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CROSS COUNTRY: Runners hear from Olympian Paul Chelimo at all-area banquet

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Adversity and dedication have become two running themes in Paul Chelimo’s career as a track and field athlete. And they’ve both helped him become one of the top 5K runners in the world.

A crowd of area high school cross country runners and coaches joined family and friends heard from the Olympian and former Shorter University athlete Friday night at the annual GoGo Running All-Area High School Cross Country Banquet.

The evening honored the top runners of the 2017 season, including naming the boys’ and girls’ Runners of the Year, which went to Armuchee’s Chaney Holder and Rome High’s Nora Bailey, respectively.

Chelimo, a native of Kenya, became an NAIA national champion while running for Shorter during the 2010-2011 season. He has since gone on to join the U.S. Army and run track and field for the United States.

He finished 0.6 seconds behind Mo Farrah in the 5,000 meters at the 2016 Rio Olympics, taking the silver medal, and then finished third this year at the World Championships in London.

“My life has been full of ups and downs. Don’t take anything for granted. Put in all you can,” Chelimo said. “My mom told me that everything I earn was not going to be given to me. You are going to have to go get it. Go hard or suffer the rest of your life.”

Chelimo came to Shorter with the help of Jay Stephenson, the school’s track and field coach at the time and the founder of the GoGo Running Club. He finished his education and his collegiate running career at UNC-Greensboro.

“The United States paid for my college. I am ready to take a bullet for this country because this country made me who I am today,” Chelimo said.

GoGo Running All-Area Cross Country Team

Girls — First Team

Nora Bailey (Rome), Chloe Purdy (Armuchee), Sarah Glick (Rome), Maggie Hawkins (Darlington), Janet Hartman (Rome), Maggie Whitehead (Unity) and Allie Sproull (Rockmart).

Honorable Mention

Blaine Fox (Armuchee), Riley Triplett (Sonoraville), Olivia Wilson (Rome), Mari Morales (Calhoun), Elizabeth Marshall (Model), Alexis Casey (Rockmart), Adamariz Perez (Calhoun) and Carah Arrant (Coosa).

Boys — First Team

Chaney Holder (Armuchee), Sam Pierce (Rome), Jason Blankenship (Cedartown), Felipe Barrios (Calhoun), Edwin Chavez (Pepperell), Patrick Motes (Rome) and Lawson Blake (Darlington).

Honorable Mention

Julio Lopez (Calhoun), Omar Maldonado (Pepperell), John Finn (Rome), Nahum Trenti (Sonoraville), Wes Connely (Armuchee), Joey Kowalczewski (Gordon Central), Prem Patel (Cass), Bronson Champion (Trion).