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Craig Engels, right, and Paul Chelimo racing during the men's mile at the Camel City Elite Invitational at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem in 2018.

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.

JDL Fast Track owner David Shannon and meet director Craig Longhurst, Shannon's son-in-law, made more than $75,000 in prize available in 2019, through sponsorships and crowdfunding. 

Contact Eddie Wooten at (336) 373-7093, and follow @EddieWootenNR on Twitter.

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