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Kenneth Rooks should be a household name for the lessons he taught with his actions recently when he fell during the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

In May, Rooks broke BYU’s record in the steeplechase. In June, the returned Latter-day Saint missionary won the NCAA steeplechase championship for BYU. But on Saturday at the U.S. championships, the runner ahead of him stutter-stepped going into a hurdle and actually put his hands on it and half-vaulted and half-climbed over it. Rooks had to slam on his brakes to keep from hitting the runner.

“If I had put my foot up, I would have kicked him in the back,” he told reporters afterward.

While Rooks managed to stop his feet, his upper body pitched forward over the barrier and he landed on the track hands first before going into a roll.

Reporters who interviewed him were stunned to learn he had planned for just that moment.

“Before the race, I thought about if I fall, what am I going to do? How am I going to respond? I decided I’d get up and continue ...,” he said.

After he fell, he said his brain immediately told him he was done. The video shows him hesitate for the slightest moment as he stood up. Then that advanced planning kicked in. He turned and set out after the pack of runners.

“I just wanted to be ready for any kind of scenario, to respond to adversity,” he said about making his plan ahead of time.

That planning helped make him a U.S. champion.

As a missionary who served in Uganda and Orem, Utah, during COVID-19, he is accustomed to adversity and planning. He said there is good reason to be prepared for a spill in his specialty race.

“It’s not the first time I’ve fallen. If you’re in the steeplechase, you will fall eventually. It does happen sometimes. I’m just grateful that it worked out as well as it did for me today, because most of the time it doesn’t.”

If you haven’t seen it, it’s great theater. This video unfortunately cuts out the four minutes after he fell and began his way to reeling in the pack ahead of him. It does capture the stunned reactions of the announcers when they belatedly realize he’s back in contention.

You can read his coach’s thoughts on Rooks’ victory in this story. Rooks also said he took a page from BYU steeplechase legend and Olympian Henry Marsh, who liked to run races from the back. You can read what Marsh had to say about Rooks’ achievement here. The Church News wrote about his comeback here. And this story rounds up the reaction on Twitter.

Meanwhile, parents and youth leaders certainly can share Rooks as an example of grit, confidence, preparation and effort.

About the church

The Church History Museum in Salt Lake City has opened a new exhibit honoring artist Minerva Teichert.

The church opened six new missions on July 1, five of them in Africa.

A mid-2023 look at temple milestones — dedications, rededications, groundbreakings and announcements.

What I’m reading

This BYU runner overcame an eating disorder to qualify for next year’s Olympic Trials in the marathon.

Here’s an opinion published in the Deseret News on changing the narrative about religion and the LGBTQ community.

One Latter-day Saint political scientist weighed in with his views on church leaders’ recent statement about political neutrality with a piece published on Yahoo News.

I also made sure to watch the video of Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone winning the 400-meter U.S. title. The Olympic champion holds the world record in the 400 hurdles, and now she’s beginning to dominate the 400 sprint. These are two of the toughest races in the sport. What she’s doing is remarkable.