Olympian Solomon Paces Fast 800m Field At U.S. Nationals

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Men’s, women’s 800m winners triumph in quick fashion on the final day of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

DES MOINES, IOWA — In a race that harkened back to the glory days of American 800-meter running, Olympian Duane Solomon smoked the track at Drake Stadium in a world-leading 1:43.27 on Sunday, winning his first outdoor national title on the final day of competition at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. His was the fastest winning time at these championships since his coach Johnny Gray ran 1:42.80 in 1992, while Solomon broke Nick Symmonds’ streak of national titles at five.

“I felt really good coming into today, so I knew I could do it,” said an elated Solomon. “I knew that in order to make the team I needed to bring my ‘A’ game. If I came with anything less than my ‘B’ game I felt I wouldn’t make the team.”

Solomon, who won the USA indoor title in both 2011 and 2012, shot to the lead from the gun, clipping through 400 meters in 50.10 with a visible gap on the field. Pumping his arms furiously with his trademark upright style, his lead was never seriously threatened.

“I’m just happy to get the win,” the former USC Trojan continued. “This is my first one and I beat a really, really tough field. I’m just excited.”

Symmonds, who appeared to be in trouble at the bell when he was in last place, began his long sprint for home about 300 meters from the finish. Sliding out to lane 2, he quickly moved into fourth place in the middle of the backstretch and was making up ground on the leaders. He later said that he was a little nervous that he may have started his move too late.

“Normally, I like to move up one or two spots on the homestretch,” Symmonds explained. “I just couldn’t move when I wanted to move today. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Coming out of the final bend, Symmonds passed Brandon Johnson — who would hold on for third — and his Oregon Track Club teammate Tyler Mulder to take second. Symmonds looked relieved that he had made it up to second place.

“I feel like I made some real big tactical errors and still ran 1:43.7 in only my second 800m final of the year,” Symmonds said. “I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”

Symmonds official time was 1:43.70 to Johnson’s 1:43.97. The race invited comparisons to the 1992 USA Olympic Trials in New Orleans where three men also broke 1:44: Gray, 1:42.80; Mark Everett, 1:43.67 and José Parilla 1:43.97.

Fast Women’s 800, Too

It would take a sub-2:00 performance to make the podium in the women’s two-lap contest. Alysia Montano, Brenda Martinez, and Ajee’ Wilson did just that, all earning spots on the podium and berths on the USA team for Moscow.

As she had in her first round and preliminary races, Montano took the lead from the gun, reaching the 100-meter break point first. By then her strategy was clear: run the wheels off everyone else and bag her fifth USA 800m title.

“Just like the past five years,” said Montano with a laugh.

Sticking tough behind was Heather Kampf and Martinez, some 2.73 seconds back at the bell. Playing to her usual strength, Martinez simply wanted to stay close and chip away at Montano’s lead in the final push for the tape.

“I can’t see what’s happening behind me, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. But I knew it was going to be a race,” said Montano, sensing the pack was closing her down.

Coming down the homestretch, Montano’s lead began to dissolve, but there was too much ground for Martinez to make up. With her traditional flower tucked in her hair, Montano broke the tape in 1:58.67, the third fastest time run in the world this year. Second came Martinez in 1:58.78.

“I think I could’ve kicked a little bit earlier but she might have still kicked,” said Martinez, who made her first IAAF World Outdoor Championships team. “Never doubt anyone, they might still have something at the end. She’s tough.”

Rounding out the top three was the 19-year-old Wilson, breaking two minutes for the first time. Her time of 1:59.55 was just 4/100ths short of Mary Cain’s USA junior record set at the Prefontaine Classic earlier this month.

“It felt like when I ran two (minutes),” she said with a chuckle. “I’m just happy the time showed it and I felt that strong running it.”

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