Friday Flashback: Clary was AK’s first Olympic runner in 1984

August 7, 2020
Don Clary

Alaska’s first Olympic runner, Don Clary of Anchorage represented Team USA many times during his career before stepping onto track and field’s biggest stage in 1984.

As a high school senior in 1975, he was part of the U.S. junior team that won the title at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Morocco. Clary placed fifth individually.

In 1980 and 1982, he competed at the International Cross Country Championships.

In 1983, he finished fifth in the 5K at the Pan American Games.

In 1985, Clary won a silver medal at the indoor world championships in Paris in the 3,000 meters.

And then was 1984, when he became Alaska’s first Olympic runner by racing at the Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Clary posted the fourth-fastest qualifying time among the 54 runners in the first round of the 5,000 meters to advance to the Olympic semifinals.

He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988 and his third-place 5,000 finish in 1984 made him an Olympian.

In college, Clary was a four-time NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon and member of school’s 1977 cross country team that captured the national championship. He was also a Pac-10 champion.

At East High, he won two state cross country titles and in 1975 set a state prep record in the two-mile run that has stood for 45 years.

Friday Flashback is a series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past. To read about other Alaskans featured in this series, click here.