STEVENS: Jarrin Solomon Turned in His Soccer Cleats for Track Cleats
June 8, 2009
THE SOLOMON FILE
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
You need a little bit of Willie Nelson music in the background to set the mood for Jarrin Solomon's early plans for college athletics and pro ball. Solomon didn't exactly grow up dreaming about being a cowboy, but he didn't grow up dreaming about jumping all over the world doing his running thing on a track.
Solomon grew up dreaming about being a soccer star and, in a way, he was - for a while.
That was at La Cueva High before the Lobo speedster's natural speed took over and those watching Solomon blow past other high school athletes realized that he did it at a higher level on the track than he did on the soccer field.
"I think everyone thought I'd be a soccer player in college," said the No. 16 seed in the 400 meters at the NCAA Championships set for this Wednesday thru Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. "I grew up knowing who Pele was, who Ronaldo was. All those soccer stars I knew about. I didn't know that much about track."
Yeah, Solomon was a soccer guy, a soccer nut. He even left track practice early at La Cueva so he could go work out with his club soccer team. But Solomon, whose father, Michael, was an All-American and NCAA champion at UNM, couldn't help but slip on the track shoes in the spring when the guys were running.
Maybe it was in his blood.
"When soccer got over in the fall, I was eager to try track because I knew my dad ran," said Solomon, a three-time Mountain West champ at 400 meters and also a UNM All-American. "But I didn't take track that seriously in high school. And dad never pushed me to track because he knew I liked soccer so much."
In soccer, you run, too. When the Bears did their sprint work - no surprise - Solomon usually led the pack. "I liked to be in front," he said. He was in front a lot on the track, too. He was the Class 5A runner-up at 400 meters as a senior and helped the Bears win four straight 5A titles.
But Solomon had more hardware from his soccer skills: three-time All-State, All-Metro, District Player of The Year, 2003 Class 5A champion. So, what to do in college? Soccer? Track?
"I had some scholarship offers in soccer and made a few recruiting trips," said Solomon. "I talked to coach (Jeremy) Fishbein about UNM. But I had been running good in track and UNM upped my scholarship in track and that was the end of soccer."
It wasn't a bad choice by Solomon. He has been a standout on the Lobo track from the beginning. He was MWC runner-up at 400 meters as a freshman and qualified for NCAA regionals. He is the first Lobo runner since Adolph Plummer (1961-62) to twice qualify for the NCAA finals in the outdoor 400.
"I really love the 400, but it's hard," said Solomon. "In high school, I ran the 100 and 200 more. Like every other sprinter in high school, if you are fast, you think you are a 100 or 200 guy. You also know those races get over pretty quick and you aren't hurting at the end.
"At the end of 400, you hurt. It's the most hurt I've ever had in track."
Obviously, Solomon ended up following his father's footsteps as a Lobo. He plans to stay on that path after college. Dad was an Olympian for Trinidad and Tobago. Son plans to do the same.
"I made the team (in 2007), so I should make it again," said Solomon, 23. "I have the third best time in Trinidad. I'll try to get into some pro meets in Europe and try to run in the World Championships in Germany.
"The toughest thing right now is to be rested for those meets. The pros don't run like we do in college. They train for a specific meet and they rest their bodies more. The pro circuit is fun. You get a bit tired of all the traveling, but it's fun to go out there and mix it up with the best in the world."
Of course, Solomon has a more immediate goal this week: the NCAA Championships. He goes into his event as the No. 16 seed, which means he is considered a long shot.
"My goal is to get to the finals and once you get to the finals, it comes down to who is in the best shape," said Solomon. "I'm in pretty good shape and a lot of the guys don't train at altitude. I don't think altitude makes much of a difference in the race, but it helps your conditioning."
Like most multi-sport athletes, Solomon still has a love for soccer. He even considered walking on as a Lobo. That doesn't mean Solomon isn't a track guy now.
"Oh, I'm into track," he said. "I could probably tell you every world record holder in every track and field event. Well, maybe not hammer or shot, but probably everything else."