BYU track teams prepared for strong finish at NCAA meet
Nate Edwards/BYU Photo
The BYU men’s and women’s track teams will finish the school’s 2022-23 sports season in Austin, Texas at the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships. The event begins on Wednesday at Mike A. Myers Track Stadium and concludes on Saturday.
BYU’s 17 combined men’s and women’s entries are tied for 13th nationally with Oklahoma, making the program one of just 16 programs with 15 or more combined entries.
The No. 14 BYU men’s track and field will have 11 athletes compete in eight events at the finals.
Senior distance runner Casey Clinger qualified in both the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters. Clinger is seeking his sixth career All-American honor after winning a pair of first team awards at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships in March. He is the school record holder in the 5,000 (13.23.33 in 2022) and No. 5 all-time in the 10,000 (28:01.67 in 2023).
Junior Kenneth Rooks will race in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, entering the competition ranked No. 2 in the country. His second all-time steeplechase finish in NCAA history on May 6 (8:17.62) was narrowly surpassed by Montana State’s Duncan Hamilton at May’s NCAA West Preliminaries after Hamilton clocked a time of 8:16.23. Rooks ran 8:25.05 to punch his ticket to the national meet.
Rooks is the BYU school record-holder in the steeplechase after his May 6 performance surpassed Henry Marsh’s 46 year-old record by four seconds.
Senior pole vaulter Caleb Witsken is looking for his fifth career-All-American honor. Last season, he finished 10th at the NCAA Meet and is No. 3 all time at BYU (18-3 in 2022).
Sophomores Josh Taylor, Eli Hazlett and Jace Jensen, along with junior Landon Maxfield, are set to race as members of the 4×400-meter squad. Maxfield brings valuable experience at the highest collegiate stage, with three outdoor relay All-American honors under his belt, including Second Team 4x400m honors in 2021.
No stranger to success in Texas, the 4x400m A-squad blazed to a school-record, 3:03.19 finish at the Texas Relays on April 1. That time currently stands at No. 13 in the nation.
At last month’s NCAA West Preliminaries, the squad qualified with a No. 3 all-time BYU showing (3:06.16) to place ninth. With the finish, the squad became the sixth 4x400m relay squad at BYU to reach NCAA nationals since 2010.
Sophomore Ben Barton will compete at NCAA nationals for the first time in his career, having solidified his decathlon qualifying status on May 12-13 at BYU’s Last Chance Invite when he posted a total of 7,734 points. The score was good for No. 6 all-time at BYU.
Barton did not compete at the NCAA West Preliminaries, as qualifying decathletes (top 24) automatically advance to nationals. He extends the Cougars’ streak of decathlon entries at outdoor nationals to seven consecutive years.
Junior Cameron Bates returns to outdoor nationals for the second time and first since 2021, having earned First Team All-American honors in the javelin at his first appearance. Standing alone atop the BYU record books in the event (77.17m/253-2, 2021), Bates is ranked No. 7 in the country this season after a toss that measured 76.07m/249-7 on March 31 at the Texas Relays. He joins several other Cougars who come to nationals having earned their season-best mark or time in Austin. At this year’s NCAA West Preliminaries, the junior placed sixth with a toss of 70.89m/232-7.
Senior Brandon Garnica is back at nationals for the second year in a row after having earned Second Team All-American honors in the 10,000-meters in 2022. Ranked No. 11 in the nation, he owns a season-best time of 28:04.62 set on April 13 at the Bryan Clay Invitational. The senior has recorded two BYU top-10 performances in his career, including a No. 7 all-time run in the 10,000m.
Garnica clocked a 28:24.05 10,000m run at the NCAA West Preliminary round last month to place 10th. He and fellow qualifier Casey Clinger finished within a second of each other. The pair continue the program’s streak to 10 consecutive years with a 10,000m qualifier at outdoor nationals.
Dallin Shurts is set to compete in his second NCAA nationals appearance. The senior discus thrower last competed in 2021, earning Second Team All-American honors. At No. 8 in the country, he joins Rooks, Bates and Clinger as the four Cougars entering nationals ranked in the top 10 of their respective events.
His season-best also came at the Texas Relays with a toss a 62.21m/204-1. At May’s NCAA West Preliminaries, Shurts tossed a 58.20m/190-11 to place eighth. He aims to break his career-best toss of 62.32m/204-5 (No. 6 all-time at BYU) set at last year’s USATF Championships.
No. 19 BYU women’s track and field will be represented by 11 athletes in eight entries across seven different events.
A season ago, BYU boasted two national champions in Ashton Riner-Lunt (javelin) and Courtney Wayment (3,000-meter steeplechase). Riner-Lunt and Wayment joined heptathlete Halley Folsom Walker in earning First Team All-American honors and scoring points that helped the Cougars finish tied for ninth as a team.
Riner-Lunt looks to become BYU’s fourth all-time repeat national champion and third to do so in consecutive seasons. Tiffany Lott-Hogan won the heptathlon in back-to-back seasons (1997-98) while Anna Mosdell did so in the discus throw (1991-92). Themis Zambrzycki, the program’s first-ever national champion, won the pentathlon in 1978 and again in 1980.
Sophomore Lexy Halladay-Lowry is BYU’s lone competitor in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She finished sixth at the NCAA West Preliminary with a time of 9:46.02 as is ranked No. 2 all-time at BYU, only behind Wayment. Hallady-Lowry ranked sixth nationally this season.
Senior Claire Seymour will compete in the 800 meters and as a member of the Cougars 4×400 relay team. She finished ninth at the NCAA West Preliminary and ranked No. 1 all-time at BYU in the women’s outdoor 800 meters.
Junior Meghan Hunter is also running in the 800 meters and as a member of the 4×400 relay team. She ran a 2:05.35 to finish 13th at the NCAA West Preliminary.
Senior Aubrey Frentheway broke her own school record in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA West Preliminary (32:28.85) while finishing in fourth place. She ranks sixth nationally and is aiming to become just the second BYU women’s athlete to win the 10,000. The first was Tara Northcutt-Rohatinsky in 2000.
Junior Cierra Tidweel Allphin will compete in the high jump after clearing 5-11.5 to tie for ninth at the NCAA West Preliminary. That jump tied for No. 2 all-time in that event at BYU with Melinda Hale (1994).
The 4×100 relay squad is comprised of Adaobi Tabugbo, Jaslyn Gardner, Dolita Shaw and Marianne Barber, who combined to clock a school-record 43.84 to finish 10th at the NCAA West Preliminary. The 4×400 relay team will include Hunter, Seymour, Barber and Brilee Pontius. That group ran a school record time of 3:32.88 at the NCAA West Preliminary, a ninth-place finish.