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Kelati Signs Professional Contract, Finishes as Most Decorated Lobo

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— She took the collegiate stage by storm, and now Weini Kelati is setting her sights higher.

The most decorated All-American in program history signed a professional contract and will immediately begin her professional running career with the Dark Sky Distance Team.

“It’s a great opportunity for Weini,” head UNM cross country and track and field coach Joe Franklin stated. “It couldn’t happen to a better person. It is a testament to her ability level, her personality and what she brings not only to the sport of running, but to the world.”

“This is an amazing opportunity for Weini,” said Laura Bowerman, associate head coach who worked closely with Kelati. “Echoing what Joe said, this opportunity that is presented to her is very special and couldn’t happen to a better person.

“Dark Sky Distance Team has brought a very special person and athlete onboard. Weini has brought so much to the entire Lobo and Albuquerque communities and we are excited to see her continue to light up the world around her.”

Kelati finishes her Lobo career with 13 All-Americans, four school track records, five Mountain West records (four in track), six Mountain West Conference individual titles (two in cross country, four in track), a team NCAA cross country championship and two individual NCAA titles and countless regional, conference and national awards.

New Mexico has an illustrious cross country and track and field history with several Lobos excelling at the collegiate level and going on to turn pro, including Alice Wright, Courtney Frerichs, Josh Kerr, Sammy Silva, Lee Emanuel, Chris Barnicle, Charlotte Arter and Ross Millington.

Kelati made an immediate impact for the Lobos as a freshman, running to All-American status with a seventh-place result at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, playing an integral part in the Lobos winning their second team title. She went on to add ­­­­two more All-America honors in the indoor (3,000-meter and 5,000-meter) and one All-America honor during the outdoor track season (5,000-meter).

Her sophomore season, Kelati posted three individual wins and two runner-up finishes in the cross country season, earning countless accolades along the way. Kelati won her first Mountain West individual title by 18.1 seconds and went on to win the NCAA Mountain Regional by 16.7 seconds.

Kelati was twice named the Mountain West Cross Country Athlete of the Week, earned the NCAA Division I Women’s National Athlete of the Week, was named Mountain West Women’s Student-Athlete of the Year, the Mountain Region Women’s Athlete of the Year and was a finalist for the Honda Sports Award for cross country.

On the course, she finished runner-up at the NCAA Cross Country Championship to earn another All-America nod and would set two school records in the mile and 3,000-meter during the indoor season en route to two more All-America distinctions at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Kelati was also named the Mountain Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCCA.

During the outdoor season, Kelati won her first NCAA individual title in the 10,000-meters after winning with a facility record time of 33:10.84 and a memorable finish, holding off Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez down the home stretch. Additionally, Kelati became the first Lobo to win the NCAA title in the event and just the second Lobo on the women’s side to win an NCAA title, joining Frerichs who won the steeplechase in 2016. In the same championship meet, Kelati added a second All-America honor in the 5,000-meter.

Earlier in 2019, Kelati also broke the school and MWC meet record in the 10,000-meter with a time of 32:09.10 ran at the Mountain West Championships.

Her most recent season showed Kelati’s dominance, which culminated in Kelati winning her second NCAA individual, this time in cross country, winning by a margin of victory of 9.6 seconds. She won her second straight NCAA Mountain Regional titles, winning by 57.2 seconds and defended her Mountain West Championship, breaking the MW record by 26 seconds and finished 49 seconds ahead of the runner-up finisher.

As a junior, she was named the USTFCCCA National Women’s Athlete of the Year, twice named the MW Women’s Peak Athlete of the Week, twice named the USTFCCCA NCAA Division I National Athlete of the Week, named the MW Women’s Conference Athlete of the Year for the second straight year, earned USTFCCCA Cross Country All-Region and was named the Honda Sports Award winner for Cross Country, becoming just the second Lobo to win in cross country and the third in UNM history.

In the indoor season, Kelati ran the fourth-fastest time recorded in collegiate indoor history in the 5000-meter at the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener with a time of 15:14.71, setting the school record as well as the Mountain West record.

Although she never got to see the indoor season to completion due to the canceled NCAA indoor meet,  Kelati qualified for the NCAA Championships in the mile, the 3,000-meter, the 5,000-meter and the distance medley relay after posting the second-fastest time in the 5,000-meter and the third-fastest time in the 3,000-meter and the mile in the country.  However, Kelati was recognized by The Bowerman as among the best in the sport throughout the season, appearing on the preseason, mid-indoor and pre-NCAA indoor watch lists.

Of note, Kelati will remain a student at UNM to finish her undergraduate degree while assisting with the program in a coaching capacity.