The veteran coach will be sending Ace Crews to the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M., where the promising, young distance runner will make his second appearance on the big stage after qualifying last year.
“His second time qualifying in a three-year program and he is the Ace. The Ace in the hole. That’s right,” Turner laughed.
Crews said it feels great to return to nationals and that he’s looking to improve on his time and place after running a 9:00.95 and finishing in 69th out of 128 runners last year. Crews qualified this year by turning in a time of 8:18.82 and placing 10th at the Region III Meet, which isn’t far off last year’s national champion in the sub-bantam boy’s 2K race at 7:37.88.
“Last year I was happy to go and I had a fun time. I learned that the kids were a little faster than me,” Crews said. “I’m looking forward to doing my best [this year].”
Turner said Crews’ regional time should put him in the top 25 nationally Saturday if he can repeat that performance now that he’s at the top of his age group.
“Now he knows he has the experience. He’s stronger and he knows what the race is all about. We’re hoping he does well,” Turner said.
And while Turner and assistant coaches Wymon Kelley and Bradley McLester have been helping Crews train, he’s also had tremendous family support from his older brothers — Cade and Jaxson — along with his sister, Samantha.
Cade Crews competed in the Region III Meet in the youth boys division, while Jaxson was in the midget boys and Samantha ran in the midget girls.
Turner said it’s been amazing to see the older siblings come out in support of their younger brother.
“In all the years I’ve been training kids, this is the first time I’ve ever seen brothers, along with the sister, come out and train with the younger brother,” Turner said. “That was heartwarming to see how much they care to come out and put their time in to help their little brother succeed.”
Kelley said it’s made for a special kind of training, being that it was truly a family affair.
“Coming from a football-oriented family, it is heartwarming to see everybody come together. They’re a big family, and these guys have a little bit more of my heart because I’ve been training with them and I work so hard with them. I see the passion and the want-to in their eyes when they cross that finish line,” Kelley said.
And with Ace Crews’ national run marking the end of the third season for the CPRCAD program, Turner said it’s been a joy to coach all the up-and-coming athletes who he expects to have great success down the road in their running endeavors.
“To coach this team and coach these kids here, I’m just glad to have the opportunity to do it,” Turner said. “We expect big things from them. And I know as they grow through the system at the high school, they’ll be just as proud of them as we are because of their accomplishments — because they are going to accomplish some things.”