Olympic Marathon Trials Men — Teamwork Sends BYU Alums To Paris

Zach Panning’s gutsy pacing cut it to a 3-man race by 19M but he couldn’t match the finish of Conner Mantz and Clayton Young. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA, February 03 — Training partners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young lived up to their top billing in a pressure-packed race. Thus the athletes who unlocked the two U.S. spots for the Paris Olympic Marathon filled those positions with a dominating 1–2 finish in the Olympic Trials men’s race.

The former BYU teammates who continue to train together under coach Ed Eyestone, followed Zach Panning’s bold pacing through 22 miles then cruised home, celebrating down the finish stretch such that the finish order was inconsequential. Mantz eased across the finish line in 2:09:05 as Clayton, who crossed a second back, waved him ahead.

Mantz admitted his Trials win came about when “Clayton just said go ahead.” As for his gracious gesture, Young said, “At the end of the day, Conner and I are better when we work together.”

Leonard Korir (2:09:57) passed his U.S. Army teammate Elkanah Kibet (2:10:02 PR) in the final 400 meters to secure the ever-tentative third team spot after falling 5 seconds short in 2020. CJ Albertson closed fast to finish 5th in 2:10:07 (also a PR). A fully spent Panning crossed 6th in 2:10:50.

Mantz and Young were quick to credit BYU coach Ed Eyestone, with Mantz saying, “He is just an amazing coach and as a two-time Olympian he knows what it takes to make the team.”

Eyestone had equal confidence in his athletes, noting afterwards, “Clayton won the NCAA Championships (10,000) his senior year in Austin, Texas, which was a good sign coming here to Orlando. Conner, he’s a grinder, he’s uber competitive, and I’m just super happy for both of them.”

As for that guidance for making the team, Eyestone said, “My last words to them this morning were patience followed by destruction. Be patient early on, especially on a warm day like today. They were to chill, cover and close.

“Those were the three C words,” Eyestone explained, “Chill early on, don’t be in the lead. Conner sometimes has a hard time not being in the lead. Then cover any moves, and they did that when Zach made his move. They closed at the end when they needed to, probably as much as Zach fading, but at least they maintained over the last bit.”

Despite needing a sub 2:08:10 clocking (4:53 mile pace) to unlock a third Olympic spot, the race started at a cautious 5:01 pace. After completing the starting 2-mile loop, the pack headed into the first of three repeat 8-mile circuits and passed 5 miles in 25:05. More than a bit too slow for Panning’s liking as he hit the front with a 4:49 sixth mile and the race was on.

Mantz was quick to realize that the tactic had shifted from chill to cover: “When I saw Zach at the front at about 5-and-a-half miles , I turned to Clayton, and I just looked at him and didn’t even say anything. I just wanted him to know I was going to go with Zach. He looked at me and then I was like we’re going for it and started running 4:40 split times.”

Panning was locked in on 4:48–4:50 pace and at 10 miles (49:07) and the completion of the first 8-mile loop he had pared the lead pack to 10 members, and the projected pace to 2:08:57.

There was no let-up in Panning’s sub-4:50 clip as he revealed, “We practiced that. I knew that if I wanted to make the team, that I have to run from the front.”

Crossing halfway in 64:07, the 10 in the lead pack included two-time defending Trials champ Galen Rupp. Panning kept driving the train and a 4:44 slightly downhill 17th mile put the lead group on 2:07:42 pace, and put an end to Rupp’s bid for a third Olympic Marathon.

Heading into the final 8-mile go-round, Mantz and Young high-fived as if heading into the final rep of a workout. “It was spontaneous,” Mantz recalled, “and showed the confidence that I had in both of us.”

With the temperature rising to over 70 degrees (21C) and the dew point up to a challenging 51 degrees (10C), the final lap featured a steady deceleration. At 20 miles (1:37:22) Panning, Mantz and Young were alone at the front and still on 2:07:38 pace.

Heading into the sunny eastern portion of the course, Panning’s gambit played out its string as a 4:59 mile gave way to a pair of 5:07s, dispatching any hope of hitting the 2:08:10 standard.

“The sun takes a toll,” Panning admitted, “I executed the plan as best I could and just came up a little short.”

Mantz and Young moved to the front and tried to pull Panning along. Young said later, “My heart breaks for Zach because he made that race happen today.”

By 24 miles, the BYU duo had shifted into close mode and were alone at the front and still had a bit of work to do. Young recalled, “With two miles to go Conner tucked in and said, ‘I’m not feeling very well.’

“So, I just said, ‘Stick right on me, we’re doing this.’ With about 400 to go he came up side by side and I just wanted to soak it in and he just wanted to be done with the race.”

While there was no battle for the win, the race for 3rd became quite dynamic as Kibet moved past Panning in the 26th mile, only to be passed by Korir on the finishing straight.

“I thought I had it,” Kibet said. “I didn’t know somebody was following me. I just got surprised he passed me.”

Korir was determined to avoid another 4th-place finish and recalled, “People were cheering and screaming a lot, telling me to catch the next person. It was like a Super Bowl and I caught some extra energy. I had already given up hope, but I just gave everything and I told myself, ‘Just try, see what happens.’” Korir now has to wait out the selection process and the slim chance of making it to Paris.

With his Paris hopes dashed, Rupp confessed, “It was a rough one for sure. I don’t know what happened, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. Not finishing wasn’t really an option. I did the best I could just to get across the line.”

Reminiscent of Frank Shorter and Kenny Moore in 1972, this was a race that begged for a tie. Said Mantz, “Clayton was a team captain my freshman year at BYU and it was fun to have him as a mentor and a friend. It’s just a great relationship and a great friendship.”

Young added, “We’ve definitely been able to work through the competitiveness and come on top. We knew going into this race that working together through miles 22, 23, 24 was our best bet and that we would carry each other to the finish line. That’s something practiced day in and day out and we executed that relationship today.”

Upon further reflection, Coach Eyestone amended his “C”s and concluded, “One other ‘C’ word, ‘celebrate.’ They were able to celebrate a little bit the last 2 miles. I wasn’t relaxed until they had crossed the finish line because bad things can happen in the last 2 miles. I’m glad they were feeling good enough to celebrate a little bit there at the end and soak it up.”


(4-loop course of 2M plus 3 x 8M with 385y finish)

1. Conner Mantz (Nike) 2:09:05


2. Clayton Young (Asics) 2:09:06


3. Leonard Korir (NikeUSAr) 2:09:57


4. Elkanah Kibet (Asics) 2:10:02 PR


5. CJ Albertson (Brooks) 2:10:07 PR


6. Zachery Panning (HansB) 2:10:50


7. Nathan Martin (McKirdy) 2:11:00; 8. Josh Izewski (ZapE) 2:11:09 PR; 9. Reed Fischer (TinE) 2:11:34 PR; 10. Colin Bennie (unat) 2:12:17;

11. Biya Simbassa (UArm) 2:12:21; 12. Connor Winter (TinE) 2:13:03 PR; 13. Connor Weaver (Tracksmith) 2:13:56 PR; 14. Futsum Zienasellassie (HokaNAZ) 2:13:58; 15. Daniel Mesfun (unat) 2:14:04; 16. Galen Rupp (Nike) 2:14:07; 17. Josh Kalapos (BAA) 2:14:26 PR; 18. Lyle O’Brien (unat) 2:14:29 PR; 19. Frank Lara (Roots) 2:14:55; 20. Colin Mickow 2:14:59;

21. Jake Heslington 2:15:12 PR; 22. Habtamu Cheney 2:15:43 PR; 23. Sydney Gidabuday 2:15:51; 24. Nick Hauger 2:15:56; 25. Nadir Yusuf 2:16:15; 26. Jerod Broadbooks 2:16:20; 27. Garrett Lee 2:16:35 PR; 28. Joel Reichow 2:16:37; 29. Turner Wiley 2:16:42; 30. Julian Heninger 2:16:45 PR;

31. Wilkerson Given 2:16:51; 32. Tai Smith 2:16:54 PR; 33. Alan Peterson 2:16:55; 34. Ben Payne 2:17:05; 35. Louis Serafini 2:17:09; 36. Ben Kendell 2:17:23 PR; 37. Jon Phillips 2:17:49; 38. Jonathan Aziz 2:17:50; 39. Zachary Holden 2:17:50 PR; 40. Clint McKelvey 2:17:54;

41. Chase Weaverling 2:17:54; 42. Spencer Johnson 2:18:15 PR; 43. Alex Burks 2:18:28; 44. Malcolm Richards 2:18:32; 45. Ben Schneiderman 2:18:43 PR; 46. Jack Mastandrea 2:18:46; 47. Wesley Robinson 2:18:50 PR; 48. Caleb Kerr 2:18:50; 49. Nicolas Montañez 2:19:09; 50. Roman Kirkov 2:19:15;…

dnf—Abdi Abdirahman (Asics), Sam Chelanga (NikeUSAr), Paul Chelimo (NikeAmDP).

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