Track and field’s steeplechase race is officially classified as an individual event.
But Brigham Young University’s Courtney Wayment — the newly crowned collegiate steeplechase national champion — possesses both the intellectual and spiritual maturity to know better.
The Latter-day Saint athlete is emphatic that her historic success at BYU in the steeplechase and several other distance events has been a “team” effort incorporating her faith, her family and her Cougar coach and teammates.
“I’m just incredibly blessed that this is how I get to end my story at BYU,” she told the Church News a few days after dominating the women’s steeplechase field on June 11 at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon. The 3,000-meter steeplechase race includes hurdles and water jumps.
Don’t expect to win a national collegiate title without plenty of natural talent and hard work. ”But without my support system — my coach, my family, my husband, my teammates — I wouldn’t be anything that I am,” said the humble champion. “I have had an incredible support system that I’m very, very grateful to have.”
In a few days, Wayment will sign a professional contract and begin competing at the highest national and international levels. She hopes an Olympics Games or two are in her future.
But while she simultaneously reflects on her legendary college career and the opportunities that await, the Utah native identifies three key players in “Team Wayment”: Faith. Family. And a wise college coach and teammates.
A lifelong Latter-day Saint, Wayment believes the gospel allows her and anyone else, “to use our talents, our hard work and our passions to represent Jesus Christ.”
She’s thankful for the unique spiritual opportunities that are defining elements of competing at the Church-sponsored school. But she’s quick to add that such opportunities are not the sole claim of elite athletes.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re working a 9-to-5 job or if you’re a stay-at-home mom or if you’re an athlete winning a national championship — God cares about you. He knows you. He knows what’s important to you. And He genuinely cares. He wants you to have happiness and joy in your life.”
Wayment married Tanner Smith in the Salt Lake Temple following her freshman year of college. “That’s kind of a unique thing to BYU,” she said, laughing.
Over the years, the young couple’s union has fortified Wayment’s athletic development.
“I am very grateful that I have a partner who is on my team with me,” she said. “I could not have gotten through a lot of the things that I have had to overcome without Tanner. He is a ‘ride-or-die’ supporter — and he has made my dreams and my passions his dreams and his passions.”
Photos of Wayment snapped shortly after her recent steeplechase victory capture her celebrating with her parents, Mark and Becky Wayment. Her joy is clearly their joy.
“I have incredible parents … and I feel so lucky to have them on this journey with me.”
A wise coach, loyal teammates/friends
Any discussion with Courtney Wayment about her BYU success — she has claimed three individual national titles — inevitably leads to her connection with her coach, Diljeet Taylor. Their long-time “athlete-coach” connection has been “an incredible blessing,” said Wayment.
“Coach Taylor has prepared me physically, emotionally and mentally, and I owe a lot of the credit to her. … She is a one-of-a-kind coach who is changing the game for college athletics and track for women.”
During Wayment’s college career, she also trained almost every day with BYU teammates who were fellow All-Americans. They are also close friends — and many are fellow Latter-day Saints.
Wayment notes that while she typically competes as an individual — “I’m never doing it solo.”
Just getting started
Now Wayment moves on to the professional ranks, where the competition only gets tougher. “But my goal is to be an Olympian. I would love to represent the U.S. on a national and world level.”
And, one day, when she runs her final race, one of BYU’s most storied athletes hopes to follow her mentor’s path and train and inspire young runners. “I would love to come back to the NCAAs as a coach and give women the same love and belief and passion that Coach Taylor has given me and my teammates.”