by Rob Moseley
On Friday evening, Trevor Dunbar will do something he hasn't done in more than a year — don an Oregon running singlet.
Dunbar, a senior from Kodiak, Alaska, will anchor one of two UO distance medley relay teams Friday at the UW Invitational indoor track and field meet in Seattle. Dunbar completed his cross country eligibility in the fall of 2012, and wasn't able to run for the Ducks at all in 2013 after knee surgery and accompanying Achilles' problems sidelined him for the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
"I'm pretty anxious to get back and compete for Oregon … going up there with my teammates, putting on the jersey to represent more than myself," Dunbar said. "I always want to do well for myself, but this whole season's going to mean a little bit more than what my individual goals are."
Individual accolades have been aplenty for Dunbar over his collegiate career.
The UO senior is a two-time all-American in cross country, when he ran at Portland before transferring to Oregon. He was the Pac-12 newcomer of the year his first cross country season with the Ducks, in 2012; has competed in multiple NCAA championship events for Oregon; and last summer became the first native of Alaska to break the four-minute barrier in the mile.
With his personal résumé sufficiently padded, then, Dunbar is thinking big picture this winter and spring. His final seasons of indoor and outdoor track and field are all about trying to bring team titles back to Eugene later this year.
Thus, Dunbar hopes to qualify for two events at the NCAA indoor track and field championships this winter, and again during the outdoor season come spring.
"There's so many good athletes out there in the NCAA, my goal is not really to win a national title individually," he said. "It's more to score 12 points at the national championships, which will give more back to the team. That's what I'm going for."
Dunbar has a major opportunity to earn the first of those national championship berths this weekend. Oregon is fielding two distance-medley relay squads in Friday night's race, both to push each other on to a qualifying time for nationals and to see which of the many UO candidates to compete at nationals should be selected for the team.
Dunbar will run on Oregon's "B" team in Seattle, going head-to-head with the other 1,600-meter anchor leg runner, UO freshman phenom Edward Cheserek.
"We feel like we have enough guys to be competitive with ourselves, and push each other on," UO coach Robert Johnson said. "It's two solid groups that are going to battle it out and go head-to-head with each other."
Cheserek and Dunbar will be racing for time Friday, and also potentially for the right to run the anchor leg at nationals.
"I have that in my mind," Dunbar said. "I want to be on the DMR team, and I think this is going to be a step to prove my worth. I know it's not going to be easy, either, but it's a healthy competition."
Johnson said Cheserek, the reigning NCAA cross country champion, is versatile enough that he could drop down as low as the 800 for some races this spring. Dunbar probably wouldn't go lower than 1,600.
Whatever happens this week, to a certain extent Dunbar simply will be happy to be back competing as a Duck. He's been training hard since last May, having run personal bests of 3:38.38 for 1,500 and 3:59.06 in the mile last July. But those weren't run in an Oregon uniform, as the knee surgery forced Dunbar to sit out the collegiate track season.
"To have him be dinged up last year and miss some time definitely was worrisome at that point," Johnson said. "But to have him back now is awesome. He's worked really hard, he's put in a lot of miles, so to see him get started this week indoors is great."
The only thing that would make it better for Dunbar would be helping Oregon to an NCAA championships qualifying time in the distance medley relay, and securing a spot for himself with the quartet that will run at nationals.