BYU runner's stumble leads to unforgettable comeback

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 09, 2023

PROVO, Utah — A BYU athlete is now a national champion after an unforgettable comeback.

Kenneth Rooks’ fellow track and field teammates are full of pride for their university and friend.

“It was just electric. Everyone was on their feet, jumping around,” said Dalton Mortensen.

Saturday night at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Kenneth Rooks, a junior at BYU, was competing in the 3,000 meter steeplechase.

“With the 3,000 meters, it’s just long enough but just short enough that with the right timing of a fall, that could be it for him,” said fellow runner Alex Garcia-Silver.

A little over two minutes in, Rooks fell, shocking his teammates who had gathered to watch the event together in Provo.

“Honestly, it was like a nightmare. It was like, this can’t be really happening,” said Cougars runner Lucas Bons. “But at the same time, I couldn’t picture a scenario where Kenneth didn’t make it.”

Rooks hopped back on his feet and booked it for the finish line. But back at the watch party, it was impossible for the teammates to stay still.

“We were all screaming our heads off, we were so excited,” said Caleb Johnson. “I lost my voice and am still trying to get It back.”

Rooks sprinted into the top three and easily passed his competitors, locking in first place.

“There were tears in my eyes and a couple other people watching. Especially for those of us that have known Kenneth for a long time, run with him every single day, do workouts with him, know the kind of person that he is. It’s such a special feeling to watch,” said Aidan Troutner.

Even with the fall, Rooks ran ten seconds faster than when he won the NCAA steeplechase championship in Texas back in June.

But this is the comeback story that BYU will always remember.

“I’m going to look back on this and know nothing is impossible," said Jacob Stanford. "Any moment that you feel like you fall on some proverbial hurdle you can still come back and you can even win.”