When Fitzroy Dunkley joined Louisiana State University (LSU) in the fall of 2012 as a triple/high jumper from Jamaica College, he had desires of following in the footsteps of James Beckford. Unbeknown it was to him, that four years later his ultimate success would come on the track.
Due to persistent injuries, he was encouraged by head coach, Dennis Shaver, to try the 400m after running strong legs on various LSU mile relay units.
The 2015 NCAA indoor season saw Dunkley make his debut over 400m in Lexington, Kentucky. There, he ran 47.81s to finish 12th overall and he has not looked back since. “Running the event indoor was hard,” expressed Dunkley. “My head coach helped me a lot in figuring out how to navigate the tight turns which are harder for tall athletes like myself.”
The 6’5” athlete further stated that his main aim during the indoor campaign, was to finish healthy, while trying to set a new personal best each week. When asked about how he has adapted to his new event, he quickly pointed to his work ethic and how having good teammates around, has helped to make the transition less overwhelming.
“I felt like the 400 came to me naturally,” he shared, “I always kept up with my teammates, rarely was I ever behind in practice, so that’s when I knew I was cut out to do this. I’m a quick learner and I try to be a student of the sport as best as possible and when you put that together with my work ethic, anything is possible.”
Michael Cherry, a member of the U.S. 2014 World Junior gold medal winning 4x400m, attests to his teammate’s work ethic. “Fitz is a really good dude,” shared Cherry. “Being a transfer to LSU, he took me under his wing and helped me get adjusted to the program and life here in Baton Rouge. He works tirelessly, I never have to worry about him taking reps off in practice, and he’s the ultimate competitor.”
The former Jamaica College student-athlete, thrived immensely in 2016 where he solidified himself as one of the top quarter milers on the NCAA circuit. He garnered numerous accolades including anchoring LSU to victory in the 4x400m relay at both the indoor and outdoor championships.
However, he speaks with a little more partiality towards his individual performance in the 400m final, where he finished as runner-up to Florida’s, Arman Hall, in 45.06s.
“I went into the final with a point to prove. I knew it would be my final individual run for the Tigers, so I wanted to come out with the win. I am satisfied with the personal best but the victory would have been great for me,” he said.
With his collegiate eligibility now complete, Dunkley has revealed his latest ambitions of going professional by joining the Claude Bryan-led, OnTrack Management – home to Veronica Campbell-Brown, Omar McLeod and a host of other Caribbean athletes, which includes Bahamas’ 2015 World Championship 400m silver medallist, Shaunae Miller.
Dunkley, who graduates LSU in December with a degree in Marketing, has said while he is honoured to be a member of Bryan’s elite group, his primary focus is on the National Senior Trials. There, he hopes to fulfil his lofty ambitions of representing his home nation at the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
“I’m definitely going out there to get an individual spot,” Dunkley said confidently. “Third in this case may be as good as first because the first three will go but I’m going there to win. I know the rounds will be tough but that’s more of a mental game and I’ll be ready for it.”
A native of Trelawny, Jamaica, he first represented Jamaica at the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea, although conversely, he points to the World Indoor Championships held in Eugene, Oregon as added motivation to compete for his country.
“It was one of the greatest feelings ever, being out there representing your country. Now, I know what I’ve been missing out all these years and I want more,” he expressed, joyfully.
With his personal best of 45.06s, Dunkley heads into the senior trials ranked at 17th on the IAAF top-list for his event with only Javon Francis’ 44.77s as a Jamaican ranking ahead at 9th.
Dunkley also believes he has what it takes to emulate his fellow Trelawnyites who have attained historic feats for Jamaica at the Olympic Games.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of our best athletes are from Trelawny like Usain (Bolt), Veronica (Campbell-Brown) and Warren (Weir),” he laughed. “If they can get to that level, I don’t see why I can’t as well,” he concluded.
Jamaica holds four Olympic medals in the men’s 400m – 1 gold (Arthur Wint, London 1948), 2 silver (Herb McKenley, London 1948, Helsinki 1952), and 1 bronze (Greg Haughton, Sydney 2000).