Lafler Takes Competition In Stride
By Joseph Utter
The life of a student-athlete is non-stop, especially in the days right before competition. Washington State senior cross-country co-captain Jono Lafler knows this all too well.
Lafler had just finished class as he headed to the athletic office on the Pullman campus, but his day was far from over.
"Somehow I have to fit dinner in somewhere," Lafler said, referring to his hectic schedule as the Cougars prepare to travel to South Bend on Thursday for the Notre Dame Invitational.
Lafler had only a couple hours to get his bag ready for the trip and get errands done before he walked across campus for a lab later in the evening. But running has taught Lafler to be patient and stay motivated. He said that staying motivated is the key to having success in cross-country. A typical training day for Lafler usually involves running up to 15 miles a day along with various strength training workouts. When asked what motivates him, his answer came easy: competition.
"I love the competition," Lafler said. "Once you throw on that singlet, it's a whole different story."
Lafler, a Washington native, began his cross country career after his eighth-grade P.E. teacher, who also coached cross-country, suggested he try out for the team. He mentioned that his parents have enjoyed running, but it has now become a lifestyle for Lafler and he said that coming to Washington State was the right choice for him.
"I clicked with the team right away," he said. "I visited a couple other places and I just didn't click with the coach or the team. Once I came here, right away I knew it was a good fit."
He said that Pullman is also a great place to train with plenty of trails and gravel roads that can help prepare for race conditions. Lafler also added that he chose WSU because Pullman actually has distinct seasons.
"I love the 90 degree weather and then the zero degrees and it's snowing," he said.
Coming off a consistent junior year in which he won the WSU-UW Dual Meet and placed 20th at the Pac-10 Championships, Lafler is confident that the Cougars can make a huge impact this year.
"Our goals are high. We want to make the NCAA (Championships)," he said. "Not just make it there, but put ourselves in a position to do well."
Lafler has developed into a leader for the Cougars, and said running as a team has become more of a focus this year. The Cougars began the season winning the Clash of the Inland Northwest Meet, and Lafler said that the team used the meet to work on "running as a pack."
"We've changed our philosophy to try and work together," he said. "There's more focus on the team."
Lafler knows that the Cougars will need to stay focused on the team goals as the competition will be much stronger at the Notre Dame Invitational. Washington State will be competing against some of the top teams in the country, including eight nationally ranked teams. The WSU men's team is currently ranked eighth in the west region. The stronger competition is what Lafler is looking forward to.
"Knowing it's my last year, I want to go out big," he said. "Watch out for the Cougs."
Lafler said this year he is focused on completing his degree in social sciences and competing at a high level in the Pac-12. Along with running cross country in the fall, Lafler will continue to stay busy by also running the 5k and possibly 10k in track in the spring. He also added that he is interested in coaching track in the future.
"I've loved every step of the way," Lafler said.
The Notre Dame Invitational will take place Friday, September 30.