Basketball was Jayce Turner’s first passion. But the sport constantly reminded him of his limitations.
“I was normally the smallest guy on the court,” the Arlington Martin junior said.
But as a distance runner, there’s nothing holding Turner back. The former hoopster finished seventh in the District 4-6A cross country meet as a sophomore and has a chance to develop into the next great Martin runner.
Former Martin cross country coach Chris Capeau, who’s now at Carrollton Hebron, still passes along workout tips to his former student.
“I believe he will have a breakout type of year, with him spending the last two years primarily focused on basketball,” Capeau said. “He’s a really awesome kid.”
Former standout Cade Bethmann, who won the district cross country meet in 2016 and set several school records in track, is now a freshman at the University of Mississippi. Now, it’s Turner’s turn to make his mark.
“Cade was a track guy who became a cross country guy,” Turner said. “I feel like I’m becoming that, too. A distance runner is a distance runner, regardless. I want to qualify for regionals and move on from regionals and go to state.”
Wanting to perform at the same level as previous Martin standouts serves as fuel during his daily 5 a.m. runs.
“It motivates me,” Turner said. “That’s one of my ‘whys’ of why I wanted to be successful. It’s why I get up in the morning. I want to keep the torch going.”
Martin senior Jonathon Loggins, who is one of the team’s top performers, admires Turner’s work ethic.
“Jayce has tons of potential,” Loggins said. “He puts in the work when no one’s watching. He’s the exact type of person you want to have as a teammate.”
For all the confidence others show in him, Turner still doubted, at first, that he could develop into an elite cross country runner. The idea of running long distances — a recovery day workout consists of going 6.5 miles in 45 minutes — dismayed him.
“I never thought I’d be able to get up to this distance,” he said. “I never even saw myself running cross country.”
But Turner isn’t one to back down from a challenge. For instance, he deals with partial hearing loss, a trait that runs in the family and requires him to wear a hearing aid in class.
“Sometimes I have to wear it in classes and stuff because my teacher turns away,” Turner said. “I can’t really hear them.”
On the cross country course, though, a hearing aid is a hindrance rather than a help.
“I don’t really wear it races because if I’m trying to hear the coach, the hearing aid catches everything except the coach,” Turner said.
Martin cross country coach Ken Rose has no trouble getting his message across to Turner, whom he describes as having an unbelievable work ethic.
“I think the main thing he’s going to have to do is mature as a runner mentally,” Rose said. “But I think as far as the physical, he’s got it. His work ethic is unbelievable.”
In cross country, Turner is striving to become an elite performer in a sport he’s grown to love and earn a college scholarship in the process.
“It was this past track season me that this is my thing,” he said. “And when it came to summer training, I was motivated to get all the miles in. I didn’t reach the goals I wanted to. And seeing myself get that close is what motivated me and just drew me closer to the sport.”