Conditions were perfect for the Deseret News Half Marathon Friday with the sun just starting to peek through the overcast sky as the top runners came in. On the men’s side, it was a tight finish with Jordan Cross (1:02.56.13) winning. The former Weber State and Ogden High runner topped Ryan Raff (1:02.58.47) and BYU runner Conner Mantz (1:02.58.71). Kevin Lynch rounded out the top four, who all beat Riley Cook’s course record of 1:03.46.
The top three had a 4:48 mile pace, which didn’t surprise the organizers, who dubbed the men’s field perhaps the deepest ever. Cross and Mantz both competed in this year’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Mantz, who hails from Smithfield, is the reigning NCAA men’s cross-country individual champion, while Lehi’s Raff is a member of the reigning NCAA men’s championship team from Northern Arizona.
“I’ve been planning on running this half marathon all year, but I wasn’t going to train for it because I was so focused on the Olympic trials steeplechase, which is less than two miles and this is 13.1,” said Cross. “I felt like I was getting in over my head, but after the Olympic trials, where I took a spill over the water jump, I kind of had to recenter myself.
“I’m a born-again Christian and for me things like that happen. I’ve come to realize my validation in who I am is in Christ and that’s what I want people to know about me. Sure, I was upset about the trials, but I can still have so much joy in this sport.”
All three of the top finishers pushed themselves with the half marathon distance and used the quick pace to carry them home.
“I could tell with a few miles left that Jordan and I were going to be close with that 63-minute barrier,” said Mantz. “I was like, ‘That would be really fun to break 63 minutes so I told Jordan let’s go for it.’ Then I saw Ryan coming and we all three got to race together at the end.“
Raff said the race was fun as well, as he was able to sneak in between Cross and Mantz to grab second place.
“I stayed conservative the first half,” said Raff. “I was in eighth place for a good part of the race, but then I started to move up and pass people. I ended up finding the top two guys in the last half mile so we could duke it out in the home stretch. It was so fun to be in this environment with all of these runners I’ve raced against in college and high school.”
The women’s race saw a very different finish as favorite Makenna Myler scorched the field. Myler has had a big year, giving birth to daughter Kenny Lou nine months ago and recently competing in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic trials.
It was Myler’s first time racing a half marathon, admitting even though she competed for BYU and recently moved back to Utah, the altitude still gets to her.
“I was born at sea level so the altitude is something I continue to fight,” said Myler. “The thought that kept running through my head today was just let it flow like a river, ‘Go down, flow with the hills, it’s OK to slow up and recover, and then open up my stride on the downhills’. This course was great for that, but the end was really tough.”
“My goal for the day was to finish under 1:10.0 and I did that despite the last stretch being really hard so I’m very happy.”
Myler’s time of 1:09.54 beat the old course record set by fellow standout Sarah Sellers (1:12.56) by just over three minutes. Her pace of 5:20 pushed her to a win that was nearly six minutes ahead of her next division competitor.
Coming in second was Myler’s old BYU teammate Madey Brooks-Dickson (1:15.44.58), while third was snagged by Cottonwood Height’s Christina Perry (1:19.46.44). Dickson was in the same boat as Myler, racing her first half marathon.
“I graduated college two years ago and was an 800 and 1,500 meter runner,” said Dickson. “I really have only done one or two races since then. I was hoping to come out and run a six-minute pace and it went better than expected (Dickson ran a 5:47 pace).
“That last stretch uphill was hard after coming downhill so long, and I was just like ‘hold on’. I really just wanted to finish second because I knew Makenna was in the race and she’s so good.”