Cougars lock up four more entries for nationals
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — No. 11 BYU men’s track and field accrued four additional entries for NCAA Nationals to finalize a total of eight entries qualified at this week’s NCAA West Preliminaries.
Kenneth Rooks clinched his spot for a shot at the national title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after running 8:25.06 to win his heat. The two-time All-American maintained a lead in the latter half to edge out conference champions from the Big Ten (Matthew Wilkinson, Minnesota) and Big 12 (Victor Shitsama, Oklahoma State).
“I felt relaxed,” Rooks said. “It felt like a good race and I felt in control. I didn’t give it everything I had and had a lot left. That’s probably the easiest 8:25.00 I’ve ever run, so it feels good.”
The national qualifying time caps a historic May for Rooks, including an 8:17.62 run at the Sound Running Track Fest on May 6 that is now third in NCAA history. Rooks has since been named to the prestigious Bowerman Watch List on May 17 and was awarded USTFCCCA Men’s National Athlete of the Week May 9.
“Kenneth looked smooth in his heat win and pulled away solidly when it counted,” said BYU director of track and field Ed Eyestone.
Dallin Shurts is headed to nationals for the second time in the discus after a crucial heave of 58.20m/190-11 on his third and final attempt. The senior found himself just outside of qualifying position before leaving no doubt with the last throw to move him into eighth place. Entering regionals at No. 8 nationally, Shurts placed ahead of qualifiers from three Big 12 schools, including Kansas’ No. 4 Dimitrios Pavlidis.
Aside from his own 2021 nationals appearance in the discus throw, Shurts is the first Cougar to compete in the discus at nationals since Leif Arrhenius (2011) and third for the program since 1992. Among those three is Shurts’ coach and former olympian Nik Arrhenius.
“Dallin came in clutch there on that last one,” said BYU throws coach Nik Arrhenius. “He has a whole lot left in him. He could have thrown a lot farther today, but was just a little bit off technically. Going to the big show is never easy, there’s a lot of studs in every competition that never make it. I’m happy he did it.”
The men’s 4x400-meter relay squad of Eli Hazlett, Jace Jensen, Landon Maxfield and Josh Taylor is nationals-bound with a No. 3 all-time showing at BYU (3:06.16) to place ninth. The accomplishment comes on the heels of their all-time school record of 3:03.19 at the end of March. This year’s Cougar 4x400-meter iteration is the sixth squad to reach NCAA nationals since 2010.
“Great performance by the guys,” said BYU sprints coach Kyle Grossarth. “Each one gave a great effort and I’m so happy for all of them. They have all worked so hard this season.”
Casey Clinger’s 13:36.27 performance in the 5,000-meters punched his ticket to nationals for the third consecutive season. Clinger - the BYU school record-holder for the event - placed eighth, just behind Nico Young of Northern Arizona.
“It was a good night,” Clinger said. “The race went out pretty fast, it wasn’t a jog-fest, it kind of just gradually picked up as the race went on. Nico Young did a push with 800 meters to go and the race broke open after that. With a lap to go, we knew that we were good as long as we held that position, so it felt like I had a good finish and I came out with a qualifier. I’m super stoked.”
The senior will look to earn his first outdoor First Team All-American honors.
“We had great expectations for Kenneth [Rooks] and Casey and they delivered,” Eyestone said. “It’s tough doubling back from a hard 10,000-meters, but Casey got up in the front two positions in the 5000-meters and never relented.”
A native of nearby Folsom, California, Jake Grimsman fell just one measurement short of qualifying status in the high jump. The sophomore cleared at 2.09m/6.10.25 after entering the day ranked No. 25 in the country. The clearance matched Big Ten champion Mayson Conner of Nebraska and Big 12 title runner-up Devin Loudermilk of Kansas.
Garrett Stanford recorded a personal record of 8:50.35 in the 3,000m steeplechase, improving by over a second from his May 6 run in his first season returned from a two-year church mission in Argentina and Colorado. Freshman James Corrigan also broke his personal best in the 5,000m by five seconds at 13:40.86 to place 14th, less than a second and two slots shy of a qualifying time.
NCAA Outdoor Nationals will begin on Wednesday, June 7, giving the men just under two weeks to prepare for their respective events at the highest stage in Austin, Texas. Each event will be streamed on ESPN+ with evening distance events aired live on ESPN2.
The USTFCCCA recognized 27 BYU men's track and field athletes with All-Academic honors on July 13.