EUGENE, Ore. — Conner Mantz, the defending NCAA cross-country champion, took the lead on the gun lap of the 10,000-meter run at Wednesday’s NCAA championships, but wound up being overtaken in the homestretch to finish in second place.

Tulsa’s Patrick Dever, a senior from England, passed Mantz with about 50 meters left to claim the victory with a time of 27:41.87. Mantz’s time was 27:42.46.

While many championship distance races devolve into slow, tactical affairs, that was not the case this time. The first 10 finishers broke a 40-year-old meet record held by UTEP’s Suleiman Nyambui.

“I wanted the win; it’s a little disappointing,” Mantz said shortly after the race. “But you know you can’t have a perfect day every day and I have to remember that and be happy with second. I might have started the sprint a little too early and it cost me a win today, but it’s hard to know when to go.”

As expected, Iowa State’s Wesley Kiptoo, a junior from Kenya, took the lead and held it through much of the race, just as he did in the NCAA cross-country championships last March. In that race, Mantz caught him in the last 2,000 meters and won the race going away. In Wednesday’s rematch, Kiptoo did not push the pace hard enough to open up a gap, and Mantz ran on his heels before falling back into the pack (Kiptoo eventually faded to 11th place). With 2 miles (eight laps) to go in the 6.2-mile race, Mantz had faded to 10th place, 10 yards off the lead. 

Why sky is the limit as BYU prepares for NCAA Track and Field Championships

A lap later, Mantz had worked his way back up to the front, running fourth. With 800 meters to go, the pace picked up, but nearly a dozen runners were still in the hunt. Mantz finally took the lead with about 1 ¼ laps to go and began to sprint for home, with the several rivals hot on his heels. It appeared he might hold them off as he neared the finish, but Dever had bided his time well and unleashed his kick in the final 100 to take the win.

“Conner was fine,” said BYU Head Coach Ed Eyestone. “It was a very fast race. Extremely fast. I thought he had a good race. Looking back, there were no mistakes we would change. He was confident in his kick, and he had the green light to follow his gut (instinct).”

BYU’s Conner Mantz is one of the best distance runners in the world

Eyestone noted that when he won the 10,000 at the 1984 NCAA championships it was also at the University of Oregon and his time that day was 28:01. That would’ve placed 11th in this race.

In the process, Mantz came up short again of Eyestone’s remarkably enduring school record of 27:41.05, set in 1985. Mantz clocked 27:41.16 a month ago, missing the record by .11 of a second. This time he missed the record by less than 1 ½ seconds.

The 10,000-meter race was the only final held on the track on the opening day of these championships. The finals for most events will take place Friday. Meanwhile, the women will compete on Thursday and Saturday.

The BYU men’s team entered the meet as the No. 5 team in the nation according to the latest poll, but the Cougars had what Eyestone termed “a mixed day.”

Zach McWhorter, who placed second in the pole vault in the NCAA indoor championships three months ago with a mark of 19 feet, ¾ inches, placed ninth with a vault of 17 feet, 4 ½ inches. Cameron Bates, who had the nation’s fourth farthest throw in the javelin this season and placed second in the NCAA West Regionals, placed seventh with a throw of 243-7.

“I wanted the win; it’s a little disappointing. But you know you can’t have a perfect day every day and I have to remember that and be happy with second.” — BYU’s Conner Mantz

BYU’s 4x100 relay team of Andrew Stuart, Michael Bluth, Landon Maxfield and Dallin Draper was disqualified for passing the baton out of the exchange zone.

BYU’s Talem Franco qualified for the final of the 1,500-meter run going up against one of the most talented fields in the meet. He placed fifth in his heat with a time of 3:39.67. Freshman teammate Lucas Bons, who gained national attention this season by running a 3:55.45 mile, did not advance, finishing ninth in his heat with a time of 3:40.22. Notre Dame’s Yarud Nuguse had the day’s fastest time, 3:39.36.

As expected, BYU’s Garrett Marsing qualified for the final of the steeplechase. He finished fourth in his heat with a time of 8:37.67. Teammate Clayson Shumway did not advance. Arkansas State’s Bennett Pascoe recorded the fastest time, 8:31.72.

Michael Bluth claimed the ninth and final qualifying spot to advance to the final of the 400-meter dash, clocking 45.78. He also anchored the team’s 4x400 relay team, which appeared to have a clear shot of making the final after freshman Landon Maxfield’s 45-second second leg put the team in first place. But the Cougars faded on the third leg and Bluth made a gallant comeback effort but could do no better than fourth place with a time of 3:07.57 — well off their West Region time of 3:04.43, which would have qualified for Friday’s finals.

Colten Yardley failed to advance to the final of the 400-meter hurdles. He was fifth in his heat with a time of 50.68.

BYU’s Dallin Vorkink was 20th after the first day of the decathlon. The final events will be completed Thursday.