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Illini of the Week Nov. 16: Dylan Lafond

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Portrait of IOTW Dylan LaFond by Mitchell Fransen.

Portrait of IOTW Dylan LaFond by Mitchell Fransen.

Mitchell Fransen

Mitchell Fransen

Portrait of IOTW Dylan LaFond by Mitchell Fransen.

Tatiania Perry, Contributing writer

Dylan Lafond’s love affair with running began in high school in New Hampshire.

It blossomed at University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, and by the time he became an Illini, his passion for running was undeniable.

The East Coast native took up running as a hobby in high school, and he quickly realized that he was pretty good.

Three varsity letters later, Lafond attained a spot on the University of Mount Olive cross-country team.

“I started becoming more serious about my senior year, junior year of high school, and my two years at Mount Olive kind of solidified my love for the sport,” Lafond said.

He earned four All-American titles and 11 collective individual Conference Carolina titles. He also helped earn five Conference Carolina team titles.

Needless to say, in two years he made quite the name for himself, earning a Division II National Athlete of the Week title and grabbing Illinois’ attention.

After growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire, Lafond felt that the small community that Mount Olive offered quickly became claustrophobic. Moving to Illinois offered a better education, a bigger community and, best of all, the competitive level Lafond craved.

He seamlessly adapted to the team and fit right in competitively. His tendency to race comfortably in the beginning, then sneak up in the end, has helped solidify the team’s spot in the NCAA Championships for the first time in 30 years.

“It was a great feeling; not only for our team, but for Illini nation,” Lafond said.

The team received an at-large bid after placing third in at Regionals in Iowa City, Iowa.

“Previously to Friday, I think I can speak for everyone on the team that our season wasn’t going as we hoped,” Lafond said. “We brought together this great group of guys who are very talented and hardworking.”

The road to Terre Haute, Indiana, was a bumpy one but all that hard work paid off.

Lafond said that he thinks he has a slight disadvantage from his teammates because he’s not from the Midwest. The LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course is a common course for high schools of the region to run on — he is the only team member who hasn’t.

However, that fact doesn’t seem to bother him.

Last season he made it individually to the NCAA Championships and placed 29th, but this season he is beyond excited to be competing alongside his team.

“This year was a different picture, our team camaraderie is different, our work ethic is different and our talent is different,” Lafond said. “I just said, ‘If I go run to the best of my ability and my teammates do the same thing we have a great shot a doing this’ and on Friday we did exactly that.”

tp3@dailyillini.com

@tati_perry14

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