Race time was approaching, and Randolph Duane Ross Sr. should have been warming up to compete in the 110-meter hurdles — the event in which he’d specialized throughout his decorated career. But on that breezy summer day in Carson, California, at the 2005 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, all Duane could do was think about how nice it would be to fly a kite with his 4-year-old son back home in North Carolina. When Duane lined up and the starter pistol sounded, he didn’t burst off the blocks like he had done so many times before. Instead, he walked off the track, changed out of his uniform, and threw his spikes in the trash. He was done as an athlete, but his time as a father was just beginning.
Seventeen years after retiring from professional running to be with his family, Duane still spends a lot of time on the track. But these days, his son is right there with him. Randolph Duane Ross Jr. — who goes by Randolph — is now a 400-meter specialist at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Duane is his coach. Duane and Randolph discuss drills and workouts every day at practice, but just as often, they talk about life — about being dependable, making the right choices, putting family first. Just like his father, Randolph is a gifted sprinter. His talent notched him a gold medal in the 4×400-meter relay at the Tokyo Olympics, nearly two decades after Duane competed in the 2004 Athens Games. “Of course I’m proud of him for what he does on the track,” Duane says, “but I’m more proud of him for the man that he’s becoming.
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