Posted Date: 07/09/2019
By Sean Saunders, Sun staff writer
JONESBORO — Long jumpers are expected to leap great distances, and recent Nettleton graduate Torrence Tubervillehas already traveled far. Now he wants to go farther in the Southeastern Conference.
Tuberville's track and field career reached an important milestone earlier this month when he signed to be a preferred walk-on at Ole Miss. However, he's looking at making the Rebel track team as just the beginning of the next stage, like he appears at the start of the runway each time he competes.
"The signing was like a new experience," said Tuberville, who declined a scholarship to NCAA Division II Harding to walk on for a D-I program. "All I've done throughout high school, with my achievements, it was all worth waiting for. It was definitely something special."
Tuberville put himself on the long jump map as a Raider junior. His first two varsity campaigns saw him fighting for 19- and 20-foot marks, but he was routinely jumping in the 22-foot range in 2018 while taking home plenty of honors for his alma mater.
"It just took a lot of work," said Tuberville of his significant leap forward as a junior. "It was all about getting myself mentally prepared, and then the physical part just comes along with it. But it starts mentally, and I always knew I had a passion for the long jump even at the age of 3 and on up. As soon as I was able to walk, I knew I was going to be good in track because I was always so fast."
The first confirmation of Tuberville's improvement was when he won the 2018 Class 5A championship at 22-7 3/4. He then posted the mark of his life in the Meet of Champions, bounding 23-2 1/2 to establish himself as the state's top long jumper that year.
"It was kind of unbelievable," Tuberville said. "I didn't feel like I had gone that far, but it was like I just soared and stuck it, and they counted it. It was like a dream."
Tuberville's victory was celebrated by both Nettleton and his summer team, the Arkansas Sonic Boom Track Club. The club enjoyed some of Tuberville's extended range when he finished eighth of 69 entries in the oldest division of the AAU Junior Olympic Games, spanning 22-3 3/4.
"It was just so amazing because all of these kids out here, they're kind of like our adopted kids," Sonic Boom coach Valarie Hilson said. "He has the support system with his parents and his coaches from Nettleton along with us. But it's just awesome because he's so deserving and he's so humble. That's makes it so easy to cheer for him."
Tuberville's senior season, sporting a top mark of 22-7, wasn't quite as successful, although he was at the top of a first-through-fourth finish for Nettleton at the 5A-East meet that it nearly won despite the conference ramping up in competition through reclassification. He finished second in the 5A meet with an even 22-0, and he only cleared 21-1 1/2 in rainy conditions to finish fifth at the MOC.
"During my senior year, I was basically working on form and technique and how to get better," Tuberville said. "The outcome really didn't affect me that much. I didn't want to lose, but it was sort of disappointing. Not all the way, though, because I already knew I made my bones my junior year."
Tuberville still has one more goal left in the youth part of his career, and that's to make the podium at the Junior Olympics. His regional qualifier is this coming weekend at Tulsa, and the immediate goal is to reach the Games July 26-Aug. 2 at North Carolina A&T so he can make the most of his summer before college.
Tuberville is already getting D-I coaching, Hilson enlisting the services of Arkansas State volunteer coach Roelf Pienaar for the jumps.
"The great thing is I know about long jump, but two eyes are always better than one," said Hilson, also a physical education instructor at ASU. "It just helps having Roelf out here. I kind of petitioned Roelf, saying 'Roelf, can you come out here and look at him and tweak him to make sure he's ready?' We have regionals coming up at the end of the month and JOs coming up, so we're going to make sure that he is ready to rock and roll."
Tuberville was ready to rock in other aspects of his senior year, especially on the basketball court. He earned multiple starts for a Nettleton squad that made its third consecutive trip to the state tournament, making the all-tournament team of the Northeast Arkansas Invitational as the banged-up Raiders won it for a second straight time.
"It really elevated my mentality, to know that anything is possible," Tuberville said. "I just wanted to go all out and do what I can do."
And he plans to take that mentality to Oxford, Miss., with the immediate goal of earning a scholarship. To do that, he plans on becoming a force at the SEC level, trying to stand out in a league that tends to produce the nation's top collegiate athletes.
"I know from day one, I look to make an immediate impact," Tuberville said. "I'll come in there, do my business, earn it and just try to sail on through."