WSSU track coach works on recipe for victory

WSSU track coach works on recipe for victory
February 26
00:00 2015
(Above: Photos by Craig T. Greenlee– Lady Rams’ Raven Covington (in red) has Division II’s second-fastest time in the 60-meter dash.)

Inez Turner wasn’t surprised when Winston-Salem State’s women won the team title at the CIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at JDL Fast Track last week. In her mind, winning the conference crown wasn’t a case of happenstance, nor was it a case of the stars being aligned properly.

sports, Turner

Inez Turner, WSSU women’s track coach

Turner, the WSSU women’s track head  coach, envisioned victory when cross-country practice started last August. Based on weekly evaluations of practices and competitions, she was confident that the Lady Rams had as good a chance as any to unseat St. Augustine’s, winners of back-to-back indoor titles.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with our progress,” said Turner. “Things are going according to plan. The athletes come together and they push themselves. When I looked at the improvements everyone had made in recent weeks, I liked our chances.”

Turner’s grand design involves coming up with the right mix of training and confidence building which is tailored to fit the needs and attributes of each athlete. Everyone does the core work which builds strength and stamina. But that’s not all. The coaching staff plays a crucial role in making the correct on-going adjustments in training to help produce the desired results.

“The ultimate goal is to keep everybody healthy and gear the training so that they peak at the right time,” said Turner. “We put a lot of emphasis on the mental approach. They’ve come to understand that they’ve done the necessary work to be at their best. So, when it’s time to compete, it’s all about trusting in themselves and trusting that the training will put them in the best position to be successful.”

While winning the CIAA is noteworthy, it’s not a climax. The winter season isn’t over. The Lady Rams travel to Virginia for the Mason Last Chance Meet on Sunday. It’s their final regular-season competition prior to the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships scheduled for mid-March in Birmingham, Ala. The Mason gives WSSU’s provisional qualifiers one final opportunity to bolster their chances to make the cut for nationals.

Winston-Salem State will send at least two athletes to Alabama. CIAA triple jump champ Tajanel McNeill won with a leap of 40-feet, 11 ¾ inches to guarantee her spot as an automatic qualifier (No. 5 nationally).

Raven Covington is .05 seconds shy of automatic qualifying in the 60-meter dash. Covington, though, won the conference title with a time of 7.47 seconds, which is the second-fastest time in Division II. Ada Nudaya of New Haven (7.33 seconds) is the only runner who has met the auto qualifying standard for that event. Given Covington’s lofty ranking among provisional qualifiers (tied for No. 1), she’ll be in the championship field for the 60.

Turner understands what it takes to compete at the highest levels. The former world-class middle-distance runner from Jamaica ran in the 1996 Olympics (800, 4×400 relay), brought home the gold (800) at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, then won a bronze medal for Jamaica in the 4×400 relay at the 1997 World Championships.

As a collegian at Texas State in the mid-1990s, Turner was a two-time NCAA outdoor champ in the 800. Prior to that, she won back-to-back NJCAA outdoor titles in the 800 at Barton Community College.

The philosophy that Turner preaches to her athletes is to let performance speak for itself. It’s a mantra that she continuously reinforces.

“I make a habit to remind them that they’ve done the work,” she said. “Based on their own performances, they know they can compete against anybody. There’s no reason to fear anyone. Just stay focused, and the good things will come.”

Covington, a junior who has been hampered by hamstring injuries during her first two seasons, fully embraces Turner’s methods. The training and mindset adjustment, she explained, has laid the foundation for her to experience her best college season so far.

“The workouts aren’t hard if your mind is straight,” said Covington. “You learn to push past discomfort. The pain is only temporary. When you succeed, you don’t forget about the pain you went through. What matters most is having the willingness to do what needs to be done. That’s what enables you to accomplish whatever it is that you desire.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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