Heritage’s Kelati cruises in Glory Days invitational
As Weini Kelati finished her first mile at the Glory Days Grill Invitation alon Saturday and her 10-second lead was announced throughout Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, murmurs at the finish line began to grow.
The parents, coaches and athletes waiting for the day’s final race to finish were well versed in her story — an Eritrean native who arrived in the United States a year and a half ago and grabbed hold of the region’s cross country scene. On Saturday, it was only a question of how far the Heritage sophomore would finish ahead of the pack.
As Kelati rounded the final bend and climbed the last hill, they got their answer. She finished the 5,000-meter race in 17 minutes 11 seconds — 26 seconds ahead of Lake Braddock’s Kate Murphy, who placed second. Marshall’s Heather Holt (18:12) took third.
“It was hard to keep pace today because of the wind, and I didn’t have to think, ‘Who can I catch,’ ” Kelati said. “But it was okay because I practice withmy coach, and he’s really good. I was thinking it’s just like practice.”
Tyler Cox-Philyaw of Millbrook won the boys’ varsity race in 15:49.
Kelati spoke without an interpreter after her victory — a change from last season — putting to use the English she has learned over the past year.
“I have a great team. I am so proud of them because they teach me how to speak English. If I did a mistake, they correct me, and then I’mnot shy in front of them because they tell me, ‘Just try it. It’s your second language,’ ” Kelati said.
Kelati, an 18-year-old in her final year of high school eligibility, also reads books about history and running to help learn the language. Her goal is to break 17 minutes in a 5K and compete in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in San Diego in December.
Her Heritage team finished ninth overall in the team competition, while the Lake Braddock girls recorded three top-10 and five top-25 finishes to run away with first place with 49 points. Madison (78) and BethesdaChevy Chase (192) placed second and third, respectively.
Dulaney (80) won the boys’ team competition by one point over Lake Braddock (81).
Cox-Philyaw’s Millbrook team finished 17th, but as the highest returning finisher from a year ago, he succeeded in filling the role of the incumbent favorite.
Out front for the entire race, Cox-Philyaw began to labor around the two-minute mark. He slightly slowed his pace 10 minutes in, ensuring he would be able to push for the final stretch.
“I haven’t been hitting where I was last year until today, actually,” Cox-Philyawsaid.
“We only had two workouts this week [instead of three], and we didn’t race last Saturday because the [Octoberfest Invitational] got canceled, so I felt as fresh as I have all year.”
Jack Wavering (15:52) placed second in the boys’ race, helping lead his Good Counsel team to a third-place finish with 127 points.