Rooks breaks steeplechase school record at Sound Running Track Fest
LOS ANGELES — BYU men’s steeplechaser Kenneth Rooks rewrote BYU and NCAA record books with a historic, all-time great race, going 8:17.62 at the Sound Running Track Fest at Hilmer Lodge Stadium on Saturday night.
Rooks ran a steady, patient race before gathering himself to counter former Olympian Hillary Bor’s move with 800-meters to go. After withstanding Bor’s initial onslaught, Rooks delivered a knockout blow, running the final lap in 59 seconds to beat On’s George Beamish by three seconds.
“He won in a superlative way,” BYU director of track and field Ed Eyestone said. “He was patient, cool, calm, and collected.”
Rooks himself was taken aback by his performance.
“I was honestly a little bit in awe towards the end of the race when I took the lead with 200 to go,” Rooks said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually going to win this thing today.’ It’s cool to win and accomplish some things I didn’t even think about accomplishing.”
With his performance on Saturday night, Rooks becomes the 2023 men’s steeplechase world-leader and the event’s fastest American collegian in history. Across all nationalities, Rooks now ranks second in NCAA history to only Henry Rono of Washington State. Rono, a native Kenyan, ran 8:05.4 in 1978. Rooks also broke three-time Olympian Henry Marsh’s BYU school record 8:21.60 set in 1977.
“Kenneth’s run was one of historic proportions,” Eyestone added. “Watching it all unfold was just one of those goose-bump sort of moments.”
Rooks not only faced and beat Bor but former U.S. Olympian Benard Keter and professional runners from Hoka, New Balance and Under Armour. Rooks credited his competition for his performance.
“This was a big confidence booster for me,” Rooks said. “I felt like I had more to give in the last few races I was in, so it felt good to be in this race today where the other guys pushed me to do what I did.”
A junior from Walla Walla, Washington, Rooks majors in civil engineering at BYU and is just two years removed from a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rooks served in both Kampala, Uganda and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Orem, Utah.
“When you take two years off of running and go on a mission, you wonder what it’s going to be like to get back in shape,” Rooks said. “It’s about trusting and being patient. Your body remembers things really well. It also helps having teammates who have been through it before.”
Twenty of Rooks’ distance teammates are also returned missionaries.
Oxy Invitational | Los Angeles, California | Bill Henry Track
Garrett Stanford took second in the 3,000m steeplechase with a personal-best 8:51.52. Stanford’s four-second improvement was enough to beat third-place Daniel Vaca of Loyola Marymount by over 12 seconds. The freshman from Carlsbad, California also moved into regional qualifying position, taking 34th in the NCAA West over Hayden Harward of Southern Utah.
BYU commanded the top-five spots in the 5,000-meters with Casey Clinger, James Corrigan and Brandon Garnica in first, second, and third respectively.
BYU returns to Provo for its final home meet of the season at Clarence Robison Track and Field Complex May 12-13.
Track and Field to compete at Oxy Invitational, Sound Running Track Fest
PROVO, Utah — With three weeks remaining before the NCAA West Preliminary meet, No. 9/No. 12 BYU men’s and women’s track and field will compete athletes at the Oxy Invitational and Sound Running Track Fest in southern California on Saturday.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Host: Occidental College
Venue: Bill Henry Track
Sound Running Track Fest*
Location: Walnut, California
Host: Sound Running
Venue: Hilmer Lodge Stadium
*Results do not count toward NCAA qualifying.
Seven BYU athletes are set to face professional and international competition at the Sound Running Track Fest on Saturday. Claire Seymour will compete in the 800-meters while Taylor Rohatinsky, Riley Chamberlain and Carmen Alder will run in Section Three of the 1500.
Lexy Halladay-Lowry will star in the steeplechase and face former BYU teammate Courtney Wayment (now of On Running) along with fifth-ranked Ceili McCabe of West Virginia. Ugandan Olympian Halimah Nakaayi is also featured in the steeplechase field.
Jenna Hutchins and Aubrey Frentheway will feature in the 5000-meters and face three Olympians in Erin Teschuk of Canada, Portugal’s Marta Freitas and Lea Meyer of Germany.
Kenneth Rooks also faces a trio of Olympians in the men’s steeplechase. Rooks will run against American Olympians Benard Keter and Hillary Bor along with Ben Buckingham of Australia.
BYU boasts 10 top-10 nationally ranked athletes across eight different events.
Seymour leads the pack, ranking second in the women’s 800-meters behind only Michaela Rose of No. 6 LSU. Seymour reached Division I’s second-leading spot with a school-record time of 2:00.04 at the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 14. The senior from Modesto, California looks to become the program’s first ever woman to break the two-minute barrier in the mid-distance event.
|Women's 800-meter Rankings|
|1.||Michaela Rose||No. 6 LSU||1:59.08|
|2.||Claire Seymour||No. 12 BYU||2:00.04|
|3.||Valery Tobias||No. 1 Texas||2:00.31|
|4.||Imogan Barrett||No. 2 Florida||2:00.96|
|5.||Juliette Whittaker||No. 17 Stanford||2:01.79|
Cierra Tidwell Allphin ranks third nationally in the women’s high jump after clearing 1.88-meters/6-2 at Mt. SAC Relays on April 15. The junior from Gilbert, Arizona is now just a half-inch shy of tying Andrea Stapleton-Johnson’s school record clearance set in 2019.
|Women's High Jump Rankings|
|1.||Lamara Distin||No. 7 Texas A&M||1.95m/6-4.75|
|2.||Elena Kulichenko||No. 8 Georgia||1.90m/6-2.75|
|3.||Cierra Tidwell Allphin||No. 12 BYU||1.88m/6-2|
|4.||Jenna Rogers||No. 11 Nebraska||1.86m/6-1.25|
|Morgan Smalls||No. 6 LSU||1.86m/6-1.25|
Rooks stands at fifth nationally in the men’s steeplechase after running a season-best 8:31.81 at the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 13. The junior from Walla Walla, Washington remains in the hunt for the school steeplechase record after he clocked 8:22.56 at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Three-time Olympian and former BYU great Henry Marsh holds the record of 8:21.60 set in 1977.
|Men's Steeplechase Rankings|
|1.||Duncan Hamilton||Montana State||8:25.17|
|2.||Matthew Wilkinson||No. 22 Minnesota||8:29.35|
|3.||Ed Trippas||No. 10 Washington||8:31.40|
|4.||Victor Shitsama||Oklahoma State||8:31.50|
|5.||Kenneth Rooks||No. 9 BYU||8:31.83|