Turner and the "Jump Squad"

Vernon Turner poses with teammates after setting the new NFHS record in the high jump (7 feet, six inches) on April 14th. (Sam Gannon/KOKH)

YUKON, Okla. (KOKH) Ball is life. Or so that's what Vernon Turner thought.

"He's always told me he's going to go to college playing basketball," said Vernon's mother Melonie. "And that's what he was going to do with his life."

That was until Kevin Ritter came along.

Ritter, Yukon's high jump coach, was also coaching JV basketball while Turner was playing varsity as a freshman. That's when he made his move.

"I physically, in the hallway of the gym after basketball," said Ritter, "had to grab him by the backpack and my selling point was if you do not come out for track we are no longer friends."

"I didn't really know Coach Ritter, so I was like I'll do it for you, I'll try it," said Vernon.

Along with Vernon, Kevin recruited several of his longtime friends, who he had grown up playing basketball with, to come out for track.

"It kind of started off as a joke," said Yukon senior high jumper Cole Bailey. "And then we started liking it."

Eventually, all of them got good at it.

"It's fun because we're all competing with each other and stuff," said Jordan Williams, senior high jumper at Yukon. "After I'm done jumping, I want them to jump higher and higher."

"I know for sure one of our guys can jump 6'10," said Vernon. "I know Cole could. Tallyn could too."

Vernon, of course, is the leader of Yukon's jump squad. He is the top high jumper in the nation and No.1 in the world under age 20.

But this team has all kinds of talent.

The Millers have six of the top 15 high jumpers in the state. Tallyn Brazell is ranked 2nd behind Turner at 6'7, Bailey 4th at 6'6, and Williams 10th at 6'2.

To think how different all of their paths, especially Vernon's, might have been had Coach Ritter not come along with his ultimatum.

"He says I could have done this without him but in all reality I couldn't have," said Vernon. "I wouldn't even be out here in the first place if it wasn't for him."

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