Kenneth Rooks continued his storybook season Wednesday by winning his semifinal heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on the opening day of the NCAA track and field championships to advance to Friday’s final.

Rooks, a sophomore from Washington who returned home from a church mission to Uganda last fall, clocked the second fastest time of the day and the second fastest time in BYU history, 8:24.88. It is the fastest time run by a BYU steeplechaser in 45 years. Only four-time Olympian Henry Marsh has run faster for BYU — he clocked 8:21.60 in 1977.

Rooks, who placed 11th in the 2019 NCAA championships, knocked more than six seconds off his previous best time. He was running at the back of a six-man pack with one lap to go and took the lead for good with about 200 meters to go. Duncan Hamilton of Montana State clocked 8:23.13 to win the other semifinal heat.

BYU’s Garrett Marsing, who placed fourth in last year’s NCAA championships, failed to advance to the finals, finishing 19th in 8:45.71.

4 Cougars qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

Utah Valley University’s Adam Bunker, a freshman from Monticello, was 17th in 8:44.67.

Only one other Utah collegian advanced out of Wednesday’s semifinals to Friday’s finals — BYU’s Colten Yardley, a senior from Syracuse who placed eighth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 49.82. Malik Metivier of Texas Tech had the day’s fastest time, 48.89.

Zach McWhorter, the BYU school record holder indoors and outdoors, placed sixth in the pole vault with a mark of 18-4 1/2. He placed second in the NCAA indoor championships in both 2021 and 2022 and entered Wednesday’s competition with the second-best mark in the nation this season, 18-10 3/4. Teammate Caleb Witsken was 11th with a leap of 17-10 1/2.

In the only final of the day on the track, BYU’s Brandon Garnica and Casey Clinger finished 11th and 12th, respectively, with times of 28:21.64 and 28:22.99. The race was won by Notre Dame’s Dylan Jacobs with a time of 28:12.32.

Here is how the other Utah collegians fared in Wednesday’s competition:

  • BYU’s Dallin Vorkink was 20th after the first day of the decathlon, with a score of 3,733 points. Arkansas’s Ayden Delerme was the first-day leader, with 4,490 points. The decathlon will conclude Thursday.
  • BYU’s 4 x 100-meter relay team of Jared Davis-Dallin Draper-Landon Maxfield-Colten Yardley finished 24th (or last) in the semifinals with a time of 40.10.
  • Southern Utah’s Aaron Johnson placed 21st in the long jump with a leap of 24-0 ¼.
  • BYU’s Michael Whittaker was 20th in the javelin with a mark of 216-5.
  • BYU’s Sebastian Fernandez was 11th in the semifinals of the 800-meter run with a time of 1:47.66. The top nine qualify for the final.

The men get a day off (other than the decathlon) before resuming the final day of competition on Friday. The women begin their competition Thursday and will finish Saturday. The BYU women’s team has two front runners heading into the NCAA championships – three-time NCAA champion Courtney Wayment has by far the nation’s fastest time in the steeplechase, and Asthon Riner has the nation’s leading mark in the javelin.