When Ryan Martin came into the homestretch, five men were ahead of him in the race for the London Olympics. The UCSB graduate shifted into overdrive and passed one man, and then another, but the finish line came up before he could crack the top three in the 800-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
“It’s tough being one spot away from going to London,” said Martin, the fourth-place finisher in a very fast race on a wet and chilly evening at Oregon’s Hayward Field. “I was kicking as hard as I could.”
A pair of Olympians took the top two places. Crowd favorite Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club Elite, the four-time defending U.S. champion, took charge in the final 200 to win in 1:43.92. Khadevis Robinson, competing in his fourth Olympic Trials, finished in 1:44.64, barely edging Duane Solomon, who took third in 1:44.65. Martin was close behind in 1:44.90.
“That was a great race,” UCSB coach Pete Dolan said. “Ryan made a name for himself tonight. I would have bet that time [1:44.90] would be good enough for third. I didn’t count on Duane Solomon holding him off.”
Solomon had some experience under his belt. In 2008, coming out of USC, he made the finals of the 800 and finished sixth. He has been coached the last three years by American record holder Johnny Gray, and he was ready for this moment.
“It feels so amazing now,” said Solomon, who was a state champion in 2003 out of Lompoc’s Cabrillo High School. “I grew up running on dirt.” Solomon is Lompoc’s second track and field Olympian – the first being Nick Carter in the 1,500 meters in 1928.
Martin said, “I did all I could.” The first 500 meters went according to plan, as he ran fourth, close behind the leaders. Charles Jock set the pace, but later the NCAA champion from UC Irvine faded badly. “I kind of got bumped around at 120 [meters to go],” Martin said. “There wasn’t much I could do.”
The bearded Gaucho put Oregon runners Tyler Mulder and Elijah Greer behind him in his stretch run. His finishing time was just off his personal best (1:44.77) in the Big West Championships, when he did not have to get through two tough races to reach the final.
Martin plans to pick up some races in Europe this summer. “I want to be an Olympian,” he said. “I’m going to train hard the next four years to do that.”