Latimer is back on track

Photo courtesy of rockathletics.com WAHS graduate Lydia Latimer returns to track and field with Division II Slippery Rock University.

Lydia Latimer had an incredible Division I college volleyball experience with 364 kills over four seasons at Cleveland State University. She had 220 kills and a team-best 123 blocks in her senior season, and was named all-conference in 2022 in the Vikings’ Horizon League.

Latimer, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, also had 188 career blocks while at Cleveland State. This was after four years of high school volleyball that culminated in the Warren Dragons’ first District 10 championship and a trip to the PIAA 3A finals. Her resume at WAHS included being a three-time all-state, all-District 10 and all-region honoree, including being named Regional Player of the Year and earning Erie Times-News District 10 Player of the Year honors during her senior season. She owns Warren Area High School career records for kills (987) and blocks (234), along with single-season records for both (kills-428, blocks-91).

Let’s not forget that Latimer was a multiple-time District 10 champion in three sports at Warren Area High School, including swimming and track and field.

With college athletes receiving a fifth “COVID year” of eligibility, Latimer took it, but not in volleyball. Pursuing her doctorate degree at Slippery Rock University, Latimer is back on the track for The Rock.

“Track and field was not part of the plan,” said Latimer. “Once I was accepted into the SRU DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) program, I began to think about joining the track team. … My dad told me, ‘If I could go back and play football for one more season, I would take that opportunity in a heartbeat.’ As my final season at CSU ended, I thought my collegiate career was over. I started working out on my own and enjoying the gym, but in the back of my head, my dad’s quote kept coming up now and then. I eventually came to the realization that I was given this opportunity to continue doing something I love and needed to take it.

Latimer continued: “As I thought more about taking my fifth year, I knew I had to make my schooling my priority and volleyball would make that commitment challenging. Volleyball is a team sport that requires you to be at practice playing with your teammates and, with my classes, I did not know if I would be able to meet those requirements. I knew track would give me more flexibility with practice and classes. The idea of going back to track and field was not a very difficult decision once I finally decided on taking a fifth year.

“Mentally, I had to overcome the idea of not being able to compete well due to the time I had spent away from the sport,” she said. “Physically, I felt ready because of my conditioning with volleyball and the gym. When I decided to join the track team, I began incorporating more running, sprinting and jumping workouts, which were somewhat challenging at first, but after a few sessions I felt like I never took time off.

“There was a slight adjustment when transitioning from volleyball to track,” added Latimer. “The conditioning for each sport is different and required me to make that change. I also had to relearn some of the techniques of track and field, which required focus and being comfortable with failing. Eventually, most of it came back, especially with the help of my coaches. The easiest adjustment was being able to compete again. It is one of my favorite things to do. My mindset of wanting to do my best and make the most of each moment has helped me during this year… Before I had my first practice, I wasn’t sure what to expect with competition and my ability to perform in track and field. As we continued practicing, I started to feel more comfortable. I also took on four new events that I did not do in high school — the hurdles, 800, shot put and javelin. With limited training, I’m happy with how I have performed, especially with these new events. My goal is a podium placement and team win for SRU at the PSAC Championships in May.”

So far, Latimer has qualified in the 200 meters, 400, 800, 100 hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, javelin, heptathlon, and as part of a 4×400 relay team. On Thursday, Latimer’s 4×400 relay team finished first at SRU’s John Papa Invitational. Earlier this month, she was second in heptathlon (combined 100 hurdles, high jump, shot, 200, long jump, javelin, and 800) at the Susquehanna River Hawk Multi, and she won the 400 (58.92 seconds) at the SRU Dave Labor Invitational.

“My mindset four years ago would have potentially limited me from doing something like this,” she said. “Through all my experiences, both good and bad, I am better able to handle discomfort and I have more confidence to take on new tasks and be OK with whatever outcome I get.

“Looking back, I don’t believe I would change a thing,” added Latimer. “I have become the person I am today because of the experiences I have faced throughout my time in Warren, at WAHS, and at Cleveland State. Each place presented me with different opportunities to grow, and while they weren’t always what I wanted to face, they gave me the skills I have utilized to get to where I am today. … Currently, I am in graduate school, working towards my doctorate in physical therapy. This level of education is more challenging. At CSU, I studied health science, pre-physical therapy, which gave me a strong base for the physical therapy program at SRU. It has allowed me to both compete and balance my schooling.”

She’s “meeting new friends, seeing new places and making new memories.”

After graduate school, Latimer will find another challenge, believe that.

“One thing I will always do is work out,” she said. “It is so important to your health, both physically and mentally, to stay physically active. Competition-wise, I’d like to play in some adult volleyball leagues whenever I can. I have thought about coaching, but that will most likely have to wait until my education is complete.”

To keep up with Latimer, and men’s track and field teammates from Warren in Kyle Adams (graduate student/multi) and Devon Navaroli (senior/distance), visit rockathletics.com

Photos courtesy of rockathletics.com

WAHS graduate Lydia Latimer returns to track and field with Division II Slippery Rock University.


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