Merced High junior Jamar Turner pictured himself as a sprinter coming into high school. The thought was the 200-meter dash would be his specialty.
That all changed when a teammate failed to show up for a track meet his freshman year. Turner was asked to run the 300 hurdles and it’s become his event ever since.
“I ended up getting first (place) that first race,” Turner said. “I was like, ‘Whoa. I didn’t know I was going to do that.’ They just threw me in there. I remember being sore after that race. It felt like running the 400. After that, I started training.”
Turner has become the top hurdler in the Central California Conference this season, winning the 300 hurdles with a time of 39.88 seconds at the CCC’s second center meet of the season at Atwater High.
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“When you get somebody for the first year, it takes time to find the events they will excel in,” Merced track coach David Garza said. “Sometimes it takes two or three meets. Sometimes you just have to throw kids outs there in events.”
Turner reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 race last year in the hurdles and was part of the Bears’ 4x400 relay team at Masters.
He’s hoping the experience at those big events will help him go further this year.
“Competing against the fastest makes you run faster,” Turner said. “I need to keep practicing more and training harder.”
Turner helped the Merced boys win the meet with a score of 152 points. Atwater finished second with 125. Pitman girls won easily with 212.5 points.
Other Merced winners included Travante Richard (triple jump), Daniel Ambriz (1,600) and Abel Aleman (3,200)
Golden Valley senior Josh Sykes hadn’t competed in track since middle school. Some of his friends talked him into coming this spring and he’s enjoying it.
Sykes won the high jump Tuesday with a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches. He’s already cleared 6-6 this season at the Rafer Johnson Invitational in Kingsburg.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be doing this well,” Sykes said.
Sykes is one of a number of seniors playing sports this spring for the first time.
“I think all of us know it’s our last year in high school,” Sykes said. “We’re trying to make it fun.”
Merced’s Richard falls into that category. After being named the MVP in football and basketball, Garza said Richard told him he’s after an MVP in track.
“I told him he has to start winning events,” Garza said.
Richard won the triple jump on Tuesday with a mark of 41-1.
“I didn’t want to be lazy,” Richard said. “This makes me do something and stay in shape. I still get to compete. I kind of wish I started earlier. I think I’d be better. I usually scratch a lot. Today I scratched three times and got the fourth jump right.”
The track veterans won their share of events, also. Buhach Colony junior Brandy Coward won the 200 (25.56) and the 400 (1:00.95). Coward advanced to the state meet her freshman season in the 200 and last year qualified for state in the 400.
Golden Valley’s Mariyah Banks (800), Afolabi Olabode (shot put), Ryan Pust (pole vault) and Buhach Colony’s Barbara Coward (shot put) all took home wins.
Other local winners included Atwater’s Chakela Howard (100) and Armando Gauger (discus), BC’s Quintin Levesque (400) and Vanessa Andrade (100 hurdles), and GV’s Mya Bond (1,600) and Jashaan Wright (110 hurdles).