The University of Oregon men captured their first outdoor track and field title in 30 years on Saturday at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, and Dunbar played a huge role in ending the drought.
A day before, the Kodiak High School 2009 graduate ran the fastest 5,000 meters by an Alaskan and seventh quickest by an Oregon runner to finish third in 13 minutes, 26.90 seconds.
"It was the best, just to go out riding into the sunset like that," said Dunbar Saturday evening via cell phone from Eugene. "I had the best race of my life and I saved it for the perfect time in my last race for Oregon."
Dunbar's time — a personal-best by five seconds — eclipsed Don Clary's 1986 time of 13:27.41 as the top mark by an Alaskan runner. Clary ran the 5,000 meters at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Growing up in Kodiak, Dunbar said Clary, who also ran at Oregon, was his hero. He also said it was a goal of his to top Clary's time when he entered college after a sensational high school career.
"Don Clary is the ultimate when it comes to Alaska running," Dunbar said. "He is still the best and I am slowly getting there. I got the records, but he still has such a great resume for a runner and an Olympian."
Marcus Dunbar, Trevor's father and an Alaska track and field historian, believes his son now holds the state's top times in the 1,500, the mile, the 3,000 and the 5,000. Trevor is the only Alaskan to have a sub-4:00 mile, which he achieved last summer.
It took a strategic race for Dunbar to grab the 5,000 record. He ran seventh for the majority of the race and finished with a final lap of 1:00.64 that pushed him past several runners.
Arizona senior Lawi Lalang outkicked Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek to win in 13:18.36. Cheserek's time of 13:18.70 was the second-fastest by an Oregon runner, while both times topped the NCAA record of 13:20.63 set by Villanova's Sydney Maree in 1979.
"It was such a tough race, I kept telling myself, 'never give up, never give up, just keep fighting"' Dunbar said. "The pace was so fast, but I was able to tough it out and still bring it home. I am proud of my effort."
Dunbar started the national championships with a fifth-place finish in Wednesday's 10,000 meters with a time of 28:53.81. He ends his college career, which started at the University of Portland, as an eight-time All-American in track and cross country and a member of two national championship teams. The Oregon men also won this year's indoor title.
The Ducks won the outdoor title — their first since 1984 — with 88 points. Florida was second with 70.
"I knew I wasn't running just for myself, but for the greater cause and I think that is what lifted me up ultimately to be able to give such an effort," Dunbar said.
Contact Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.