USATF Women’s XC — Kelati’s Legs Fresh Following AR

Weini Kelati (207), now the first with career Foot Locker, NCAA and USATF wins on her résumé, ran with the pack awhile then cut loose with a 3:05 fifth kilo. (MIKE SCOTT)

MECHANICSVILLE, VIRGINIA, January 20 — For many, the biggest question at the USATF Cross Country Championships was whether Weini Kelati would even show. Just 6 days earlier, the 27-year-old former Eritrean surprised by breaking the American Record for the half-marathon in Houston. With precious little recovery time, would she be gutsy enough to take on a 10K cross country race, tired legs and all?

More than gutsy enough. After a couple of conservative laps on the 5-loop layout, the Under Armour/Dark Sky runner set fire to the course, burning off her pursuers en route to a 37-second win. After previously winning USATF road titles at 5 and 10K, this was her first cross country title. Not that she’s any stranger to high-level harrier running; she is now the only woman ever to win Foot Locker, NCAA and USATF cross country crowns.

With temperatures just below freezing and a steady 15mph wind that made everything feel about 10 degrees colder, the athletes set out on a course that was wet enough to create a few muddy spots, and adorned with modest hay bales and several logs to leap over. The second kilometer, 3:32.5 for Kelati, proved to be the slowest of the race. Eleven other runners ran in the tight pack.

The next loop went faster, both Ks at 3:25; the pack only lost one. Then Kelati went, much earlier than she needed to — not that it mattered. She covered the fifth kilometer in 3:05.0, for 16:46.8 at halfway. That left a line of battered runners in her wake. Only Katie Camarena of Tinman Elite (16:53.3) and Furman alum Emma Hurley (16:55.1) were also under 17:00.

Kelati kept rolling, showing no discomfort or fatigue whatsoever. The next four kilos ranged from 3:10.0 to 3:20.6. Much more drama took place well behind her. Only 6 athletes would make Team USA for the World XC set for 10 weeks later in Belgrade, Serbia. Hurley passed Camarena before 6K but they both held their positions ahead of the crowd. Moving up through the pack was Allie Ostrander, who had taken a step back from competition last year. Ninth at 5K, the former Boise State star moved up to 5th with a lap to go, running alongside Iowa State alum Cailie Logue.

Kelati crossed the line in 32:58.6, closing her day with a 3:11.0 final K. Hurley (33:35.9) and Camarena (33:40.3) followed well back. Then Ostrander and Logue sprinted across the line, Ostrander falling as she crossed 4th in 33:52.5, Logue just 0.2 back. In 6th came Abby Nichols (34:09.4), the ex-Colorado star running for HOKA NAZ Elite. At the finish they were all draped in American flags and given their written invitation to be on the team; Kelati is the only one who was on the team last year, finishing 21st at Worlds in Australia.


10K: 1. Weini Kelati (DarkSky) 32:58.6; 2. Emma Hurley (Georgia) 33:35.9; 3. Katie Camarena (Colorado) 33:40.3; 4. Allie Ostrander (Washington) 33:52.5; 5. Cailie Logue (Kansas) 33:52.7; 6. Abby Nichols (HokaNAZ) 34:09.4; 7. Katrina Spratford-Sterling (Arizona) 34:31.7; 8. Katie Izzo (California) 34:41.0; 9. Kasandra Parker (HansBrooks) 34:47.1; 10. Claire Green (PeninsulaDC) 34:59.4; 11. Lydia Olivere (UAMRunBalt) 35:14.3; 12. Maggie Donahue (Massachusetts) 35:23.2; 13. Susanna Sullivan (Virginia) 35:24.8.

Junior Women

6K: 1. Zariel Macchia (NewYork) 20:31.0; 2. Allie Zealand (Virginia) 20:31.9; 3. Jolena Quarzo (Pennsylvania) 20:44.0; 4. Mary Bonner Dalton (North Carolina) 20:46.7; 5. Maddie Gardiner (FormTC) 20:48.2; 6. Ellie Shea (EmergingE) 20:53.3; 7. Gillian Bushee (Virginia) 21:01.7; 8. Julia Kiesler (Indiana) 21:10.2; 9. Sadie Adams (FormTC) 21:25.1; 10. Temi Ariyo (Maryland) 21:33.2.