It isn't often that triple jumpers move into the 400 metres. Yet that's exactly what Jamaica's Fitzroy Dunkley is doing. In the last few weeks, the Jamaica College graduate showed that this unusual transition is going well for him.
The move started with a big contribution to victory for Louisiana State University in the 4×400 metres at the Penn Relays. The lanky ex-triple jumper hared through a 45.4 second 2nd leg, as LSU won the Championship of America event. If his progress in the 400 continues, Penn could turn out to the mid-point of a remarkable transition. He was third in the triple for JC in 2012, his last year at Boys and Girls Championships. He adapted quickly to life at Baton Rouge, home of LSU, and reached the 2013 US collegiate final.
Niggling injuries in 2014 made his coaches, led by Dennis Shaver, have him try the 400. “When he was trying to jump all the time, we were experiencing a lot of little nagging things that were keeping him from being able to perform well in the jumps,” Shaver said in an interview published on the LSU sports website. “We’re giving him a year of doing 400-meter work and running on the 4×400-meter relay team", explained the coach.
"He’s building up his strength", he concluded, "and gaining more confidence that he can do it.“
The move has worked so far. Dunkley ran 47.15 seconds in his first individual 400 race and improved his personal best to 46.34 in less than a month. His 45.4 relay split in the cool evening air at Penn suggested that further improvements were in the offing.
Since then, he has accelerated to lifetime bests of 45.92 and 45.78. The latter time took him to fifth place in the South Eastern Conference Outdoor Championships on May 16. He finally ran out of improvements in his debut season as a 400 metre runner at the NCAA East Regional qualifying meet. His time of 46.18 seconds left him just short of reaching the NCAA Championships.
Additional advances could even put the third year LSU student-athlete in the picture for selection to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Dunkley seems to love his new event. He told the website that this season has taught him that running is more enjoyable than jumping. He is also proud to do his part to embellish Jamaica's great history in athletics.
“There’s a lot of Jamaican athletes I look up to,” Dunkley said on the LSU website. “It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my country.”