For almost four decades, there were two women’s school records at BYU that were seemingly unassailable.

Then, in a single day, hours apart, both of them fell.

Julie Jenkins, the 1987 NCAA champion and 1992 Olympian from Plain City, stood atop the record board at BYU as the fastest 800-meter runner in BYU history; two NCAA 800-meter champions had passed through the school since then, but they couldn’t break Jenkins’ record, which was set in the 1987 USA championships.

On April 14, Claire Seymour, a senior from California, hit the finish line of the Bryan Clay Invitational in California with a time of 2:00.04, finishing behind LSU’s Michaela Rose (1:59.08) and breaking Jenkins’ mark of 2:00.50. Seymour, runner-up in the 2022 NCAA indoor championships, narrowly missed breaking the magic two-minute mark in recording the second-fastest collegiate time in the nation so far this season.

A few hours earlier, teammate Aubrey Frentheway, a senior from Wyoming, stepped to the starting line of the 10,000-meter run with an eye on Carey May’s school record of 32:51.20 set in 1984. Frentheway took down the record and then some, lowering it by 17 seconds with a time of 32:34.08.

It was a sign of the times that Frentheway finished only fifth in the race (but second among Americans).

“Aubrey has had her eye on the 10K school record for a few years now,” said BYU women’s distance coach Diljeet Taylor.

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The breaking of records held by Jenkins and May is especially noteworthy. Jenkins went on to have a successful professional career in which she ran one of the fastest times ever by an American (1:57.82) and qualified for the 1992 Olympic Games. Like Jenkins, May was a world-class talent. She went on to become one of the top marathoners in the world. Her school record in the 10,000 was also the Irish record. When Frentheway returned to Provo, men’s track coach Ed Eyestone showed her a photo of the tiny, short-haired May from her BYU days.

“I had to show her what Carey looked like,” says Eyestone, who was one of May’s teammates in those days.

So the records keep falling. The BYU top-10 record board — which hangs in the Smith Fieldhouse and lists the top 10 all-time performances in each event — should be updated with chalk these days because they change so frequently.

On the men’s side, 17 top-10 marks have been added to the 800, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000 and steeplechase since 2021. In other words, 34% of the marks in those five races combined have been set in less than three seasons. That includes one school record — Casey Clinger’s 5,000-meter mark of 13:23.33 set last season.

The most enduring records set in running events are held by four-time Olympian Henry Marsh in the steeplechase (1977) and Olympic silver medalist Ralph Mann (1970) in the 400-meter hurdles. Last season, freshman Kenneth Rooks recorded a time of 8:22.56, coming up just short of Marsh’s 37-year-old record of 8:21.60. Rooks seems likely to break that record in the next few weeks.

Eyestone himself holds another old record — the 27:41.05 he ran in the 10,000 in 1985 (Conner Mantz missed it by .11 of a second in 2021). Eyestone was a two-time Olympian and four-time NCAA champion.

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On the women’s side, 19 new marks have been added to the top-10 lists of 800, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000 and steeplechase — a 38% change. Significantly, that includes school records in each event.

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There’s no doubt that the rise of the carbon fiber shoes has contributed to the assault on the record board — which supports the belief that they make the biggest difference in the longer races — but it’s more than that. The runners who are breaking the marks are among the best of their contemporaries, who also wear the high-tech shoes.

The records in the women’s 1,500, 5,000 and steeplechase were all set by national champions and the 800 by an NCAA championship runner-up. Mantz was a two-time NCAA cross-country champion and Clayton Young the NCAA 10,000-meter champion in 2019, which most believe marked the start of the “shoe era” in track and field.

It should be noted that Young no longer has a top-10 mark in the 10,000 at BYU. In a single race this season, Casey Clinger, Creed Thompson, Brandon Garnica and Joey Nokes ran the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth fastest times in school history, knocking Young off the board.

“Shoes are making a significant impact,” says Eyestone, “but so is the depth of the programs that we’ve worked hard to get to. It’s a combination of excellent coaches, fast shoes and a good culture (at BYU) that produces amazing results.”

BYU’s Aubrey Frentheway, a senior from Wyoming, competes in the 2023 NCAA indoor championships last month. On April 14, Frentheway broke Carey May’s 10,000-meter BYU record of 32:51.20 set in 1984. Frentheway not only beat the record, she obliterated it, lowering it by 17 seconds with a time of 32:34.08. | Joey Garrison, BYU Photo
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