Ten thousand meters equals 32,808 feet and whole lot of strides.
BYU senior Clayton Young made all the right steps on Wednesday, racing to the NCAA title in the 10,000 meters in Austin, Texas.
Young took the lead right as the bell sounded for the final lap, then held off Alabama’s Gibert Kigen. The two athletes ran stride for stride for about 75 meters but Young surged ahead and broke the tape with a time of 29:16.60. Kigen finished second at 29:18.10 with Young’s teammates, Connor McMillan (29:19.85) and Conner Mantz (29:19.93), third and fourth, respectively.
Young becomes BYU’s first individual men’s NCAA champion since Miles Batty won the indoor mile in 2011 and the first outdoor title winner since Kyle Perry won the steeplechase in 2009. The last men's 10,000-meter champion from BYU was Cougar coach Ed Eyestone (1985).
Young, a former American Fork standout, earned his ninth All-American citation after finishing 23rd (honorable mention) in last year’s 10,000-meter race.
The temperature in Austin at race time was 81 degrees with 77 percent humidity. A group of 12 runners pulled away from the pack with six laps to go, including Young, McMillan and Mantz. Young surged into second with two laps to go.
BYU’s Rory Linkletter, who finished second in the 10,000 meters in 2017, took 15th in this year’s race (29:55.21), with Dallin Farnsworth (30:58.64) in 21st and Connor Weaver (31:11.05) in 23rd.
Five other Cougars advanced to Friday’s finals in several other events.
In the 1,500 meter semifinals, BYU junior Talem Franco ran a smart race just inside of defending national champion Oliver Hoare of Wisconsin, finishing third in his heat at 3:44.46. It was also the third fastest time overall, which makes Franco one of 12 runners to qualify for Friday’s final.
BYU’s Matt Owens, Kenneth Rooks and Clayson Shumway ran third, fourth and fifth in the second 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal to earn spots in Friday’s final. Rooks and Shumway actually finished with the same time (8:54.39).
BYU junior Jacob Heslington ran an 8:54.21 in the first heat of and finished seventh. His time matched that of Owens in the second semifinal heat, which was good enough for the last qualifying spot in the finals.
In the 4x400-meter relay semifinals BYU’s Abram Schaap, Blake Ellis, Colten Yardley and Michael Bluth ran a 3:08.02 — eighth in their heat — and did not qualify for the finals.
BYU decathlete Brian Mathews was in 14th place after the first day of competition with 3,860 points through five events. His best finish was a seventh in the shot put (47-6.5). The decathlon concludes on Thursday.
Thursday is also the first day of the women’s side of the NCAA meet. BYU athletes competing are Whittni Orton (1500-meter semifinals), Erica Birk-Jarvis (3000-meter steeplechase semifinals), Anna Camp-Bennett and Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes (800-meter semifinals) and Brenna Porter (400-meter hurdle semifinals).