Kenneth Rooks, the U.S. and collegiate champion from BYU, finished 10th in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the world track and field championships Tuesday in Budapest. It marked the first time in seven steeplechase finals this year that he didn’t win the race.
Rooks, competing in his first international event in a field that included the Olympic champion and the new world-record holder, ran with the leaders the first three laps, which were run at a modest pace.
The pace picked up significantly at the outset of the fourth lap. Rooks fell back a few places but remained within striking distance, running just off the back of the lead pack through five laps. Ultimately, the pace proved to be too much, and he faded over the final 2 ½ laps, finishing with a time of 8:20.02, about 3 1⁄2 seconds slower than the time he ran to win the U.S. nationals after falling. He used a strong finishing kick to pass a couple of rivals in the homestretch.
The race was won by defending Olympic and world champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco with a time of 8:03.53. Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, who set the world record earlier this year, was second in 8:05.44, with Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot third in 8:11.98.
For Rooks, the race marks the end of a long, successful season of running, one that actually began last fall with the BYU cross-country season and continued through the collegiate indoor and outdoor track seasons. He became the first BYU athlete ever to win both the NCAA championships and USA championships while still a student-athlete.
“I think it was one race too many,” said BYU coach Ed Eyestone, who was in Budapest. “That was, what, his 10th steeplechase race of the season (counting trial heats). But, having said that, he went into the race with intent and ran with courage and put himself in a good position. I like how he rallied the last 200. This is a young man who did great things this year. The wonder of it all is that 8:11 won a medal, and we know he’s capable of that. But when it’s his 10th race ....”
Rooks’ most noteworthy accomplishment before this year was a sixth-place finish in the 2022 NCAA championships. Now he has retained an agent to sift through NIL offers and guide him to a professional career, which could begin in a few months. Rooks plans to take a week off and then resume training for the 2023 NCAA cross-country season.
Former BYU All-American Zach McWhorter will compete in the qualifying round of the pole vault Wednesday. He placed second at the U.S. championships with a personal-best leap of 19 feet, 2 3/4 inches, which is tied for 10th in the world. Another former BYU athlete, Courtney Wayment, will compete in the qualifying round of the steeplechase.