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Ex-Lobo Solomon To Realize Olympic Dream

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Duke City Native and Ex-Lobo Standout Is To Run for Trinidad and Tobago

Flying into London under the Olympic radar suits Jarrin Solomon just fine.

He doesn’t plan to fly out that way.

An Albuquerque native who graduated from La Cueva High and UNM, Solomon hasn’t generated the kind of buzz that surrounds many American Olympians as the London Games approach.

Want proof? A recent Time magazine story listed New Mexico as one of five states not sending any athletes to London.

To be fair, the oversight is understandable. Solomon, 26, is not a member of Team USA. Instead he’ll represent Trinidad and Tobago in the 1,600-meter relay in early August.

Jarrin carries dual citizenship because his father, Mike Solomon, is a native of Trinidad. Still, Jarrin’s roots are firmly planted in New Mexico.

“I definitely believe I represent Albuquerque and UNM because that’s where all of this started,” Jarrin said this week, via email from Cardiff, Wales.

“The people in Albuquerque and at UNM have always supported me and watched for me on the world scene. I want to put Albuquerque on the map as a place for sprinting.”

Should his relay team medal, Jarrin would bring his coveted prize home to Albuquerque. He moved in with his mother, Susie Solomon, in the Northeast Heights while training for the Games and is saving to buy a home of his own.

Most of Jarrin’s training team is in Albuquerque, too. He does sprint work with former UNM associate track coach Mark Henry, lifts weights under the tutelage of UNM strength coach Aaron Day, and gets physical therapy and treatment from La Cueva strength coach Jeff Archuleta.

Jarrin also gets tips from the the two-time Olympian who inspired his track career — his father.

Chasing success

In many respects Jarrin Solomon is following the spike tracks of Mike, a standout sprinter at UNM who represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 1976 and ’80 Olympics.

“My father is very well known down there from his running days,” Jarrin said.

The elder Solomon also established himself in Albuquerque, where he still resides. Mike won a 600-yard NCAA outdoor championship in 1977, was a two-time All-American and still has his name on several UNM school records.

But Mike no longer holds the top 400-meter time in his family. His standard, 45.77 seconds set in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, fell last weekend when Jarrin established a personal best of 45.31 in Germany.

The feat earned Jarrin a phone call from dad.

“He said, ‘Son, you have now officially run faster than me,'” Jarrin recalled. “At that point, I sat back and just smiled.”

Mike was smiling, too.

“He deserved to break my record,” Mike said. “He’s worked so hard to be where he is now. To tell you the truth, I’m loving it.”

Last week’s race at the Bottrop Gala was something of a bittersweet moment for Jarrin. His PR time and a close second-place finish to the world’s second-ranked 400-meter sprinter, Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, felt good. That he missed the Olympic A Standard time (45.30) by one one-hundredth of a second? Not so much.

It was his final shot at qualifying for the individual 400 in London.

“I’d run the race of my life to go that fast,” Jarrin said, “so I was happy. But then I just started thinking, ‘I should have done this different or that different to get that hundredth of a second.’ I guess that’s just the name of the game sometimes.”

Still, Susie said Jarrin’s time carried significance.

“He’d been trying to beat his father’s record for four years,” she said. “At least that’s behind him.”

Shifting goals

For Olympic purposes, Solomon’s most significant time this year is 3:00.45. That’s the 1,600-meter relay mark he helped post in June, breaking Trinidad and Tobago’s 20-year-old national record.

The time secured an Olympic berth for Solomon — something he couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.

After competing in everything from hockey to gymnastics as a youngster, Solomon found soccer to be his passion. He played youth and club soccer and later became a three-time All-State defender at La Cueva. Solomon helped the Bears to a Class 5A title in 2002.

What does then-La Cueva coach Larry Waters best remember about him?

“You mean other than how fast he was?” Waters said with a chuckle. “He made us look smart for putting him at defender. He’d make runs from the back and get past people very quickly.”

Solomon was also part of four track-and-field team championships at La Cueva. But to him, track was just something to do between soccer seasons.

“I swore I was going to be a pro soccer player somewhere and never gave track even the slightest thought,” he said. “… I always watched the Olympics and dreamed about being at the Olympics, but for soccer not track.”

Nor was track and field ever pushed at home.

“I never led Jarrin to track,” Mike said. “His mother and I introduced him to a lot of sports, and he was into soccer. That was fine by us.”

As he prepared to graduate, Solomon was leaning toward playing soccer at North Carolina’s Gardner Webb University. That was when Matt and Mark Henry entered the picture.

Finding his stride

UNM’s head track coach at the time, Matt Henry had insight into Solomon’s potential as a sprinter. Matt was a former Lobo teammate of Mike Solomon and was impressed by Jarrin’s runner-up finish in the 400 at the 5A state meet.

“His daddy was one of the best track athletes ever at UNM,” Matt said. “Jarrin just hadn’t put the time in. When he finished second at state, that was basically on straight talent. Mark and I knew if he committed to running, we could have something pretty special.”

The Henrys convinced him to stay home.

“They saw my potential to run,” Solomon said, “way more than I ever did. I could never thank the Henrys enough.”

Solomon excelled at UNM under the Henrys and, later, coach Joe Franklin. He won multiple Mountain West Conference titles, set a school indoor record in the 400 and became an All-American.

“Once he focused on sprinting, you could see it coming,” Mark Henry said. “He studied other runners, dedicated himself to training, and his talent started shining through.”

The 2007-08 year was a setback for Solomon, who contracted pneumonia, injured a hamstring and suffered a stress fracture. He took a redshirt season at UNM and was unable to qualify for the Olympics.

“He tried to run through the pneumonia,” Susie said, “but it really wracked his body. That was really tough on Jarrin.”

Living the dream

Solomon admits he had a difficult time watching the 2008 Beijing Games. He used them instead as motivation.

“Once I got over the disappointment, I started training like a lion,” he said. “Instead of watching the Olympics and feeling down, I was up in the foothills running, trying to get back in shape.”

Since earning degrees in criminology, communications and completing his collegiate career, Solomon has focused on reaching the Olympics. He works as a personal trainer, which accommodates his rigorous training schedule.

It’s all been geared toward London.

Solomon is staying at a pre-Olympic camp in Wales, which is helping him acclimate to London’s conditions.

“Rainy and cold pretty much all the time,” he said.

He said he may enter a tune-up race in Ireland before moving to the Olympic Village on July 25.

Because his lone event comes relatively late in the Games, Solomon plans to watch other competitions and “just take in the whole experience.” That said, he’s not content to remain under the radar too much longer.

Trinidad and Tobago’s 1,600-meter team has the fifth best time in the world this year and is considered a medal contender.

“If we stay focused and ready, I believe our chances to medal are very good,” Solomon said. “I know I’m in the best shape of my life. I can’t wait to walk into that stadium, lace up my spikes and show people around the world what I am all about.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal