Cunningham driven to new lengths

It may have looked as though she was running from her calling, but LaKendra Cunningham is back on track – in more ways than one. After taking a medical redshirt during her junior year, the record-breaking athlete has returned to the track and is resolute on setting new records.

An athlete at heart, Cunningham, 21, a senior economics student, said track is the right sport for her. Her experience spans more than a decade, and fellow runners agree that her talents and aptitude are undeniable.

After making her official return during the FAMU Relays, Cunningham showed coaches and teammates alike that she is still in control. However, Cunningham said when she was younger she never envisioned herself as a superior track athlete.

“I tried other sports when I was younger but my dad said that I could always run better than I could walk,” said Cunningham, a Tallahassee native. “In fifth grade my parents decided to take me out to run track for the Capital City Christian Cruisers.”

Cunningham said it was then that she knew track was the sport for her.

“I was used to it,” she said. “I would run during high school and then right afterwards I would do summer track. Track was just a year-round thing for me.”

After honing her skills and dexterity as a swift runner for Florida State University High School, the athlete then transferred to Rickards High School to lend her proficiency in the 4×1 and 4×4 relays as well as the sprint events. Upon graduation, Cunningham was offered an athletic scholarship to Florida A&M.

“I was very excited,” Cunningham said of receiving an invitation to the University. “I had numerous offers, and I decided to choose FAMU. I wanted to be able to stay in my hometown and receive support from family and friends.”

Adjusting to the techniques of new coach Maicel Malone, a former Olympian, proved to be a positive learning experience, and Cunningham said she adjusted just fine.

“The most challenging transition was getting a new coach and adapting to her running techniques,” she said. “She’s a great coach who knows track and field and is passionate about the sport and her athletes.”

After coming on board as a dynamic new addition to the Lady Rattlers, Cunningham immediately got down to business. Her hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Jeanna Dorcelin, a senior public relations student who has spent four years on the team, said Cunningham is indeed a hard worker.

“I think LaKendra is a great runner,” said Dorcelin, 22, a West Palm Beach resident. “She works hard whenever she comes on the track.”

Ashley Gillis, a fellow teammate, agrees. She said Cunningham possesses determination.

“She’s very hardworking,” said Gillis, 21, a senior health science student from Pompano Beach. “She’s very determined and puts her best effort forward. She is always willing to take the extra step.”

Cunningham is set to graduate in the fall and upon receiving her degree, she said she plans on going to grad school to secure a MBA. However, she may not be finished with track just yet.

“If God blesses me to further my track career then I will definitely pursue that,” Cunningham said. “I’m a competitive person. I love being around other people and I enjoy meeting new people. I just love track.”