Lona Latema: Ready for Nationals

My mother once told me, “You can’t succeed when you can’t even trust yourself.” I can’t think of any truer words with the NCAA Championships just a few hours away.

The power of self-belief is everything.

My goal has always been about pushing myself to see what I’m truly capable of achieving. You never know what’s possible if you aren’t willing to take that next step.

One day, I went up to Coach Whittlesey and told him, “I want to qualify for nationals.”

Sure, I wanted his help in accomplishing that goal, but I also wanted to be held accountable. I wanted to speak it into existence.

He told me qualifying for nationals wasn’t hard if I was willing to look inward and really ask myself what I could do to make it happen.

It’s kind of crazy to think how that one conversation set everything in motion.

It’s why I’m here today.


A battle of self-reflection

You know, looking inward could be something as simple as the decision to wake up early in the morning to train. It all plays into the process of getting me to where I need to be.

But no, it was never going to be easy.

Who wants to wake up at 5:00 AM to prepare for a 5:45 AM workout? Not me! If I’m being honest, I’d rather be bundled up catching up on a couple of extra hours of sleep.

But a couple of extra hours of sleep isn’t the goal I set out to achieve.

When I think of it from that perspective, is it really that hard? If me doing this makes me successful, then waking up this early should be easy.

The one thing I’ve learned is to have a purpose for everything I do.

What’s my why? What drives me? All of those things are important.

Am I waking up only to show up for practice and keep Coach Whitt from being upset with me, or is it because there’s something more I’m chasing and aiming to achieve?

This is what Coach Whitt means when he talks about my confidence growing with each race. My perspective is changing, and I’m becoming more mature in my approach.


Just the beginning

The work it has taken to get to this point hasn’t been easy, believe me.

Our coaches know how to push us in ways we would have never thought possible.

But being out there and working alongside my teammates has made me better because it strengthened the belief I have in myself.

I believe in me because they believe in me. It’s that simple.

As excited as I am to race at the Nationals today, I wish I was here with my teammates.

Coach Whitt and my teammates made me a successful runner, and words can’t describe how much they’ve helped me on this journey. I just want to thank them for the effort they put in throughout the season. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this team.

As I’m getting ready for the big stage, I often remember my conversations with Coach Whitt about the race. And frankly, they pretty much happened every day.

He often talks about my fitness level improving and the fact that I’ve become more aggressive and confident in my training.

The ultimate goal today is to just go out there and compete.

Competitiveness is the key to everything. Just going out there, competing, and leaving it all on the track.

If I can do that, then anything is possible.


This is for KU

My hope for this event is to lay it all on the line with no regrets.

I’ll keep doing what got me here.

Like mom said, all I need to do is trust myself.

It won’t be easy, and I know I’m going to have to push harder than I’ve ever pushed. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that it’ll hurt. But it doesn’t matter because everyone is going through the exact same thing.

Everyone competing will feel the same way.

I won’t have my full support system physically there to watch me, but I know they’ll all be with me in spirit. No doubt, they’ll be watching and cheering remotely.

I just want to thank everyone who has made this journey successful. And a special thank you to the school staff, coaches, teammates—and all of my family and friends.

I promise I won’t let you down.

Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk.