What a difference a year makes.
The strategy was exactly the same as 2014Â— bust it from the gunÂ— but the result was much more rewarding as the junior from Leesburg, Virginia by way of Eritrea won the girlsÂ’ Foot Locker Cross Country Championship in 17:09. Kelati had to shake off late challenges from Nevada Mareno and then Maryjeanne Gilbert, the first in the final downhill and then finally Gilbert in the closing meters, but she was able to hold off everyone in a wire-to-wire victory.
Gilbert, who was just third in the Midwest region, put together an incredible race to finish second in 17:10. The Notre Dame signee was the first, and last, threat that Kelati had to shake today in San Diego. Gilbert showed remarkable gutsiness by catching and passing the eventual champion at 6:00 in, a point in the race where it appeared Kelati just might run away with it.
KelatiÂ’s fellow South region competitor, Mareno, along with the MidwestÂ’s Judy Pendergast, hung up front with the pair of Kelati and Gilbert once they caught up at around 9:40 in. Two miles was hit in 10:55, this after a blistering 5:13 opener by Kelati, and the quartet ran in unison for the next three-quarters of a mile.
Kelati started to separate in the final downhill, with Mareno and her 2:02 800m speed doing everything to keep her close. Ultimately, though, the South region champ, competing in her final high school cross country race since she is already 19, was just too strong.
Mareno faded slightly back to third in 17:17, likely as a result of her brave challenge of Kelati, while Gilbert was kicking like crazy in a last ditch attempt for glory. She too would come up just short, however, as there was just not enough real estate for her to catch Kelati before the finish line.
?Watching the race on-line, it appeared that Kelati was wearing trainers, not the usual spikes or racing flats. This was validated post-race: