Jacksonville Sports Day

Throwing in the Books: Meet JU’s Samantha Turner

Photos by Jacksonville University

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – She wasn’t born in Jacksonville, but she got here as soon as she could.

Women’s track & field thrower Samantha Turner is a 15-time All-ASUN honoree, a four-time ASUN All-Academic selection and, come this weekend, will be walking across the stage to receive her master’s degree from Jacksonville University.

You could say the San Antonio, Texas native has built her success as a Dolphin, as she first earned her undergraduate degree in three and a half years, with a double major in marketing and management in December of 2015, and completed her MBA this semester.

However, success has not always come easy for Turner. A hand injury her first year sidelined her in the midst of the indoor track & field season and while she was rehabbing, had to miss a month of physical activity after battling illness.

“That was hard for me because I had been throwing since I was eight years old,” said Turner.

Family Knows Best

What started as a family activity to do with her brothers quickly blossomed into a love for the sport.

Originally, Turner started as a shot putter in her earlier seasons. A high school football coach then encouraged her to try the discus and when she made the journey from Texas to Jacksonville, Turner was given the opportunity to try her hand at two new events – the weight throw and the hammer throw.

“Each person has shown me something new about what I could do. I thought originally that I was going to be a shot putter, but I was open to trying something new and putting myself in a position where I could succeed not only in shot, but also in the other events. Each year my favorite event has changed so much,” she laughed.

Moreover, she has taken it all in stride. With seven of her All-ASUN honors in the shot put, four in the weight throw, three in the discus, and one in the hammer throw, Turner has proven to be one of the best all-around throwers in the ASUN Conference and in the Dolphins’ program history.

Turner has the second longest throw in the JU record books in both the hammer (178 feet, 9 inches) and discus (164 ft., 11 in.) and ranks third all-time in the shot put (48 ft., 2.75 in.).

She credits several different people for their guidance and support along the way – her family, her coaches, her friends and teammates, and her teachers.

“My success is a reflection of all the support and all the things that they’ve been able to give to me so that I could become a stronger person. I could almost reflect the success that they bring to me, outward. It’s been a lot of different people [who have been influential] and I couldn’t really pick just one, it’s been groups of people who have helped me become who I am today.”

Hitting the Books

Along with her numerous athletic accomplishments, Turner’s performance in the classroom is where she really shines.

Turner has been a four-time ASUN All-Academic Team selection, which mandates a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA; she has maintained a 3.95 cumulative GPA between her undergrad and MBA studies. Following the 2016 outdoor track & field season, she was selected as the ASUN Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Turner has become an expert at meeting the challenge of balancing athletics, academics, and friendships. A typical day starts around 5:30 a.m. as she gets to the track at 6:15 a.m. for practice, then has lifting after, and classes from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. She also works between three and six hours a day as a tech assistant in the Davis College of Business on campus as a tutor and teacher’s aid, and assists teachers, staff, and students with any tech or computer problems they may have. On top of her already hectic schedule, she manages to find time to eat, study, and include a social balance.

“Having to learn that yes, I need to practice and work hard and make sure I get in my study time and attend classes, but you also need to have that balance of building relationships. That keeps you sane,” Turner added. “All that stress can build up, but if you don’t have some kind of outlet, say you like to paint or something that you can be social, that can get that anxiety or pressure off your chest.”

One of Turner’s favorite moments academically was when she was named the Davis School of Business Top Marketing Student in April 2016. “A professor and the staff ended up recommending me for that award and I think that was such a highlight feeling that someone sees the work that I’m putting in and they recognize it. That doesn’t always happen. You can work hard, but a lot of times, you’re not going to get the recognition. When you have those few moments, you appreciate it.” She will also be named the Accelerated MBA Outstanding Student of the Year at graduation this weekend.

One thing that helps Turner keep things in perspective comes from a simple video she saw on Facebook. “It’s kind of the theme of this year for me,” she explained. “The video was talking about how change occurs and how you have to adapt to situations.”

The video used lobsters to explain the theory. When a lobster grows under pressure, it stretches its shell and needs to create a new one. In the process, the lobster buries itself under rocks and waits until it can grow a new shell.

“The whole message was that under pressure situations, that’s where growth happens,” said Turner. “I feel like track has put that pressure on me – pressure to succeed, pressure to be a mentor for my teammates, and with that I’ve had to rise to the occasion. I’ve had to get rid of old shells and bust out of them and become something that I feel is a successful product of Jacksonville University.”

Looking to the Future

With plenty of memories and two degrees to her name, Samantha Turner will be thoroughly prepared for the future. For now, though, she will be staying in Jacksonville. Not only do the Dolphins have two more meets before the ASUN Outdoor Championships at UNF on May 12 & 13, but Turner has accepted a full-time position in corporate retail merchandising at Jacksonville-based company Fanatics.

It took Turner nearly several months and she worked the resources and connections available to her through the university.

“I talked to so many different people from JU who really helped me connect with different local businesses,” Turner said. “With all the work that went in behind the scenes, it wasn’t because I put in all that work; it was also because I used the resources that I had. I think that sometimes people forget that about JU.”

After interviewing with Fanatics, Turner knew it would be a good fit. “The energy that they give, how innovative they are, how adaptive they are, how they’re trying to get a lot of new faces and expand is what really attracted me to them,” she said.

She also had some parting words of advice for other students at JU: “Utilize the people around you – they are here to help if you only reach out to them and I think that’s one of the best things that I found from JU. People are so willing to help; you just have to ask.”

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