Kenneth Rooks, the BYU senior who gained national fame by winning the USA championships after falling, will be one of seven track athletes with Utah ties who will compete in the World Athletics Championships this week. Five of them are current or former BYU athletes.

The meet will be held in Budapest from Aug. 19-27.

Rooks, the first Utah athlete since Utah State’s Mark Enyeart in 1975 to win both the NCAA championships and the USA championships in the same year, will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It will be his first international race.

The other qualifiers with Utah connections: BYU alumni Zach McWhorter (pole vault), Nico Montañez (marathon), Rory Linkletter (marathon), and Courtney Wayment (steeplechase), former Utah State star Chari Hawkins (heptathlon) and former Utah All-American Simone Plourde (1,500 meters).

Utah collegians have rarely medaled in the world championships. Frank Fredericks, an NCAA champion while at BYU, won four medals — three silvers and one gold — in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Rooks, who will be a senior at BYU, ranks 25th in the world with a time of 8:16.78, but he did that after falling in the national championships. He lost three to four seconds in the process, but after flipping over a wooden barrier and rolling on the track twice he got up and gradually worked his way back to the leaders and then outkicked them in the homestretch to win.

It stands to reason that he can run several seconds faster if he can stay upright throughout the race. In Budapest he will compete against Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, who broke a 24-year-old world record this summer by running a time of 7:52.11.

Rooks will be joined in Budapest by his coach, Ed Eyestone, who oversees track and field at BYU and is a former Olympic marathoner.

McWhorter, who completed his collegiate eligibility at BYU in 2022, was a surprising second-place finisher in the USA championships last month, topping a personal-record 19 feet, 2 ¾ inches, which is tied for 10th in the world. He is coached by his father Rick, a Provo surgeon and former BYU pole vaulter. McWhorter has prepared himself by competing in several international meets — one in South Korea and two in Poland. Since the national championships, he has competed in Diamond League meets in Poland and London.

Montañez, who competed for BYU in 2015 and 2016, qualified for the world championships by posting a time of 2:09:55 in the 2022 Chicago Marathon. He’s part of a training group based in Big Bear, California.

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Linkletter, who competed for BYU from 2015-19, has been selected to represent his native Canada in the marathon. He produced his best marathon time of 2:10:24 last summer in Oregon. He lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Plourde, another Canadian who turned pro this summer after winning the Pac-12 championships for the University of Utah, finished second in the 1,500 at the Canadian championships. The top three finishers qualify for the world championships if they meet qualifying standards; short of that, World Athletics will accept the top 56 fastest athletes regardless of time, and Plourde’s time of 4:06.47, three seconds short of the qualifying time, puts her at No. 47.

Hawkins, who competed for Utah State from 2011-15, finished third in the heptathlon at the national championships. This will mark the second time she has represented the U.S. in the world championships (she finished 12th in 2019). She is coached by former BYU head coach Craig Poole in California.

Wayment, who finished her collegiate eligibility in 2022, finished third in the steeplechase at the USA championships. She trains with BYU coach Diljeet Taylor.

Utah runner Simone Plourde poses for photos at the University of Utah track in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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