Olympic Trials Men’s Steeple — Rooks Affirms Fave Status

Rather than tumble and recover to win as he did last year, Kenneth Rooks broke away with a sharp late-race surge. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

WHAT A DIFFERENCE 3 years can make! None of our ’21 Olympians repeated for the ’24 squad, though both defending champ Hillary Bor and Benard Keter made the final while Mason Ferlic has an injured hamstring. Instead, it was Kenneth Rooks, the USATF champion last year who wasn’t even in the mix in ’21, who confirmed his leadership in the event.

Matthew Wilkinson (8:20.61) and Rooks (8:26.90) won their respective heats. Otherwise, the first round proved uneventful, with the only formchart alteration being the fade over the last few laps of Georgetown’s NCAA champ Parker Stokes, who did not qualify.

The final got off extremely slowly, with Nathan Mountain and Bor doing some early frontrunning before Joey Berriatua led past 1K in 3:00.18. He then dropped the lap splits from 72s to 67s, with Bor, Rooks and Wilkinson close behind and Keter moving up through the field. Wilkinson, the late-blooming Minnesota alum, took over and pushed through 2K in 5:47.79 ahead of Keter and Rooks.

Then Bor fell hard on his back at the water jump, and looked to be out of serious contention as the top 3 began to split away. A straightaway later, Rooks made his getaway with a 59.79 seventh lap that no one had a response for. Behind him, Wilkinson had his own fast lap (62.87) and began to look like a safe bet for 2nd. Bor, meanwhile, fought his way back into team contention and held the No. 3 spot ahead of Keter, Anthony Rotich and Evan Jager.

Rooks made his 8:21.92 win look easy, finishing with a 61.15 lap. Wilkinson closed with a 59.86 for 2nd (8:23.00). The surprise came in 3rd, which Bor held until the final water jump, when unheralded James Corrigan flew past and streaked to the finish in 8:26.78. The BYU soph, only 9th at the NCAA meet, burned a 60.57 last lap to pass three others.

Jager would finish 4th in 8:28.73, Virginia’s Yasin Sado 5th in 8:29.04 and Duncan Hamilton 6th in 8:29.20. Keter faded to 9th and Bor, disheartened after being passed at the final water jump, let 10 men pass him on the final straight.

“We went out slow,” said Rooks, “and I kind of got a little excited because that’s the kind of race I excel at. I went for it. It was surreal; with 200 to go I realized I just needed to make it over the barrier and I would win.”

It appears Rooks, Wilkinson and Jager are likely to represent the USA in Paris unless Corrigan achieves the 8:15.00 standard, which coach Ed Eyestone says he plans to shoot for in the next week. Rio Olympics silver medalist Jager has sufficient WA rankings points to be inside the quota on the strength of his ’22 NACAC title victory. The ’24 edition of NACAC has been postponed until ’25. Had that not happened, Jager’s points from the win 2 years ago would no longer be part of his rankings résumé.


FINAL (June 23)

1. Kenneth Rooks (Nik) 8:21.92 (61.15);

2. Matthew Wilkinson (UADS) 8:23.00 (59.87);

3. James Corrigan (BYU) 8:26.78 (60.58);

4. Evan Jager (NikBow) 8:28.73 (63.68);

5. Yasin Sado (Va) 8:29.04;

6. Duncan Hamilton (NikBow) 8:29.20;

7. Joey Berriatua (TinE) 8:29.95;

8. Anthony Rotich (NikeUSAr) 8:30.14;

9. Benard Keter (NikeUSAr) 8:32.82; 10. Derek Johnson (NBal) 8:34.37; 11. Nathan Mountain (Va) 8:34.63; 12. Isaac Updike (UADS) 8:35.98; 13. Hillary Bor (Hoka/ADP) 8:37.65; 14. Alec Basten (UAMRB) 8:44.81.

HEATS (June 21)

I–1. Wilkinson 8:20.61; 2. Corrigan 8:21.22 PR; 3. Mountain 8:21.22; 4. Sado 8:22.81 PR; 5. Bor 8:22.99; 6. Berriatua 8:23.28; 7. Basten 8:26.82; 8. Hamilton 8:27.20; 9. Carson Williams (Furm) 8:29.29; 10. Parker Stokes (Gtn) 8:33.63; 11. Rob McManus (MtSt) 8:41.83; 12. Jackson Shorten (Prin) 8:43.18; 13. Jackson Mestler (Asics) 8:43.35; 14. Christian Noble (NBalBos) 9:00.53.

II–1. Rooks 8:26.90; 2. Jager 8:27.07; 3. Keter 8:27.10; 4. Updike 8:27.17; 5. Rotich 8:27.17; 6. Johnson 8:27.64; 7. Gable Sieperda (IaSt) 8:28.80; 8. Travis Mahoney (unat) 8:30.22; 9. Brian Barraza (RootsR) 8:32.09; 10. Daniel Michalski (USAF) 8:34.43; 11. Alexander Korczynski (NEn) 8:37.11; 12. CJ Singleton (NDm) 8:41.45; 13. Brett Gardner (NCSt) 8:44.89; 14. Craig Nowak (unat) 8:45.14; 15. Aidan Tooker (unat) 8:59.54.