Kelati Voted MW Female Athlete of the Year
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Following a dominant junior cross country and track and field season, albeit cut short, Weini Kelati was chosen as the Mountain West Female Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.
Kelati is the fifth Lobo, the third female and the third from the track and field program to win a MW Athlete of the Year honor, with the last time a Lobo won occurring in the 2016-17 season with Josh Kerr. The last female Lobo to win was cross country and track and field runner Courtney Frerichs in 2015-16. Kelati joins Kerr (track and field, 2016-17), Frerichs (cross country/ track and field, 2015-16), DJ Peterson (baseball, 2012-13) and Jodi Ewart (women’s golf, 2009-10) as Lobo winners.
Additionally, a track and field female athlete has won the award for the past nine years.
The award is “bestowed annually to one male and one female student-athlete, who have achieved athletic excellence during the past academic year. In addition to superior athletic achievement, criterion for the MW Athlete of the Year Award requires that nominees be in good academic standing throughout their season of competition, demonstrate good character and conduct on and off the playing field.”
— New Mexico XC/T&F (@UNMLoboXCTF) July 29, 2020
In Kelati’s distinguished career, there are few awards that the distance runner hasn’t received.
During the 2019-20 academic year, Kelati was named the MW Cross Country Athlete of the Week two times during the 2019 season, and would add MW Women’s Conference Athlete of the Year for the second straight year. On the national level, Kelati won the Honda Sports Award for cross country, the highest honor for cross country, and furthermore, was twice named the USTFCCCA NCAA Division I National Athlete of the Week, was named the USTFCCCA Mountain Region Athlete of the Year and USTFCCCA National Women’s Athlete of the 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.
Kelati won four of the five cross country races she appeared in and closed the cross country season winning her last three races, culminating in her first cross country national championship and second overall individual NCAA title. Notably, in her final three races of the season, the junior posted substantial margins of victories.
In defending her Mountain West Championship title with a time of 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 the runner-up to capture her first cross country championship in 19:47.5.
In addition, 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 only other result was a runner-up finish at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
Her indoor track season continued to demonstrate her place among the best in the country. She started the indoor season at the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener, where she set the school record as well as the MW record in the 5000-meter with a time of 15:14.71. Her time stood as the second-fastest time ran during the season in the NCAA and historically was the fourth-fastest time recorded.
She won the mile at the UNM Team Open on Feb. 1 in 4:32.66 (altitude converted) and a week later ran the 3000-meter at the prestigious NYRR Millrose Games in 8:54.66 as one of only two collegiate runners in the field. Her 3000-meter time was the third-fastest time posted in the NCAA this season.
In addition, Kelati anchored UNM’s distance medley relay team at the Mountain West Indoor Championships, helping the Lobos win their first DMR championship since 2015 and just the second all-time since joining the Mountain West. The DMR group cruised to over a 30 second victory after running 11:02.10 (altitude converted), and in the process, qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships, the first team to do so since 2018.
Kelati ultimately qualified for the NCAA championship in all four events.
As a result, Kelati was recognized by the Mountain West coaches as the MW Indoor Track & Field Women’s Student-Athlete of the Year, becoming the first UNM female to win since Sandy Fortner was named the indoor student-athlete of the year in 2010 and the first Lobo to win since Adam Bitchell won in 2015.
Throughout the track season, she was named the conference female track athlete of the week three times and made the MW All-Conference Team for her DMR finish.
Furthermore, Kelati was named to the Bowerman Preseason Watch List and continued to be listed among the best in the sport making the mid-indoor watch list and pre-NCAA indoor championship watch list, with the Bowerman being the highest honor bestowed to collegiate track and field’s most outstanding student-athlete of the year. The Lobo was just one of four women to appear on all three Bowerman lists.
During the 2019-20 season, Kelati added a total of four All-America honors to her tally, bringing her career total to a program-record 13.
In her three years at UNM, Kelati holds the MW Championship record in the mile (4:37.75), the all-time MW record in the indoor 3000-meter (8:53.98) and the 5000-meter (15:14.71) and the MW Outdoor Championship 10,000-meter record (32:09.10). She has been named athlete of the week four times in cross country, five times for indoor and once in outdoor.
She has won three NCAA Championships- a cross country team title in 2017, a cross country individual title in 2019 and in the 10,000-meter in 2019- and nine MW Championship titles – five in cross country (three team titles in 2017, 2018, 2019 and two individual titles in 2018, 2019), three in indoor (DMR, 2020; mile, 2019; 3000-meter, 2018), and one outdoor (10,000-meter, 2019). In addition, she has earned four selections to the All-MW Indoor Team, is a two-time member of the All-MW Outdoor Team and a three-time First-Team All-Mountain West in cross country.