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Turner Vaulting to Limelight

April 05, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Patrick Turner of Granada Hills High is more than just the region's outstanding pole vaulter. He's a real daredevil.

He raced down a hill on roller blades. He glided down a mountain on a snowboard. He jumped off rocks at Lake Powell in Utah. He went bungee jumping into a pool in Las Vegas.

"They asked me, 'How much do you want to get dipped in?' I said, 'The whole body.' That was the biggest rush," Turner said of plunging 27 stories from a bungee chord.

It makes perfect sense that Turner has fallen in love with pole vaulting.

"The higher the crossbar, the better the feeling when you're up there," he said.

Four times this season, Turner has cleared 14 feet, 6 inches, his personal best.

Granada Hills track Coach Malcolm Thomas said the senior could become an 18-foot pole vaulter in college.

Turner is only 5 feet 10 and 145 pounds. That's a big improvement from his 120-pound days as a sophomore.

"I think in 10th grade, I wasn't able to open an apple juice can," he said. "Now I can do anything I put my mind to."

All he does is go to school and train for the pole vault. The night before meets, he's so excited he can hardly sleep. Last week, he started doing exercises at midnight in his bedroom trying to relax before the Pasadena Games.

"It's made such an impact in my life," he said. "I never get sick of it. It's the biggest challenge of my life."

Three times a week, he trains at UCLA under Anthony Curran, his private coach. He lifts weights every day.

He knew nothing about the pole vault until his freshman year at Granada Hills. He was a cross-country runner working out on the track. Then he saw some classmates trying the pole vault.

"It looked fun," he said. "I ran over, got the pole and started jumping. They taught me how to hold it. I ran and cleared 7-6."

The higher Turner soars, the more nervous his mother, Vicki, becomes.

"Every time he goes a little higher, my heart beats a little faster," Vicki said. "You try not to show your fear."

His father, Gary, principal at Verdugo Hills High, trusts Patrick's judgment on and off the field.

"He's a good kid, a real good kid," Gary said.

Turner's grandfather, Patrick, was a star long jumper for UCLA in the 1940s. His Bruin teammate was Jackie Robinson. Turner had the world's best jump in 1940, 25-6 3/8. He was inducted into the Bruin sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

Young Patrick wears his grandfather's lucky gold spike shoe on his necklace during competitions.

Turner finished second in the pole vault at the City Section championships last year with a best mark of 13-6.

"It's all about form," he said. "I've got the speed. I have a good, strong plant. Now I'm working on shooting my feet up."

Whether pole vaulting or bungee jumping, Turner is an 18-year-old thrilled with life. Next up could be skydiving. He'll do anything to experience the ecstasy of flying through the air. . . .

Is the Chatsworth girls' soccer team afraid of playing Chaminade? The two schools have developed one of the region's best rivalries, but defending City 4-A champion Chatsworth has decided not play the defending Southern Section Division III co-champion Eagles next season.

"We want to play them," said Ed Croson, Chaminade's athletic director. "We will play them anywhere."

Chatsworth apparently didn't appreciate criticism of its field and other comments by Chaminade Coach Mike Evans after this season's match between the two schools ended 0-0. But that's no reason for ending a series that draws lots of fans and media interest.

Chatsworth players and parents ought to lobby school officials to reverse this silly, juvenile decision. . . .

Beware of eighth-grader Elizabeth Kelso. She led Our Lady of Lourdes to the Catholic Grade School girls' basketball championship. Her coach, Julia Fauria, is the sister of former Crespi and Seattle Seahawks tight end Christian Fauria. . . .

Outfielder Chris Poling of Agoura is the region's most feared baserunner. He is 17 of 18 on stolen bases. Last season, he stole 30 bases in 31 attempts.

"It's scary how fast he is," Coach Bruce Beck said. "There are very few baseball kids as fast as he is.". . . .

Hart pitcher Andy Davidson (7-0) had a famous baby sitter when he was 2--Dodger third baseman Todd Zeile.

Zeile, a former Hart star, said of Davidson: "He was a good kid.". . . .

What's the secret to Hart's 12-0 start? Talented players and great chemistry. "A lot of us are just real good friends on and off the field," Davidson said. "When there's a job to be done, it gets done.". . . .

As a fund-raiser for Alemany students, football coaches Jim Bonds and Joe Schnellendorfer and volleyball Coach Jamie Quaglino dressed up as The Supremes and lip-synced music from "Sister Act." Bonds, who was rejected from choir class in junior high, said, "I was counting the seconds [to get off stage].". . . .

Bell-Jeff Coach Eli Essa has landed his No. 1 prospect for next basketball season, 5-9 eighth-grade guard Tony Essa, his son.

"I've been recruiting his butt off," Essa said. . . .

Chatsworth basketball Coach Fluke Fluker recently won the school's arm-wrestling championship, beating football player Kevin Doty. Fluker, an ex-Marine, said, "He [Doty] was ready to pop open the champagne. I think I sneezed and his arm went the other way.". . . .

City Section football coaches should reject a proposal to have a bye during the week of Thanksgiving next fall. City coaches want to play quarterfinal playoff games on Friday during Thanksgiving week like every other section in the state, but the superintendent's office won't let them because the district is closed and administrators aren't available for supervision.

Thus, the ridiculous proposal to skip a week and extend the football season by another week. The coaches will have to agree to play games on Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. That's bad enough, but better than a two-week layoff between playoff games.


Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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