Updated at 2:23 p.m. to correct date and site of USATF indoors:
The first of what could be several high-profile commitments for the Camel City Elite Races in Winston-Salem during an Olympic year belongs to Paul Chelimo.
Chelimo earned All-American honors at UNCG and won the silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Chelimo will be a contender to race in the 3,000 and the mile at Camel City on Feb. 8 at JDL Fast Track.
2020 will be a key year for track and field. The U.S. indoor championships will follow Camel City the next week, Feb. 14-15, at a site that has not been officially announced. During the outdoor season, the U.S. Olympic trials are June 19-28 at the renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., preceding the Tokyo Olympics July 24-Aug. 9.
Camel City, whose Elite Races fields include college runners and whose weekend also features the collegiate Camel City Invitational, has attracted a number of the best runners going back to its first event, the men's mile, in 2013. Seventeen runners have eclipsed the four-minute mark in the mile on the flat, 200-meter oval beginning with Cory Leslie's 3:57.81 in 2013 and including Chelimo's first such achievement in 2018.
Perhaps the event's most star-studded field came in the Olympic year of 2016, when decathlon champion Ashton Eaton and his wife, heptathlete Brianne Thiesen-Eaton, competed, along with Matt Centrowitz; hurdler and fan favorite Lolo Jones; and Shannon Rowbury, who had run a stunning 4:22.66 mile the previous year.
Eaton and Centrowitz, in the 1,500, won gold medals later that year at the Rio Games, and Thiesen-Eaton earned a bronze for Canada in her specialty.
"This track meet is amazing," Jones said after she competed in 2016. "It gives college athletes a chance to see the Olympic athletes or Olympic hopefuls. This might be their only shot to interact with us until they see Rio.
"It's an excellent track meet. I wish there were more of them like this in the U.S. Sadly there's only a handful, though."
Also among the other Camel City Elite Races alumni:
- Craig Engels, a Pfafftown native and Reagan High School alumnus who recently competed at the World Championships in Qatar.
- Nick Symmonds.
- David Oliver.
- Brianna Rollins.
- Drew Hunter.
- Melissa Bishop-Nriagu.
- Ajee Wilson.
- Rachel Schneider.
- Edward Cheserek.
- Clayton Murphy.