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Whitworth’s Turner socks track competition


Tonya Turner has a sock fetish that’s going on five years now. Colorful, mismatched, knee-high – she loves them all and wears them in every possible combination.

“If I see a pair of socks, I’ll buy them,” the Whitworth University junior admitted. “I tell my mom, ‘If you find socks, buy them – I’ll pay you back.’ I have a bunch of people looking for me – and many sock drawers.”

It’s good that there is something by which to identify her so easily, because athletically she couldn’t be more of a chameleon.

Or are there a lot of pole-vaulters-turned-distance-runners out there?

The Pirates host the Northwest Conference championships Friday and Saturday at Boppell Track, which means Turner will be circling the track in interesting hosiery and with a tale just as colorful.

At Mead High School, Turner was as accomplished as they come. She was a state finalist in three events – third in the vault – on the Panthers’ state runner-up gymnastics team. She finished fourth at state in the pole vault – clearing 11 feet, 4 inches, a mark that wins the NWCs most years. She was on the dance team, a cheerleader and valedictorian. She was a human B-12 shot.

But for whatever reason, she began to sour on the vault her freshman year at Whitworth.

“I still had a lot of fun on the team, but I didn’t improve,” she said. “It was just different.”

Coach Toby Schwarz’s fall conditioning program had put her in the habit of running, which – much to her astonishment – she enjoyed. She entered Bloomsday 2008 with the notion of seeing what she could really do; as it happened, she could do it in about 53 minutes – and along the way passed several of Whitworth’s distance runners, who made sure Schwarz knew.

By that fall, she was moonlighting from her cheerleader duties to run cross country for the Pirates – which had to trigger some yuks in the Turner household. As if their daughter didn’t have enough athletic pursuits, Bill and Kathy Turner had often suggested that she’d make a good runner.

“Mom, Dad, that’s horrible,” she would say. “Who would want to run?”

In middle school track, Tonya made a beeline for the long jump pit; Kathy insisted she give the mile a try. She and another girl were thrown into a boys race and Tonya finished last.

“It was the worst thing ever and I said I was never running again,” she recalled. “So now I guess I could say, ‘Are you happy now, Mom?’ ”

Runner-up in last year’s NWC 10,000, Turner was the No. 3 runner on a Whitworth cross country team last fall that finished sixth in NCAA Division III.

Two weeks ago, Schwarz threw her into her second 1,500 meters and she ran 4:48.89 – fourth in school history – which reinforced his belief that “she’s best when she’s not thinking about it too much. I guess that’s the one downside of having an athlete with a 4.0 GPA.”

Grad school

Drew Polley started his Washington State career as a walk-on and ended it having never placed in a Pacific-10 Conference meet. Maybe the races were just too short.

On Monday, Polley finished 16th – and fifth among Americans – in the 114th Boston Marathon, his time of 2:16:36 qualifying him for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. It was just his second marathon – he was the top American in November’s San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2:20:59, earning him an invitation to join the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, an Olympic developmental program in Michigan in which promising post-collegians are given part-time jobs, housing and other support.

Just one problem: Polley was already in graduate school in environmental engineering at WSU, on scholarship.

He had to break the decision to the department faculty.

“I expected to get chewed out,” Polley told the Kitsap Sun. “Instead, they pulled out a bottle of scotch and gave me a ‘Cheers!’ ”

Bell lap

The Cougars are home for back-to-back weekends, hosting their annual invitational Saturday and rival Washington May 1. … Mead graduate Dylan Hatcher is closing in on 4-minute mile territory – he’s run a 3:47.40 1,500 this spring for Arizona State. … North Central graduate Andrew Kimpel is redshirting at WSU after placing 54th (No. 4 American) at the IAAF world junior cross country championships in Poland last month. … Counting redshirts Wes Nolen and Randy McCoy, Community Colleges of Spokane has four of the top 10 junior college javelin throwers in the nation, led by Lukas Scherer (204-11).

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