2020 Camel City Preview: Paul Chelimo, Craig Engels, Jenny Simpson, King Ches & More Head South

By Jonathan Gault
February 7, 2020

There’s more than just Millrose on the schedule this weekend. The Camel City Elite meet in Winston-Salem, N.C., now in its eighth year, is also going down on Saturday, and the timing works out perfectly for track & field junkies — the elite races at Camel City run from 2-3:30 p.m. ET, which gives you just enough time to grab a snack before Millrose gets underway on NBC at 4:00.

The distance races on Camel City’s flat 200-meter track aren’t as deep as Millrose, but the star power up front is comparable: Paul ChelimoEdward CheserekCraig EngelsClayton MurphyRaevyn Rogers, and Jenny Simpson are all slated to compete. Here are 4 few things we’ll be watching for on Saturday at Camel City.

How to watch: Live on RunnerSpace+ (requires subscription) at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday

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Mu left Rogers in the dust at USAs last year (Phil Bond photo)

1) Can Athing Mu stun Raevyn Rogers again?

The last time Athing Mu raced Raevyn Rogers indoors, the teenager sprung a huge upset, setting an American record to win the US 600m title in Staten Island. Order was restored outdoors as Rogers beat Mu in the USA 800 final en route to an eventual silver medal at Worlds, and Rogers will be a heavy favorite once again on Saturday as both women are entered in the 800.

That said, it will still be fun to watch Mu test herself against one of the best in the world. Her indoor pb of 2:03.98 dates back to this meet last year; can she lower it?

Also entered are 2019 NCAA mile champ Julia Rizk, who just ended her NCAA career for Ohio State after running NCAA xc in November and now runs for the District Track Club, and 2018 NCAA 800 champ Sammy Watson — still only 20 years old — now running for adidas.

2) Will Clayton Murphy bounce back?

Clayton Murphy‘s 2020 opener was a rough one: he wasn’t able to respond to the pace change in a tactical mile in Boston two weeks ago, and could only manage 4:03 for 6th place, finishing behind the likes of Jaxson Hoey and Mason Ferlic. His closing speed simply was not there, as Murphy ran his last two laps in 30.30 and 30.11, left in the dust by Chris O’Hare and Nick Willis up front.

Murphy is still transitioning back to college coach Lee Labadie after Alberto Salazar was banned, so there may be some growing pains. But Murphy likes racing, and he’ll be back in action twice this weekend, entered in both the 800 (at 2:30) and the mile (at 3:25). Camel City was happy hunting ground for Murphy last year — he ran an indoor flat-track world record of 1:45.92 — but a repeat victory won’t be easy. North Carolina native/cult hero Craig Engels is entered in the 800, while Edward Cheserek — the third-fastest indoor miler ever — is in the mile (watch too, for Ryan Adams of Furman, whose 3:57.66 is the second-fastest mile in the NCAA this year).

3) Jenny Simpson is back!

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It’s rare to see Jenny Simpson race indoors, and it’s even rarer to see her outside of her sponsor’s meet, the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston. She hasn’t run an individual race indoors outside of Boston since winning the US 3k title back in 2012 (she did hop in a DMR in Boulder last week) so it will be interesting to see how she goes here. Simpson is now 33 years old, but she hasn’t showed much sign of slippage — remember, she ran 3:58.42 in last year’s World Championship 1500 final.

Simpson will be favored in the 3k here, but she’ll have to be on her game as Kenya’s Sharon Lokedi just ran 15:13 for 5k at BU last week. 2016 Olympic Trials 4th placer Amanda Eccleston is also entered.

4) Has strength training paid off for Paul Chelimo?

After a down year in 2019 that saw him beaten at USAs and finish 7th at Worlds, Paul Chelimo spent the first month of 2020 racing cross country across Africa and Europe. Back stateside, he’ll get his first chance to show the fruit of his labor on the track in the men’s 3k. We may have to wait until next week’s US Indoor champs (Chelimo is entered in the 1500 and 3000) for Chelimo to get a real test, however, as he should roll against this field at Camel City, where his top competitors are NCAA XC 4th placer Peter Seufer and Tinman Elite’s Brian Barraza.

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