Mitchell Briggs and Kristi Rush-Briggs may have more in common than most married student-athlete couples at BYU. They both represent BYU track and field, both compete in the steeplechase and both qualified for this year’s NCAA Division I Championships.
The story starts the summer after Kristi and Mitchell’s freshman year at BYU. The two met when they were sports camp counselors at the school’s cross-country summer camp for youth.
“The first time I met him I was like ‘Oh, that’s Mitchell,’” Kristi said. “During track season we hadn’t met, but I had heard about him. There were girls on the team that thought he was pretty cute.”
Kristi felt the same, and she knew she wanted to date him after seeing how Mitchell interacted with the kids. For Mitchell, the feeling was mutual.
“It was really easy to talk to her; she laughed at my jokes,” Mitchell said. “I knew I wanted to ask her out on a date. After our first date, I was like, ‘That was the best date of my life,’ so I figured I was going to keep asking her out until she said no.”
Two years later, Mitchell proposed to Kristi on her birthday — although not everything went according to plan. A few road bumps included a rogue gummy bear stuck to the bottom of the mat, which Mitchell proposed on. As Mitchell knelt down, the sticky candy caused the mat to slide and some of the votive candles tipped over. Thankfully, Kristi teased, nothing caught on fire.
Kristi said yes despite the mishaps, and they were married 26 days later. Kristi admitted she still has that gummy bear.
Now, Mitchell and Kristi are coming up on their one-year mark as a married couple, though lately their unique situation of qualifying for nationals as husband and wife have people calling them by a different name: Mr. and Mrs. Steeplechase.
“I think it is really nice (being married to another student-athlete) because he understands where I am coming from,” Kristi said. “He can give me encouragement and we can talk each other through hard times.”
While preparing for regionals, Kristi and Mitchell would give each other pep talks and write out their goals, such as times to qualify for nationals, on their bathroom mirror.
Whether it was the pep talks or just plain hard work and determination, Kristi and Mitchell walked away victorious after the NCAA Division I West Preliminaries in Austin, Texas.
“I just remember crossing the finish line, realizing that I had done it and thinking dreams come true, and then thinking that I get to do this with my wife too,” Mitchell said. “It brings another element, getting to go to nationals but also getting to watch my wife do it, as well.”
Kristi came into regionals ranked No. 6 nationally, and finished ninth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase while Mitchell finished 11th in his heat.
At nationals, Kristi finished 14th overall while Mitchell finished 18th.
“It is such a unique experience,” Kristi said. “We will never have one like this again, where we accomplished such a big goal together. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that we can tell our kids about one day.”
Kristi and Mitchell have found they share common interests and hobbies aside from their track background and accomplishments.
“We do enjoy the outdoors,” Mitchell said. “Right now running consumes us, so I think when we are done running we will do many things outdoors — kayaking trips, rock climbing and hiking.”
Like any other married couple, they have discovered the art of compromise and sacrifice when it comes to their differences. Mitchell loves to watch sports while Kristi is a Netflix fan, so they’ll watch one of Kristi’s shows while the basketball game is on mute. When it comes to movies, Mitchell likes action and adventure and Kristi needs her dose of romance.
“So if we go see a movie, it needs to have a little bit of both,” Mitchell said.
But having personality differences has proven beneficial for Mitchell and Kristi.
“He is more sports inclined, and I am very into my schoolwork,” Kristi said. “I think it is good because he encourages me a lot in sports and I help motivate him to study. He also helps me chill with school. I started the nursing program after we got married, and I could not have done it without him.”
Mitchell admits his grades definitely improved after he met Kristi.
Having accomplished so much together, with less than a year of marriage under their belt, it is clear Kristi and Mitchell’s love and respect for each other is mature and runs deep. Mitchell admires Kristi’s humility in her athletic and academic accomplishments, and Kristi is grateful for Mitchell’s kindness and patience. But this doesn’t stop them from engaging in some friendly banter and competition—specifically with board games on a Sunday night.
“Winner has to clean up, get a treat for the loser and make amends,” Kristi said. “We are both sore losers I guess.”
Kristi placed 14th at the NCAA Championship; Mitchell finished 16th. Kristi was also named second-team All-American while Mitchell received honorable mention.
At nationals, Kristi finished 14th (in the women’s 300-meter steeplechase), while Mitchell finished 18th on the men’s side.
Now that the season is over, Mitchell will start teaching Spanish and P.E. at Freedom Academy in Provo while Kristi will continue in BYU’s nursing program.