The two men put on a show at the 2013 Millrose Games, with Sowinski breaking the American record.
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NEW YORK — Here at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory, a highly anticipated rematch in the men’s 600 meters is set for Saturday’s New Balance Games. American record holder Erik Sowinski will face off against reigning USA 800m champion Duane Solomon in a battle reminiscent of last year’s NYRR Millrose Games, when Sowinski timed the current national record of 1:15.61.
Speaking here this week, both Sowinski and Solomon said they were anticipating a hard-fought rematch just like the 2013 NYRR Millrose Games. In that race, Solomon took the pace out hard, reaching 400 meters in 48.4 seconds. Sowinski, running patiently in third at the bell, bided his time and made a move in the final 60 meters, going from third to first in a matter of seconds in a shocking upset. He also beat eventual world championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds.
Sowinski remembers the moment like it was yesterday, breaking the tape in a new American record with his hands raised high in celebration and a half smile, a half look of surprise etched on his face.
“It was great,” said Sowinski, a University of Iowa alum who is coached by former world championships silver medalist Joey Woody. “Honestly, I felt like it was a time where I surprised myself a little bit and kind of burst onto the scene here. The Armory is a pretty special place to me, where it’s kind of like the place where my professional track and field career started.”
Both Sowinski and Solomon hope to add another record to their resumes on Saturday, aiming not only for the American mark but also Nico Motchebon’s world best of 1:15.12, which has stood since 1999.
“Coming in I feel really good,” said Solomon, who has focused primarily on strength work in training this year. “Hopefully we can take another record down and put on a great show for the people and fans out here. Last year was my first time running at The Armory and it was a really good venue so I hope to come back and do the same thing as last year.”
Added Sowinski: “I think those are definitely goals for the year. We’ll see how the race plays out, but I think that’s something we’re both shooting for and hopefully we’ll put on a good show.”
Both Sowinski and Solomon are part of an American middle-distance resurgence that saw 20 men go under 1:47 for 800 meters in 2013. Each touched upon the recent trend that has seen the red, white, and blue climb among the world’s best at distances ranging from 800 meters to the mile.
“We’re able to compete with the world now,” said Solomon, pointing out that Americans are now mentioned in the same sentence as Kenyans when discussing the 800 meters. “We’re ranking up there with them. It’s very special.”
Sowinski, the reigning U.S. national champion at 800 meters indoors, added that with the increase in depth comes an added benefit to competitions state-side, such as the New Balance Games and NYRR Millrose Games.
“It also helps that you can run out here in New York and have a field of all American guys and it’s going to be just as competitive as most of the fields you’ll have anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s exciting to get to grow with these guys and push ourselves against each other.”
Organizers of the New Balance Games hope the event will begin a “newer and better” indoor track and field circuit in America. The two-day meet will feature more than 5,000 high school students in addition to the professional events. A livestream of the meet will be available on ArmoryTrack.com from 1-4 p.m. ET Saturday.
“We want this to be the lead-off professional meet of the indoor season, starting this year with a whole new program [and] bringing in extraordinary athletes,” said Dr. Norbert Sander, Executive Director of the Armory Foundation.
PHOTO: Erik Sowinski and Duane Solomon before the 2014 New Balance Games (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)