RIVERSIDE — Running is a passion for Eyan (pronounced Ian) Turk and it runs deep. His father, Rick, says his youngest son has loved running for as long as he can remember. Eric Reynolds, the ninth-grade cross country head coach at Woodcrest Christian, remembers his first meeting with Eyan in fourth grade. The youngster attended the practices of his older brother Gavin, who ran cross country and track for the Royals.
Reynolds, seeing Eyan’s enthusiasm for running, went so far as to create easy, fun workouts — geared toward the level of a fourth-grader — to keep the boy busy.
“I didn’t do anything to make Eyan like running,” Reynolds said. “He has loved running since the time I have known him and more than any athlete I have coached in my 14 years with the program.”
Reynolds, a Woodcrest Christian alumnus and cross country and track coach at that private school for grades 7 through 12, was technically not engaging in any illegal recruitment. He was simply helping to spark a young boy’s interest in running. But what a difference a few years makes to his program and to Turk.
In late November, Turk achieved something he had been pursuing for a few years. The Woodcrest Christian junior ran a personal best 5,000 meters of 14 minutes, 59 seconds at Woodward Park in Fresno to win his first individual CIF-State Division V cross country championship. It came a week after Turk won her second consecutive CIF-Southern Section individual title, in 14:07, a three-mile PR, on the rain course at Mt. San Antonio College.
“That was all I wanted to do this season,” Turk said, of his state championship achievement. “I was coming back to State as the top student in the freshman class and I really wanted to win.”
He won state, becoming the first Royals runner to win the state Division V title since Jake Jeanson in 2008 (15:46). In addition to repeating as section champion, Turk also repeats as IE University Male Runner of the Year.
Turk’s season consisted of nine wins in three-mile races, a second place finish and a 28th place finish at the Woodbridge XC Classic competition. He only ran two 5,000-meter races, a second-place finish at the Clovis Invitational and his state title win, and both races were at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Turk nearly managed to lead the state meet with his entire team, but Woodcrest Christian finished eighth in the final Southern Section Division V standings, missing automatic qualification by one spot and four points.
Individually, however, this is where Turk shines the most. Reynolds marvels at his No. 1 runner’s unwavering focus and reliability.
“If I give Eyan a training session, I know it will be done exactly as I asked him to do it. He runs his times without anyone pushing him. With Eyan, it’s all about time and his high mental makeup to execute and do the workouts in the time frame we need to see progress,” Reynolds said.
In races, Turk is eager to lead the pack from the start, a tactic that for some runners can be fatal if they go out too fast and disappear later in a race. Not a Turk.
“He’s going to go out and lead the race and he’s not afraid to fail. He comes out, takes the lead and lets the chips fall where they may,” Reynolds admitted.
Perhaps Turk’s best example was the CIF-SS final on the Mount SAC rain course. Although it is much better suited to the traditional hilly route that Mt. SAC, the transition to the flatter, faster rainy course 24 hours before the race could have been a disappointment. True to his mental toughness and adaptability, he listened to the strategy employed by his coaches and did exactly as he was told.
“We wanted him to take the lead from the start, not look back and think about it,” Reynolds said. “Take the lead from the start and everyone will chase you. The plan worked to perfection.
Turk’s time of 14:07 was a personal best and he felt good despite adapting to an alternate course. His mental approach has served him very well.
“Once I really understood the mental strength it took and what I was capable of, that’s when I started to improve. It really changed my outlook on how I train and how I should run.
Her 14:59 and state title win the following week were equally satisfying. He had a strong run in his previous performance at the Clovis Invitational in October – a time of 15:04.8 in a small-school varsity division – to give him a confidence boost.
“It meant a lot,” he said.
The state win fulfilled a personal goal he set while still a middle school student at Woodcrest.
“At the beginning of my trip here, I went to the gym and saw the state championship team banners and saw that Jake had won state. It inspired me. I knew I wanted to do something like this. I wanted to win one of these banners. It’s an honor to have done it. I feel blessed by God to have this gift of running and to be able to show this glory,” Turk said.
He has this ability from a very young age. He looks forward to pursuing his passion for running, both at the start of the spring track season and next fall when, as a senior, he knows what awaits him.
“I’ll come back as a state champion and I’ll want to defend my title.” I know there is a challenge ahead.
-RYAN T. BLYSTONE
IE VARSITY COACH OF THE YEAR
Alfonso Ibarra, king
Ibarra guided the program to one of its most successful campaigns in his second season at the helm. The Wolves finished sixth in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 team standings and qualified for the CIF State Championships for just the second time in program history. King finished the season with a 10th place finish in Division I at the state meet. Sophomore Maximo Zavaleta led the way for the Wolves, as he finished in the Top 7 in the sectional and state finals. King also won the Big VIII League team championship after four consecutive second-place finishes.
— ERIC-PAUL JOHNSON
IE FIRST TEAM VARSITY
Joshua Agostini, Chaparral, Sr.
Jacob Brown, Great Oak, Jr.
Gabriel Castillo, Etiwanda, Sr.
Kael Jex, Big Bear, Jr.
Jeffrey Keeney, Great Oak, Sr.
Caleb Ornelas, Ayala, Sr.
Ethan Parcells, Rim of the World, Sr.
Benjamin Rippe, Norco, Sr.
Gabriel Rodriguez, Great Oak, Sr.
Micah Watson, Fontana, Sr.
Eyan Turk, Woodcrest Christian, Jr. (Runner of the Year)
Maximo Zavaleta, king, then.
SECOND TEAM VARSITY IE
Jace Deledonne, Riverside Poly, then.
Nolan Koopman, Rancho Cucamonga, Jr.
Nathan Magana, Patriot, Jr.
Lyle Mideiros, Claremont, then.
Max Neely, Claremont, Sr.
Antonio Olmos, Santiago Sr.
Jack Paradise, Great Oak, then.
Bradley Quezada, king, then.
Daniel Reza, Chaffey, Jr.
Michael Rodriguez, Great Oak, Sr.
Frank Rodriquez, Redlands East Valley, Jr.
Emmanuel Wallace, Redlands East Valley, Sr.
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