Tucson, AZ (KOLD) – If you want to know the secret to breaking a 30-year-old state discuss record, Turner Washington has two words.
No, not hard work.
"I grew up with a family of hunters," said the Canyon Del Oro senior and soon-to-be Arizona Wildcat. "I shot an elk. I was eating a bunch of elk and all of a sudden my lifts starting going up. My strength numbers were going up. Then I ate some elk meat before a track meet and it was the first time I threw 182'. My PR before that was 166'."
That's some pretty magical meat.
"I fry it up or I'll grill it. There's this one creole seasoning that I love. I put a lot of that on."
Sounds delicious if not a tad gamey. Still, no amount of powerful protein can help you when you're staring into the face of failure. Which was exactly what Turner was forced to do last May when, at the state championships, he failed to even place in the event that made him a star.
Leading up to the discuss event at Mesa Community College, Turner had already been ranked #2 in the nation. He led not just the division but the state with throws of over 200 feet. The state championship was going to be a crowning moment in a line of crowning moments. Until it wasn't.
"First throw, a foot came out. Scratch," said Turner. "I was like, okay no big deal. Happens often on my first throw. Still just getting the swing of things. Second throw, foot came around again. Same scratch. Third throw, we're just going to turn it down. Go easy. Just get a qualifying mark. Didn't have to throw that far. It was probably 142 feet, 150."
Turner scratched for a third and final time. Three strikes and you're out. For the first time since he lost the city wrestling championship as an 8th grader, Turner felt the crushing devastation of defeat.
"I just remember going and dropping my head and feeling like, wow. My season's over. It was the first glimpse to me of just how brutal and intense this sport can be going from being the best in the state, best in the region, to being not the best. When the competition really mattered you failed to do what you came out to do."
It was crossroads kind of moment.
"Either two things could happen," said Turner. "I could stop or come back better and keep working at it and working at it and become a better person and a better thrower."
Turner chose the latter and thank goodness he did. Entering his senior year, his goal was clear. His sights were set on the state record set back in 1987. 212 feet, 11 inches.
It took some time.
"Coming into the season I still had a fear of fouling, a fear of scratching, a fear of being in that same position again. I wasn't throwing the way wanted to."
That all changed in March when, up in Chandler, Turner, found what had been missing.
"My confidence was back," he said. "All of a sudden, seeing throws in practice and how far I really could throw, it was just there. I was like, alright I got this."
Turner went up to the Nike Rotary Invitational. By the end of it, he had broken that state record with a throw of 215 feet, 8 inches.
Two weeks later, he broke it again throwing 217 feet, 5 inches.
"If you want to achieve what you set out to do or want to do, your dreams, you've got to find whatever you can do to make it happen."
12 months after he experienced the lowest of the low in his athletic career, Turner has a shot at redemption. One final attempt to end his high school discuss career on his terms.
"Being on top and the love for the sport will always outweigh the sadness or discomfort that comes with losing or failure."
Some creole seasoned elk meat helps, too.