Kenneth Rooks, the former NCAA champion from BYU, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase Sunday night in the U.S. Olympic Trials, to earn a berth on the Olympic team.

That was not surprising. What was surprising — shocking even — was the performance of James Corrigan, a BYU sophomore who finished third and earned his own Olympic berth — maybe.

The steeplechase final played right into Rooks’ hands, or rather his legs. The 7 ½-lap race was tactical (slow) and the field tightly bunched until Rooks, who possesses a strong kick, made a big move with two laps to go.

Rooks, covering the last half-mile in about 2 minutes flat, ran away with the race, finishing with a time of 8:21.92.

Matthew Wilkinson finished second in 8:23.00 and Corrigan next in 8:26.78.

“We were focused on Kenneth, and then out of the corner of my eye, I saw James rolling by people like a steamroller,” said Ed Eyestone, the BYU head coach who has also continued to coach Rooks since the latter turned professional last winter.

Before the race, Eyestone had told Corrigan not to give up if he was gapped by the field late in the race because he believed if his teammate made a hard push the field would follow and eventually pay for it in the final homestretch.

As Eyestone put it to Corrigan, “If Ken makes a hard move, there is going to be a debris field and you’re going to pass a lot of people.” Corrigan was seventh with one lap to go and proceeded to pass five runners.

“I’m so very happy for both of them,” said Eyestone. “We couldn’t have drawn it up any better than that. Top-three at the Olympic Trials. You just can’t ask for more than that.”

Will Rooks and Corrigan compete at the Olympics?

There is just one problem. None of the top three finishers has met the Olympic qualifying standard of 8:15.00.

Rooks is close, with a season-best time of 8:15.08. Wilkinson recorded a time of 8:16.59 earlier this season. Corrigan’s best time is 8:21.22.

A world ranking system is used to determine whether non-time qualifiers advance to the Olympics. It is based on performances (times) and quality of victories (who have they beat) and ultimately the top 36 athletes make the cut.

Rooks, ranked 24th before Sunday’s victory, undoubtedly will make the team; Wilkinson, ranked 36th, will probably make it.

Corrigan’s situation is tenuous; he ranked 116th heading into the race. He defeated several quality athletes Sunday, which will help his cause, but his time was relatively slow, which won’t help his cause.

Two other Americans, Hillary Bor and Anthony Rotich — both Kenyan-born naturalized U.S. citizens — have already secured qualifying times. They would be next in line if Wilkinson and Corrigan don’t meet the qualifying time.

On the other hand, Bor finished a distant 13th and Rotich eighth in Sunday’s race. American record holder Evan Jager was fourth.

Corrigan has run only once under 8:26. He has come on strong only in the last week. He finished in ninth place in the NCAA championships two weeks earlier.

Normally, Corrigan could fly to Europe and enter a race on the Diamond League circuit, seeking a qualifying time, but the window for qualifying ends next Sunday and there are no races in Europe. Instead, Eyestone quickly arranged a race for him on Saturday in Pennsylvania.

“The meet wasn’t going to have a steeplechase but they’re going to add one,” says the coach.

That means Corrigan will have to race again less than a week after running two taxing races in the Trials, but he has no choice.

“We don’t have the whole summer (to get a qualifying time),” says Eyestone. “We knew that coming in. It is what it is. We’re not crying about it. In fact, we’re ecstatic to be in this position.”

BYU is ‘Steeple U’

There is plenty to celebrate.

BYU will have five current and former athletes compete in the Olympic Games if Corrigan’s gets a spot — and by the end of next week it could be six.

Conner Mantz and Clayton Young will represent the U.S. in the marathon, Rory Linkletter will represent Canada in the marathon, and Rooks and Corrigan could represent the U.S. in the steeplechase. Courtney Wayment is a favorite to make the team in the women’s steeplechase.

“I’m still floating. I’m levitating. I’m at an all-time high,” said Eyestone. “As high as I was when we went one-two in the marathon with Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, it was really beyond my wildest dreams coming into this that we could get both Kenneth and James in the top three.”

Like Corrigan, Rooks has come out of nowhere in the last year. He finished sixth in the 2022 NCAA championships; a year later he won the NCAA championship and the U.S. championship; and Sunday night he won his second U.S. championship (the Olympic trials double as the national championships).

BYU has certainly demonstrated prowess in the steeplechase. Five current or former BYU athletes have made the Olympic team — Henry Marsh (1976, 1980, 1984, 1988), Josh McAdams (2008), Rooks (2024) and Corrigan (2024) — and Wayment could add to the list.

Eight BYU athletes have won national collegiate championships in the steeplechase — Bob Richards, McAdams, Kyle Perry, Rooks, Courtney Wayment, Kassi Andersen, Michaela Mannova and Elizabeth Jackson. BYU has qualified five steeplechasers for the Olympic Trials — Wayment, Lexy Halladay and Taylor Lovell, as well as Rooks and Corrigan.

“BYU has one of, if not the best, steeplechase programs in the country,” McAdams said Sunday, “and going 1-3 at an Olympic Trials is testament to that. We’ll continue to see great things from the men and women’s programs at Steeple U.”

Runners with Utah ties at U.S. Track and Field Trials

Several other athletes with Utah connections competed on Sunday in the Olympic Trials.


Chari Hawkins, a former Utah State University All-American from Rexburg, Idaho, is in second place after four events in the heptathlon, which will conclude Monday. Anna Hall has 3,884 points, Hawkins 3,874. Hawkins, 33, is trying to make her first Olympic team after making two world championship teams.

Chari Hawkins reacts in the heptathlon high jump during the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Team Trials Sunday, June 23, 2024, in Eugene, Ore. | Charlie Neibergall

BYU’s Meghan Hunter finished seventh in her heat and posted the day’s 22nd fastest time in the semifinals of the 800-meter run. Her time was 2:03.27.

Cameron Bates, who recently finished his senior year at BYU, placed ninth in the finals of the javelin with a throw of 228 feet, 4 inches.

Four BYU athletes will compete Monday — Whittni Morgan in the finals of the 5,000-meter run, Wayment, Halladay and Lovell in the first round of the steeplechase and Riley Hunt in the first round of the 110-meter high hurdles.

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