With the U.S. Olympic track and field team trials taking place this week in Eugene, Oregon, let’s revisit a significant moment in Kodiak sports history.
In 2012, Trevor Dunbar became the second athlete from Kodiak to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials when the running star qualified in the 5,000-meter run.
The legendary Kristi Klinnert — now Waythomas — was the first to represent Kodiak at an Olympic Trials. She did it twice, qualifying in the women’s 10,000-meter run and the marathon in the 1990s.
In February 1996, Klinnert — a 1988 graduate of Kodiak High — placed 107th out of 129 runners in the women’s marathon trials, held in Columbia, South Carolina, with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, 6 seconds.
My searches on the Internet and through the Daily Mirror archives failed in finding Klinnert’s results in the 10K. If any reader knows how she did, shoot me an email.
Back to Dunbar. “On the surface, it’s obvious that Trevor is an exceptional athlete,” former high school teammate Karsten Schick told the Daily Mirror in 2012. “But to all of us who know him as a teammate, friend or family member, I’d like to go out on a limb by saying that we have all been hoping and waiting for this day, that this gangly kid would finally go on to race for the rings at this historic event.”
Dunbar, 21 at the time, achieved the family dream of racing at the trials when he was the last runner invited to the 25-man 5,000-meter field. He got in with a time of 13:36.86.
His father, Marcus, narrowly missed the Olympic Trials in 1988, 1992 and 1996 in the 1,500 and 3,000 steeplechase.
“I know about being on the bubble and not getting in,” Marcus told the Daily Mirror in 2012. “For Trevor to get in is like, ‘Yes, the family goals are being made.”
The younger Dunbar made the most of the opportunity.
He turned a time of 13:49.19 to finish third in his preliminary heat. He passed three runners on the bell lap to secure his spot in the 16-man final.
Kodiak’s Amy Willis was in Oregon for a volleyball camp and watched the race live at Hayward Field — Dunbar’s home track as a student at the University of Oregon.
“I started to cry when he took the field,” she told the Mirror in 2012. “It was amazing to be in that arena. We were just so proud to be there and to be a part of Trevor’s fan club.”
Three days later, Dunbar toed the line with the best in the U.S. — American record-holder Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp and Lopez Lomong.
While a few Kodiak residents were at the trials, many watched the television coverage from Henry’s or their homes.
“I remember him in eighth grade running Pillar Mountain (race), and he was in second or third, and I couldn’t catch him,” Chad Pysher told the Daily Mirror in 2012 while watching the race at Henry’s.
Dunbar got off to a slow start and dropped to last. He gained his footing midway through the race and was 13th with a few laps left. He picked off two more runners to finish 11th in 13:40.66.
“It was a tough fight with all the big boys in there,” Dunbar told the Mirror after the race. “I would have liked to place a little bit higher and run a little bit faster on my last lap, but I was happy with how I fought in the middle of the race.”
Upfront, Rupp and Lagat staged an epic battle. Rupp won with a meet record 13:22.67. Lagat was second in 13:22.82.
“I transformed more into a spectator and a fan and started watching the video board and watching the finishing kick instead of focusing on my race,” Dunbar said.
At the time, many thought Dunbar would return to the 2016 trials, but in injury kept him from qualifying.
He has since turned into a coach and is currently working at the University of Virginia.