Exactly 89 years ago today, a Casper native took to the Olympic track at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and held his own with the best runners in the world.
Today, though, Ned Turner’s accomplishments are nearly forgotten.
Edwin T. “Ned” Turner finished fifth in the 800-meter run at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was one of the first, if not the first, Wyoming athletes to compete in the Olympics, a list that includes celebrated names like Rulon Gardner, John Godina, Lance Deal, Heather Moody, Jesseca Cross, Jennifer Nichols and a handful of others.
Turner was just 19 when he ran in the Olympics. A junior at the University of Michigan, Turner had made his mark with guts. A Casper Tribune-Herald article from 1952 noted that “Ned was not a sprint finisher, as are many middle distance runners, but he was noted for his strength, endurance, and untiring running ability.”
Despite his world-class finish in the Olympics, Turner was never an NCAA champion at Michigan. Moreover, he was only once a Wyoming state track champion, winning the 440-yard run as a junior at Natrona in 1928. He had appendicitis as a senior and missed the entire track and field season while recovering.
But at Michigan, Turner grew and matured; after all, he was just 16 when he graduated from NCHS. He qualified for the Olympics by finishing third in the AAU championships, which doubled as the U.S. Olympic trials, in mid-July. Once at the Olympics, Turner finished third in his opening heat, good enough to make the final race.
The 800-meter final itself put Turner in a field that saw almost everyone, including Turner, run a time that was better than the gold-medal time from the 1928 Olympic 800-meter run. Great Britain’s Tommy Hampson ran a then-world record time of 1 minute, 49.7 seconds to win the race. Turner finished fifth in 1:52.5.
You can watch the race on YouTube here. Turner is wearing a white tank and white shorts and has dark hair, but it’s hard to make him out in the footage as that was the attire for several racers. See full race and heat results here.
Turner led a full, but short, life after his Olympic opportunity. He graduated from Michigan in 1933 and turned to business. In 1952, an article in the Casper Tribune-Herald described Turner as “a successful business executive” in Michigan. Turner worked in a variety of industries, including industrial machinery and paper, and lived in New York in addition to Michigan. Like many young men of his time, his career was interrupted during World War II, when he served in the Navy. Turner died Aug. 17, 1967, in Michigan, a month short of his 55th birthday.
As Wyomingites watch the Tokyo Summer Olympics this month, let’s make sure the name “Turner” stays in the conversation.