Trevor Jones | Posted: 22 Jun 2023 | Updated: 17 Jul 2023

Men's Track and Field Season Review

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Kenneth Rooks runs at 2023 NCAA Outdoor National Championships

PROVO, Utah - BYU men’s track and field registered two top-15 national finishes and totaled 20 All-American honors in a 2022-2023 campaign that marked the program’s final year before entering the Big 12 Conference.

Six First Team All-Americans headlined a total of 12 honors earned by the men at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas June 7-10. There, BYU placed 10th with 22.5 points, only behind Texas Tech (34.5 points) among 2024 Big 12 teams and ahead of Virginia, Texas, Houston and Wisconsin.

BYU has now finished in the top-10 at outdoor nationals 25 times since 1964, with this season the third since 2011.

On June 13, BYU men’s track and field and cross country was named 2022-2023 John McDonnell NCAA Division I Men’s Program of the Year by the USTFCCCA. The annual award is given to the season’s most outstanding track and field/cross country program based on the best combined point performances at cross country, indoor and outdoor NCAA National Championships. The Cougars’ 25.5 points edged out Arkansas’ 26 to stand atop the nation.

BYU fielded a combined 64 men’s and women’s entries at the NCAA West Preliminary in Sacramento, California May 24-27. The total tied the Cougars for third nationally behind only Arkansas (75) and Texas (66). BYU’s 36 men’s entries ranked second nationally, trailing only Arkansas and just ahead of Texas’s third-place, 34 entries.

Indoor season saw BYU finish 12th while adding eight All-American honors, seven of which were First Team. The finish marked the fourth consecutive season inside the top 30 and 21st-ever top-15 finish in program history dating back to 1966.

The Cougars racked up a fourth straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title in Spokane, Washington Feb. 17-18 in BYU’s 12th and final year as a conference member for indoor competition. The four consecutive conference team titles is the longest streak since BYU’s run of nine straight indoor Mountain West Conference championships from 2003-2011. The men tallied six individual and two relay titles (DMR, 4x400m). The Cougars’ relay strength was on display, becoming just the third time since 2011 that both the distance medley relay and 4x400-meter squads won conference titles in the same year.

Kenneth Rooks captured the 3,000-meter steeplechase national title with a time of 8:26.17, punctuating the BYU men’s 10th-place finish at outdoor championships. The thrilling race came down to Rooks and Montana State’s Duncan Hamilton on the final laps, with Rooks separating before the final water jump to handily seize his first-ever national title at over six seconds ahead of runner-up Hamilton.

The junior is now a three-time steeplechase All-American, claiming back-to-back First Team honors after his sixth-place performance at nationals last season. Rooks is the fourth BYU steeplechaser to win an individual championship and the first BYU men’s athlete to claim a track and field individual title since Clayton Young in 2019.

During indoor season, Rooks earned First Team All-American honors as part of the DMR squad’s eighth-place, 9:39.45 finish at NCAA Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico March 10-11. He was also a member of the DMR squad that set a school-record with a 9:21.18 time at Notre Dame on Feb. 18.

On May 6, Rooks became the fastest American collegiate athlete to ever run the steeplechase at 8:17.62 (later surpassed by Hamilton at 8:16.23), earning him a spot on the prestigious Bowerman Watch List May 9. Rooks later became the first BYU men’s track and field athlete to be named one of ten Bowerman semifinalists June 22.

Casey Clinger seized three First Team All-American finishes in addition to a Second Team award across both indoor and outdoor seasons. Clinger ran 13:38.12 to finish as the runner-up in the 5,000-meters at indoor nationals. The senior with one remaining year of eligibility also recorded a podium finish in the outdoor 10,000-meters, crossing the tape at 28:13.63 for bronze in Austin earlier this month. The American Fork, Utah native also placed fourth in the indoor 3,000-meters (7:49.37) and 11th in the outdoor 5,000m (14:12.54).

Clinger further cemented his place in Cougar history this year, becoming the school record-holder in three indoor events: the 3,000m (7:43.96), 5,000m (13:17.36) and as a member of the distance medley relay squad (9:21.18). He is now one of five Cougars to hold seven career indoor/outdoor All-American honors, joining Leif Arrhenius, Rory Linkletter, Colten Yardley and Connor McMillan for third most in school history.

Caleb Witsken capped off a remarkable BYU career with a final climb in the record books, tying Robison Pratt for No. 2 all-time in outdoor program history with a clearance of 5.60m/18-4.5 to place sixth (First Team All-American) at the Outdoor NCAA Championships.

Witsken also became a three-time All-American in indoor competition, earning First Team honors with a clearance of 5.61m/18-4.75 to finish sixth overall at indoor nationals for the second time in his career. His best clearance of the year came on January 14 with a move up to No. 3 all-time in indoor program history (5.66m/18-6.75).

The senior’s five All-American honors between indoor and outdoor seasons tie Zach McWhorter and Victor Weirich for most combined All-American awards in the pole vault at BYU.

Cameron Bates’ javelin toss of 74.71m/245-1 at outdoor nationals placed him at eighth as he earned his second career First Team All-American honors and first since 2021. Bates joined elite company at BYU as just the third Cougar to earn multiple All-American honors in the javelin and first since Jari Keihas in 1979 and 1980. The junior is among twelve Cougars to have been named an All-American in the javelin in BYU history.

The Spanish Fork, Utah native stands alone atop the BYU record books in the event (77.17m/253-2, 2021). His best toss of the season came on March 31 at the Texas Relays, measuring 76.07m/249-7.

Decathlete Ben Barton competed at NCAA nationals for the first time, totaling 7,815 points (No. 6 all-time) to place eighth in Austin. The score marked the sixth-highest point total by a BYU decathlete at NCAA nationals. The sophomore shattered personal records in all 10 decathlon events during the outdoor season.

Barton collected his first career conference title during indoor season, winning the heptathlon at the MPSF Indoor Track & Field Championships Feb. 18 with 5,693 points. The showing propelled him to No. 2 all-time at BYU.

Senior Dallin Shurts' discus heave of 61.27m/201-0 at outdoor nationals netted him his second All-American honors and first career First Team All-American award at seventh place. He joined Leif Arrhenius (2011) as the second Cougar to be awarded a First Team All-American discus thrower since the NCAA began distinguishing between First Team, Second Team, and Honorable Mention honors in 2011.

Shurts’ best throw of the season came at the Texas Relays with a toss measuring 62.21m/204-1 on March 31.

Senior Brandon Garnica clocked a 29:38.56 in the 10,000m at outdoor nationals to take 16th and earn Second Team All-American honors, marking his second straight season as a second-teamer in the event. Garnica also collected two MPSF championships during indoor competition, crossing the line at 4:08.54 in the mile and as part of the DMR squad (9:53.05).

The Cougars took big strides in relay events, setting school records in the outdoor 4x400m, indoor 4x400m and distance medley relay.

The men’s 4x400m relay team of Trey Jackson, Jace Jensen, Eli Hazlett and Josh Taylor posted a 3:02.92, school-record time at NCAA Outdoor Nationals en route to honorable mention All-American awards. The group broke their own all-time BYU record set April 1 by 0.27 seconds (3:03.19). The squad’s success became the fourth top-five BYU all-time finish in the event since 2021.

The Cougars' indoor 4x400m relay school record was a 3:05.73, set by Eli Hazlett, Trey Jackson, Spencer Carlile and Josh Taylor.

At indoor nationals, the DMR squad finished eighth at 9:39.45 to rack up First Team All-American honors. The squad included Kenneth Rooks, Trey Jackson, Sebastian Fernandez and Lucas Bons.

Rounding out the 2022-23 All-Americans is sophomore distance runner Joey Nokes, who earned Second Team All-American in his first indoor nationals appearance.

In all, BYU posted 40 new top-10’s across 21 events both indoor and outdoor, several of which were earned by promising underclassmen such as Josh Taylor, Sebastian Fernandez, Joey Nokes, Creed Thompson, Davin Thompson, Brinton Paulson, Kyler Haughton, Eli Hazlett, Ryan Cibart and Spencer Carlile.

The Cougars will return to the track in December 2023 as members of the Big 12.

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