Sindri photo

Utah State redshirt junior Sindri Gudmundsson is now a three-time first-time All-American in the javelin. He placed fourth at the NCAA Championships Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

A problematic back injury wasn’t about to ruin Sindri Gudmundsson’s junior year at Utah State.

Gudmundsson missed most of the outdoor track & field season, but was able to return in time to place fourth in the javelin at the NCAA Championships on a hot and humid Wednesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.

“It means a lot to me,” Gudmundsson said. “To be hurt all year, but still end up fourth overall makes me happy. It just tells me that I can be very competitive for first place in 2020.”

Gudmundsson launched the javelin 242 feet, 6 inches, on his first attempt and was in bronze medal position after the first two rounds. The native of Kopavogur, Iceland, is the third Aggie to ever secure first-team All-America honors three times in one event. The others are James Parker (hammer) and Corey Murdock (400-meter hurdles). Parker, who completed his eligibility in 2002 and represented the United States in the 2004 Olympics, is USU’s lone four-time All-American in one event.

“It’s very special,” USU head coach Matt Ingebritsen said. “Becoming a first-team All-American at all is a big deal and to do it three times in a row takes a very special athlete and person. Sindri has put himself in great company to be mentioned in the same breath as James Parker. He is definitely leaving a legacy at Utah State that will not soon be matched.”

Gudmundsson was one of only two athletes in the javelin who established a season-best mark. The other was Mississippi State standout Anderson Peters, who defended his title. The sophomore shattered his own NCAA Championships record on his first throw (271-11), and proceeded to best that distance on two of his remaining five attempts. The new meet record in the event is a 284-2.

This is the third straight year the NCAA meet record has been broken in the men’s javelin.

Gudmundsson was able to go the full six rounds — the top nine competitors after the first three rounds were awarded three other attempts — for the first time this spring. The redshirt junior’s final round mark of 241-7 also would have been good enough for the No. 4 spot on the podium.

“My performance wasn’t great, but I’m happy I was able to get in some decent distance on my throws,” said Gudmundsson, who was the bronze medalist at this meet a year ago and placed sixth as a redshirt freshman. “To be a three-time first-team All-American means a lot to me. Now, I’m just excited to be back for my senior year and make it four in a row. Even though this wasn’t my best year, I’m extremely satisfied with what I got from it. It wasn’t the distance I wanted, either, but that will come.”

It was also a memorable Day 1 of competition for Cache Valley’s own Conner Mantz, who put together a smart tactical performance en route to finishing fourth in the 10,000. It was about 90 degrees at Mike A. Myers Stadium when the BYU sophomore crossed the finish line with a time of 29 minutes, 19.93 seconds.

It was sweet redemption for Mantz, who finished 22nd at nationals in this event a year ago. The Smithfield native has now earned first-team All-America accolades three times — also in cross country and the indoor 3,000 — during the 2018-19 academic year.

Mantz was positioned toward the bottom of the pack for the first three miles, but made a big move in laps 13 and 14 as he posted the fastest splits. The son of Joanna and Robert Mantz was in the top 12 throughout the remainder of the race and passed two people in each of the final three laps.

“I knew moves that would be made in the first three miles or the first 5,000 meters of the race wouldn’t be any move that I wouldn’t be able to respond to,” Mantz said. “So I kind waited in the back and just kind of bided my time ... and moved up just enough to get right behind (teammate) Clayton Young. And he’s one of the smoothest runners in the NCAA, so I just wanted to get right behind him and relax, and kind of let myself feel like I was at home because I’ve ran behind him so much.”

Mantz, who ran the top split in lap No. 22, only finished a little more than three seconds behind champion and teammate Clayton Young. Young, a senior from American Fork, surged past Alabama’s Gilber Kigen for the title and clocked in at 29:16.60 — 1.5 seconds faster than Kigen.

Connor McMillan, also from American Fork, beat Mantz by less than one-10th of a second, giving the Cougars three of the four top placers in the 10,000. BYU is currently in second place after six events with 21 points, only three behind Mississippi State, which swept the top three sports in the javelin.

“It means a ton,” Mantz said of BYU’s capturing three of the top four spots. “I really look up to Connor McMillan and Clayton Young — and there’s a lot of other guys on the team that I could name — but those two I’ve looked up to a lot during the past six months, and have just tried to copy and emulate their training, the ways they recover, what they do pre-race, post-race. And so having them, as fellow Utahans, as friends (do that well) it’s quite a wonderful experience.”

Mantz, the first underclassmen to finish the race, made it a point to thank his family, teammates and coaches, and was especially touched to receive a congratulatory text message from his high school cross country coach, Kyle Wright.

Thanks to Gudmundsson, the Aggies are in a tie-way tie for the No. 19 position with Baylor and North Dakota State.

USU senior Cierra Simmons-Mecham will compete Thursday in the 3,000 steeplechase, as will BYU senior Brenna Porter and former Sky View star Brenna Porter in the 400 hurdles. Simmons-Mecham was a first-team All-American in the event in 2018.

jturner@hjnews.com Twitter: hjtrebek

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.