Pascack Hills’ Vadon doesn’t let deafness slow her down by Kevin T. Czerwinski special to The Record
MONTVALE – There are times when it seems as if Nicole Vadon is aloof but the Pascack Hills junior is anything but shy or standoffish.
Vadon’s face lights up when she talks about track. Her mood becomes a bit more somber when she begins to speak about the pressure of succeeding but in an instant, the megawatt smile returns and she’s back to talking a mile-a-minute, whether it’s bubbling over about running or talking about her future.
No, the Montvale resident isn’t aloof. Far from it. Vadon is deaf in her right ear and if she doesn’t turn when called or respond when spoken to, it’s because she simply didn’t hear who was addressing her.
While being deaf in one ear has been an inconvenience at times, Vadon, 17, hasn’t let it slow her down. She’s fashioned a fine career at Pascack Hills and heads into Friday’s Bergen County Meet of Champions as one of the favorites in the 100 meters.
Vadon is coming off a second-place finish (13.22 seconds) in last weekend’s Red Littler Bergen County Championships, during which she finished first (13.24) in the preliminaries. She’s had top-10 finishes for much of the spring, including a second place (13.22) in the Big North Conference-Patriot Division championships. Vardon also was second in the 55m hurdles in the NJSIAA North 1, Group 2-3 Championships over the winter and fifth in the NJSIAA Group Championships.
“I forget that I am deaf sometimes,” Vadon said. “If I always thought about it, I would use it as an excuse. I won’t let it affect my running. I could but I won’t.”
Vadon lost the hearing in her right ear when she was three years old, the result of an ear infection. She started running in the fifth grade and then ran on her middle school team before reaching Pascack Hills. It wasn’t until her freshman year that her hearing impacted her running.
“I was obviously new to it and they blew the first whistle and I got into the set position but I never heard the second whistle,” Vadon said. “The third whistle blew and I was still in the set position. I don’t think I have ever lost a race because of it, but when I run indoor at The Armory or at Fairleigh Dickinson I have to be in Lane 1 or Lane 8 so I can hear the official.”
Vadon, however, does have balance issues as a result of her hearing loss. She has trouble walking a straight line, she trips going up stairs and struggles a bit when hitting the turns while running the 200 meters.
She wore a hearing aid for a while when she was younger but her hearing eventually deteriorated to a point where it didn’t matter.
“The doctor told me it wouldn’t affect my athletics but it did,” Vadon said. “I’m super imbalanced. It affects my workouts and my strength training. When I run the 200, my coach says my legs freak out because the turns freak me out. When I enter that first turn on the 200 I get a little crossed up and trip a little bit.”
Vadon has a sense of humor about her situation, though. She says that she gets “a lot of jokes about being deaf” but admits they are funny and that she has a good laugh. Even her mother, Denise Vadon, sometimes forgets in which ear her daughter is deaf and will lean into her right ear to whisper or say something.
“I can’t always tell,” Denise Vadon said. “I haven’t adjusted at all. She does talk louder sometimes because of it. Sometimes it’s, ‘Whisper Nicole, why are you screaming?’”
Nicole Vadon is hoping that this weekend will bring some more screams, only this time they will be screams of joy. She has struggled at times with stepping into the leadership void left by Ayo O’uhuru’s graduation. The former Hills star is running at Franklin Pierce.
“We’ve talked about pressure,” Pascack Hills coach Ross Koehler said. “The past two years, Ayo was going to win. Now the pressure is on her to anchor the 4×1 and to try and win the 100 and move up to the group level. She did really well in the indoor season but in the outdoor season it got to her a little. I thinks she’s ready to rock this Friday, though.”