Three Cougars earn First Team All-American honors on day one of NCAA Championships
AUSTIN, Texas — No. 14 BYU men’s track and field capped a historic opening day at 2023 NCAA Outdoor Nationals, with three men earning First Team All-American honors and a new 4x400-meter relay school record cemented Wednesday at Texas’s Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Casey Clinger crossed the line at 28:13.63 in the 10,000-meters to claim a podium finish at third and earn his first outdoor First Team All-American honors and sixth in his career including indoor competition. The senior became the sixth BYU men’s 10,000m runner to finish in the top-three at outdoor nationals since 2010 and 11th on the podium in the same time span for the program.
“I felt really good over the last 2,000 meters,” said Clinger. “I knew I had to stay relaxed and composed to have a good finish. The Stanford guys went for it with 500 [meters] to go and I was a little bit boxed in, but I was able to find my way on the outside. I gave it everything I could and would have liked to win, but I think I can walk away happy with my effort in fighting for every spot.”
Clinger jockeyed for position in the final few laps to secure his spot at third in the final stretch, placing a second ahead of Gonzaga’s James Mwaura followed by Oklahoma State’s Isai Rodriguez. He was the first American finisher.
“He ran the perfect race," said BYU director of track and field Ed Eyestone. “That first mile was so fast and in these conditions, that’s a gut punch. But he was patient and moved up gradually to be in great position going into that final kick. I’m super happy with how he gutted it out.”
Senior Brandon Garnica also raced in the 10,000m. He clocked a 29:38.56 to take 16th and earn Second Team All-American honors, marking the second straight season he has earned second team accolades in the event.
Caleb Witsken capped off a remarkable BYU career with one final climb in the record books, tying Robison Pratt for No. 2 all-time in program history with a clearance of 5.60m/18-4.5 to place sixth overall. Witsken is now a First Team outdoor All-American for the first time in his career.
The senior now holds five All-American honors between indoor and outdoor seasons.
“He is a fighter,” said BYU volunteer assistant pole vault coach Rick McWhorter. “He started cramping after 5.45m, but managed to jump 5.60m. He knew this would be his last meet. I told him to relax and enjoy the moment.”
McWhorter has now coached two top-two BYU all-time outdoor finishers in the pole vault, with his son Zach McWhorter and Witsken becoming No.’s 1 and 2 in the last two seasons.
“Rick McWhorter is a blessing to our program,” Eyestone said. “We are so thankful for the amazing job he does with our pole vault group. We are so thankful to have him as a volunteer assistant. Year after year, he gets his athletes to perform the best when it counts.”
Cameron Bates concluded his 2022-23 track and field season with a 74.71m/245-1 javelin toss to place eighth and earn his second career First Team All-American honors and first since 2021. The performance put Bates in elite company at BYU, making him just the third Cougar to earn multiple All-American honors in the javelin and first since Jari Keihas in 1979 and 1980.
“Cameron was able to come in clutch [at regionals] and make it to the finals,” said BYU assistant throws coach Nik Arrhenius. “He wasn’t able to improve upon that throw so remained in eighth. Coming back from surgery last year and throwing farther than he did at nationals two years ago is a great accomplishment.”
The men’s 4x400m relay team of Trey Jackson, Jace Jensen, Eli Hazlett and Josh Taylor overtook their own school record set in the same location at the Texas Relays on April 1, zipping to a 3:02.92 finish to improve upon their previous record by 0.27 seconds.
Despite the school record, the team placed eight spots out of qualifying position at 17th. Each relay squad member earned All-American Honorable Mention honors.
“We came up short of getting to the final round, but I’m proud of everyone,” said Taylor. “This is just a stepping stone to the future.”
After three events in the decathlon and sophomore Ben Barton in 12th with 2,419 points, he gained momentum in the high jump, finishing third at 2.01m/6-7 to move up to eighth overall. He was one of only four decathletes to clear two meters in the high jump on Wednesday, finishing behind only national frontrunners Kyle Garland of Georgia and Texas’s Leo Neugebeaur.
In the fifth and final event for Wednesday, Barton placed second at 46.88 in the 400-meters to maintain his eighth-place status among 24 athletes heading into the final five events on Thursday.
Kenneth Rooks easily advanced to Friday’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final as he ran 8:35.79 to take third in the semifinal.
“Kenneth ran a very smart, controlled race and looked good with his finish,” Eyestone said.
Rooks was preceded across the finish by Abdelhakim Abouzouhir of Eastern Kentucky and Minnesota’s Matthew Wilkinson. Duncan Hamilton of Montana State moved on to Friday as well, finishing sixth with a time of 8:38.07.
Rooks and Hamilton will face-off in Friday’s 3,000m steeplechase final at 8:24 p.m. PDT.
Barton continues decathlon competition on Thursday at 12 p.m. CDT. The remainder of men’s events get underway on Friday beginning at 7:35 p.m. with Dallin Shurts in the discus final.
The USTFCCCA recognized 27 BYU men's track and field athletes with All-Academic honors on July 13.