Halftime Indoor Mile
The halftime entertainment at the February 17, 2011 college basketball game between the University of Portland Pilots and the University of San Francisco (USF) Dons was a little out of the ordinary. It wasn’t the usual dance squad from one of the teams. Nor was it a lucky fan attempting to make a shot from half court to win a new car. No, the halftime entertainment was an indoor mile race.
The race took place in the Chiles Center, which is home to University of Portland basketball and also has a 240 meter indoor track that circles the concourse. Four runners from Portland and four runners from USF raced in this “Halftime Mile.” The race was scored cross country-style, and the Pilots won 15-21 thanks to a first place finish by Jared Bassett in 4:11.38 and third, fifth, and sixth place finishes by the other Pilot runners.
When the race was first announced there was much hype that Portland’s All-American runner, Trevor Dunbar, would be running. Dunbar would be going for the Chile Center record of 4:04, set by his father, Marcus Dunbar in 1994.
Dunbar gained internet fame when, as a high school senior in November 2008, he ran a two mile time trial in 9:01. Video of this run appeared on YouTube (the video has been viewed more than 26,000 times). What made the performance stand out was that it took place in the snow and freezing cold of an Alaska winter after Dunbar and his coaches shoveled out lane one so he could run.
Dunbar, however, did not compete in the Halftime Mile. Two weekends ago he ran a time that qualified him for the 3000 meters at the USA Indoor Championships to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 26. In all probability, with that big race looming, his coach Rob Conner decided the Halftime Mile was not in Dunbar’s best training interests.
Even without the main attraction running, I still tip my hat to the University of Portland for trying something different to generate fan interest in running. Conner’s men’s cross country team is probably the most successful team on the University of Portland campus. Last fall the Pilots finished thirteenth at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. They have finished in the top 15 eight times in program history, with their highest finish being seventh in 2001 and 2008. Portland is one of only six schools that can boast top 20 finishes at the NCAA Championships the last six years (the others being Stanford, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Iona).
Portland’s assistant coach, Jonathan Marcus, is in charge of raising the visibility of the Pilots cross country and track & field teams. He started a Wednesday Night at the Races series and was instrumental in making the Halftime Indoor Mile happen. In an article by Doug Binder for Track Focus, Marcus says he is trying to make Portland and its running programs “accessible to everyone.”