Todd Lafond once again becomes The News-Gazette's All-Area Coach of the Year

For the second straight year, The News-Gazette selected Todd Lafond as the boys' track and field Area Coach of the Year.

"Winning All-Area Coach of the Year — whether it's once or twice in a row — is an honor for sure," Lafond said, "and I'm pleased that I've been awarded it now twice in my five years as a head coach. But when it comes down to it, it's all dependent on the young men 'buying' into their training and then performing on the big stage."

The Bulldogs — as has been reported — overcame bad weather, injuries and illnesses to key contributors to take second place in the Class 2A State Track and Field meet last month.

But what hasn't been reported was what Lafond had to go through during the 2018 track and field season. The last Sunday night in November 2017, Lafond and his wife went out for a walk and within 20 minutes of getting home, his hearing became muffled, as if he had a cold.

By the next morning, he had lost hearing in his left ear as well as about half of his right ear.

"I started going to doctors to try to find out what was happening," Lafond said. "After two months of no improvement, I finally got into a new ear, nose and throat doctor, who immediately order an MRI to see if I had tumors in my inner ear, which I did not, but the MRI revealed a spot on my brain stem, so he referred us to a neurosurgeon."

He and his wife went to Northwestern Medical in Chicago, where doctors ordered a second MRI and that showed three spots on his brain stem.

He then saw a vascular neurosurgeon.

"For almost two months we had no idea if I had a brain tumor, cancer or maybe an aneurysm," Lafond said. "I could not sleep because of the stress. I also developed a hypersensitivity to noise, so I was forced to wear musician earplugs and sometimes noise cancelling headphones at both indoor and outdoor meets."

Lafond then developed Tinnitus, a constant ringing in his left ear once or twice a day and for a few seconds in his right ear.

"In April, the vascular neurosurgeon finally ruled out cancer and tumors and believes that the vascular anomaly that I have may be something that I was born with," Lafond said. "He believes, for some reason, one of them bled and it affected my hearing. The other possibility was a severe inner ear infection. Regardless, I am alive and mostly well."

He recently acquired a hearing aid and is trying to adjust to hearing again.

"I tried to not let my physical situation affect the kids and I allowed them to tease me quite a bit about being deaf, and of course I teased them that I could finally ignore them and have an excuse," Lafond said.

He acknowledges it's nice to win the Coach of the Year award, but also admits that it's really a team award and the team that accomplishes the most, that coach gets awarded.

"I'd be remiss if I didn't also add, that the assistant coaches all play a vital role in that, especially the athletes' development," Lafond said. "I set the atmosphere, make the decisions and am ultimately responsible for how the season goes — good or bad."

Next January, Lafond plans to bring out the state trophy and set it in front of the team and challenge them to work hard and get as many guys to the state meet as they can and scoreas many points as possible.

"We are enjoying the second-place finish, but we now have to get ready to do it back-to-back years, which is always very difficult," Lafond said.

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