Washington transferred from UA to ASU; now he's an NCAA record holder for men's shot put

The ASU standout started out as a thrower at UA, now he's broken an NCAA record

Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, ASU thrower Turner Washington "focused primarily on the discus rather than the shot put to get a scholarship."

Washington eventually obtained a scholarship to UA at the end of his high school career and found himself competing there in the 2017-18 school year.

"I wanted to go to UA, just being from Tucson," Washington said. "I had some family stuff going on at the time and it seemed like it was the best place for me to be at that moment in time."

In Washington's first year at UA, he finished fourth in the discus throw at the 2017-18 outdoor Pac-12 Championships, having never pictured himself as a shot putter. 

"I honestly didn't think it was all that fun," Washington said. "I just thought it wasn't as beautiful of an event, but now I recognize its beauty."

Washington said he felt like he couldn't reach his full potential at UA. He transferred to ASU before the 2018-19 outdoor season feeling like "the style would better fit my mentality as I approach the technique better."

Washington redshirted his first year at ASU. During that time, he managed to finish 17th in the shot put, throwing 19.31 meters at the Toyota USATF Champtionships. 

Coming into the 2019-20 season, Washington felt stronger than ever after training in his redshirt season. 

"I had a lot of confidence going in (to the 2019-20 season)," Washington said. "I made the U.S. championships for the senior championships, so I felt really good going into the following season."

With the confidence Washington had, he could not wait to compete in the discus throw for the outdoor season. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that season never happened. 

"I was really looking forward to being able to throw discus again," Washington said. "Going indoors always feels kind of rough for a lot of people because there's still a lot of technical things that need to be worked out."

Washington said the cancelation allowed him to "reevaluate why it is that I'm throwing, I still love doing this, but is it something I want to continue to pursue? That answer was yes."

Going into the 2020-21 season, Washington felt like he was ready to break the NCAA record.

"I didn't want to be number three in the nation anymore," Washington said. "I did not want to be number two either."

Washington started out the season by breaking the Texas Tech Invitational shot put meet and facility records on Jan. 30 after throwing 20.94 meters on his final throw. The throw moved Washington to second all-time at ASU and set a new personal record.

Entering the Texas Tech Shootout on Feb. 13, Washington had his eyes set on breaking the NCAA record. 

"I was really just thinking about how I needed to hit certain marks," Washington said. "I just was focusing on continuing to have a winning season and staying undefeated."

It wasn't until the final throw that he managed to throw for a distance of 21.85 meters, breaking the NCAA record previously held by Payton Otterdahl of North Dakota State, who threw 21.81 meters in 2019.

He also topped former ASU thrower and Olympian Ryan Whiting's all-time best throw of 21.73 meters from 2008, moving Washington to No. 1 all-time on the ASU top-10 indoor list for shot put. 

"It was so motivating to hear, knowing the career that Ryan Whiting had," Washington said. "Knowing that I am where he was when he was my age and all that he accomplished after that."

Washington credits his time training with assistant coach Brian Blutreich for helping him get where he is today. 

"I've gotten a lot better, I'm a lot better technician right now and things are progressing nicely," Washington said. "(Blutreich) is so knowledgeable on the sport and gives his all every single day of practice and wants all of his athletes to be great."

Blutreich was "not surprised" that Washington broke the record and said he told other coaches, "If he executes his technique then he is going to throw really far; he's a very gifted person."

"It means everything for Turner to break a 13-year-old school record," head coach Dion Miller said. "It is definitely an indicator to the team that we are on the right path as far as ASU as a whole and getting back in the national conversation, which is incredibly difficult."

Washington also has his eyes set on the ASU shot put record for the outdoor event after throwing 21.07 meters at the GCU Outdoor Invitational on Feb. 3; the current record stands at 21.97 meters.

For now, Washington is not taking any classes and is focusing fully on his throwing career, in hopes of winning the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in the shot put and qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

"Right now, I can just be in the moment and focus exactly on what I'm doing and that's helping me improve my technique to win the championships," Washington said. "If I can execute and improve my technique enough to win at the NCAA championships then it'll put me at a better place for the Olympic trials."

Reach the reporter at lhertz@asu.edu and follow @laurenrachell_ on Twitter. 

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