WINSTON-SALEM -- Score Nick Symmonds' first visit to North Carolina as a winner.
The two-time Olympian won the Camel City Elite Races' 800 meters on Saturday at JDL Fast Track in one minute, 48.64 seconds in his 2014 indoor track debut.
"It's a very, very cool meet, and it was fun," the Brooks Beast star said. "... They have a great time, the atmosphere is really good, the crowd gets into it, they're blasting music. It was fun.
"A lot of times it feels lonely out there. But when you're standing in Lane 1 and you've got people lining the track in the outside lane and the inside lane and everybody's cheering for you, it gets you really amped up. I'm really glad that they invited me out here."
Two runners who know North Carolina quite well returned to the Triad for a bit of speed work and family time wrapped around the Camel City portion of the two-day collegiate Hilton Garden Innvitational meet.
Summerfield's Addie Bracy, who is training with Hudson Elite in Boulder, Colo., took third in the women's 3,000 meters in 9:13.86. Bracy graduated from Northwest Guilford and North Carolina.
And the event gave Winston-Salem native and former N.C. State All-America Bobby Mack another chance to show his speed in front of a home crowd. The perennial Beat the Heat 5K champion and Raleigh resident took second in the men's 3,000, breaking eight minutes by two-hundredths of a second.
Symmonds, who won the silver medal at 800 meters in the 2013 world championships, raced for the first time since completing recent altitude training in Mexico.
"I said I wanted to break 1:48," he said. "I've never raced before on a 200-meter flat track before. The turns definitely took a little more effort than I expected. So I'm actually very pleased with that coming off altitude. As I warmed up, I felt terrible. I've often felt very sluggish coming down from altitude, but when I was in the race I felt very comfortable."
Comfortable enough to say he felt great as he looks ahead to a Brooks 4x800 effort on Saturday at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, to a 1,000-meter race at the Millrose Games in New York on Feb. 15 then the U.S. indoor championships Feb. 21-23 in Albuquerque, N.M.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "You never know after taking that much time down and going to altitude where the legs are going to be. But I worked hard up there to do a lot of sprint mechanics and a lot of speed and endurance work so that this indoor season I'd be a little bit more prepared."
Bracy and Mack ran well despite preparations geared toward cross country. Both are entered in the USA Cross Country Championships on Feb. 15 in Boulder, Colo., and both competed for the United States in an international meet in Scotland in January.
"This is somewhat out of the plan," said Bracy, racing for a Brooks team. "I just wanted to do it as a chance to come home and see my parents. (U.S. cross country) is more in my mind. This was just a tuneup to come in and race, to get on the track and run fast and see how it goes."
Mack said he was strong in the second half of his race, which he also used as a U.S. cross tuneup.
"My training is focused on the longer stuff, but this fits well as a nice speed element," said Mack, a North Forsyth alum and Reebok runner who whacked 17 seconds off his 3K personal best. "I don't get to put on the track spikes very often, but it's a really high-intensity effort, which is a good for whatever distance your goal race is."
If Symmonds was glad to be invited to compete at JDL, so were the collegians, getting to see one of their sport's best. The former Division III star at Willamette in Salem, Ore., posed for photos, flashing his brilliant smile, and signed autographs on towels, spikes and shirts for more than 45 minutes after he competed, greeting fans but also athletes from schools such as Campbell and Eastern Mennonite.
And we might just see the two-time Olympian back in the Old North State another time.
"I love it. It's beautiful," he said. "I'd like to see it in the summer, although it's pretty hot I imagine. But I hear there's some decent surfing out there on the coast, so maybe the next time I come back we can get a surf trip put together."