BYU’s Casey Clinger, a junior from American Fork, finished third in the 10,000-meter run on Day 1 of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.
“I honestly thought he might win with three laps to go because he was covering every move so well. The two guys who beat him ... got the jump on him with 450 to go as Casey was in a bit of a box at the time.” — BYU coach Ed Eyestone
Heat and humidity played a role in a tactical race that was decided on a fast last lap. Stanford teammates Ky Robinson and Charles Hicks, both juniors, finished first and second, respectively, with times of 28:10.96 and 28:12.20.
Clinger was next, with a time of 28:13.63. Clinger’s teammate, Brandon Garnica, a senior from Springville, placed 16th in the 24-man field with a time of 29:38.56.
“(Clinger) competed very well,” said BYU coach Ed Eyestone. “On a warm, humid night he ran a smart, patient race, covering every move at the end and running 56 for his last lap.
“I honestly thought he might win with three laps to go because he was covering every move so well. The two guys who beat him ... got the jump on him with 450 to go as Casey was in a bit of a box at the time.”
It marks the sixth time a BYU runner has finished in the top three at outdoor nationals since 2010.
Other than the 10,000, opening night of these championships consisted of semifinals on the track and a handful of finals in the field events.
BYU’s Cameron Bates placed eighth in the javelin with a throw of 245-feet, 1 inch. LSU’s Tzuriel Pedigo produced the winning throw of 261-9.
BYU’s Caleb Witsken tied for sixth in the pole vault by scaling 18 feet, 4 1⁄2 inches, while Cedar English of Southern Utah University placed 22nd in the long jump with a mark of 24-1 3/4.
As expected, BYU’s Kenneth Rooks advanced easily to Friday’s steeplechase final, finishing third in the second heat with a time of 8:35.79. The top five advance to the final automatically.
Eastern Kentucky’s Abdelhakim Abouzouhir won the heat in 8:35.41.
Rooks’ top two rivals figured to be Montana’s Duncan Hamilton and Georgetown’s Parker Stokes, who finished second and third, respectively, with the same time in last year’s NCAA final.
Hamilton won the first heat in 8:38.07, while Stokes finished 14th overall and failed to advance to the final.
That sets the stage for a show down between Hamilton and Rooks in the final. They have the first- and second-fastest times in the world, respectively.
Weber State’s Bronson Winter was 12th in the second heat and failed to advance.
It’s a measure of the remarkable talent level of collegiate track that BYU’s 4 x 400 relay team ran a blistering time of 3:02.92 in the semifinals and placed no better than 17th overall.
Only the top nine teams advance to Friday’s final. The ninth-fastest time was 3:01.51 — just a shade over 45 seconds per runner.
Florida had the fastest time, 2:58.62.
BYU’s team of Eli Hazlett, Jace Jensen, Trey Jackson and Josh Taylor broke a school record of 3:03.19 set earlier this season while finishing second in the Texas Relays.
Ben Barton, a BYU sophomore, was in sixth place after the first day of the two-day decathlon, with 4,196 points.
Georgia’s Kyle Garland was the first-day leader, with 4,570 points. Peyton Bair, a Mississippi State freshman from Idaho, was fourth, with 4,212 points.
Barton had marks of 10.74 in the 100, 23-feet-0 3⁄4 inches in the long jump 43-3 1⁄4 in the shot put, 6-foot-7 in the high jump and a superb 46.88 in the 400.
The women take the stage on Thursday, repeating the schedule the men followed Wednesday.
The men’s competition will conclude Friday, followed by the women on Saturday.