Latter-day Saint steeplechase champion Kenneth Rooks leaves BYU to start professional career

The returned missionary will represent Nike and says he is getting married this year

Kenneth Rooks, the 2023 NCAA steeplechase champion and the U.S. champion, will pass on his final track and field season at Brigham Young University and embark early on his professional career.

Rooks announced his decision via social media on Jan. 9.

“I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be a student-athlete at Brigham Young University and represent the Y,” he wrote. “It is bittersweet to announce that I have chosen to forgo my remaining eligibility for track and field and cross-country at BYU and pursue my running career professionally.”

Rooks will represent Nike and continue his running goals in Provo, he wrote.

The Latter-day Saint running star also intends to finish his degree in civil engineering and is planning to get married this year, according to

“There’s a lot of new beginnings for me this year,” he told Citius Mag. “I’ve signed a professional contract with Nike and am also going to get married this year. As I reflect back on 2023, I’m grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been able to find success with running.”

Rooks will continue to train alongside current and former BYU runners and be coached by Ed Eyestone, BYU men’s track and field coach. Eyestone is honored to be able to continue working with Rooks.

“I’m excited for this new chapter in Kenneth Rooks’ running career because at the college level he did just about everything that we could have asked of him,” Eyestone said. “Now it’s time for him to take that next step. He’s shown that he can dominate the college scene, and he can be very competitive at the national scene. Now it’s time for him to take another big step onto the world scene.” 

Rooks gained national prominence after falling and coming back to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase crown at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, last July.

At the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Rooks crossed the finish line ahead of Olympic champion and reigning world champion Soufiane El Bakkali in the prelims and went on to finish 10th in the final in August.

Rooks also won an NCAA championship at the Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, in June.

Rooks served a full-time mission in Uganda and Orem, Utah, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Rooks spoke about his decision to turn pro in an interview with BYU Sports Nation on Jan. 11.

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