Inez Turner reflects on glorious incubation at Vere

...Her trailblazing exploits continue to inspire new generation of track and field stars

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Thousands of students pass through Jamaica's high school system, but very few distinguish themselves enough to receive prestigious honours given to a chosen few.

With very few graduates honoured by high schools, it has to take a very special effort to be considered, nominated, and eventually selected for such recognition.

One such person who has ticked all the boxes and has been subsequently honoured is none other than the irrepressible and inimitable Inez Turner of Vere Technical fame.

The former high school athletic star, who rose to prominence at what was then “Girls Champs”, represented the school at a time when Vere Technical was the only name is girls track and field.

During that period of dominance when Vere Technical won the championships 14 years in a row, Inez and her sister Irene were the middle distance queens.

After distinguishing herself as a high school star, Turner went on to represent Jamaica at the Olympic level before moving into coaching, something she currently does at Fayetteville State University.

Based on her achievements both on and off the track, Vere Technical High school saw it fit to honour their own legend at the eight staging of the Ben Francis Invitational held on the school grounds last week Saturday.

Moved to tears by the gesture, Turner thanked a wide range of people for choosing to honour her for contributions to track and field.

“Let me thank our principal, our chairman and the organising committee for seeing me fit for such an award. I feel honoured and I want you to know that I humbly accept all of this,” she said.

Her greatest praise was reserved for Colonel Ben Francis, the founding principal of Vere, after whom the track and field meet is named.

“This spot right here is my blessed spot. Mr Ben Francis, daddy Ben Francis, I remember over 30 years ago when I came here from my home in Trelawny [and] I was a little bit frightened [as] I had never left my home before.

“I came here and got my own bunk bed at the dorm and it was an experience that I will never forget. Mr Francis, our late coach Mr Haughton, everyone, the teachers, counsellors, they saw something in me at that time.

“I just want to say a big thank you. Without this spot right here there would be no Inez. I call this my blessed spot. Because of you, Mr Francis, and everything that you have done, you molded me into the Inez,” noted Turner.

In a speech dripping with emotion, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist at 800m, reminisced further about her time at Vere, and promised to show her charges in the United States of America just how special the Vere Tech family had made her feel.

“When I came here on Thursday and went through May Pen in the motorcade and came back here on this track, and walked around the school and looked through the community where Mr Haughton would say go run and come back, it's just a joy. There are no other feelings that I would want to have.

“I just want to say again thank you, Vere Technical, for making me feel like this today; it's a feeling that will never ever go away. I am going back to the states, I am going back to my team Fayetteville State University, I am going to show them the programme,” she said, hardly capable of hiding her emotions.

Expectedly, she swore that given a chance to do it all again, it would be the same script in the same place.

“I would never, ever have done it any other way; if I had to do it again, it would be Vere Technical High school,” Turner noted.

Coaching is now at the epicentre of her life and she believes that God has prepared her for this particular moment.

“Now that I am 46 years old, God has prepared me as a runner from when I was seven years old all the way through my running years. What He was preparing me for, now walking in that shoe, He wants me to step out of my running shoe and into my coaching shoe.

“I did not understand; I wasn't thinking about coaching until God said 'you have to go back and give back'. Now I realise why God was preparing me and giving me everything, strength and everything that I have done to conquer in track and field as an athlete,” Turner shared.

The former Jamaican track star made her name as a coach by building Winston-Salem State University into a women's cross country track and field powerhouse, before moving on to Fayetteville State University where she now coaches.

— Dwayne Richards

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