Her­itage’s Ke­lati cruises in Glory Days in­vi­ta­tional

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JA­COB EMERT ja­cob.emert@wash­post.com

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.

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