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Stanford's Solomon takes big step toward the Rio Olympics

 

Stanford's Steven Solomon won the 400-meter final at the Australian national track and field championships Saturday in Sydney, and positioned himself for inclusion on the Aussie Olympic team.

Solomon, who is taking a year off from school to train for the 2016 Rio Games, ran 45.50, but missed the IAAF Olympic qualifying standard by 0.10. Solomon has until July 11 to reach the 45.40 standard. If he doesn't, he still could get to Rio. Those next in the world rankings get preference as the Olympic field is filled.

By placing among the top three at the national championships, Solomon earned a spot in the Australian 4x400 relay pool -- five probably will be named to the final team. However, Australia still needs to qualify. Australia was 12th in the 4x400 at last year's World Relay Championships and only the top eight advanced automatically to Rio. The rest must build a world ranking based on the aggregate of their two fastest times during the qualifying period, and teams will fill the Olympic field in that order.

Solomon seems to have a good chance to reach Rio in both events, even if he doesn't improve his times. Australia's team will be named by a panel on July 12 and previous experience of athletes is a factor in the selection process. In 2012, Solomon became the first Aussie man in 24 years to make an Olympic men's 400 final, and he has been a national team relay member at two World Championships.

In 2012, Solomon competed in both events in London, at age 19. He ran a lifetime best 44.97 in the 400 semifinals and was eighth in the final. The relay team ran 3:03.17, but failed to advance.

At the Aussie nationals, Solomon opened with a 46.55 in Thursday's first round and followed with a 46.22 in Friday's semifinal. Solomon captured the final by more than a half-second. It was his fourth national title and his 45.50 is the second-fastest outdoor time in the world this year.

Solomon, a human biology major, will be a senior academically and in his final season of eligibility when returning to Stanford in the fall. His 45.36 in winning the 2014 Australian championship in Melbourne counts as the Stanford record. However, a faster time this year would not count because Solomon is not competing for Stanford this season.

In 2014, Solomon ran the 400 leg of the Cardinal's winning distance medley relay team at the NCAA Indoor Championships. His 45.75 split on the Albuquerque Convention Center's 200-meter banked track boosted Stanford into a lead it would not relinquish. The team included Marco Bertolotti, Luke Lefebure, and Michael Atchoo and represents Stanford track and field's most recent NCAA title, indoors or outdoors.

Solomon went on to finish second at the 2014 Pac-12 outdoor championships. A hamstring tear suffered during the 2014 Commonwealth Games semifinals, combined with other health issues, prevented him from competing collegiately in 2015. This is his first racing since 2014.

— Dave Kiefer/Stanford Athletics

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