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UNM star runner Kelati: ‘I have to stay strong’

University of New Mexico’s Weini Kelati was named Mountain West Conference Female Athlete of the Year for 2019-20 last week. She won the NCAA individual championship on Nov. 23, 2019 at the Division I Women’s Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana seen here. (AJ Mast/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Where does Weini Kelati keep all the awards she has won and earned as a distance-running phenom for the University of New Mexico?

“I put them all over my house,” Kelati said during an interview with the Journal via Zoom on Wednesday. “I’m running out of space, but I’m going to make more room.”

Kelati will have to do just that after she was named Mountain West Conference Female Athlete of the Year for 2019-20 on Wednesday.

Kelati, as a junior, captured the NCAA individual championship in the 6K during the cross country season. The scene of her crossing the finish line with no one else in the picture became a familiar one for her. She won in 19 minutes, 47.5 seconds, and with an impressive 9.6-second margin of victory.

She garnered All-America honors in the event and was named USTFCCCA Division I Women’s National Athlete of the Year, along with the nation’s top honor of the Honda Sport Award in cross country.

Kelati said the cross country season was her greatest highlight of the year. Who can blame her? Her indoor track and field season was cut short, as was the entire outdoor season, by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelati qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque in four events and was set to compete in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races before the cancellation on March 12 which she described as “heartbreaking.” She nonetheless earned All-America honors in the 3,000, 5,000 and distance medley relay.

Kelati said she has maintained her fitness with consistent training since then.

“I’ve been running by myself and getting in the nature,” said Kelati, who has also taken summer classes online. “I’m grateful to have these beautiful mountains here in Albuquerque.”

A rising senior, Kelati said it’s been difficult to train with the uncertainty of a cross country season still present.

“Of course we don’t have any races coming up,” she said. “But I have to stay in the same shape and focus on what I’ve been doing. For me, I keep in mind that one day it will be back to normal, and I have to stay strong and continue what I’ve been doing.”

Kelati said that no matter what happens, she wants to stay in shape and be ready for whatever takes place.

“I’m going to stay in training and keep doing what I love, and hopefully there is going to be a way to go back and race again,” she said. “If there is no cross country season, then I will be focused on the track season.”

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