It’s fair to say Conner Mantz’s first full academic year as a BYU distance runner was a huge success.
The former Sky View star capped off the 2018-19 academic year by finishing seventh in the 5,000 meters with a time of 14 minutes, 9.20 seconds at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on a hot and muggy Friday night in Austin, Texas.
Mantz qualified for nationals in cross country and indoor and outdoor track, and earned an impressive first-team All-America honors four times. Additionally, the Smithfield native was a second-team All-American in the indoor 5,000.
“It means a lot to get first-team All-America (honors) in both events and to have a teammate there with me in both races,” Mantz said. “In the 10K, I had two teammates that were within a couple of seconds that I could see and they could help push me, but it was great to have a teammate there (in the 5,000), especially at the end.”
Friday’s performance at Mike A. Myers Stadium was a gutsy one for Mantz, who put in an exhausting effort en route to placing fourth in Wednesday’s 10,000.
The sophomore — Mantz still has three years of eligibility remaining in cross country — scored seven points for the Cougars, which was the second most on the team behind fellow Utahn Clayton Young. Young racked up 13 points after following up Wednesday’s gold medal in the 10,000 with a sixth-place showing in the 5,000.
BYU, which brought 16 entries to nationals, finished eighth in the men’s team competition with 27 points — only 5.5 points out of the No. 4 position. Powered by sprinter Divine Oduduru and plenty of depth, Texas Tech claimed the title with 60 points, which was 10 more than runner-up Florida.
Oduduru sparkled on Day 3 of the meet as he swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He broke the facility record with a world class time of 9.86 seconds in the 100, and then shattered the meet and facility record in the 200 with an eye-popping 19.73 — the second-fastest time ever by a collegian.
Another athlete who turned a lot of heads was Florida’s Grant Holloway, who broke a 40-year-old collegiate record in the 110 hurdles with his blistering time of 12.98. Renaldo Nehemiah, the previous record-holder, was once the world record-holder in the event. Kentucky’s Daniel Roberts matched Nehemiah’s previous record with a 13.00 to claim the silver medal.
As expected, Mantz and the other 23 competitors in the 5,000 field embarked in a very tactical race. The son of Joanna and Robert Mantz was in the middle of the pack for much of the race, but worked his way inside the top 10 at the 3,800-meter mark and remained there the rest of the way.
Mantz, who was able to secure inside rail position for several laps, was in the top four late in the race, but some of the more fresh athletes took over — ones who didn’t compete in the 10,000. Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald outkicked Stanford’s Grant Fisher to claim the championship. McDonald clocked in at 14:06.01 and Fisher at 14:06.63.
“I wanted to get into a good position, I just kind of got shoved around, and then it kind of worked out that way toward the end,” Mantz said of his rail position. “Earlier on I was just bidding my time and waiting for the right opportunity to cut in.”
Mantz completed the race a little more than three seconds after McDonald. Of the three runners who finished before Mantz, only Young and Alabama’s Gilbert Kigen ran the 10,000/5,000 double. Kigen was the silver medalist in the 10,000 and was fourth in the 5,000.
The unassuming sophomore received a pleasant surprise Friday that helped buoy him on in his final collegiate race of the spring.
“My dad surprised me by flying out today to be able to come and watch the 5K,” Mantz said. “He’s flying back tomorrow morning early, so a special thanks to my family and all of those who have supported me along the way.”
Thanks to three-time first-team All-American Sindri Gudmundsson, Utah State finished in a five-way tie for 40th in the team competition with five points. Gudmundsson secured the No 4 spot on the podium in Wednesday’s javelin.
The NCAA Championships will wrap up Saturday as the women take center stage. Former Sky View and current BYU star Brenna Porter will compete in the finals of the 400 hurdles.