Santa Maria Sun / Athlete of the Week
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18
Athlete of the Week: Duane Solomon
BY JASON BANANIA
Imagine missing out on a $50 raise to your hourly wages because you were a half-second late to work.
Now run a half-mile, and you might be able to imagine how Lompoc native Duane Solomon felt in 2008, when he fell just a half-second short of qualifying for Team USA for the Olympics in Beijing.
Four years later, the 27-year-old Solomon managed to overcome one of his biggest disappointments ever, securing a qualifying time in the 800-meter run to represent the United States in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
As a child in Lompoc, Solomon had dreams of playing basketball and only signed up for the track team at Cabrillo High School to supplement his game on the court. During his freshman year, he competed in the hurdles and long jump. By his junior year in high school, following the advice of his basketball coach Gary West and track coach Peter Anderson, Solomon began focusing on cross-country.
“During my junior year, after I got runner-up, my track coach and the head coach of my basketball team got together and had me choose between the two sports,” Solomon said. “I ended up choosing track; I chose the thing that could take me to college and pay for my tuition.”
The time Solomon spent on Cabrillo’s dirt track paid off when he became the CIF California state champion in the 800-meter in 2003, and the Gatorade Boys’ Athlete of Year for 2002-03.
Solomon’s achievements got him the attention of Arizona State, where he made a verbal agreement to attend. However, after thinking things through, he decided the Arizona sun was too hot to train under, and instead went to Allan Hancock College. When he told his track coach Anderson of his change of heart, Anderson contacted the University of Southern California, asking if coaches there were interested in recruiting the future Olympian. Soon after, Solomon received an invitation to visit the USC campus.
It wasn’t until Solomon’s senior year at USC that he realized he had the ability to make it to the Olympic team, but he was missing one key thing.
“My coach told me I have the talent to be the best in the world, but that I had to believe it,” Solomon said. “I just have to go into the race knowing I can run with these guys and with confidence and not hold anything back.”
On June 25, at the U.S. Track and Field Finals in Eugene, Ore., Solomon finished in the top three in the 800-meter race. After the event, he fell to the ground and let out an emotional sigh of relief and joy. He covered his face with his hands, exposing his special USC bracelet he wears at all times to honor his friend who was murdered while they attended USC together.
After the disappointing shortcoming in 2008, a hamstring injury in 2009, and a series of races he lost, Solomon persisted to achieve his goal. London will be the final chapter of what could be his story of Olympic success. The first chapter, of course, started in his hometown of Lompoc.
“Lompoc is a small community, so when something big happens then the whole city knows about it,” Solomon said. “That’s why I like being from such a small community, because you get so much support, and it feels like everyone depends on you to do something big.”
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