Intent on a master's degree, Dunn began looking at programs across the country. With his stellar grades, there were several scholarship opportunities, and he chose a full ride from Southern Miss, where he would enroll in an accelerated program in business administration.

He wasn't thinking about athletics. "Zero percent," he said. "I had trouble walking upstairs without being winded, so running [competitively] again was far from my mind."

Breaking 1:50

At Southern Miss, Dunn's case presented a challenge for Ondrasek. The Texas native had just agreed to coach the cross country team after a successful running career at Texas A&M, where he was a four-year letter winner and competed on NCAA championship squads.

Ondrasek was concerned about Dunn's physical condition. He did not initially know the extent of Dunn's injuries, and when he found out, Dunn insisted that he not tell other team members.

"He didn't want me to baby him. He wanted to accomplish things," Ondrasek said.

Over several months, Ondrasek pushed him to shift from sprint to distance runs — and plenty of them. He introduced weight training. Eventually, after forgoing the indoor track season, Dunn moved back to the shorter distances at which he'd excelled. At Coppin, he'd placed second in the 800-meter run at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Indoor Championships, anchored the Eagles' 400 relay team and set several school records.

But Ondrasek knew Dunn was capable of performing at an even higher level. He hadn't yet run as he had in Jamaica.

Something remarkable happened during his time in Hattiesburg: Dunncame within a half-second of a personal best.

Dunn couldn't believe it. I'm back, he thought.

But he was more than simply back. At the Conference USA Outdoor Championships in May 2012, he ran the 800 in 1:49.76. Two weeks later, at the NCAA East Regional, he did even better: 1:49.37, a school record.

On his Facebook page, he posted a picture of himself after the race with the words, "Anything is Possible."

"This one is special. This one I had to work for," he wrote.

Dunn hung up his spikes when he got home that night. He hasn't worn them since. "I left the sport I love at my best," he said recently. Ondrasek called it "the most gratifying experience" of his coaching career.

Dunn graduated with a Master of Business Administration degree from Southern Miss, and the 26-year-old now lives in New Jersey, where he's hoping to work up the corporate ladder at Target.

In hindsight, Dunn said, the shooting was a speed bump.

"I don't want to be remembered as the guy who got shot," he explained.

"It's not my definitive moment or my legacy," he said. "I want to show that an African-American male can succeed."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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Dale Dunn

Age: 26

Born: Spanish Town, Jamaica

Education: Coppin State University, University of Southern Mississippi

Resides: East Orange, New Jersey

Occupation: Sales team leader, Target