ORLANDO — Former Cougar distance runners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young placed first and second respectively at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials Saturday morning, each securing a spot for the Olympic Games in Paris later this summer.
Mantz and Young took the first two podium spots, finishing the race side by side. Mantz took first overall clocking 2:09:05, while Young finished a second later at 2:09:06. Both made a strong presence through the entirety of the race. The former teammates stayed close together in the front pack, floating around second and third place positions behind Zach Panning till the 23 mile mark when they made their move to take the lead positions. The former Cougars worked with each other in the competition, even giving each other a high-five for support.
Mantz, a two time NCAA Cross Country Champion, crossed the finish line with his third best time at the marathon distance. Missing his water bottle at the first aid station, Mantz rallied and kept with Fanning and Young. The race marks Mantz’ first overall win in the marathon.
“This means a ton,” said Mantz. “The goal has always been to make an Olympic team. You never understand how much sacrifice comes with that. I’m just really grateful to be out here, especially with my family, my coaches and teammates. I started going through every mile saying, ‘I’m running this mile for my dad. I’m running this mile for my mom. I’m running this mile for Clayton and my old teammates out on the course cheering me on.’ I ran the last mile for my wife. It just means a lot.”
Young placed second overall, working with Mantz through the finish. The 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia marked Young’s marathon debut where he placed 136th overall in 2:29:46. Young later had knee surgery in February 2023, but recovered and ran a 2:08:00 to go under the Olympic Standard (2:08:10) at the Chicago Marathon in October of that year. Young finished in seventh place just behind Mantz who took sixth. Overlooked in many pre-race predictions for the Olympic Trials, Young went on to prove himself at the distance posting a second sub 2:10:00 time.
“That underdog mentality did me well,” said Young. “If you had me out of your top three, I’m in it now. Let’s go to Paris. Let’s make this happen. I know we are sending the best team. Big shoutout to our coach, Ed Eyestone, who is a two-time Olympian and really made it happen. Another big shoutout to our other teammates, Jared Ward and Sam Chelenga. Jared, who is also an Olympian, has been a mentor to us and helped every step of the way. It was heartbreaking for him to not start this race today, and today we ran this race for him and for all those who helped in our community to get us here today.”
Eyestone and Ward are the only two former Cougars to represent Team USA in the Olympic Games in the marathon. Eyestone raced in both the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea and the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He coached Ward, Mantz and Young in their respective time with the BYU cross country/track and field programs. Eyestone trained Ward in his 2016 Olympic campaign and now serves as Mantz and Young’s professional coach.
Ward represented the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil where he placed sixth overall. To qualify, Ward placed third overall in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los, Angeles California. Ward is a regular in Mantz and Young’s training group.
Other notable performances by former Cougars included Makenna Myler in the women’s race, along with Connor Weaver and Jacob Heslington in the men’s race. Myler finished seventh overall among the women, posting a 2:26:14. Weaver finished 13th overall in the men’s race with a 2:13:56. Heslington followed behind in 21st place with a 2:15:12.
The 2024 Olympic Marathon will be held in Paris, France on Aug. 10.
First appeared on byucougars.com