Divine Child coach Mifsud stays on track despite cancer

Divine Child coach Mifsud stays on track despite cancer

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Divine Child coach Mifsud stays on track despite cancer

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Tony Mifsud

Tony Mifsud

Tony Mifsud will be inducted into the Detroit Catholic League Hall of Fame on Monday at the Fern Hill Country Club in Clinton Township.

He deserves it.

The longtime Dearborn Divine Child track and field coach is 71 — and coming off the toughest six months of his life. In December and January, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

If you know Mifsud, you know he can’t sit still and can’t stop talking. He’s always moving, encouraging, getting his girls ready for the track and field season. Not even his lovely wife, Jewell, could make him slow down. On July 27, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Cancer was a blow he wouldn’t take sitting down … until the doctors made him.

“It was the latter part of January,” Mifsud said. “I was having my annual checkup in December, and I had to go through a battery of tests. We decided to go on radiation. They gave me 25 dosages of it. This spring was very challenging for me. … I’m all done with the radiation, thank God. That took me back a little bit as far as fatigue and swelling of the legs and other complications that they thought weren’t normal.

“Prostate cancer — one out of three guys gets it. It’s different for everybody. I’m coping with it.”

The long track season is over, which probably came at a good time for Mifsud. He can recover — for now.

Ahead is cross-country conditioning June 15. There’s a 5K on Aug. 1, then camp Aug. 13-18. Then the season starts for cross-country.

“Take a deep breath and relax,” he said. “Start all over again.”

Mifsud is retired as an educator, but you won’t get him to retire from coaching. He vows he’s not going anywhere, and he’ll be coaching in the fall.

That’s just how Mifsud is — he won’t go down without a fight.

Part of his motivation is Bob Bridges, the coach at Dearborn High. He’s 85 and won’t retire either, according to Mifsud.

“He has been there 59 years, and I’m trying to catch him,” Mifsud joked. “I can’t if he won’t retire.”

During parts of the season, Mifsud had to sit in the stands and watch, doctor’s orders, and let his assistants do a lot of the coaching.

“To have run for him when he was at Henry Ford Community College … he was actually my coach back in 1978-79,” said Mark Gardner, now an assistant under Mifsud. “He has meant a tremendous amount to me. … I’ve learned tons and tons of things from him, and he’s a fabulous person.

“We were really concerned about him. … He was going through radiation, and during a couple of meets he was really dizzy.”

Gardner told Mifsud the assistants could run practice so he could stay home and rest. He wouldn’t listen.

“He’s go, go, go,” Gardner said. “The state meet Saturday, we’re up in Grand Rapids in that terrible weather. The next morning he’s at Milford. He’s on the selection committee of the Midwest Track and Field Championships. He helps pick the kids. … Three kids for every event. I’m saying this guy is unbelievable.

“He wears me out just watching him. He’s the mad scientist. The kids love him because he’s so quirky, and like he says all the time, ‘I have a one-track mind.’

He does.

Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or pafarrell@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.

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