That goal was accomplished this week as Reinhardt announced that it will add men’s and women’s track and field to the mix, with the teams’ anticipated debuts in the spring of 2015.
Turner will coach the track programs, and he said he’s excited for the opportunity.
“This is a pretty great opportunity for Reinhardt,” said Turner, a Cherokee County native who graduated from Sequoyah. “I have double emotions, being an alumnus and being someone that participated in cross country, and I always wanted a track program. I feel really great about it.”
Turner used this past spring to test the water for a track and field program, and based on the performance of a small group of athletes at the Appalachian Athletic Conference championships in May, Reinhardt passed the test.
In the men’s 400-meter relay, the Reinhardt team of Tyler Martin, Jabari Nelson, D.J. Sellers and Nick Johnson — all football players — won their event by .23 seconds. Johnson and Nelson placed first and second in the triple jump, while Martin won the javelin.
The addition of track and field will allow athletes to stay active when their primary sport isn’t in season. While Turner said members of the cross country and football teams have immediately expressed interest, he said there are also basketball and soccer players interested, as well as current Reinhardt students who are not on a team now, but were in high school.
“We have had some interest, which is why we tested the water,” Turner said. “There are some folks really interested, and then some incoming freshmen that we sold on the idea and that we think will really get behind it.”
There is no set number of athletes required to form a track and field team. Reinhardt does not have a track or the accommodations for field events, and officials say there is no a plan to add either to the campus at this time. Turner is working with athletic director Bill Popp to secure practice times at local high schools, or another facility.
“We may not have a home to compete at, but, right now, I think the athletes are just happy to be able to compete with ‘Reinhardt’ across their chests,” Turner said. “I’ve told them, we can do it home or away. We can go out and perform on the road. We don’t have to host one to really have a team. We are really hanging our hat on that right now.”
The track and field teams will compete in events involving NAIA and NCAA programs. Last year, several Reinhardt distance runners competed in an NCAA event at Emory.
In addition to the AAC championships, athletes can earn an invitation to the national championships by exceeding a list of qualifying marks posted by the NAIA.
Even before the official announcement was made that Reinhardt would be introducing track teams, Turner placed a couple of phone calls to former teammates.
“There has been a lot of excitement from the folks that I have talked to,” Turner said. “Even my old coach, who is up in New York coaching now, was happy. It’s making waves now.”
Turner plans to tap into some former coaches and acquaintances as he gets the program off the ground. He won’t have any assistant coaches, but he said he may in the future, especially if volunteers come forward.
“I plan on looking for some knowledge and wisdom from other places,” Turner said. “Right now, it’s just me taking the reins of it, but I will be asking for guidance from some mentors and folks that I’ve met over the years.”