Story by Evan Oscherwitz
ASU shot-put star Turner Washington entered the 2021 indoor track season with lofty goals in mind, but even he could not have foreseen the amount of success that would come his way.
Saturday, almost one month exactly after he broke the NCAA indoor shot-put record, Washington claimed his first national championship. In doing so, he ended an eight year-long championship drought for male Sun Devil throwers, becoming the first to win an NCAA crown since fellow shot-putter Jordan Clarke did it in 2013.
“I was confident going in,” Washington said. “The night before, I had a dream that I won, and I was kind of upset when I realized it was just a dream. Being able to go to bed the following night knowing that I was actually a national champion was amazing.”
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While the bright lights of the NCAA championships seemed to fluster the rest of the field, Washington arrived at the Randal Tyson Center determined to claim victory, and he would not be denied.
His first throw traveled 20.70 meters, which would have been the winning mark had he not followed it up with throws of 20.98, 21.33, and 21.36 meters, each one better than the last. Only one of the other 13 competitors, USC’s McKay Johnson, managed to eclipse 20 meters, resulting in a resounding win for Washington.
“We put a lot of work into this past couple months of getting the technique down,” Washington said. “There’s still some things that weren’t perfect, but I was able to get by without being perfect, so that means a lot.”
Washington’s victory on Saturday concluded a three year-long, obstacle-filled journey to the top of the collegiate ranks.
A discus thrower by trade, he began his collegiate career at the University of Arizona but transferred to Arizona State following a disappointing freshman season. It was during his redshirt year at ASU that he added the shot-put to his repertoire, and his natural ability was clear almost immediately.
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Though his 2020 season ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington showed signs of what was to come, winning three meets and receiving indoor all-America honors. He underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his pelvis during the offseason but picked up right where he left off once the 2021 season began.
The challenges Washington has endured throughout his college career have made his national championship victory all the more rewarding, but with the outdoor season starting in a matter of days, he will not have much time to savor his achievement.
“I gave myself Saturday and Sunday to enjoy it, and now I’m right back to it,” Washington said. “Having this great indoor season, I’ll be able to just use that as more fire going into outdoor.”
The start of the outdoor season will also signify Washington’s much-anticipated return to the discus after a two-year absence, and he is confident that the improvements he has made since arriving at ASU will translate to success in competition.
“I don’t really even care how it goes. I’m just excited to get the first [meet] done,” Washington said. “I’ve really missed it. The shot is fun but it’s kind of hard on the body so I’m excited to do something that’s a little less taxing for a little bit.”
Limiting the wear and tear on his body will be Washington’s number one priority during the long outdoor season.
Instead of competing in discus and shot-put for the entirety of the schedule, he will compete in one event per meet and arrange his practice schedule accordingly so as to conserve as much energy as possible and give himself the best chance of succeeding in competition.
“It’s kind of just choosing which meets to focus on which event,” Washington said. “Even though the techniques are somewhat similar, they do have their differences, and I think it is kind of challenging to excel at both (shot-put and discus) at the same meet.”
Due to his status as a two-event thrower, Washington will have a chance to achieve the rare feat of winning national titles in the discus, outdoor shot-put and indoor shot-put in the same season.
While no male ASU thrower has ever completed the triple crown, Washington has proven that he has the ability and the determination necessary to get the job done. In a season where he has already broken the NCAA indoor shot-put record, it is entirely possible that Washington could add another, more prestigious record to his resume.