Weini Kelati and Drew Hunter Win 2021 USATF 5K Championship

The Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K kicks off New York City Marathon weekend.

To kick off the return of the New York City Marathon, New York Road Runners hosted the Dash to the Finish Line 5K on Saturday morning, which also served as the USATF 5K Championship. Here’s how the races played out on the streets of NYC.

Full Results

Weini Kelati Wins Her First USATF Title Since Gaining U.S. Citizenship

usatf 5k championship
Weini Kelati crossing the finish line in Central Park.
Derek Call

Weini Kelati broke the tape first over a deep field that included Olympians and U.S. Champions. The Under Armour-sponsored athlete and two-time national champion at New Mexico continued her recent hot streak after winning the Boston 10K for Women on October 16, putting a whopping 40 seconds on the second-place finisher.

Much like that 10K, the 24-year-old took the lead early and opened a gap on the field that never shrunk. She ran a new event record, clocking 15:18 over a deceptively difficult course. The previous record was 15:24, set by Molly Huddle in 2017.

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Kelati—who was born in Eritrea but grew up in Leesburg, Virginia—officially became a United States citizen in June, making this her first U.S. national championship. “It's a dream come true,” she said about winning her first U.S. title.

Rounding out the podium were Grace Barnett of Mammoth Track Club and Erika Kemp of the Boston Athletic Association in 15:45 and 15:46, respectively.

Barnett—who is a part-time third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher—came in with the goal of placing top-10, but found herself in the top-5 toward the end of the race. She said after the race that all she thought about when churning toward the finish was kicking hard.

Kemp, who won the USATF 20K championship earlier this year, was pleasantly surprised to see Barnett rush past her in the final meters of the race. She and Lauren Paquette of Northern Arizona Elite were by themselves in second and third until 400 to go. Suddenly, Kemp heard footsteps behind them. By 200 meters to go, Barnett charged in front of her.

“You never want to get passed,” Kemp said. “But then I saw it was Grace, so I got really excited, cause she’s great.”

After taking pictures with men’s winner Drew Hunter (see more below), Kelati was presented with another reward. After interviewing Hunter, the MC moved on to Kelati. He asked about her favorite movie, to which she replied McFarland USA. The film tells the story of a high school football coach—played by Kevin Costner—who moves to a new town and coaches a ragtag team of cross-country runners to a state title.

To her surprise, Kelati was handed a poster by Thomas Vallez, one of the former members of the state championship team, who signed it for her.

usatf 5k championship
Thomas Vallez, who was a part of the McFarland High School state championship team, hands Weini Kelati a signed movie poster.
Derek Call

Hunter Edges Past Centrowitz and Multiple U.S. Champions

Drew Hunter, the 2019 U.S. Indoor 2-mile champion and member of Tinman Elite outlasted a tight pack of runners to cross the finish line first on Saturday morning in a time of 13:53.

Hunter hung around in the pack—which included Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz and two-time Olympic medalist Paul Chelimo—until 200 meters to go where he made his push to the finish.

The race was Hunter’s first since February of this year. He’s been dealing with injuries since the 2019 outdoor track season that saw him qualify for the World Championships.

“Any time you win a race you feel super, super grateful,” he said. “I’m happy to be healthy and happy to be out there again.”

usatf 5k championship
Drew Hunter crosses the line in first place in Central Park.
Derek Call

Centrowitz—who races for the Bowerman Track Club—said he was pleased with his performance over 5K, a longer distance than he’s traditionally been successful.

“Between now and the indoor season, the training wouldn’t be any different if I was getting ready for the [1500 meters] or the 5K,” he said. “I’m just going to keep putting in good work and then do a little bit of under-distance racing and over-distance racing and see how things shape out.”

Sydney Gidabuday of Roots Running Project took the final podium spot. He made his move earlier but got swallowed up by the pack as everyone geared up for their final kicks. “It split up again when Drew made his move,” he said. He was able to pick people up from that split and nearly nabbed Centrowitz at the line, finishing with an identical time of 13:53.

Chelimo, who celebrated his 31st birthday just last week, had a disappointing day after charging off the startling line with an early lead, finishing in 14:08. "I’m not fit yet after the Olympics,” he said after the race, but noting he’s still happy to be in town with his family. “It’s just one of those type of races that’s always fun, being in New York on marathon weekend.”

For their wins, Kelati and Hunter took home $12,000. A total of $60,000 was distributed all the way through 10th place in both races.

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