Terry Turner has had a nice run as the Fort Knox track and field coach.
It’s actually been a sprint.
Turner just finished his second year with the Eagles after being a volunteer coach the previous two seasons.
“I was thrown right into the fire,” he said of going from a volunteer to the head coach.
He has coached region champs and state champs.
On May 30 in the Class 1-A state championship, the highlight of the Eagles’ afternoon came from senior T.J. Pittman, juniors Sidney Gradney and Xavier Rodriguez and freshman Malik Blunt as they toured the oval in 43.62 to win the 4x100 title.
“They were determined to win state and it was one of those things where when I’m nervous, they’re confident and when I’m confident, they’re nervous and I was nervous,” Turner said. “T.J. came up to me and said, ‘We got this coach. We’re winning state.’ Him, Sidney, Malik and Xavier just ran a great race.”
The run from Gradney to Pittman to Blunt to Rodriguez finished .06 seconds ahead of Raceland and .19 in front of Danville.
The Eagles totaled 35 points to finish seventh, one back of Raceland.
They are scheduled to return three-fourths of their 4x100 and 4x200 teams. The 4x2 squad, which did not qualify for the state meet after an unfortunate disqualification at the region meet, returns Gradney, Blunt and Liam Kaune.
Fort Knox won their third straight Class A, Region 2 championship and did so in exciting fashion.
The 4x400 relay quartet of Laval Alford, Alton Pendergrass, Kaune and Jatarrius Battle ran 3:39.03 to win the race and beat Owensboro Catholic by four points to claim the title on the last event of the competition.
The Eagles finished with 125 points, nipping the Aces by a point.
Turner has been named the Area Boys’ Coach of the Year by area coaches and The News-Enterprise sports staff. He totaled 21 points with three first-place votes to edge North Hardin first-year coach P.J. Randles, who had 19 points and two first-place votes. Central Hardin’s Tin Pennington was third with 12 points and two first-place votes. Elizabethtown’s Jason Hayes was fourth with 11 points. Meade County’s Larry Garner received a first-place vote.
“This is a little shocking,” Turner said of hearing the news. “I feel like the North Hardin coaches did an excellent job. I’d like to thank all the coaches because this means I’m doing something right — that they feel I deserve this award.
“I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be the Coach of the Year. This means a lot. It’s a good feeling to know that they have seen the body of work our small team is doing.
“Everyone on this team here at Fort Knox does everything they’re gonna do from the bottom of their heart. This team has been amazing this year.”
Rodriquez was clocked in 15.39 to place third in the 110 hurdles. That time was 1.88 seconds faster than his region qualifying mark, which was the 15-fastest qualifying time.
Battle knocked more than five seconds off his qualifying time in the 800. He ran 2:01.39 to finish fifth after coming in with the 14-fastest time.
Blunt placed fourth in the 200 at 22.88 and did it from the second of three heats.
Pittman finished fourth in the long jump at 19-10¼ and senior Jerome Jones placed fourth in the triple jump at 41-1½ on his last attempt, when he moved from seventh to fourth.
“I love this team,” Turner said. “We fight for each other. I think they pick up my energy along the way. I walk around at meets and make sure the team is good, that they are getting their mindset right. It’s weird sometimes because it can be hard to understand what’s going on with them, or what’s going on, period.
“Once this team started to click it was really fun to watch. We were trying to figure things out during the season and when we got it figured out they all just shined. I’m really hoping more people more people from this season come back next year because that just makes the transition a lot easier. This team knows how to pick each other up and prove themselves.”
Turner has to deal with a few more things than your typical high school track coach. There’s that pesky thing of never really being sure who will be on the girls’ and boys’ teams at Fort Knox.
“Military kids are the most resilient people you ever want to see,” Turner said. “Their parents come in and out of here and the kids’ lives can be turned upside down. This track team is something for the kids to feel connected to. Whatever this track team has, they gravitate toward that and hold onto it because now the team is family. Some may take a little longer to realize it than others, but once they realize it, it gives them something to drive toward and move toward. They understand what their sacrifices mean, when they have to do it when nobody wants to do the work.
“I’m so high on these athletes. They are amazing. This is not a dog-and-pony show. They are great kids who understand the meaning of hard work. They worked their butts off every day.”
Turner is also the coach of the girls’ team, which has also been successful.
“You have to find that core group of kids who will fight for you no matter what,” he said. “We’re always trying to do something different. When everybody is on board and we stay mentally focused, it’s really good because we have a lot to prove. We’re trying to make sure everybody on the team is on the same level and we have to go out there and perform every day. We can’t have an off day. It’s one of those things, like I said before, that we put on our backpacks and help carry each other. We love carrying the challenge through no matter what.”
One thing Turner does is constantly communicate.
“We have team meetings and sit-downs every other Tuesday or Thursday,” he said. “I talk to the whole team and they break it down to the captains. I want to know if we have any problems and anything they see we have to work on. It’s not just my team, it’s their team and they help run this team. There’s a lot of pressure in the ownership of this team and I think that helps put forth a bigger effort. We’re doing it for everybody.
“I want to pick their brains and I want them to pick my brain. I want their opinion and I want them to succeed no matter what.”