Kenneth Rooks Rules Steeple Final; Jager 4th But Could Still Make Olympic Team

EUGENE, Ore. — Kenneth Rooks is the king of the steeple in the US.

After a very slow opening kilometer of 3:00, the pace picked up in the second kilometer (2:47) of Sunday night’s men’s 3,000m steeplechase final at the 2024 US Olympic Trials. The race really got going the final kilometer as former DIII runner Matthew Wilkinson of Under Armour Dark Sky made a long push for home with three laps to go. Three-time US champ Hillary Bor fell over the water barrier with just over 900m to go, then defending champion Rooks moved into the lead and upped the ante, blasting a 59.79 penultimate lap to open up a 2.4-second gap at the bell.

Rooks would hold on to win in 8:21.92 over Matthew Wilkinson who had the fastest last lap and finished a clear 2nd in 8:23.00. Behind them, there was a fierce battle for the third over the final lap.

Bor held it with 100m to go, but he was out of energy coming back from the fall, and it was Rooks’ unheralded training partner, James Corrigan of BYU, the 9th placer at NCAAs who went from 7th to 3rd on the final lap, finishing in in 8:26.78. Corrigan, however has not hit the Olympic standard and does not have enough World Ranking points to go to the Olympics, so the battle for 4th was possibly important behind him. Four or five men hurdled the final barrier nearly simultaneously, but it was 35-year-old American record holder Evan Jager who held off a charge from Yasin Sado of Virginia and his Bowerman TC teammate Duncan Hamilton to get 4th.

As it currently stands, Jager will go to the Olympics unless Corrigan hits the Olympic standard (8:15.00). Afterwards, Corrigan’s coach Ed Eyestone said on the live post-race show that they had found an undisclosed meet where they will chase the standard.

1 Kenneth Rooks NIKE 8:21.92
2 Matthew Wilkinson Under Armour/Dark Sky Distance 8:23.00
3 James Corrigan Brigham Young 8:26.78
4 Evan Jager NIKE/Bowerman TC 8:28.73
5 Yasin Sado Virginia 8:29.04
6 Duncan Hamilton NIKE/Bowerman TC 8:29.20
7 Joey Berriatua Tinman Elite 8:29.95
8 Anthony Rotich NIKE/U.S. Army OLY STD 8:30.14
9 Benard Keter NIKE/U.S. Army 8:32.82
10 Derek Johnson New Balance 8:34.37
11 Nathan Mountain Virginia 8:34.63
12 Isaac Updike Under Armour/Dark Sky Distance 8:35.98
13 Hillary Bor HOKA/American Distance Project OLY STD 8:37.65
14 Alec Basten Under Armour Mission Run Balt 8:44.81

Quick Take: Kenneth Rooks was sensational over the final two laps

Rooks’ instructions from coach Ed Eyestone were to monitor moves during the early laps and wait until late to take the lead. Rooks moved earlier than they had planned, with 800 meters to go, which worried Eyestone a little, but Rooks was never seriously challenged over the final 400, running his last two laps in 59.79 and 61.15.

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Rooks may have been the only guy in the field not surprised by Corrigan’s third-place finish. Rooks and Corrigan train together in Provo and last Friday was the first time Corrigan had ever been able to hang with Rooks for the entire workout, even passing him on the final rep. And this was a workout Rooks described as his “best workout of the year.” He knew then to be aware of Corrigan but also trusted his own kick.

“Coach Eyestone and I talked, we knew that my finish was going to be there,” Rooks said. “It’s a workout. I just didn’t have it at the end of the workout. A workout’s not 100% a race.”

Quick Take: Matthew Wilkinson is living the dream

Wilkinson has the backstory of an underdog, though by the time of the Olympic Trials final tonight he was among the favorites to make the team — he had the #3 time in the country coming in (8:16.59) and had the fastest time of anyone in the prelims.

Wilkinson was the 2021 DIII champion for Carleton College in Minnesota before doing two years at the University of Minnesota, finishing 5th at DI nationals and 6th at USAs last year. He then moved to Flagstaff, joined the Under Armour Dark Sky Distance team, and responded well to the first altitude training of his life. Now he is an Olympian, and he hoped his story could inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

“That’s a huge motivator for me,” Wilkinson said. “I want to be able to do that and then have kids who maybe they want to go run DI and their coaches aren’t responding to their emails, like was the case for me, I want to inspire those kids to say all right, screw you, I’m going to go prove you wrong and I’m going to to be great at whatever level I’m in.”

Quick Take: Corrigan has a path to the Olympics but needs to run very fast, very soon

Corrigan does not have the Olympic standard of 8:15.00 and even though he’ll gain some ranking points with tonight’s run, he has nowhere near enough to qualify that way. His only option is to find a steeple somewhere in the next week and run the standard. USATF confirmed to that if Corrigan runs the standard by June 30, he will be on the team. spoke to Corrigan’s coach Ed Eyestone, who said plans were already in the works for Corrigan to chase the mark next week. Eyestone said he could not reveal exactly when or where, but our guess is it will be at the Penn Relays Summer Showcase #3 in Philadelphia on Saturday since it is a US meet already on the World Athletics Global Calendar.

Update: The Penn Relays has confirmed to that this is the meet where Corrigan will chase the standard and that they have added a men’s steeple to the program.

Running the time is far from a formality, however. Corrigan’s pb is 8:21.22, which he ran in the prelims of the Olympic Trials. The fact that he ran it in the prelims suggests he could go even faster, but he will have to do it after recovering from two tough races at the Trials as well as a potential cross-country flight.

QT: Corrigan was 9th at NCAAs and 3rd Today

Corrigan finishing third was a huge surprise. He was only 9th at NCAA, where he ran his previous PB of 8:28 to win his heat. He lowered his PB to 8:21 in the prelims here and then finished 3rd tonight.

All this from a guy who only ran 8:52 last year in the steeple and 4:23/9:13 in HS.

“The coolest moment was…I crossed the line and Kenny turned around and I was like, I got third and he was so happy and so excited for me and I was so excited that he was able to repeat and it was a really special moment,” said Corrigan.

Corrigan said coach Eyestone told him to trust his kick and he envisioned kicking with 300 to go, which he did today to perfection.

“I got to 300 and I was like ‘this is like practice, let’s go’ and then it was a really cool feeling passing them because it was like I was reliving a memory,” he said.

When we spoke to him in the mixed zone, he assumed he wouldn’t be able to find a race to chase the standard and was very happy just finishing 3rd today, even if he couldn’t go to the Olympics.


Quick Take: Evan Jager was disappointed to finish 4th in his bid for a third Olympic team

If Corrigan fails to run sub-8:15 next week, Jager (who is in the world ranking quota) will have made his third Olympic team at the age of 35 — an incredible achievement given the injuries Jager has endured in recent years (he missed USAs in 2019, 2021, and 2023 due to injury). Just a month ago, Jager’s chances looked to be on life support after he ran 8:33 at the Track Fest on May 11 and 8:35 at the LA Grand Prix on May 17 — a race in which Jager finished 14th overall and was beaten by nine Americans.

Jager said he was “in a hole” at that point but turned things around over the next month, running 8:25 at the Portland Track Festival on June 9 to enter the Trials with some optimism. And while he may go to Paris, this is not how he wanted to do it.

“I’m sad,” Jager said. “I just wanted to get third place.”

Jager says he hasn’t planned anything beyond this summer and will decide about his future based on how the rest of the year goes. “I will take this year to see how things go and then think about the future,” he said.

Quick Take: Hillary Bor is headed to the roads

Bor, 34, is a steeple veteran. He has run the event since high school, was 4th at NCAAs for Iowa State as a freshman in 2008, and has made two Olympic teams and won three US titles. But the event has taken a toll on his body, and that played a role in Bor missing out on a third team tonight.

Hillary Bor falls (Kevin Morris photo)

Last year in Rabat, Bor broke his foot landing in the water pit, and one of the lingering effects is that it is painful for him to use it to push off of the water barrier. Instead, he has had to hurdle the barrier. He was hoping his foot pain would subside and allow him to push off the water barrier tonight, but it proved too painful, so he had to hurdle the barrier, which he said was one of the reasons why he fell in the final kilometer.

Bor has still had good results this year, running 8:13 and 8:15, and felt he was fit enough to make the team had he not fallen, saying that it was hard to kick after using energy to close the deficit after the fall (Bor went from 4th to 13th on the last lap).

But Bor, who was hobbling badly as he walked through the mixed zone, said he was proud of the success he had achieved and happy for the men who did make the team tonight.

“It’s good for them,” Bor said. “I’m happy for them and wish them luck. This is going to be my last track [season].”

Considering Bor has already won national titles at 10 miles and 15k, he still has a bright future ahead of him on the roads.

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