Turner gives back to Special Olympics community

U of M Bisons women’s track and field captain Tegan Turner’s biggest contribution to the sport may come when she is not wearing a runner’s bib.

The 22-year-old has turned her talent and success on the track into important work coaching athletes preparing for the Special Olympics.

“It’s really become something that I think has had a huge impact on myself,” said Turner.

“I’m so grateful to give back to the community, I think as athletes — student athletes especially — we have this incredible platform and opportunity that not a lot of people get.

“So to be able to give back has been really exceptional. To see the athletes improve, to work with them every week, has been exceptional for myself and has really brought me back to why we’re involved in sports.”

Turner continues to help with the Special Olympics and said it benefits her just as much as it does the athletes.

“I don’t leave a practice with Special [Olympics] without a huge smile on my face because it’s just so much fun,” said Turner.

“That for me has been really incredible to give back to the community and to work with all the athletes.”

Turner has applied to medical school and for a Canadian health master’s, and hopes to continue working with the Special Olympics community.

“I think long-term I’d like to have a career in both research and clinical aspects,” said Turner.

“Working […] particularly with intellectual and developmental disability. Just again, my experience with Special Olympics, I’ve found a passion in that population […] wherever I end up that’s the population I’m hoping to work with.”

Along with her work with Special Olympics athletes, Turner said she plans to continue track and field following graduation.

“Track is definitely something I don’t think I’m quite ready to give up yet,” said Turner.

This love of the sport, she said, comes from the people around her, especially her Bisons teammates.

“The group that I came in with […] is just the greatest group of friends that I could really ask for,” said Turner.

“It’s like that all the years across the team. It’s just an incredible group of people that’s really the support network I think that’s kept me in it this long.”

Turner was recruited by Bisons track and field head coach Claude Berube during her Grade 12 year. She planned to continue with gymnastics for one more year, but a shoulder injury led her to commit to the track and field team.

“I called Claude and I said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I come a year early?’” laughed Turner.

An injury also played a part in one of Turner’s best races for Manitoba.

During the 2017 Canada West Track and Field Championship, Turner was battling through a chronic injury and the flu. This only served to fire her up for the 60-metre event and led to a miraculous finish.

“I was fortunate enough to have a really good run at Canada West in my third year, in the 60m,” said Turner.

“I broke the Canada West record which was something completely off my radar at the time.”

Turner ran the 60m dash in a record time of 7.42 seconds.

“That for me was really exciting in that sense, but as a personal best I think after working that hard for that many months and crossing my fingers that it was going to pay off, it was nice that it finally did,” said Turner.

The success Turner has enjoyed with Manitoba comes down to the group of people she trains with every day.

“I credit all of my success to the incredible team I have around me,” said Turner.

“Not just my teammates, but my coach is exceptional at planning, at what he does.”

“I really just show up and trust the plan,” said Turner. “Which I’m so, so fortunate to be able to do.”