trying to jump 7 feet. We didn’t really think I could get much higher but after the beginning of the year, [we thought] absolutely!” Turner said.
In his freshman year, Turner came into the season jumping under 6 feet, but by the end of the season his height went up to 6’2”. This was the realization point for him in his career.
“Freshman year was when I realized how good I was at high jumping. I placed at states that year. I was jumping 6’2” and 6’3” as a freshman,” he said.
Turner realized his potential, dedicated himself to the sport, and kept working hard to improve his height. By the end of the year, he was jumping 6’8”.
“Dedication has enabled me to get to this point in my life,” he said. “We have been working after school and during the summer. We work three days a week and just keep at it and [try to] get higher and higher.”
It can be hard for most high jumpers to think that 7 feet is an attainable height. But Turner is different. He believes that hard work will allow him to jump any height he wants.
“Most people don’t believe that they can jump that high,” he says. “However, I believe that if you work hard enough that you can jump as high as you want.”
At the Yukon Classic, back in April, Turner accomplished what the team had hoped for: 7 feet. He broke the school record with the height of 7’1”.
But Yukon had another goal in mind: to have its three best high jumpers place in the OSSAA 5A/6A Track & Field State Championship, because the school had never accomplished that. Turner, along with juniors Cole Baily and Tallyn Brazell were determined to change that and accomplish that monumental feat for their school.
At the 6A regional event, Turner broke the 16-year old-record of 7’3 ½” set by Alfred Neale of Muskogee at the Owasso Relays in 2000. He jumped 7’4”, broke his old school record and the state record, and set the highest jump in the nation. Baily placed in second place, with a height of 6’6”, and Brazell placed in third place at 6’4”.
At the state championships, Turner improved his previous height of 7’4” by jumping 7’4 ½”. He once again bested his personal record, school record, state record, and the previous highest jump that he had set at regionals. And the school accomplished its goal when Brazell placed third, with the height of 6’6”, and Baily took sixth at 6’4”.
Turner commends his coach, coach Kevin Ritter, for the job he has done coaching him up. “If it wasn’t for him, I doubt that I would have been jumping or jumping what I have been thus far,” he says.
Turner has not delved into his recruiting situation at this point. He describes the process as “crazy” and has has not tried talking to schools at this moment. He says he gives them his coach’s number and has them talk to him instead.
At this moment, he has received offers from 10-12 schools, including Oregon, Oklahoma, LSU, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Tech. Turner also plays basketball. He has received an offer from “a small town school in Oklahoma” to play basketball and an offer from Georgia to do both.
Turner plans to start the whole recruiting process either after his basketball season or at the end of his track and field season next year. He says that he wants a school that is really going to work with him and “not one that is just going to give up on me if I’m not jumping well [after] the first year.”
Despite all that Turner has already accomplished, however, he knows that his work is not done.
“I will continue to work hard so that my mom will not have to work one day,” he said.
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