Weini Kelati
Kelati at the Millrose Games in 2019
Personal information
NationalityAmerican
Eritrea
Born (1996-12-01) December 1, 1996 (age 27)[1]
Tsada Christian, Eritrea
Sport
Country Eritrea
 United States
SportTrack and Field
EventDistance
College teamNew Mexico Lobos
ClubDark Sky Distance
Turned proDecember 2020[2]
Achievements and titles
Personal bests

Weini Kelati Frezghi (born 1 December 1996)[1] is an Eritrean-born American middle- and long-distance runner. She claimed asylum in the United States in July 2014 and subsequently achieved multiple victories in state- and national-level competitions while attending Heritage High School in Leesburg, Virginia.[3] While competing for the University of New Mexico, Kelati won the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. In June 2021, she became a U.S. citizen and began competing as an American.[4] Kelati set an American record of 1:06.25 for the half marathon in January 2024. She runs professionally for Under Armour on the group Dark Sky Distance.

Early life and asylum in USA

Kelati is from Tsada Christian, a small rural village in Eritrea.[3] She started running competitively when a physical education teacher at her school encouraged her to take up the sport.[5] In July 2014, at the age of 17, she traveled to Eugene, Oregon to compete in the 3000 m at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Athletics. Following the competition, Kelati intentionally missed her return flight to Eritrea, opting to seek asylum in the United States instead. She did not disclose this plan to her family back in Eritrea.[3][5][6]

A relative in Leesburg, Virginia became Kelati’s legal guardian, and she joined Heritage High School, where she began competing in cross country and track.[3] Initially, she faced challenges adapting to her new environment, struggling with both a language barrier, as she spoke no English, and culture shock. However, within a year, she managed to develop a functional level of English proficiency.

Running career

High school

Kelati started running for Heritage High School as a junior in 2014. In her first season, she finished second in the Virginia State Cross Country Championships,[7] and she finished 20th at the Footlocker Cross Country Championships.[8] In 2015, the high school senior finished first in both the Virginia State Cross Country Championships[9] and the Footlocker Cross Country Championships.[10][11]

On the track, Kelati placed first in the outdoor 3200 m at the 2016 Virginia Outdoor Track and Field Championship.[12] She also finished first in several national competitions. These victories included a national high school girls' record for the indoor 5000 m with her time of 16:08.83 at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in March 2016.[13] In November 2016, she committed to run for the University of New Mexico.[14]

College

While at the University of New Mexico, Kelati recorded several All American finishes in cross country. At the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in 2017 and 2018, she finished seventh and second, respectively.[15] She then went on to win the competition in 2019 in 19:47.5, which was 9.6 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Alicia Monson, in the largest margin of victory since 2007.[16] Her win helped her team, the New Mexico Lobos, secure a fourth-place finish. She was subsequently named the Honda Sports Award recipient for cross country.[17] On the track, she won a national title in the 10000 m of the 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, finishing in 33:10.84.

Professional

2020-2021

Kelati announced her decision to turn professional in December 2020, foregoing her remaining NCCA eligibility at the University of New Mexico.[2] On 23 June 2021, Kelati became a naturalized U.S. citizen,[4] and she changed her national sports allegiance from Eritrea to the United States.[18] She took part in the 10000 m of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, which was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelati did not finish the race, dropping out after 7000 m.[18] In her next race, Kelati achieved the fastest finish by an American in a women's-only event at the Boston 10K for Women, recording a time of 31:18.[19] In November, she won the USATF 5K Road Championships in a course record of 15:18.[20]

2022

Kelati competed in January at the 2022 USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego, California, where she placed second.[21] The following month, at the 2022 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, she finished third in the 3000 m, clocking a time of 8:47.8.[22] At the 2022 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, held in July, she finished fourth in the 5000 m.[23] In November, Kelati won the USATF 5K Championships for the second year in a row, while lowering the course record she established in 2021 by two seconds.[24] That same month, Kelati defended her title at the Manchester Road Race, setting a course record in the process.[25]

2023

In January, Kelati finished fifth at the 2023 USA Cross Country Championships held in Richmond, Virginia.[26] This achievement granted her a place on the American national team, allowing her to compete at the 44th World Athletics Cross Country Championships. The event took place in Bathurst, Australia on 18 February 2023. Despite encountering challenges, including hip pain and a miscounted lap during the race, Kelati managed to complete the course, finishing in the twenty-first spot.[27] She was the second American to cross the finish line, following her former University of New Mexico teammate, Ednah Kurgat, who came in eighteenth.

In July, Kelati participated in the 2023 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 5000 m and 10000 m, finishing in eighth and fourth, respectively. In September, she clinched a first-place finish at the USATF 10 km Championships.[28] The following month, she finished fifth in the 5k at the 2023 World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia.[29] In November, Kelati contested the USATF 5K Championships, and while she entered the race as the two-time defending champion, she finished in fifth place.[30]

2024

Kelati placed fourth at the Houston Half Marathon in 1:06:25 on 14 January, setting the American record in the event and averaging 5:04 minutes per mile.[31] En route to the finish, she also set a North American record for 20 km (63:05). Six days after setting an American record for the half marathon in Houston, Kelati secured another victory at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, held at Pole Green Park in Richmond, Virginia. She ran 32:58.6 to finish first in the 10-kilometer race.[32] In March, she represented the United States at the 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, where she finished in 15th as the top American.[33]

Personal life

After receiving asylum in the US in 2014, Kelati was unable to see her mother for eight years.[34] It wasn't until she became a U.S. citizen, a status that granted her the freedom to travel internationally, that she was able to reunite with her mother in Uganda.

Her favorite movie is McFarland, USA, which tells the story of a predominantly Latino cross-country team in McFarland, California.[35] Sprinter Usain Bolt is her favorite athlete.

Achievements

NCAA competition

All results from athlete's profile on the Track & Field Results Reporting Service (TFRRS).[36]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing University of New Mexico
2020 2020 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships Albuquerque, New Mexico All-American 5000 m Cancelled due to COVID-19
Mountain West Conference
Indoor Track and Field
Championship
Albuquerque, New Mexico 1st Distance medley relay 11:12.27
Adva Cohen, Abigail Bendle, Elise Thorner, Weini Kelati
2019 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships Terre Haute, Indiana 1st 6000 m 19:47.5
Mountain West Conference
Cross Country Championship
Logan, Utah 1st 19:11.2
2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships Austin, Texas 5th 5000 m 15:54.46
1st 10,000 m 33:10.84
Mountain West Conference
Outdoor Track and Field
Championship
Fresno, California 1st 10,000 m 32:09.10
2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships Birmingham, Alabama 2nd 5000 m 15:32.95
3rd 3000 m 9:02.44
Mountain West Conference
Indoor Track and Field
Championship
Albuquerque, New Mexico 1st Mile 4:37.75
2nd Distance medley relay 11:29.42
Weini Kelati, Larimar Rodriguez, Kieran Casey, Ednah Kurgat
2018 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships Madison, Wisconsin 2nd 6000 m 19:45.3
Mountain West Conference
Cross Country Championship
San Diego, California 1st 19:49.3
2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships Eugene, Oregon 9th 5000 m 15:46.57
Mountain West Conference
Outdoor Track and Field
Championship
Fresno, California 1st 10,000 m 32:41.92
2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships College Station, Texas 5th 5000 m 15:56.73
5th 3000 m 9:03.51
Mountain West Conference
Indoor Track and Field
Championship
Albuquerque, New Mexico 1st 3000 m 9:13.40
2017 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships Louisville, Kentucky 7th 6000 m 19:35.8
Mountain West Conference
Cross Country Championship
Albuquerque, New Mexico 2nd 20:11.7

High school competition

All results from athlete's profile on Milesplit VA.[37]

Representing Heritage High School (Leesburg, Virginia) at
Virginia High School League 4A state championship
Year Cross country state championships Outdoor track state championships
2015-16 1st in 5 km (17:22) 1st in the 3200 m (10:09.70)
2014-15 2nd in 5 km (17:38) 2nd in the 3200 m (10:54.45)
6th in the 4x800 m (9:51.02)
Megan Collins, Weini Kelati, Sarah Smith, Georgie Mackenzie
3rd in the 1600 m (5:16.95)

References

  1. ^ a b c d Weini Kelati at World Athletics
  2. ^ a b Virgen, Steve (2020-12-02). "Kelati, UNM's star distance runner, turns pro, signs with Under Armour". Albuquerque Journal. Archived from the original on 2023-11-06. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  3. ^ a b c d Bloom, Marc (2015-12-22). "For Foot Locker Champion, America Brings Opportunity and Victory". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  4. ^ a b "Former Lobo Weini Kelati becomes US citizen, ready to compete in Olympic trials". KRQE NEWS 13 - Breaking News, Albuquerque News, New Mexico News, Weather, and Videos. 2021-06-24. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  5. ^ a b Spezia, Mark (2019-11-22). "From a running start in Eritrea to a new home in America, Weini Kelati wins NCAA cross country title". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on 2023-10-28. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  6. ^ "Running Towards Her Dreams". Under Armour. 2020-12-02. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
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  9. ^ "VHSL State Cross Country Championships 2015 - 4A Girls". MileStat.com. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  10. ^ "Foot Locker Nationals 2015 - Girls Results". MileSplit United States. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  11. ^ Emert, Jacob (2023-06-04). "Andrew Hunter, Weini Kelati bring national cross-country titles back to Virginia". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2022-10-01. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  12. ^ "VHSL Group 3A/4A State Outdoor T&F Championships 2016 - 4A Girls 3200m Run". MileStat.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-08. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  13. ^ Emert, Jacob (2023-06-05). "Lyles brothers, Weini Kelati impress at New Balance Nationals Indoor". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  14. ^ Mullan, Dillon (2021-12-04). "Heritage standout Weini Kelati's rapid rise continues with commitment to New Mexico track and field". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2022-06-29. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
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  17. ^ Tate, Van (2019-12-05). "Sports Desk: Weini Kelati named Honda Sports Award winner; 5 Lobo football players honored by Mountain West". KRQE NEWS 13 - Breaking News, Albuquerque News, New Mexico News, Weather, and Videos. Archived from the original on 2023-11-08. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  18. ^ a b Kilgore, Adam (2021-06-26). "Emily Sisson outruns a broken heart to dominate the 10,000 at the U.S. track and field trials". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2023-06-11. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  19. ^ "24-Year-Old Sets New American Record During Women's 10K Race In Boston - CBS Boston". www.cbsnews.com. 2021-10-16. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  20. ^ LetsRun.com. "Drew Hunter and Weini Kelati Win 2021 USATF 5k Road Champs in New York". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  21. ^ Dutch, Taylor (2022-01-09). "Alicia Monson and Shadrack Kipchirchir Have Won the 2022 U.S. Cross-Country Championships". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  22. ^ LetsRun.com. "USATF Indoors Women's Recap: Ajee' Wilson x 8, Elle Purrier St. Pierre Crushes Monson on Final Lap". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-08. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  23. ^ "2022 USATF Outdoor Championships results, world championships roster". NBC Sports. 2022-07-10. Archived from the original on 2023-11-08. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  24. ^ Hatler, Chris (2022-11-05). "USATF 5K Championships Kick Off NYC Marathon Weekend in Style". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  25. ^ LetsRun.com. "Conner Mantz breaks course record, Weini Kelati repeats at 2022 Manchester Road Race". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  26. ^ LetsRun.com. "Emmanuel Bor & Ednah Kurgat Dominate 2023 USATF XC Championships". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  27. ^ Gault, Jonathan (2023-02-18). "In Bathurst, the "World's Greatest Footrace" Lived Up to Its Name". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-13. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  28. ^ Bush, Scott. "USA Track & Field | Young, Kelati Earn Big Wins at the USATF 10 km Championships". usatf.org. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  29. ^ Gault, Jonathan (2023-10-01). "2023 World Road Champs: Faith Kipyegon Gets Beat, Hobbs Kessler Wins Mile & Breaks WR, Kenya Goes 1-2-3 in Both Half Marathons". LetsRun.com. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  30. ^ Beck, Dan (2023-11-04). "Annie Rodenfels and Morgan Beadlescomb Claim 2023 USATF 5K Wins". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2023-11-07. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  31. ^ Dutch, Taylor (2024-01-14). "What a Debut! Weini Kelati Breaks American Record in the Half Marathon". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2024-01-14. Retrieved 2024-01-15.
  32. ^ Carveth, Jessy (2024-01-22). "Weini Kelati Triumphs Again With US Cross Country Nationals Victory". Archived from the original on 2024-01-31. Retrieved 2024-01-31.
  33. ^ Johnson, Robert; Gault, Johnson (2024-03-30). "Jacob Kiplimo & Beatrice Chebet Repeat at 2024 World XC as Kenyan Women Go 1-2-3-4-5". LetsRun.com. Retrieved 2024-03-30.
  34. ^ Kelati, Weini; Dutch, Taylor (2022-11-04). "After Seeking Asylum in the United States, Weini Kelati Reunites With Her Mom 8 Years Later". Runner's World. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  35. ^ "Weini Kelati". University of New Mexico Lobos athletics. 2020-04-27. Archived from the original on 2023-10-30. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  36. ^ "TFRRS | Weini Kelati – Track and Field Results & Statistics". www.tfrrs.org. Archived from the original on 2023-11-02. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  37. ^ "Weini Kelati - Stats". MileSplit New Mexico. Archived from the original on 2023-11-08. Retrieved 2023-11-08.

Further reading