‘Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’: ASU’s Washington carries on family legacy

Turner Washington, a standout thrower for Arizona State, is following in the footsteps of accomplished father, Anthony. (Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics)

TEMPE – For most people, carrying on the family business means taking over a restaurant or maybe operating a car repair shop.

For Anthony and Turner Washington, the family business is flinging a 4.4-pound disc as far as possible. And nobody in college track and field threw one farther than Turner Washington last season.

Turner, an Arizona State redshirt senior, is the reigning NCAA outdoor discus and shot put national champion. He also is the reigning indoor champ in the shot put, where he set an NCAA indoor record, as he prepares for his final season at ASU, which begins in January.

But his rise to the top of collegiate track and field started years ago, with Turner Washington and his older brother Coleman mimicking their father Anthony, a three-time Olympian in the discus.

“My brother and I were at my grandparents’ house or something and we picked up coasters and started throwing them,” Turner said. “I watched this documentary on Tiger Woods and they said how his dad was always swinging the club in front of him as a young kid, and that was kind of like what my brother and I did.

“After my dad retired, he was coaching some guys and would bring my brother and I with him to watch these people throw, as well as himself.”

Anthony’s first big win on the world stage came in 1991, when he claimed the gold medal in the discus at the Pan American Games. He went on to compete in three Olympics and two World Athletic Championships, winning the 1999 world title.

After his retirement from throwing, Anthony began working with his oldest son Coleman. And once Turner saw his older brother’s interest, he wanted in, too.

“Turner took an interest in throwing around the same time I started working with his older brother,” Anthony said. “Turner was around 9-years old, and took an interest pretty quickly.”

Anthony Washington won a gold medal in the World Championships in Seville, Spain, in 1999. (Photo by Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images)

Growing up, Turner blazed his own trail in the track world. At Canyon Del Oro High School in Tucson, Turner captured the 2017 state title and broke the state record with a throw of 218.7 feet. It was the third time that season that he had surpassed the previous state record, which had stood for 30 years.

He went on to uncork a throw of 223-0 at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championships to win the national title that year. Only three high school discus athletes have ever surpassed that mark

Initially, Turner Washington chose to stay in his hometown and compete at the University of Arizona. However, after one season there he transferred to rival Arizona State, where he has flourished athletically and in the classroom. He was named the 2020-21 CoSIDA NCAA Division I Academic All-America team member of the year in track and field.

Through the years, Turner and Anthony have each experienced plenty of success. Anthony narrowly missed the medals in his second Olympics in 1996, finishing fourth in the discus.

Turner, whose best college throw in the discus marked out at 217.38 feet, carries the throwing gene, according to ASU throws coach Brian Blutreich.

“I’ve known Anthony for so many years, and I know the way he walks and moves. When I first saw (the younger Washington) I told him ‘You’re not adopted, Turner,’” Blutreich said. “They’re very very similar in a lot of ways. They’re both super smart, they’re both very cerebral type throwers.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

However, Turner Washington didn’t take to the sport immediately. In fact, he remembers preferring other sports and was miserable at his first practice.

“I just wanted to focus on wrestling and football,” Turner said. “I remember the first day of practice, and I had terrible allergies. I was not in the mood. I was like, ‘This is crap. There’s pollen. I just want to be inside.’As we started doing it more, I really started enjoying it.”

It took time for Turner to realize his dad was one of the best discus throwers in the world. Anthony’s personal best of 233.39 feet is the 15th best throw in track and field history. But for Turner, it didn’t seem like throwing with an Olympian and world champion.

It was just throwing with Dad.

“I didn’t really recognize and understand how good my dad was, he was just my dad,” Turner said. “When I got to high school I realized, ‘Oh damn, this guy is legit.’ Then I understood the significance of it.”

Recently, Turner has made himself the household name in collegiate track and field. Last season, he couldn’t be touched en route to the two outdoor titles in discus and shot and the indoor record in the shot.

Turner’s dominance put him in elite territory, as only he, ASU’s Ryan Whiting and UCLA thrower John Godina have won all three of those championships in the same season.

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While Turner has become the best thrower in the country, the progression wasn’t always easy. Father-son dynamics don’t necessarily change just because the father is a three-time Olympian.

“The hardest aspect of coaching Turner was that he was kind of hard-headed in some ways,” Anthony said. “I would try to get him to understand something, but he could be difficult to work with at times. But we worked through it.”

Even though coaching presented some challenges, Anthony never strayed too far from Turner’s track career. Anthony continued to write Turner’s weightlifting plans and cycles, and has been a constant in his son’s development.

But for everything Turner has accomplished, Anthony has cherished the man his son has become along the way.

“He’s a good person,” Anthony said. “He has an incredibly strong work ethic that came from being an athlete, but I’m super proud of everything he does. He’s good in his school work. He’s good in track and field. And he’s a good person.

“I’m really proud of Turner.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Henry Schleizer expects to graduate in May 2022 with a degree in sports journalism. Schleizer, who has interned for ArizonaSports 98.7 and the Draft Network, is working in the Phoenix Sports Bureau.