After her first ever track practice, senior sprinter Makenzie Dunmore said she begged her mother, who insisted she continue running, to never bring her back.
“She was like, ‘Well, we both committed that we were going to do this, so if you don’t want to do this after the season’s over, that’s fine, but you’re not going to quit because it’s something you already agreed to do,” Dunmore said.
Dunmore has since developed an illustrious track career across two universities, all while balancing the responsibilities of being an elite athlete, student and mother.
Dunmore originally committed to run track at Oregon, where she garnered many accolades over her freshman and sophomore years. In that time, she became a seven-time All-American, set three collegiate records and was a member of the national-championship winning 4x400 meter relay team in 2017.
However, after the birth of her son, she said she was generally unsure of what her next step in life would be but knew it would involve running track, which ultimately led her to South Carolina.
“I realized that obviously, track is something that I really enjoy, and I really love. It’s a part of my life that I wasn’t ready to get rid of, so I finished my undergrad at Oregon and wanted to get back in track,” Dunmore said.
Assistant coach Karim Abdel Wahab said he was “extremely excited” about Dunmore’s decision to join the program.
“She came from a good program in Oregon, and she competed at the highest level and performed at the highest level,” Abdel Wahab said. “The fact that she already had her degree and was coming, basically, for the love of the sport … it was amazing.”
Since her arrival at South Carolina, Dunmore has built on her previous success and continues to compete against the nation’s top runners. Her best times in the 200 and 400 meter events — 23.24 and 52.20 seconds, respectfully — rank among the top 50 times nationwide during the 2022 outdoor season.
She was also named a First-Team All-American as a part of South Carolina’s 4x400 relay team — which included sophomore jumper Rachel Glenn, sophomore sprinter Alysia Johnson and freshman sprinter Aaliyah Pyatt — after finishing fifth at the NCAA Championship meet with a time of 3:33.08.
“To just go on a 4x4 with my teammates and knowing that we’ve all worked hard since the beginning of August, September — it was a great moment,” Dunmore said.
The 4x400 relay team has since improved its time by almost three full seconds, with Dunmore, Johnson, freshman sprinter and jumper Alyssa Flink and graduate student sprinter and horizontal sprinter Stephanie Davis registering a 3:30.26, the NCAA’s eighth best time this season, at the Gamecock Invitational on April 16.
These numbers are impressive considering Dunmore was returning from a three-year hiatus from the sport, as the last time she participated in a full indoor and outdoor season was in 2018.
Abdel Wahab said he was impressed with how well she has been able to replicate, and even improve upon, some of her personal best times.
“It was incredible because a lot of people, when they stay three years away from the sport, there is no comeback,” Abdel Wahab said. “So that’s a testament to her willpower and love for the sport.”
Along with taking care of her son during that time away, Dunmore said she had to deal with the immense pressure that comes with being an elite college athlete, especially on meet days.
“The overall day is just nerve-racking,” Dunmore said. “As soon as I wake up, I'm just like, ‘Today’s a new day. It’s meet day — let’s achieve our goals and come out of the day healthy, no injuries.’”
Despite these demanding obligations, Dunmore said she takes a lot of pride in being able to do multiple things on and off the track.
“It’s definitely a headache most of the time because trying to juggle a lot of things at one time is something I’m trying to do better at,” Dunmore said. “Before being a mom, me juggling a whole bunch of stuff with school, practice, cleaning out my apartment and that stuff, so now having this big responsibility. I do take pride in it and just try to be the best person I can be.”
In the process, Dunmore has emerged to become a motivator and role model for many of her teammates, including Davis.
“Sometimes we’ll come to practice not looking forward to dying at the end of it all, but she gives me motivation because at the end of the day, even though she’s my teammate, we both have the same goals, and I think that’s what pushes me,” Davis said.
For Dunmore, these goals include improving on her personal best times and leaving a mark on the international track and field stage.
“This year, I would like to place at Nationals and make the world team, but overall, throughout track, I would just like to make the Olympics and have just fun with it,” Dunmore said. “And even if I don’t make those marks, just making those times that I have written down as my goals and just taking it a goal at a time.”