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Kelati Wins Honda Sport Award for Cross Country

In the 2019 NCAA cross country season, there was no one better than University of New Mexico junior Weini Kelati.

And in a season in which Kelati had acquired award after award at every level, on Wednesday morning the Collegiate Women Sports Awards announced that the Lobo had achieved the highest honor for a cross country student-athlete by naming Kelati the Honda Sports Award winner for cross country.

The Honda Award signifies the “best of the best in collegiate athletics” with the winner chosen by administrators at over 1,000 NCAA member schools.

“This is such a great honor for not only Weini but also The University of New Mexico and our proud state,” UNM head cross country coach Joe Franklin said. “This Honda Award for cross country is the highest honor a student-athlete can achieve. Weini has worked very hard to achieve everything she has accomplished in the classroom and on the cross country course.”

With the declaration, Kelati becomes just the second UNM cross country runner to be selected for the award, joining Ednah Kurgat who won in 2017. Kelati is the third student-athlete in New Mexico history to win the Honda Sports Award in any sport, joining women’s golf’s Caroline Keggi, who won the Honda Sport Award for golf for the 1986-87 season.

The UNM runner and two-time Honda Award finalist was chosen out of four finalists including Alicia Monson from Wisconsin and Taylor Werner and Katie Izzo from Arkansas.

“I am so grateful to be selected for this prestigious award and am excited for the future with another season of cross country still to go in my collegiate career,” Kelati said upon learning that she had won. “It is great to follow in the steps of my teammate Ednah Kurgat in being honored by Honda. It is always amazing to represent UNM and I am proud to be a Lobo.”

Kelati compiled a spectacular junior campaign, winning four of the five races she appeared in and closing the cross country season winning her last three races, culminating in her first cross country national championship on Nov. 23.

Additionally, in her final three races of the season, the junior posted substantial margins of victories.

In winning her second straight Mountain West Championship in 19:11.2, Kelati broke the MW record by 26 seconds and finished 49 seconds ahead of the runner-up. In the NCAA Mountain Regional, Kelati cruised to her second straight regional title with a showing of 18:57.8, finishing 57 seconds ahead of the runner-up finisher. Against the top runners in the country at the NCAA Championship, she finished over nine (9.6) seconds ahead of Monson to capture her first cross country championship in 19:47.5.

She opened the season with a win at the Joe Piane – Notre Dame Invitational, winning the Blue Division individual title in 16:01.61, 12.12 seconds ahead of the runner-up finisher. Her lone second-place result came at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, finishing behind Monson.

Of note, in the last two cross country seasons, Kelati has finished no lower than second in her 10 races, accumulating seven individual titles and three runner-up finishes.

This season, Kelati earned accolade after accolade, being named Mountain West Women’s Peak Athlete of the Week twice (Oct. 8, Oct. 22), USTFCCCA NCAA Division I National Athlete of the Week twice (Oct. 7, Nov. 4) and was named the MW Women’s Conference Athlete of the Year for the second straight year. She earned All-Mountain West Cross Country First Team, USTFCCCA Cross Country All-Region and claimed her third all-America honor in cross country, bringing her career All-Americans to 10 amongst cross country and track. Furthermore, she was named the Mountain Region Athlete of the Year and the USTFCCCA National Women’s Athlete of the Year en route to now being named the Honda Sports Award winner.

Kelati will be presented with her award at an on-campus presentation at a date to be decided and all Honda Spot Award winners become a finalist for the prestigious 2020 Honda Cup presented in June.

The CWSA, in its 44th year, honors the nation’s top NCAA women athletes recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service.  Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, Honda has provided more than $3.4 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs at the institutions.