How difficult is it to qualify for this weekend’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships? Only the top 16 athletes in each individual event will compete in the meet from a total field of more than 20,000 athletes.

Let’s put it this way: BYU’s Aidan Troutner and Lucas Bons have posted mile times of 3:56.98 and 3:57.11 this season, and did not qualify. Those times would have won 17 of the last 19 NCAA indoor championship races.

Seventeen Utah collegians have qualified for the meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Albuquerque — 15 from BYU, two from the University of Utah.

BYU does not have the national championship contenders it has had in recent years — Conner Mantz, Anna Camp, Whittni Orton — but the Cougars have several highly ranked athletes. Their best hopes are distance runner Casey Clinger, pole vaulter Caleb Witsken, their distance medley relay teams and Clair Seymour.

Former BYU runner turns in another dazzling performance

Clinger, a fourth-year junior from American Fork, qualified for both the 5,000- and 3,000-meter runs. He will run the 5,000 Friday and the 3,000 Saturday. He ranks sixth and 13th, respectively, in those events. 

“He’s running very well,” says BYU coach Ed Eyestone. “The race will be at altitude and that doesn’t hurt us as much as it might someone else.”

Witsken, a converted decathlete, placed 10th in last year’s championships; he is ranked fifth heading into this weekend’s competition.

Clinger will not run a leg on the medley relay team so he can focus on the individual races, but he and Bons, who will run the anchor-leg mile, have run almost precisely the same time this season. BYU’s seventh-ranked medley relay team will consist of Kenneth Rooks (1,200 meters), Josh Taylor (400 meters), Sebastian Fernandez (800 meters) and Bons (mile).

Bons, who delivered a surprising 3:55 mile as a freshman in 2021, contracted COVID-19 about a year ago. He has a best time of 3:57.11 this season.

“He’s not back (to form) from COVID completely, but he’s looked very good,” says Eyestone.

Assessing his team, Eyestone says, “Overall, we’re going in knowing we’ve gotta battle to be in the top 20. Having said that, things sometimes break the right way.”

BYU’s women’s team has developed a number of small-town Utah high school girls into All-Americans, most notably Erica Birk, Morgan and Camp. Sadie Sargent, a senior from Coalville, has also achieved national-class status. She will compete in the 5,000-meter run and anchor the distance medley relay team.  

Freshman Taylor Rohatinsky, Annalise Hart and Alena Ellsworth will run the first three legs of the medley relay, which ranks fifth in the nation. “Coach (Diljeet) Taylor usually has them coached up to run better than they’re ranked,” says Eyestone. The BYU women’s distance medley relay team won the NCAA indoor championships in 2021.

Seymour has the 10th-fastest time in the 800, but she is capable of more. She placed second in the last year’s NCAA indoor championships.

Simone Plourde, right, and Emily Venters will be representing the Utes at this weekend’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. | University of Utah Athletics

The University of Utah has two of the highest ranked collegians in the state headed into this weekend’s championships. Simone Plourde, a junior from Canada who transferred from BYU, ranks fifth in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 8:53.95. Teammate Emily Venters, a junior who transferred from Boise State to Colorado and then to Utah, is ranked fifth in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:20.37

Who’s competing

List of in-state qualifiers for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which will be held in Albuquerque Friday and Saturday.

BYU athletes — event — rank — mark

Clair Seymour — 800 — 10th — 2:02.75
Riley Chamberlain — Mile — 13th — 4:33.14
Lexy Halladay-Lowry — 3,000 — 16th — 8:57.39 
Sadie Sargent — 3,000 — 15th — 8:57.08
Aubrey Frentheway — 5,000 — 8th — 15:32.82
Cailee Faulkner — Pole vault — 8th — 14-4 1/4
Cierra Tidwell Allphin — High jump — 9th — 6-1 1/2
Sadie Sargent — Medley relay — 5th — 10:49.24
Taylor Rohatinsky — Medley relay — 5th — 10:49.24
Annalise Hart — Medley relay — 5th — 10:49.24                                 
Alena Ellsworth — Medley relay — 5th — 10:49.24
Casey Clinger — 3,000 — 13th — 7:43.96
Casey Clinger — 5,000 — 6th — 13:17.36
Joey Nokes — 5,000 — 15th — 13:29.30
Caleb Witsken — Pole vault — 5th — 18-6 3/4
Kenneth Rooks — Medley relay — 7th — 9:21.18
Josh Taylor — Medley relay — 7th — 9:21.18       
Sebastian Fernandez — Medley relay — 7th — 9:21.18
Lucas Bons — Medley relay — 7th — 9:21.18

Utah athletes — event — rank — mark

Simone Plourde — 3,000 — 5th — 8:53.95
Emily Venters — 5,000 — 5th — 15:20.37