No track and field athlete comes to Burbank High and expects to set a boys’ distance school record.
If they know anything about the school’s history in middle- and long-distance events, they know they have a better chance at winning a CIF Southern Section or state championship than to etch their name among the premier runners who have set amazing marks over the years.
One of those marks is the two-mile record set by Jeff Nelson. Taking part in the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA’s Drake Stadium on May 6, 1979, Jeff Nelson stunned the track and field world when he ran the two miles in 8 minutes 36.3 seconds.
Most Bulldog runners would find it laughable to think they had a chance to eclipse such a mark.
“I tell guys from other schools what our school records are, and they’re just amazed,” said Burbank track a field and cross-country standout Greg Dotson, who graduated in May. “Some of those marks are just incredible, and I’m even amazed at some of the times.”
When Dotson started his running career at Burbank four years ago, he wasn’t so bold as to predict that he would be able to break one of the school’s coveted records. However, as he continued to improve on the track, he started thinking about the possibility of setting a new mark in the boys’ 800 meters.
With a tremendous amount of respect for the record-breakers who came before him, Dotson knew that to be among the best, he would have to put in a tremendous amount of work and put together a break-through season.
“I know the kind of runners the school has had, and I’m surprised that [I would even be] up there with them,” Dotson said. “To be able to set a school record at Burbank is a huge accomplishment.”
Dotson was able to set the 800 record at the CIF-State Track and Field Championships, breaking a mark that stood for 36 years. The record was only one of a string of fine accomplishments that included CIF Southern Section Division I and indoor state championships in the 800, a runner-up showing in the outdoor state final, along with a fine showing in cross-country.
It is because of those accomplishments that Dotson has been named the 2009-10 Male Athlete of the Year.
Dotson, who earned a scholarship to UC Santa Barbarafinally broke through with a record-setting performance in June at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis. In a competitive race, Dotson placed second in a personal-best time of 1:49.40.
Dotson beat John Muisch’s time of 1:51.0 — set in 1974 —in the 880-yard run, which when converted to meters, gave him the record.
After getting close to breaking John Muisch’s mark several times this season, Dotson knew the State Meet would be his last shot.
“To break the school record is something that means a lot to me. I’m glad that I was able to finally set the record without a doubt,” Dotson said.
In an epic battle with Sean Krinik of Placentia Valencia — who had the top time in the nation — Dotson held his own in the final. In a torrid race that might have been one of the best 800 competitions in state history, Krinik’s winning mark of 1:48.20 was the best in the nation this year. Dotson wasn’t far behind, setting the third-best time.
Dotson’s runner-up time would have been good enough to win a state championship in the previous 13 state-title races.
Dotson, who at one time during the season owned the second-best 800 time in the nation, also had success in the CIF Southern Section Division I finals. Battling strong winds, he ran to a first-pace finish in 1:50.42.
The Burbank runner also enjoyed success prior to the beginning of the track and field season. In February, he won a state championship at the Run for the Dream Indoor Track and Field Invitational at the Save Mart Center in Fresno.
In cross-country, he was the Bulldogs’ top runner, as he came just one place from advancing to the CIF Finals. In addition, he earned all-league accolades by finishing fifth in the league finals with a time of 15:48. He also ran a season-best 15:36 at Mount San Antonio College in the CIF preliminaries.
“I just want to continue to have success in college,” Dotson said. “My ultimate goal would be to make the Olympics. But I still have a long way to go to accomplish that.”