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April 20, 1990 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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SPORTS

Track Philosopher

Eastern Michigan's second-generation Mifsud
is a proponent of deep thinking and fast running.

NEAL D. ZIPSER

Special to The Jewish News

W

hen Jeff Mifsud was
young, he had
dreams and wanted
to be just like his father.
While growing up in Allen
Park, Mifsud used to go to
Cobo Arena to watch the Na-
tional Collegiate Athletic
Association Indoor Track
Championships with his
father, Tony, a former six-time
track All-American at
Eastern Michigan and
Arizona State.
"I've been around track all
my life," said Jeff, now 22, the
oldest of three Mifsud
children and a convert to
Judaism. "I remember going
to Cobo and getting the
autographs of the runners. I
looked up to them, but never
thought I could be in that
same calibre."
But this past March 10,
Mifsud found himself in the
NCAA Indoor in the In-
dianapolis Hoosierdome,
about to run the second leg on
Eastern Michigan's
3,200-meter relay. Once a far-
fetched vision was now
reality.
lb qualify for the champion-
ships, Eastern had to run the
race in the time set by the
NCAA — and did so with a
vengeance at a Feb. 24 invita-
tional at Notre Dame. The
Hurons, who always
dominate the Mid-American
Conference in track, shat-
tered the old EMU record
with a 7:18.51, the third
fastest time ever in the 3,200.
"When I received the baton,
we were next to last place,"
Mifsud said of that dramatic
day. "I thought we were run-
ning slow and all I wanted to
do was stay close. On my last
lap, I passed two guys and
decided to make a move. On
the last turn, I broke out to
lane five and passed a few
more.
"When I handed it off, we
were in third place. The next
guy, John Griffiths, from
England, took the lead and
Mark Dailey, from Ohio,
brought it home. We shocked
everybody."
That brought Mifsud and
his mates to the Nationals
against such powers as 1989
champion Clemson plus
Georgetown, Villanova, Dart-
mouth, Arkansas, Iona (N.Y.)
and Florida State.
Being 5-foot-8, Mifsud

wasn't intimidated by facing
the "big boys."
"I'm used to being the
shortest one out there," Mif-
sud said. "I wasn't nervous —
I never get nervous, just anx-
ious. I've always loved to com-
pete and my intensity has
come with maturity."
Mifsud, whose specialty is
running the 800-meter, got to
the Hoosierdome track 1 1/2
hours early — his usual time.
"I visualize the race over
and over for the first half-
hour and go through every
aspect of it," he said. "You
have to race on instinct, make
decisions quickly and then
act on those decisions." He
follows visualizing with stret-
ching and a two-mile
warm-up.
The race began, but
something Mifsud never
visualized happened: the
Hurons' first runner stayed in
the middle of the pack and
when Mifsud took the baton,
he turned right into another
runner who had already
made his handoff.
"I slammed right into him
and we danced awhile," Mif-
sud said, still in disbelief. "I
looked up and saw the pack
getting further away. I shov-
ed him out of the way, but
there was no chance of me
catching them."
Mifsud ran his second-best
time ever, but the Hurons
finished a disappointing
seventh with a time of
7:27.75.
"It was so frustrating," Mif-
sud said. "A lot of people
there were rooting for us, but
we were down in the race and
it was evident we were tired.
I was in shock and felt total-
ly numb."
Mifsud had taken two years
off to catch up on his studies
and this was to have been his
comeback year. He had set
high goals, wanting a school
record, his senior ring and to
be an All-American, the lat-
ter requiring that a runner
place in the top six nationally.
"I felt I would be fulfilled if
I achieved those," Mifsud said.
"I got the record, will get a
ring, but placed seventh. I
wanted to match my dad, who
was my inspiration."
"Usually, you don't do well
when you take a couple of
years off," said EMU track
coach Bob Parks. "He has
been a real surprise this year
I'm hoping he will do as well
during the outdoor season.
"Jeff and his father look

Jeff Mifsud:
Huron speedster.

alike," continued Parks, who
also coached Ibny at Eastern.
"But that's all that they have
in common. Jeff has speed
while Tony was a good
distance runner and had good
endurance."
Parks shouldn't worry. This
past weekend at the Dogwood
Relays in Knoxville, Tenn.,
Mifsud, who is ranked third
in the Mid-American Con-
ference in the 800-meter run,
finished seventh out of 60
runners in the 800 with a
time of 1:52 — his best-ever
outdoor time.
If it were not for a low line-
drive, Mifsud might be in
baseball instead of track.
"Baseball was my first
love," Mifsud said. "I was
playing third base and mis-
judged a line drive and it hit
me in the face," just under his
nose. "I never had the same
agressiveness again and
never was a great fielder."
Now Mifsud concentrates
on the outdoor track season
and graduating from Eastern.
He also works at Sears and
has found time to help his
father coach track at Allen
Park High School, Jeff's alma
mater.
Mifsud plans to attend
graduate school in September
at Wayne State, studying
business and industrial an-
thropology. He hopes to earn
a doctorate and teach social
science in a university.
"I keep a journal and I
discovered that most of the
things I wrote about dealt
with social issues," Mifsud
said. "I love studying people
and cities. I also love to ask

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