Dear Younger Me: Kendall Ellis

Kendall Ellis graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2014. Not only is she a 14-time All-American and a four-time NCAA champion for the University of Southern California, but she is the collegiate and American record holder for the 400m indoors. She led her team to the 2018 outdoor NCAA team title after her incredible anchor leg in the 4x400m, where she took the Trojans from fifth to first in what is surely one of the all-time greatest moments in NCAA track and field history. Ellis received an honorary ESPY for her memorable anchor leg performance. 

- - -

"I want to tell you this: Embrace your potential Kendall! You are capable of everything you've thought about. Trust me. The only person who has ever been in your way is you, both now and later. So stop trying to shy away from being great."

By Kendall Ellis - New Balance

Dear 14-year-old Kendall,

You're not gonna believe it, but 10 years later you're still running.

For a living, actually.

You weren't just done in high school. And this sport didn't just take you through college.

You're now a professional athlete for New Balance and you've made two World Championship teams. You are the fastest American woman to ever step foot on an indoor track and run 400 meters, and you have a viral relay leg that's gonna go down in sports history.

You graduated from the University of Southern California in three years and are now working toward your MBA. You're pretty impressive, I'll give you your credit.

Sure, you may not have gone to Stanford, and you may not be in law school just yet. But just go with it. Theres' a reason for all of this.

You know all those panic attacks you're experiencing before races right now? Sometimes months in advance? All the crying, shaking and hyperventilating? The occasional throw up? I hate to break it to you, but those nerves don't go away. Sorry. They're probably here to stay.

You're going to learn how to handle them so much better, I promise. Because you're going to get a lot of help along the way. A lot. Coach Alex will start it off, introducing you to a sports psychologist, Patrick, who goes above and beyond for you.

Coach Caryl and Coach Watts will mold you into an incredible young woman, both on and off the track. Your parents will continue to support you, and your big sisters will keep you humble, as big sisters often do. You'll get to know an incredible network of people who pull for you, and you'll eventually meet an agent who loves you for you.

Now, don't get me wrong, it won't be all sunshine and rainbows. You're gonna experience embarrassment and disappointment. Spoiler alert, you're gonna false start at the county championships when you were expected to win. But it's okay, girl, you go on to win states anyways.

Later in life, you'll experience heartbreak when your relay team drops the baton at the 2016 NCAA championships. But two years later, you'll have another baton mishap that turns into an incredible comeback.

You are going to cry a lot, and in a lot of places: At practice, at meets, at home, in public and in private. You've always been a crier, that won't change. You're gonna butt heads with your coach, but that's nothing new, either, because he understands you. After all, you and (Coach Alex) Armenteros get into it all the time.

At some point, you're going to feel like this isn't for you. You're going to feel like maybe it's a mistake and something you no longer want to do. You sometimes won't get the credit that you deserve. And you won't get into every meet.

When you think you've made it, you'll have to wait months before you sign a professional contract. Things will seem unfair and you'll be upset.

But that's okay, too.

Because you will still achieve those things that deep down you know are possible and you really secretly want but are too scared to admit -- you don't even dare say them out loud.

But I want to tell you this: Embrace your potential Kendall! You are capable of everything you've thought about. Trust me. The only person who has ever been in your way is you, both now and later. So stop trying to shy away from being great. Little do you know, but you will be one of the best in the world one day.

So enjoy it. Enjoy every bit of your process, because it's just that. A process. It's yours and no one else's. You and your future will be okay.

Stop being so serious. Lighten up. Have some fun. This sport can be really enjoyable if you let it. Also, please stop wearing your glasses in races. Just pop in some contacts, it's so much easier.

Love you long time,

24-year-old Kendall