James Turner’s first trip to the Canadian junior track and field championships was paved with gold.
The 17-year-old from Kelowna established a personal best of 6,597 points last weekend in Winnipeg to win the Canadian junior decathlon title on his first try.
The victory also earned Turner a berth in the Pan Am Junior Championships later this month in Miramar, Fla.
Turner, the Canadian Legion octathlon champion in 2010, won five of the 10 events in the decathlon—100 metres, long jump, shot put, 400 metres and javelin—to edge out Ontario’s Matheson West by 60 points for the gold medal.
Still, Turner’s win didn’t come without considerable drama and some nervous moments.
In the eighth of 10 events, the Okanagan Athletics Club member failed on his first two attempts in the pole vault at 2.60 metres.
One more miss and Turner could forget about the podium entirely, let alone a trip to the Pan Ams.
“I’ve never felt that much pressure in my life,” said Turner, who only began training for the pole vault this year. “If I miss a third time, I’m pretty much done. When I made it on my third, it was huge relief. Only making one jump was a disappointment, but in the big picture, it was just what I needed.”
Turner trailed West by 20 points after the pole vault, but then surged ahead by 80 points with a convincing win in the ninth event, the javelin.
In the last of 10 events, Turner held his own in the 1,500 metres to clinch the gold medal.
“I knew I couldn’t let him finish more than 12 seconds ahead of me, and I knew I could stay close,” added Turner, turn 18 on Aug. 4. “I held my ground and only finished about five seconds back, so that was good enough.”
While the decathlon is about as individual as a sporting discipline can get, Turner credits a number of people with helping him reach the status of national champion.
Coaches Pam Sima-Ledding from the OAC, Paul Selzer (pole vault) from Abbotsford, and former Scottish national coach Laurier Primeau each played a key role leading up to nationals—not to mention his physical therapist.
“My physio, Roy Gillespie, helped me out a lot, too,” said Turner, who also won a bronze at nationals with Team B.C. in the 4 by 400 relay.
“I’ve had some injury troubles this year and he did a great job in helping me get ready.”
And Turner’s work is far from over. Next up is the Pan Ams July 22 and 23 in Florida.
“Winning nationals is great, but it’s not over yet. I have Pan Ams now and I really want to do well there. I’m not just happy going, I’m going with the goal of winning a medal.”
Next month, Turner will head south where he’ll attend the University of Texas-Arlington, an NCAA Div. 1 school, on a partial-ride scholarship.
Joyce runs PBs
Kelowna’s Keefer Joyce ran to a pair of personal bests at the Canadian junior track and field championships in Winnipeg.
In the preliminary round of the 100 metres, the 17-year-old KSS student posted a new best time of 10.93 seconds.
Competing against athletes as much as two years his senior, Joyce was then clocked at 11.12 in the semifinals, placing him 11th overall out of 16 competitors.
In the 200 metres, Joyce registered a PB of 22.30 in the 200 metres. In the semifinals, he ran a 22.70 to finish in 12th overall. Only the top eight in each event qualified for finals.
Joyce will compete this weekend at the B.C. youth championships in Coquitlam.
He was also named recently to the Canadian team which will compete at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Isle of Man, GBR in September.