Come Fly With Me: The Vernon Turner Story – Presented by Oklahoma Educators Credit Union

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Story By Michael Kinney

It’s hard to imagine a high school athlete who had more expectations attached to their name coming into this year than Vernon Turner. After winning back-to-back state titles in the high jump and breaking a state record as junior, all eyes were on him.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 7.37.34 PM

So when Turner entered his senior year at Yukon, he was the biggest name in track and field at any level in the state. Yet, somehow, Turner has lived up to all the hype in what has been an impressive final season so far for the Oklahoma University commit.

“This year has been incredible,” Turner said. “I just keep breaking records and keep getting better and better. To improve almost every meet. I’ve jumped 7-feet at every meet so far. I want to keep that going.”

When Turner first took up the high jump back in eighth grade, there was no way he could have believed he would reach this level. As a matter of fact, Turner didn’t think he would still be involved in the sport.

“It started as a joke, whenever we all started in middle school,” Turner said. “I wasn’t even going to do it in high school. I didn’t think I’d ever be back on this track again freshman year, honestly.”

But according to Turner, Yukon assistant track coach Kevin Ritter persuaded Turner to stay on the team.

“Coach Ritter grabbed me in the hall and said we’re not friends if you don’t high jump,” Turner said. “So I went out there and I tried it and we all ended up being pretty good.”

Good as turned into an understatement for Turner. He recently broke the National Federation of High School record with a leap of 7-foot-6 at the Yukon Classic.

Turner didn’t attempt his first jump until the bar had reached 6-09. By that time, all of the other competitors had been knocked out.

Turner could have stopped there, but he said he was feeling good and wanted to continue. Already owning the best mark this year and a state record of 7-5, he slowly progressed upward. He didn’t take off his practice shorts until he got to 7-4.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 7.37.48 PM

The entire high jump pit was packed with athletes and onlookers, which is unusual for the high jump. Turner began a slow clap, which everyone joined in.

“When the clap came through, that’s when I really started feeling it on my legs,” Turner said. “Once we hit 7-4, I said yep, today is the day. Let’s just do it and see what happens.”

At 7-6, Turner once again had the crowd clapping with him before he skied over the high bar and made it easily. He plopped down into the pit jumped into the air screaming, knowing he had just made history.

While Turner’s jump was recognized as the top mark for a high school athlete at a competition inside the United States, it’s not considered the best ever. That mark belongs to Andra Manson, who hit 7-7 while at a meet in Jamaica in 2002.

Knowing that, after Turner reached 7-6, he had the meet officials set the bar at 7-7.25, looking to dethrone Manson.

By that time, the entire meet had come to a standstill and all eyes were on Turner, who had three attempts to own the outright record. He came close on his very first jump. But the heal of his shoes clipped the bar. He was unable t make it in the next two tries, but Turner was not daunted that he will one day own the record.

I want to break the all time national record,” Turner said. “Then eventually, I want to take a shot at breaking the world record (8’5”). It’s doable if I stay healthy. I’m only 18.”