BYU’s Kenneth Rooks came within one second of erasing a 45-year-old school record during the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA track and field championships on Friday evening. That was the good news. The bad news: That earned him no better than a sixth-place finish.
The first seven finishers ran personal-best times and produced the seven fastest collegiate times in the nation this season. The race was won by Eastern Kentucky’s Ahmed Jaziri, a junior from Tunisia who clocked 8:18.70; the next two finishers were timed in 8:18.88 and the next two finishers 8:20.06 and 8:20.29. And then came Rooks.
His time of 8:22.56 is the second fastest time ever run by a BYU athlete, less than a second short of the time produced by four-time Olympian and former American record holder Henry Marsh – 8:21.60 set in 1977. Until Rooks came along this season, no BYU athlete had come within 8 ½ seconds of Marsh’s record. Rooks, a sophomore from Washington who returned from a church mission last fall, also clocked 8:24.88 in the semifinals on Wednesday.
On the final day of a two-day competition for the men, BYU also picked up points from Colten Yardley, a senior from Syracuse who placed seventh in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.10. The race was won by LSU’s Sean Burrell with a time of 48.70.
Teammate Casey Clinger, a sophomore from American Fork, placed 10th in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 13:33.20. It was his second race in three days. He finished 12th in the 10,000-meter final on Wednesday. The 5,000 was won by Wisconsin’s Olin Hacker with a time of 13:27.73.
The BYU men’s team, which was ranked No. 4 in the national polls entering the meet, finished in a six-way tie for 39th place in the team race with eight points. Their top finishers were sixth-place finishes by Rooks and pole vaulter Zach McWhorter.
In the lone women’s event of the day, BYU’s Halley Folsom finished the first day of the two-day heptathlon in 14th place with 2,473 points. Anna Hall of Florida was the frontrunner, with 2,856 points. Folsom produced marks of 13.97 in the 100-meter hurdles, 5-6 ½ in the high jump and 38-8 ¾ in the shot put. The event will conclude Saturday.
The women return for their final day of competition Saturday. Following Ashton Riner’s win in the javelin on Thursday, BYU is favored to pick up another win when Courtney Wayment competes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday. She has by far the fastest time in the nation this season.