Pirate Profiles: Life In The Fast Lane
Pirate Profiles: Life In The Fast Lane
The East Carolina men's track team may be the school's best kept secret. In his 35-year tenure as head coach, Bill Carson has guided the men's track team to 26 straight NCAA appearances. No other athletic program at ECU has matched that sort of national competitiveness.
One of the reasons this team has been able to keep such a consistent level of competition is Carson's ability to recruit some of the nation's finest sprinters. This year's team is no different than those past. One of the stars of this year's team, however, is not your typical collegiate track athlete.
Julien Dunkley is a 27-year-old junior who transferred to ECU last summer from Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. A Jamaican by birth, Dunkley has proven to be a large piece of the Pirates success on the track.
Dunkley and his family moved to New York when he was 10 years old in order to allow him the opportunity of gaining a high school education.
"In Jamaica, you have to pay for your high school education. Because my parents had to pay for both me and my brother to go, they decided it would be best if we moved to the States."
Dunkley attended Cedar Ridge High School in Old Ridge, N.J., where he played football and soccer. Football was his main love and he was being heavily recruited to play collegiately. Unfortunately for him, several school's backed out of scholarship offers at the last moment.
"I was one of the top football recruits in New Jersey my senior year and I took a lot for granted. I didn"t want to go to a junior college and wanted to get away from everything, so I joined the Army after high school."
In 1993, Dunkley reported to Fort Sill, Okla., where he would spend the next three and one-half years.
"I worked with artillery while I was at Fort Sill, what you civilians would call cannons, until I was injured. I was born with a hernia in my left groin and aggrevated it while I was carrying artillery rounds. After that I ended up working in an office job until I was discharged due to my disability. The doctors told me I would never walk normally again."
"My time in the army was very beneficial to me. Coming out of high school I was very immature and arrogant, my time with the military caused me to grow up, mature, and start taking responsibility for myself. It was a good experience for me."
As a consequence of Dunkley's surgery to repair his hernia, he was forced to walk with a cane and and was eventually medically discharged from the Army.
After leaving the army in 1997, Dunkley returned home to live with his family. While seeing his brothers racing down the street one day in 1998, Dunkley's overwhelming competive drive captured his spirit.
"I told them I could still beat them in a race. They told me there was no way, and so I threw down the cane and took off down the street with them." Dunkley didn"t win the race, but the moment showed him that he would be able to compete athletically once again.
In 1999 Dunkley enrolled in Nassau Community College where he tried to walk on to the football team. Instead, he was pointed to the track. There he flourished winning the indoor district championship and setting a school record in the 60 meter dash as he won in 6.67 seconds.
Dunkley met Coach Carson at the Penn Relays in the spring of 2000. Carson was so impressed with him that he asked Dunkley to come to East Carolina to run track. Since then, it has been a growth process for both him and his teammates.
"There's a family chemistry with us. We have a very close team relationship and I think that carries over to the track. Especially with the relay teams, we had to bond together in order to work as one unit. We have all grown really close and it shows in how our times have improved."
Dunkley and the Pirates will need that team chemistry if they are to win at the National Championships at the end of May. Dunkley has qualified in three events: the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and the 4x100 meter relay. Ranked nationally in the top 10 for each event, he has a legitimate shot at earning three All-America titles, something that no individual has accomplished in a single indoor or outdoor season at East Carolina.
"I think we have really good chances at the NCAAs. There is only one team out there that can really match what we've done throughout the season and that's Tennessee. We just have to focus on running our races and we'll be successful."