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Kelati Wins First National Championship with 10,000m Victory

AUSTIN, Texas—
Weini Kelati, national champion.

 In a remarkable year in which The University of New Mexico sophomore broke records, including the school record, and won her first outdoor Mountain West championship in the 10,000-meter, Thursday night at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships produced another memorable first for the Lobo- a national championship.

After coming close to a championship in cross country with a runner-up finish and finishing second in the 5000-meter at the indoor championships in March, Kelati was not going to be denied this time.

Finding another gear to cross the line at 33:10.84 and edge out Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez, Kelati became the first Lobo to win the NCAA title in the event for her first NCAA title.

In addition, Kelati broke the facility record by 20.7 seconds and became just the second Lobo on the women’s side to win an NCAA title, joining Courtney Frerichs who won the steeplechase in 2016. It also marks the third outdoor title by a UNM runner in the last four years with Josh Kerr winning the 1500-meter in 2017. 

With her win, UNM has now produced a top-four finisher in the 10,000-meter in the last four years, following Alice Wright’s runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017 and a fourth-place result by Wright in 2018, and the fifth consecutive year that the Lobos have scored in the event. Her 10 points towards the team total also ensures the fifth straight year that the UNM women have scored at the outdoor championship.

Kelati earned her eighth All-America honor of her career, her seventh first team distinction and her fourth All-America nod this season with one race remaining on Saturday in the 5,000-meter.

The NCAA champion took an early lead through the first three laps, but was passed by Anna Rohrer of Notre Dame to drop in to second with 21 laps remaining.

Teammate Ednah Kurgat sat behind Kelati in third, which the Lobos would hold their order until Kelati took a lead back at the 4400-meter mark (11 laps left) and Kurgat moved in to second a short while later at the 4800-meter mark. The Lobo pair would run first and second for the next three laps. 

With nine laps remaining, Rohrer took the lead that the two would contend for over the next four laps, but Kelati took back the lead for good with six laps remaining and in usual fashion created separation from the front pack of runners.

At the 8400-meter mark, Kelati held a 3.18 second lead over Taylor Werner of Arkansas, which grew to 4.74 seconds in the next lap. With two laps to go, the distance runner was 5.38 seconds ahead of the second-place runner Washington’s Isobel Batt-Doyle. 

At the bell, Kelati held an almost five second lead over the Oregon runner, who closed the gap on Kelati heading towards the later section of the final lap. As the duo made the final turn it looked as if the Duck was going to catch up to Kelati, but the Lobo kicked it in to another gear to not allow her the opportunity and broke away to secure the victory by 0.72 seconds.

Of the 25 laps, Kelati led for 14 and was second in the remaining laps. 

Kurgat finished just outside of scoring position, running 33:34.67 for a ninth-place result in her final race. The Lobo picks up her eighth all-America honor, her second on the second team, and her fourth of the season.

Earlier in the evening, the Lobos secured two spots in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final on Saturday with Adva Cohen and Charlotte Prouse advancing to the finals as automatic qualifiers.

In the first of two heats, Cohen ran in second early on before falling back one spot with five laps remaining, which she held with two laps to go.  At the bell lap, the sophomore had a slight hold on second but slipped slightly in to fourth, which is where she would finish at 9:53.72 to earn an automatic spot as a top-five finisher in the heat.

Prouse sat in third through the first five laps and moved in to second with two laps remaining, which she held at the bell. Prouse dropped back to third, where she would finish at 9:52.00 to earn her place in the final.

The Lobos will have Friday off before closing out the final day of the championships with two events on Saturday. The steeplechase final is scheduled for 4:54 p.m. MT with a short turnaround for Cohen and Prouse, who will also run in the 5000-meter final at 6:25 p.m. MT. Kelati, Prouse and Cohen will all run in the event.

UNM currently sits tied for fifth in the team standings with 10 points.