Among the 46 athletes that advanced to regionals, BYU’s track and field team sent three female steeplechasers, all nationally ranked in the top 15.
Courtney Wayment, a freshman from Layton, Utah, is ranked No. 12 in the nation; Erica Birk-Jarvis, a sophomore from Coalville, Utah, is ranked No. 7 and Kristi Rush-Briggs, a senior from Gilbert, Arizona, holds the No. 6 spot.
“They each have very different personalities and backgrounds in running,” said BYU Cross Country and Distance Coach Diljeet Taylor. “The one thing they have in common — and this is why they are very good — is because they are very, very competitive. It may not show in everyday conversation, but when that gun goes off, when it comes to racing, these girls have the ‘it’ factor.”
Wayment said being one of the top athletes in the nation is a cool feeling.
“It’s neat to know that instead of me going after everyone, I have a target on my back,” Wayment said. “I kind of like that feeling.”
Wayment radiates confidence — a trait Birk-Jarvis and Rush-Briggs both agree is one of her strongest characteristics on and off the track.
Between soccer and running, Wayment has always been involved in and loved athletics. She partially attributes choosing the student-athlete lifestyle to her strong athletic family background and unexpected tie to BYU track and field.
“Both my parents were collegiate runners at Weber State,” Wayment said. “Coach Ed Eyestone is one of my dad’s really good friends; they ran together in college. Once it came time to figure out where I wanted to go, I really trusted Ed. BYU has always had a prestigious program and it just seemed right when I signed.”
As a freshman, Wayment has proved successful in her collegiate career. At the Oxy Invitational, she ran a personal best of 4 minutes and 32.03 seconds in the women’s 1500-meter event. She also ran a personal best of 9:26.22 in the women’s 3,000-meter, placing 11th overall at the 2017 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. Additionally, Wayment took first place in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Trojan Invitational.
One of Wayment’s favorite things about running for BYU is the supportive team atmosphere.
“The experience has been amazing,” Wayment said. “I love the group of girls that I am with, including incoming athletes as well as those that are leaving. I love my coach and all of the coaches. But my coach is great, she is like a best friend, mom and coach to us.”
Wayment also emphasized that while Birk-Jarvis and Rush-Briggs are her competitors at the national level, they are teammates first.
Aside from her upcoming competitions, Wayment looks forward to her summer plans, which include marrying her fiancé in August.
Birk-Jarvis’ dream has always been to run for BYU. When it came time to choose, having a mother who ran for BYU and the program’s prestigious rank were two major factors that swayed Birk-Jarivs’ decision — one that she has been happy with ever since.
“I like college so much better (than high school) because of the team aspect,” Birk-Jarvis said. “The team is so good here. It is just a different level and it is fun to try and reach.”
Birk-Jarvis recognizes the support she received during her high school career motivated her and helped her reach the impressive level of athleticism she has today.
“My mom was one of those (supports),” Birk-Jarvis said. “She encouraged me, and that was helpful. My high school coach was David Peck — he is really supportive and just a good guy. He definitely helped me get here.”
Birk-Jarvis hit personal bests of 2:08.68, 4:19.34 and 4:38.95 in the 800-meter at the Oxy Invitational, the 1,500-meter at the Stanford Invitational and the Mile at the Iowa State Classic, respectively.
Birk-Jarvis’ favorite memory from the season is when she and Rush-Briggs both broke 10 minutes in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Mt. SAC Relays. It was the first time Birk-Jarvis had ever run the steeple. When Rush-Briggs passed her, Birk-Jarvis started running faster.
“She finished like a second ahead of me, and I knew that we had both run it under 10 (minutes). It was exciting,” Birk-Jarvis said. “I didn’t feel any fatigue. I was jumping up and down, screaming, because I could not believe that we had broken 10.”
Rush-Briggs said this memory was also her favorite of her senior season.
“It was neat to have that bonding experience with her,” Rush-Briggs said. “It is cool to get the goal that you want, but it was cooler that I got to run her first steeple with her and help her and that we both achieved this big goal together.”
Birk-Jarvis placed fifth and Rush-Briggs placed fourth overall in the event.
Besides dominating on the track, Birk-Jarvis enjoys cooking and has recently started to hunt with her husband.
At the close of the season, Birk-Jarvis looks forward to summer vacations, which include trips to Canada and Disney World.
Unlike her teammates, Rush-Briggs did not originally plan to become the collegiate track star she is now.
“I ran in junior high and high school, but going into high school I did not want to run. I didn’t enjoy it very much,” Rush-Briggs said.
She said one of her key motivators, aside from coaches and her parents, was her sister, who also ran cross country.
“My sister encouraged me to run when I was kind of burnt out,” Rush-Briggs said. “She was a great leader to me and made it fun.”
Her sister went on to run cross country at the University of the Pacific, while Rush-Briggs signed with BYU.
“My mom actually made me apply to BYU,” Rush-Briggs said. “I wasn’t going to, but she encouraged me to go on the recruiting trip.”
Thanks to Rush-Briggs’ strong legion of support, she can reflect on the accomplishments she has made since the start of her college career, including her impressive No. 6 national ranking.
“Sometimes it is unbelievable, but also really cool, especially since I just started the steeple last year and my teammates had just started it this year,” Rush-Briggs said. “It is cool too because it is my senior year — those goals that I had hoped to reach my freshman year are becoming a reality.”
Rush-Briggs placed first in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Stanford Invitational, took fourth in the 1,500-meter run at the Oxy Invitational and achieved personal bests — including a time of 2:10.95 in the women’s 800-meter at the 2017 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships.
At the end of her eligibility, Rush-Briggs plans to finish her undergraduate studies and pursue a career in nursing.