- By Doug Kurtis
is one of those people that every runner in the downriver area seems to know.
Actually it more the other way around, whenever I'm with Tony, he seems
acquainted with everyone on a first name basis.
lived in the Detroit area since moving here from Malta at age seven. When
Mifsud runs downtown he is treading on home turf. He grew up in Corktown in
the shadow of Tiger Stadium.
started early. His running career began in 1960 at Cody High. His 4:25 mile as
a junior gave him the second fastest time in the state. Unfortunately, at that
time the PSL teams didn't compete in the state meet from 1930-1960. They thought
they had most of the states talent within their own area and preferred
to compete amongst themselves. Tony found himself competing against Redford's
Dick Sharkey and Olympian Lou Scott. During his senior year at the 1961 Cross
Country state meet, Tony finished Runner-up to winner Dick Sharkey and the Cody
High School Cross Country team finished ninth overall. At the 1962 Track and
Field State Finals Tony ran 4:21 to finish 5th, behind winner Dick Sharkey
in 4:13.2 for Redford High School and runner-up Lou Scott in 4:13.3 Eastern
dad worked at Ford Motor Company and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps.
Instead it was a long road to eventually getting a teaching degree from
Eastern Michigan and a master's from U of Michigan. Spring Arbor College
offered him the opportunity to continue running cross-country and track. He was
the National Junior College champion in his freshman year and led his team to a
second place finish at the Nationals.
As one of
the only catholic kids at the school he felt out of place. Plus he missed city
life and weekend dances in Motown. He transferred to Henry Ford Community
College and worked on the assembly line at Ford. That lasted one semester
before he was offered a scholarship to Arizona State. Two Michigan Olympians,
Hall of Famer Henry Carr and Lou Scott were on the ASU team. Before he got his
spikes on the turf he was declared ineligible on a credits technicality. Due to
the persistence of Eastern Michigan track supporter Bill Mays he quickly found
another team to run with.
In 1966 he
gained American citizenship and starred on EMU's cross-country team. That year
the Cross Country team gave the university its first NAIA national championship in any sport.
Life was going well. While in high school he met his bride to be, Jewell, and
they married in 1965. Today he boasts about his three children and four
grandkids. But an unexpected bump in the road was about to hit him.
Mifsud was sitting at a stoplight on his way to work when he noticed a car
flying toward him in his rear view mirror. The next day, he was lying in St.
Mary's hospital paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors told him he might need
surgery to fix a fracture in his fifth lumber. A discussion with a woman who
had numerous surgeries to repair the same injury convinced him not to do it.
The decision enabled him to run again, but not for another ten years.
became the second wave of his standout running career. He set personal bests such
as a 1:06 half marathon in Williamston and a 2:25 marathon in Philadelphia
after disappointing race in Detroit just a few weeks earlier. Politics killed
his chance to compete for Malta in the 1984 Olympics but not his passion for
running. It led him to start the Allen Park Street Fair Run in 1977 which
continues under his direction today.
recovery, Mifsud has coached runners at U of M Dearborn, Henry Ford CC, Allen
Park, Southgate and is presently head coach for the Dearborn Divine Girls Cross
Country and Track program. He is also involved in several other major races in the
Detroit area, such as Trenton's Zanglin Run, Taylor's Hopgood 5km and
Riverview's Winterfest Run.
is synonymous with the Downriver Runners running club. Hundreds of runners who
have come to know Mifsud's gregarious personality understand his motto, love
life and life will love you back.
Contact Doug Kurtis at Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St.