Flotrack's Best of 2012

Duane "Bet you didn't see me coming" Solomon- Surprise of the Year, Best of 2012

Duane "Bet you didn't see me coming" Solomon- Surprise of the Year, Best of 2012

Dec 26, 2012 by Ryan From Flotrack
Duane "Bet you didn't see me coming" Solomon- Surprise of the Year, Best of 2012
Surprise of the Year - Duane Solomon
Flotrack's Best of 2012 

Photo: ImageofSport.com

During the start of 2012 you wouldn't associate the name Duane Solomon with the Olympics or even as a contender at the Trials. Had Solomon's time past to be among the best in the US? Back in 2007, Solomon's name was one that you thought would be around for quite a while. The USC junior had just made his first U.S. team at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. And don't forget he made the U.S. Outdoor 800 final as a sophomore in 2006. Big things to come, right?

The following year Solomon was good, but never in the fight for a title or team. He finished third at the NCAA outdoor meet (behind an epic finish between Jacob Hernandez and eventual Olympian Andrew Wheating). At the 2008 Olympic Trials, Duance made the final, a feat in itself, but "only" finished sixth. With a dominating Symmonds, consistent KD, up and comers like Hernandez/Wheating/Lomong, it was as though Solomon had already become a forgotten name. 

Welcome to the scene Robby Andrews, Charles Jock, Ryan Martin, Cas Loxsom, Elijah Greer....the young 800 meter talent in the US continued to grow deeper with Solomon's name being pushed further and further down the list. In 2009, Solomon had his worst showing at the U.S. Championships as he didn't make it out of the first round, only running 1:49 in his pursuit to make the Berlin World Championship team. During the "off year" (no major championship) in 2010, Solomon bounced back with some promising results.

After starting the year with no sponsor, he made his first U.S. Indoor World team where he made it to the semi-finals. Outdoors, he took the runner-up spot at the U.S. Championships. Although it was a weakened field that contained no Wheating, Andrews or KD, he still left with hope and momentum going into another World Championship year for Daegu 2011. However, it wasn't meant to be. In fact it was a similar story to 2009 as he didn't make it out of the first round at USAs, failing to advance by .08. 

Things were not looking promising for Solomon. He hadn't set a PR in the 800 since 2007 (1:45.69, his first time running under 1:46). Over the three year span from 2009-2011, Solomon only broke 1:46 three times. In an event that was becoming increasingly faster and deep worldwide, it seemed as though Solomon had missed the train.

But hey, its 2012. A year of magic where a runner's dreams can come true. An Olympic spot is on the line for crying out loud, haven't you heard of Christian Smith?

At the start of this season something was different. 

Solomon opened up his outdoor campaign on April 14th at UCLA's Rafer Johnson/JJK Invitational where he ran 1:45.83. The time was a nation leading mark but more importantly, it was his fastest time since 2010, less than two tenths of a second from his PR and only .26 off the Olympic A Standard. Was he ready to soon or was he ready for bigger things?

Funny question to ask now that we know the history, but definitely something we thought back in April. But it was no fluke. Solomon took a win at Mt. SAC a week later. He continued on May 18th at the Oxy High Performance Solomon finished second closing on OTC's Tyler Mulder and in front of Lomong running 1:45.86.

Just over three weeks from Oxy, Solomon crossed the border to Canada to run the Harry Jerome Classic in Vancouver. He followed pacer Matt Scherer through a fast opening 400 and nearly held on for the win, getting passed by only a charging KD, to quietly run his PR of 1:45.66... only .06 off that elusive A standard.

Three days later Solomon ran in Victoria to try and hit the standard before the Trials, but only managed a 1:46.14. However, he did take the win and looked sharp heading into the biggest meet of his career.

The Olympic Trials is a meet that makes or breaks careers of many dreamers in the sport of track and field. By no means was Solomon a favorite to be in the top three, but making the final seemed well within his ability. Solomon went through the first two rounds, running a respectable 1:46.03 in the semis. Looking towards the final he had a tough task ahead, not only did he need to be top three but he also had the pressure of the clock as he needed the Olympic A Standard.

Was there a 1:45.60 there for Solomon to unleash? 

Charles Jock took out the first lap in a blazing 49.8 with none other than Solomon right on his heels. He knew the task at hand and was up for the challenge. As Jock faded, Solomon found himself in the lead and his dream less than 200 meters away. Although he was passed by defending Trials champ, Symmonds, with 50 meters to go there was no question Solomon would finish in the top 3. At the line, KD leaned while Solomon went to the ground. In tears before the time was even displayed, Solomon had a brief moment to wait in anticipation.

1:44.65! A Standard and a full one second off his previous PR! Duane Solomon, 2012 US Olympian. (race below)

Solomon talks after making his first US Olympic Team:

For most the dream would stop at the Trials. Maybe a few races in Europe and making through the first round in London... great breakthrough and solid season right? Well that's not Solomon was competing for anymore. About two weeks before the Games on July 20th at Monaco, Solomon again took more than a full second off his PR... 1:43.44! With the third place finish his PR was now faster than Symmonds', who he beat by two places in the race. All of a sudden the Olympic final was no longer a thing of dreams.

At the Olympics Solomon didn't look like an outsider anymore, he was a man who belonged. He won his opening round section and followed that up running third in the semi with a time of 1:44.93. He looked good. Symmonds no longer seemed to be America's top 800 hopeful.

In final, a race that will go down as the fastest 800 meter race in track & field and Olympic history, Solomon nearly did the unthinkable as he finished one spot outside of the medals. 1:42.82, another huge PR for Solomon who was now the second fastest American of all-time. Only his coach, Johnny Gray, sits above him (1:42.60). The top seven runners in the London final ran fast enough to medal in any of the previous Olympics. 

All told, Solomon ran under 1:46 eight times throughout the season (had only done it seven times total before 2012). Five of his last seven races were all under 1:45. From zero to near hero, Solomon's name is now the premier name in the men's 800 for the United States. Gray's American record now looks to be in threat after years of appearing untouchable. When asked to look back at the year, Solomon said:

"Its hard to even put my season into words. I think I surprised myself as well as many others. I expected to have a great season because I trained really hard for this year and it all paid off, but I did not expect the end outcome of what happened at the Olympics. I think my season just shows that when you dedicate yourself 100% to what you are doing great things will come from it and I truly believe that."

Surprise surprise, Duane Solomon is here. An unbelievable season that leaves us excited for his 2013 future and beyond...