BYU’s Kenneth Rooks captures steeplechase national championship

For the second consecutive year, the NCAA individual steeplechase national champion is a BYU Cougar.

BYU junior Kenneth Rooks clinched the coveted national men’s steeplechase title Friday in Austin, Texas with a 8:26.17 finishing time, following 2022 women’s champion Courtney Wayment to make BYU the first school in history to produce back-to-back winners.

“I wanted to put myself in the middle or close to the front, be patient and ready when people started to push at the mile,” Rooks said. “When that happened, I was ready to respond. With 600 meters to go, I got lots of speed to go for it at that point.”

Rooks finished more than six seconds prior to runner-up Duncan Hamilton, having spent the majority of the race toward the middle of the pack before using the final 400 meters to separate himself for the championship.

“Kenneth rose up to the challenge,” BYU track and field director Ed Eyestone said. “Near the end, he was bold and used his momentum to get the lead. The faster Kenneth went over the barriers, the more smooth his performance was. He hit that last barrier perfect before the last water jump put it away. To see him put it all together and then execute that plan to perfection really is rewarding.”

With Friday’s performance, Rooks is now a three time steeplechase All-American and owns the fastest event time in program history. He is the fourth Cougar to win an individual steeplechase championship, joining Kyle Perry (2009), Josh McAdams (2006) and Bob Richards (1966) while becoming the first BYU men’s individual title holder since Clayton Young in 2019.

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