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Kelati Defends Regional Title, Lobos Secure NCAA Championship Bid

Weini Kelati proved why she is one of the top runners in the nation on Friday afternoon at the NCAA Mountain Regional held at the Rose Park Golf Course, easily defending her title with a time of 18:58.7.

Her margin of victory in the race, 57.2 seconds. In addition, her time was the fastest among all of the nine NCAA regional winners, with the second-fastest time coming from Hannah Reichardt of Albany in the Northeast Regional Championship with 19:28.4.

As a team, The University of New Mexico women posted the top two finishers in the race, had three in the top 15 and four in the top 25 as the Lobos secured a spot in the NCAA Championships with a team score of 83 points, earning them a second-place result in the team standings.

With the finish, it is the 10th consecutive year that the women have finished in the top two of the regionals and continues the streak of the women making it to the championship for the 12th consecutive year. Kelati’s individual win not only made it back-to-back for the junior, but it continued the streak of UNM producing the individual winner, bringing the total to four-straight years.

Kelati and Ednah Kurgat moved out to the front of the field early on and in true Kelati style, the Lobo pushed the pace en route to the commanding win.

At the 2K mark, the first split of the race, UNM sat in second in the team standings with Kelati (6:22.0) and Kurgat (6:33.9) first and second, respectively. Adva Cohen sat 16th in the field with a 6:49.8, Hannah Nuttall was 28th at 6:51.9, Alexandra Harris 53rd in 7:01.2, Brenda Rosales-Coria 64th at 7:04.4 and Juanita Johnson 70th in 7:08.2.

As a team, the Lobos were second in the team standings with 100 points, trailing BYU by 34 points and ahead of host Utah by 6.5 points.

With 2K remaining in the 6K race, Kelati’s margin of lead grew to over 34 seconds (34.3), checking in at 12:42.2 with Kurgat behind her in 13:16.5. Cohen was the third Lobo to cross the checkpoint at 13:45.1 in 18th and Nuttall dropped three places to 31st at 13:54.4. However, Johnson moved up 18 spots in the field into 52nd with a time of 14:15.2, as the Lobos tallied 101 team points to maintain their second-place team standing. BYU led with 77 points, while Colorado was third at 117 points.

The Lobos closed strong in the remaining portion of the race as Kelati cruised across the finish line almost a minute ahead of Kurgat for the win. Kurgat finished at 19:55.9 followed by Cohen in 15th at 20:24.3 and Nuttall in 25th at 20:42.1, who moved up six places in the field in the last 2K. Rounding out the team scoring was Johnson, who improved another 12 places to finish 40th overall in 21:07.7.

UNM closed within 13 points of No. 3 BYU in the final team score, with a final team score of 83 points, and finished 16 points ahead of Air Force and 30 points ahead of No. 8 Colorado. No. 9 Utah finished fifth with 116 points.

In the men’s race, in which the Lobos were running a 10K for the first time this season, William Fuller led the men with a 45th-place result in a time of 31:43.5. Finishing 10 spots behind Fuller was Jared Garcia in 32:00.7 and five spots behind him was Nehemiah Cionelo in 32:13.8. Reece Donihi was the fourth scorer for the team at 32:52.0, a 79th-place finish, and Harrison Smith III closed out the team total with a 90th-place result at 33:18.9.

As a team, the men finished 12th in the standings with 329 points, 18 points ahead of UTEP and 24 points behind Colorado State.

The Lobo women will once again conclude their season at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, to be held on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.