Thea LaFond from Kennedy High School is Montgomery County's premier jumping and hurdling specialist. At the 2010 indoor county championship meet, she scored 40 points by winning the 55-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, and triple jump and setting new meet records in the long jump and triple jump. At the outdoor county championship meet, she was voted by coaches as the James Demoss Athlete of the Meet for winning the triple jump (meet record), long jump, and 100-meter hurdles. She went on to score 40 points at the 3A West Region Meet and win 3A state titles in the triple jump, long jump, and 100-meter hurdles. She placed second at the Penn Relays and fifth at New Balance Outdoor Nationals in the triple jump, jumping 40-07 both times. According to ESPN Rise, she ranked 13th in the nation in the triple jump last year. She also recorded personal bests of 17-11.50 in the long jump, 5-05 in the high jump, 8.45 in the 55-meter hurdles, and 14.74 in the 100-meter hurdles. She is off to a hot start this year, already recording a mark over 40 feet in this week's MCPS developmental meet.
MoCoRunning: It has been a very cold month of December so far. How has practice been going and how do you practice when temperatures are in the 30ís and 20ís? Are you mostly indoors or do you brave the cold outside?
LaFond: Since the weather is quite "nippy" at the moment, my practices have been taking place inside. My coach actually moved all the high jumping equipment inside so I could continue high jump practice. I have also stepped up my work in the weight room so my strength and agility training is no problem despite the weather concerns.
MoCoRunning: We all saw the improvements you made in all of your events between your sophomore and junior year. What was the difference between the two years?
LaFond: The main difference between my sophomore and junior year was my mentality. I didnít want anyone beating me in anything. I knew I worked six days a week to be my best and I wanted nothing but the best from myself. This led to me pushing myself harder and not l being satisfied with an okay performance at every meet. My coaches constantly remind me that we compete to win and my improvement is based on my drive to succeed. I got tired of being a "decent athlete," I wanted to be the BEST athlete I could be. After this realization I have truly seen myself grow and know that I havenít reached my true potential but I am steadily on my way.
MoCoRunning: What have you done in the past six months to ensure your continued improvement? What did you focus on most building up to this season?
LaFond: The last six months have been focused on weight lifting and plios to build muscles strength, recovery, and agility. I lift and do plios two times a week in addition to my jumping and sprinting workouts. Building up to this season I have focused mainly on my strength to prevent injuries. I knew indoor season, with its harsh weather conditions, mean indoor workouts which can sometimes hurt. I did not want ANY injuries hindering my abilities at practice or at meets. The lifting helped my muscle recovery and performance which was fabulous plus.
MoCoRunning: Tell us about your trip to the Penn Relays last year. Talk about the triple jump competition and also tell us some other things that may have happened when you were not competing.
LaFond: Penn Relays last year was amazing. I was beyond myself to have the privilege of watching Usain Bolt, Alison Felix, and Sanya Richards run. During the Triple Jump competition there was amazing energy. I couldnít believe all these people were cheering and supporting these jumpers simply because they love the sport. It was great motivation. When I was not competing I would watch other teams run (and eat funnel cake of course). I especially loved to see the college teams run. My favorite was definitely Texas A&M, they were simply phenomenal. I canít wait for the 2011 Penn Relays.
MoCoRunning: What stands out as your fondest track & field memory through this point in your career?
LaFond: My fondest track memory was at an outdoor Georgetown Prep Invitational. I had finished all my events and sat down on the football field where other members of my team were cheering on the steeple chase runners. Very pleased with my performance and enjoying the race I couldnít help but think "I love this sport." It was then I truly knew that this track and field was my calling.
MoCoRunning: Talk about your mindset on the day of a major meet where you compete in four events. Do you ever get nervous and overwhelmed or are you always calm and confident?
LaFond: At major competitions when I compete in all four events, I am rarely nervous. I love what I do and am actually excited to get on the track or field. I know that I worked hard at practice and leave all worries behind and if any nerves do start to show I push them aside remembering that what I'm doing isnít just for me, itís for the team. There is no space for second guessing or insecurities. Prior to even stepping on the bus I mentally prepare myself for the meet, focused and ready to compete.
MoCoRunning: I am told you are from the small island of Dominica. What can you tell us about Dominica? When and why did you move to this area?
LaFond: Dominica is a VERY small island located in West Indies, with a population of about 70,000. I moved to New Jersey when I was 6 (ten years ago) my father found a new job in the states.
MoCoRunning: Do you have dual citizenship? If so, could we see you representing Dominica in the Olympics some day?
LaFond: Yes I do have dual citizenship and whether or not Ill be representing Dominica or USA in the Olympics someday is undecided at the moment since I consider both places have been of equal influence on who I am as a person and/or athlete.
MoCoRunning: When and why did you first start competing in track & field?
Why are you drawn to the more technical events as opposed to open sprints?
LaFond: I first started to compete in the Track and Field indoor season of my freshman year. I only started because my friends talked me into doing it with them and my mom wanted me to continue with a sport (I did volleyball in the fall). I was probably drawn to the technical events because I was previously a dancer and I put to use some of the same muscles in track that I did in dance.
MoCoRunning: Do you know where you will be competing next year? Have you put much thought into what you might like to study?
LaFond: I am still uncertain as to where I will be competing next year. I think I would like to study International Affairs and work in Conflict Resolution. Whatever I do I would like to minor in the Athletic Sciences and become a track coach. After seeing how much my coaches have positively influenced me, I would like to do the same for other track and field athletes.
MoCoRunning: Besides jumping higher and farther than most of your classmates could imagine, do you have any other talents that Moco fans would never know about?
LaFond: A talent that Moco fans would never know about me is that.......I do pottery! I think itís a great way to relax and literally mold my thoughts. I've been doing it for about three years now and have become very good at the potters wheel.