05/23/13 — Lafond chasing dreams: MOC freshman competing in NCAA D2 national outdoor track meet

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Lafond chasing dreams: MOC freshman competing in NCAA D2 national outdoor track meet

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 23, 2013 1:47 PM

Distance runner Dylan Lafond never anticipated advancing to an NCAA championship meet of any sort during his freshmen season at Mount Olive College.

He makes his third appearance later today.

Lafond opens competition in 3,000-meter steeplechase during the 2013 NCAA Division II men's outdoor track and field championship meet at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The New Hampshire native will run in the 5,000-meter race two days from now.

"When I ran a qualifying time for the NCAA indoor national championships, I was surprised because I didn't think I had it in me as a freshmen," Lafond said. "When outdoors came around, my goal was to continue that success in the 1,500 meters, but when I ran both the 3k steeplechase and 5k, I ran times I never thought I could.

"I surprised myself a lot in both of those events."

And he wrote a new chapter in the MOC track and field program history books.

Lafond becomes the first-ever Trojan athlete -- male or female -- to compete in three national championship meets during one season. He was part of the MOC squad that qualified for the NCAA Division II men's cross country championships last November, and followed that up with an appearance in the one-mile run in the indoor national meet.

His accomplishments have helped place the Trojan track and field program on the regional and national landscape. And he's re-set the standard for future athletes who don the green-and-black uniform.

"We knew Dylan was good when we were recruiting him, but we weren't sure if he would have this much success this soon," MOC head coach Matt van Lierop said. "He is one heck of a hard worker. It would be great to see him become an All-American."

Lafond and van Lierop met before Christmas Break to discuss tweaking his training regimen. He ran 50 to 55 miles a week while in high school and knew that mileage needed a major boost. The two agreed that Lafond should increase his workout rate that eventually pushed the 80-mile mark during the spring.

Aspirations of reaching the outdoor nationals took a major turn for Lafond during the Raleigh Relays. He posted a time of 14 minutes, 20 seconds in the 5k -- nearly 90 seconds faster than a time trial held earlier in the season. A few weeks later, he logged a time of just over nine minutes in the steeplechase at the Duke Twilight.

Now he gets a chance to run against the best in the nation. Lafond is seeded 10th overall in the steeplechase and 21st in the 5,000 meters. The steeplechase preliminaries are today at 9:10 p.m. (eastern) and the finals are the following evening at 9:35. The 5k finals are the next-to-last event and take place at 10:30 p.m. On Saturday.

Strong competition is undoubtedly one obstacle.

The 4,000-foot elevation is another. However, neither Lafond nor van Lierop are too concerned with the altitude since the Conference Carolinas championship meet was contested at Lees-McRae, which is 3,700 feet above sea level.

"A national championship would be amazing, but my main goal is to become (an) All-American in both the steeplechase and the 5k," Lafond said. "It's going to be tough because there are very tough competitors in both races. I just have to be patient ... wait for my shot.

"Obviously, the altitude is a factor, so I don't want to take it out hard like some others might. I just have to have faith in my fitness and run my race, and I'll have a great shot at that All-American spot."