From the Vault: Duane Solomon went from a basketball dream to Olympic reality
The first time Duane Solomon’s name appeared in the print of his hometown newspaper, the Lompoc Record, it wasn’t for anything involving his future career on the track.
Before Solomon would go on to win a state title at Cabrillo High, run for USC in college and finish fourth in the 800-meter Olympic final in 2012, Solomon was a standout basketball player in Lompoc’s youth league at the Boys and Girls Club.
As an 11-year-old playing for the Gauchos in the summer of 1996, Solomon had a heck of a game in a loss to the Blue Demons.
“Duane Solomon had a game-high 24 points for the Gauchos,” a newspaper report of the game said. Solomon single-handedly powered the Gauchos, though they lost 31-28, scoring all but four of his team’s points.
Solomon would consistently lead his teams in scoring. There were games where he’d score 18 points in a 32-30 win. Or 20 in a 28-25 loss.
By the year 2000, Solomon had barely begun to find his calling on the track. The first time his running exploits were featured in the paper was in April of that year when Solomon was running for the Cabrillo track and field team. Solomon won the 880 race at a Los Padres League meet in 2 minutes, 10.6 seconds.
“Solomon, a freshman pulled up from the junior varsity because of the absence of James Trettin, who was on a college trip to Colorado, recorded a decent 2:10.6,” Alan Hunt wrote in his report from that meet.
Hunt also spoke with Cabrillo coach Jesse Davis, who had this to say of Solomon: “He’s one of the guys who doesn’t know how good he can be,” Davis told Hunt. “He’s a pretty good hurdler, too. This year, it’s a luxury to have him. Next year, with all our seniors graduated, we’ll make some decisions on what to do with him.”
Solomon still had an affinity for basketball, but it was becoming apparent that track was his future.
Solomon would run cross country later in 2000 at Cabrillo. By October of his sophomore XC season, Solomon was one of the top distance runners at the school. He’d finish in 14th place at the Los Padres League finals that year.
During the 2001 track season, Solomon continued running and winning middle-distance races.
“Sophomore Duane Solomon broke out of a boxed-in-situation to win the boys 800 in a personal record 1:57.34, the best half mile in quite a few years from any prep athlete in the Lompoc Valley,” Hunt’s story read. “It broke a Cabrillo sophomore record of 1:58.5 set by Bob Tapia in 1975 and was the fifth-best 800 or 880 in Cabrillo history.”
Solomon finished second at the state meet in the 800 his junior year. He was named the Lompoc Record’s Athlete of the Year then.
“Solomon, a mild-mannered fellow who drums in the school band, pulls a ‘Clark Kent becomes Superman’ number when puts on his track uniform,” Hunt wrote in 2002. “He emerged from well back in the Unknown Pack to become one of the nation’s best prep half-milers.”
By his senior season, Solomon would take his game to another level. And Hunt was there to document it.
“Cabrillo’s Duane Solomon put an exclamation point on a great sports spring for the Conquistadores with a victory in the 800-meter run at the California state high school track and field finals at Cerritos College Saturday evening,” Hunt wrote in the June 8, 2003 edition of the Record. Solomon ran a 1:49.79 for the win.
“He just blew everybody away,” Cabrillo coach Peter Anderson told Hunt.
The middle-distance runner initially signed with Arizona State out of high school, but instead had to take classes at Hancock to get his transcripts in order to attend USC 18 months later.
With the Trojans, Solomon had a solid career, finishing third at the NCAA championships in 2008. He raced at the U.S. Olympic Trials later that year and finished sixth there, just missing out on a spot in the Olympic team.
In 2012, Solomon would not let an Olympic team spot slip from his grasp. He finished third in the 800 meters at the U.S. Trials, earning a trip to London for the Summer Games.
At the Games, Solomon finished fourth in the greatest 800-meter race ever run, won by David Rudisha’s world record time of 1:40.91. Solomon’s time of 1:42.82 is the second-fastest ever by an American in the 800. He currently holds the 26th-fastest time ever recorded in the 800.
After the Olympics, Solomon received a hero’s welcome from the Lompoc community.
“Being home is awesome, it’s kind of overwhelming,” Solomon said then. “…I had so many people telling me that I was an inspiration to them and the younger generation coming up. It’s definitely an honor to be a part of that.”
Solomon continued to run professionally after the 2012 Olympics and had some success internationally. He narrowly missed out on a spot for the 2016 Olympics.
As of this year, Solomon was training to become a law enforcement officer and had been hired as a correctional officer in Arizona.