Two former Brigham Young University distance runners have qualified to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Summer Games.
Conner Mantz and Clayton Young — friends, training partners, former BYU runners and Latter-day Saint returned missionaries — clinched the two guaranteed spots on the Olympic team for Paris by placing first and second, respectively, at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, Feb. 3.
Mantz finished the 26.2-mile marathon with a time of 2 hours and 9.05, one second ahead of Young. After crossing the finish line, the buddies shook hands and embraced.
“This means a ton,” Mantz said, reported BYUCougars.com. “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.”
Young’s second-place finish comes one year after he had knee surgery. The 30-year-old runner was overlooked in many pre-race predictions for the Olympic Trials.
“That underdog mentality did me well,” Young said. “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.”
Mantz, 27, told NBC that Young was one of his first mentors and helped him finish the marathon.
“Last two miles I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish, but Clayton just kept saying, ‘Hey, just run behind me. We got this. Just stay together,’” Mantz said.
Mantz also persevered to the end of the race by dedicating each mile to a loved one.
“I’d think, I’m running this mile for my mom, and I’m running this mile for my dad and this mile for my old [BYU] teammates that I saw on the course, this mile for my coach, and I ran the last mile for my wife,” he said, reported BYUCougars.com.
Eyestone ran for Team USA in the Olympic marathon event at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, and the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Ward represented the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he placed sixth overall. Ward also competed in the trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but decided not to compete in the 2024 trials.
Mantz, a two-time NCAA cross country champion from Smithfield, Utah, served in the Ghana Accra West Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Young, of American Fork, Utah, served in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission (Spanish-speaking).
The 2024 Olympic Marathon will be in Paris, France on Aug. 10.
The Church News would like to highlight athletes who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics Games in July and August. If there is an athlete the Church News should watch for, please send his or her information — including name, country and event — to firstname.lastname@example.org.