The Internet Home of Track & Field

Interval Session #100 - Turquoise Thompson

By SteveU - February 19, 2009

The spotlight has long been bright for this Gardena CA (Serra HS) senior, and how could it not be – when you have former world-class athletes for parents/coaches (Donn and Lori Smith-Thompson), when you’ve been a top-ten nationally ranked prep athlete since 8th grade (53.55 400 in 2005), and when you have one of the coolest names a kind could ever want to have?

But Turquoise Thompson probably never embraced that spotlight before like she did last summer at the USATF Junior Olympics, when she put the memories of an almost-lost season behind her with a dramatic 57.67 400H victory that broke the National Youth record set two years earlier.  CIF transfer rules had prevented her from competing at the state level her entire junior year as her family moved from Long Beach, where Thompson had competed for powerhouse Poly HS, to Gardena, where she enrolled at Serra HS after her mother had been hired there.

The summer achievement left no doubt that Thompson would get her deserved attention from college recruiters, and she visited five national powers before deciding on UCLA.  But she has plenty of unfinished business on the track as she begins her senior season at Serra, with the first major test in the 400 this weekend at the Simplot Invitational.  Like most Californians, Thompson doesn’t get a lot of indoor experience, but she certainly can build on good memories here: In 2007, she won the Simplot 400 with the best time of the season of 53.78.

The 2008 USATF JOs. Photo Doug Speck
1)  Is this your first meet of the year?  How has your training been going leading up to this?

I’ve run some all-comers meets, but this is my first big meet of the season.  I’ve been training, mostly on speed work.  I was going to do the 200 when I got there, but I changed it last week to the 400.  I’ve been sprinting, but I don’t think I’m ready to sprint that fast, as fast as I’d want to go, so I’m just going to keep it at the 400 and see what I can do.

I did pretty well in the all-comers meets; I was looking kind of good in the 100s and 200s that I ran, but I really haven’t done much with the 400 yet.  I kind of work on speed work during in the preseason, but don’t really start on the 400 training until mid-season.
2)  I imagine last year had to be one of the toughest things to go through, having to basically miss your junior year of CIF competition.  Can you tell us some about how the scenario unfolded and how you dealt with it, both mentally and in terms of trying to find meets to race in?

It was really hard and stressful, to not be able to run,  I feel like that would have been the most important year of my high school career, my junior year, and having to try and earn scholarships and whatnot.  But it turned out for the best in the end.  In the summertime, I broke a national record, so that really got me recognized by colleges, which made up for my missing my junior year. 

A lot of times I wanted to give up, though, but I just had to keep my faith strong.  Since I’m a Christian, I know that everything happens for a reason, so I just relied on that, knowing something better would come – and it did, which was that national record.  It was hard, but I pushed through it and kept training.  I never stopped, although I was having some problems with my achilles, but I kept running.  I was running in all kinds of all-comers track meets, anywhere I could get any kind of competition.  I remember once running against (Olympian) Torri Edwards in the open 400 (at the California Relays) – and I beat her.

3)  Tell us how much it meant to you to come out in the summer and run mid-57 for 400 hurdles, and set a record like that at JOs.  It must have felt really good to come out and make a statement like that.

Yeah, that was really something big for me.  I think about it all the time.  I was so grateful that I could keep training, and keep my talent and abilities to the highest, so that I could do what I had to do in the summertime – because I knew that I couldn’t do anything my whole junior year.  It was just mostly running off determination and I wanted to prove myself that even though I didn’t run my whole junior year, I’m still who I am.  It was really great.

  Winning the Simplot 400 in 2007. Photo John Dye
4)  Now going into your senior year, you’ve got your college signing out of the way and you have that kind of pressure off of you now.  Do you feel like you’re really relaxed, yet at the same time really determined and motivated to out with a bang?

Yeah, you know, a lot of people are saying, “You signed, you have it out of the way,” but to me, it’s not over yet.  Although I have signed to UCLA, I still am very determined to show what I can do and show the abilities God has given me. 

I haven’t been able to run, actually, for the past two years.  I didn’t get to run my sophomore year toward the end of the season because I pulled my hamstring.  I’ve missed state two years in a row.  So I’m really working hard, every practice.

When my mom was gone one day, and we had to have a substitute teacher/coach, he was saying, “Wow, you’re running these 300s so fast.  What are you trying to do?”  And I said, “I’m trying to make it to state.”  I haven’t been there in two years, and I just feel like it’s my last year in high school and I am definitely striving my hardest to go out with a bang.  Hopefully, God willing, I’ll do that.

5)  What are your goals for your main events?

I haven’t established any for my main events yet.  I’m just trying to see how I’m doing this preseason, make sure my body is healthy and everything.  I don’t want to make any goals until I am confident with my body.  In the preseason, other years, something had always gone wrong.  I just have to get past that first, then I establish goals.

6)  What were some of the other schools you looked at and what was it, in the end, that made UCLA the best choice for you?

It was really stressful to make a decision.  I thought about it every day.  I could have gone to Texas, South Carolina, LSU, or USC, and I chose UCLA.  I really liked all of the schools.  I don’t know if being the last school I visited had anything to do with it, but I just really felt at home at UCLA … and of course, it IS home since it’s in California.  I felt like staying here would be best for me.  I don’t think “leaving” is for everyone; I don’t feel like everyone needs to leave to grow up or anything like that.  I can do that just fine down the street.

   Signing to become a Bruin.
Photo submitted

Another thing is Coach Bobby Kersee.  I know that he has worked well with UCLA athletes and a lot of great hurdlers have come out of UCLA.  I feel like that school will just do it for me.

UCLA is a very prestigious college and that, on top of athletics, made it an appealing choice.  I’m going to try and major in psychology, probably along the lines of child development

7) Obviously you’ve had a lot of success at both the flat 400, and the 300H/400H.  Do you prefer one over the other, or do you feel like your love for both of them is equal and don’t want to choose unless you have to?

I love the 400 and I love hurdles, but I personally think that the hurdles is more fun.  I don’t know, something about jumping over something in the midst of running just is fun to me.  I love them both, but I think the hurdles are more fun, basically.

8)  We’ve interviewed a lot of kids who are coached by their parent and we’ve gotten a lot of interesting reactions when we ask them about how it’s been?  How has it worked for you?
I love being coached by my mom, actually, and I know I’m going to miss it when I go off to college, because she can’t go with me.  She’s coached me, she and my father, since I was five years old.  So it’s just something I’m accustomed to.  I don’t think she pushes me any harder than the rest of her athletes, and there’s no favoritism or anything.  It’s all about the training.  And I like her training – the preseason, the midseason, and the end of the season.  I’ve never been coached by anyone else, so I wouldn’t know how it felt.  The two of them have really played in my success in track, because they have had success in track and I look up to them and listen to them, because I know they’ve been there before.

Interval Sessions Index