Dunbar runs Alaska's fastest 5,000 to take 3rd at NCAA championships

Beth Bragg

Running the final race of a brilliant college career Friday, Trevor Dunbar made history for Alaska and Oregon at the NCAA track and field national championships.

Dunbar ran the fastest 5,000 meters by an Alaskan and the seventh fastest by a University of Oregon runner to capture third place in front of an appreciative home crowd in Eugene, Oregon.

Fueled by a swift final lap, the Kodiak man finished in 13 minutes, 26.90 seconds.

“Kodiak, Alaska this one was for you!” he tweeted after the race.

Dunbar’s time was about half a second faster than Alaska’s previous best — Don Clary’s 13:27.41, recorded back in 1986. Clary made it to the semifinals in the 5,000 at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The time is the seventh fastest in Oregon history, which is saying a lot — some of the greatest distance runners in American history were Ducks.

The 13:26.90 puts Dunbar ahead of Galen Rupp on the school’s all-time list and behind greats like Alberto Salazar and Steve Prefontaine.

Dunbar’s performance came in a record-setting race at Oregon’s Hayward Field. Lawi Lalang, a senior from Arizona, outkicked Edward Cheserek, a freshman from Oregon, to win in 13:18.36. 

Both Lalang and Cheserek (13:18.7, the second fastest time in Oregon history) surpassed the 1979 NCAA record of 13:20.63 set by Villanova’s Sydney Maree.

Dunbar truly saved his best till last. A senior running the final race of a glorious college career, Dunbar turned in a terrific final lap of 60.64 seconds to surge into third place. Until then, he had clocked mostly 1:04s and 1:05s, with one 1:03 lap and one 1:06 lap, and was hanging around in seventh or eighth place.

“I knew if I was within myself, I could bring it home,” Dunbar told The Oregonian newspaper.

Dunbar was part of a 2-3-4 finish for Oregon, which got a fourth-place showing from Eric Jenkins (13:27.41, the eighth fastest 5,000 in Oregon history). The results helped the Oregon men tighten their grip on first place in the team standings.

If there had been any doubt before, Dunbar this week established himself as one of Alaska's greatest runners. He placed in the top five in both distance races at the national championships -- on Wednesday, he claimed fifth place in the 10,000 with a time of 28:53.81 (Clary remains the fastest Alaskan at that distance; his personal-best is 28:07).

A year ago, Dunbar became the first Alaskan to run a sub-4:00 mile, clocking 3:59.06 at a race in Oregon.

He is an eight-time All-American, with two of those honors coming this week and two of them coming earlier this year at the NCAA indoor championships, where he placed fifth in the 3,000 meters and anchored Oregon to a second-place finish in the distance medley relay.

Oregon's men won the team title at the indoor championships, and thanks to Dunbar and the other distance runners, the Ducks are on track to win another national team title Saturday, when the meet wraps up.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

Oregon's finest

Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak goes out as the seventh-fastest 5,000-meter runner in University of Oregon history:

Runner TimeYear

1) Bill McChesney Jr. 13:14.8 1979

2) Edward Cheserek 13:18.7 2014

3) Rudy Chapa 13:19.22 1979

4) Alberto Salazar 13:22.31 1979

5) Steve Prefontaine 13:22.4 1973

6) Paul Geis 13:23.4 1974

7) Trevor Dunbar 13:26.9 2014

8) Erik Jenkins 13:27.41 2014

9) Galen Rupp 13:30.49 2007

10) Jim Hill 13:30.52 1982