Prep Signing: North Rowan's Vann to Winston-Salem State for track
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Rowan graduate Sabrina Vann knew she was having a decent day at the track and field 1A State Championships, but she had no clue it would be a life-changer.
Vann’s physical effort in Greensboro was good. She placed fourth in the discus with an effort of 111 feet, 6 inches. It wasn’t the best throw of her life, but it was close, and it was her peak throw for the outdoor season.
She was still glowing from winning a medal and earning points for her team when she found herself walking behind a lady who looked like she’d done some running in her day.
“I noticed her, but I had no idea who she was when I was walking behind her,” Vann said. “But then we both went and sat in the bleachers and she smiled and introduced herself as the coach at Winston-Salem State, and that’s one of schools where I wanted to go.”
The coach was Inez Turner.
Raised on a farm in Jamaica, Turner used to get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to fetch water and milk cows before she ran to school. Then she’d sprint home from school for lunch and — you guessed it — then she’d race back to school for afternoon classes.
It was a demanding lifestyle that produced a world-class athlete. At Texas State, Turner was twice Division I champion in the 800 meters. And when the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, she represented Jamaica in the 4×400 and the 800.
So when Turner talks, people listen. Vann listened.
“She said she’d been watching me and liked the way I threw,” Vann said. “And she wanted me to visit Winston-Salem State.”
Two weeks after that state meet, Vann competed in the discus at a “Meet of Champions” hosted by Winston-Salem State and placed second.
Later, she went on an official visit to WSSU with her mother and North coach Robert Steele. She knew where she wanted to spend the next four years and signed a National Letter of Intent.
There’s no doubt Vann’s best distances are still in front of her. She didn’t take up throwing at North until she was a sophomore.
Vann thought of herself as a basketball player early on.
“I went out for track in the seventh grade at North Middle because my friends on the basketball team were out there,” Vann explained. “I did the 400, the 4×400 and the high jump.”
After the 5-foot-10 Vann reached high school, it was Steele that got her interested in the throws.
“She had a tall, athletic body and a great frame for it and she decided to give it a try,” Steele said. “The good discus throwers are usually tall and rangy with long arms and she fit the mold.”
Vann never found stardom in basketball, although she played varsity for three seasons and scored 231 points.
Track was a different story. She was county champion in the discus (109-10) as a senior and even placed third in the high jump (4-10).
“She had a great senior season and also a great summer before her senior year,” Steele said. “She’s really worked at it, even in the offseasons, and she continues to work now.”
In summer AAU competitions, Vann has gained experience with the javelin, a standard event in college.
“Coach Turner said I’d be throwing the javelin and shot as well as the discus,” Vann said. “And she wants me to try the 400.”
Steele predicts success for Vann at the next level no matter what her events are.
“Because she’s very coachable,” he said. “She shows up, she shows up on time, and she’s in a good mood. As a coach, you want to put kids in position to get an education, and she made that very easy. She’s been a good student, a good athlete — a good person.”
Vann plans to major in physical therapy and athletic training and can’t wait to get her college career started.
“When I first started throwing, I never even thought about competing at the next level,” Vann said. “I’m excited, very excited.”