A rising junior at Clinton High, Lillie Turlington is unique in that she is a top athlete in two sports and helped move her teams forward last year in the 2A state playoffs.
The teenager was the Sampson County swim team’s Most Valuable Player and she received the 110 percent coach’s award last year. In soccer, she was a defensive player in the historic Dark Horse win against Swansboro and the team’s winningest season ever.
She is also a contender in cross country, and said she can run the 5K in about 21 minutes. “I do cross country to stay in shape for soccer,” she admitted with a smile.
Lillie couldn’t chose between soccer and swim as her favorite sport. “I like them both, but for different reasons. Swimming is more of an individual sport and soccer is all about teamwork,” she stressed.
Like most of the girls on her high school soccer team, Turlington began playing in the recreation league as a youngster under the tutelage of Gib Palmer and Jeff Smith.
“I played softball and basketball, but soccer was more fun to me. You don’t ever stop,” she explained.
From the rec team, Lillie progressed to Clinton’s travel soccer team, coached by Dr.l Michael Valenti, and to the Dark Horse team, coached by Smith.
“Our team has grown up together and we seem like family. We’re all really close,” she asserted.
The high school team made it to the second round in the 2A state playoffs last year and were conference co-champions with Swansboro, but you wouldn’t know that part if you asked Turlington. “I don’t like to say co-champions,” Lillie said with a laugh and thena shrug of her shoulders.
In fact, her best memory of her sophomore soccer season was beating Swansboro for the first time in six years. “It was such a good game. Looking at that scoreboard and knowing we beat them … that was such a good feeling,” she recalled.
Lillie gets that “good feeling” every time she jumps in the water, too. She has been swimming competitively since elementary school and credits her Aunt Margaret and Coach Damien Jones with getting her started in the sport and teaching her to love it.
“I like to be able to compete as an individual, plus I like all water sports. I just like being in the water,” she acknowledged.
Dr. Ken Yang is her high school swim coach and she said he gives her that push she needs to be a great competitor.
In 2011, she was part of an all freshman relay team that finished third in the regionals and 8th in the state finals.
This past year, Lillie finished in the top 20 in the 500M freestyle and the 200 Individual Medley. Her medley relay team finished 14th at the state finals. She was top scorer for the team and in her conference this past year.
The rising junior wasn’t sure exactly why she was so good at swimming, but after thinking about it a moment, said, “I like doing something different from most everyone else, plus I guess I don’t get as tired as when I’m running.
“Sometimes when I’m at school I lose my focus, but whenever I’m in the sport, I can focus really hard. I guess I like it more, ” she added with a laugh.
One of her best swim memories was a win in a county competition. She described it like this: “I’ve got a rival at another school, and we’ve been competing against each other since I was really young. I won’t ever forget beating her in the 100 butterfly last year. It was really close. I felt triumphant. I looked at the clock and it was less than a second, so it was really awesome.”
Lillie said her coaches have been a big influence on her life. She said they encourage her to stay fit and help her get better every year.
“They’ve really pushed me. They yell at me, but in a good way,” she quickly added.
Her parents have motivated her as well, going to all her games, as well as swim and cross country meets.
“Mom never lets me forget to do my exercises either,” she stressed.
What is something she’s learned from playing sports?
“I’ve learned that sometimes you may think you’re right, but you’re really wrong, and you need to look at things from all different angles,” she said, adding, “You think you’re doing the right thing, you’re defending them correctly, or you’re in good shape, but you stop the practice, or come out of the game, and you’re able to see what you were doing wrong, or that you really weren’t in such good shape.”
Off the field
If you can’t find Lillie on the soccer field, in the pool, or on a run, then you may try looking for her on the stage. She’s a drama enthusiast and a dancer.
Lillie has taken dance lessons since the age of five, and she has been in several plays with the community theater in Clinton. Some of her credits include “The Wizard of Oz,” “High School Musical 2,” and “The Sound of Music.”
“I love being in theater. I just came back from a camp at the North Carolina School of the Arts (Summer Drama Intensive Program). We took classes on the different acting techniques and I had a really good time,” she said.
Also this summer, Lillie attended the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., and will travel to South Korea in August as a youth ambassador for CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange).
When she’s not busy with all these extracurricular happenings, she works as a lifeguard, babysits and is a soccer referee for the Clinton Recreation Department.
As for her plans after high school, Lillie wants to attend college and “I think I might, maybe, I don‘t know” want to follow in the footsteps of her siblings and pursue competing in sports at the college level. She is an A student, “with a few Bs sprinkled in,” she commented, noting that her favorite subject is English. “I love reading.”
Her sister, Callie, is at Tulane University and runs track and cross country. Her brother, Festus, will be attending Washington and Lee this fall and will play on that school’s golf team.
“Maybe I’ll continue swimming,” she said hesitantly.
One thing she is sure about, though: “I want to go to college and do something in the arts,” she insisted.