Conner Mantz, the former BYU national champion who seems to show up everywhere in the running world these days, is apparently recovered from a near blackout performance in the Boston Marathon. He will be one of a dozen current or former BYU athletes who will compete in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday through Sunday in Eugene, Oregon.

The top three finishers will represent the U.S. in the World Track and Field Championships Aug. 19-27 in Budapest, provided they have met qualifying marks.

Since turning professional in 2021, Mantz, a two-time NCAA cross-country champion, has demonstrated a remarkable range, covering everything from the mile to the marathon and all distances in between, on the track and on the road. He made his marathon debut last October in Chicago and placed seventh with a time of 2:08:16, the fastest debut marathon ever by an American and the fourth-fastest marathon overall by any American.

He won two road races in Connecticut last fall — the national 20k championships in New Haven, and the 86th Manchester Road Race — then placed sixth in the Houston Half-Marathon in January (first American), fourth in an international 10K track race in California in a personal record 27:25.30 and closed May by winning the 43rd Bolder Boulder 10K in Colorado. In June, he raced to a personal-record time of 3:37.92 in a 1,500-meter track race (which converts to a 3:55 mile).

In the middle of all of the above, he raced the Boston Marathon. He was running with the leaders when he reached the halfway point in 1:02:20. He continued to run strong, covering Mile 15 in 4:25, but he began to fall off the pace a short time later and by Mile 20 he was 45 seconds behind the five leaders. At Mile 24 he ran into trouble.

“There were moments where I started to black out,” he said afterward. He said he had to “slow it down” and that at one point he was almost walking. He struggled to finish but still managed to place 11th overall with a time of 2:10:25.

Now he’s headed to Eugene to try to win a spot on the USA world track championships team in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs. For all his accomplishments, Mantz, who’s 26, has not qualified for a U.S. World Championships or Olympic team on the track, although he has come close. He finished fourth in the 5,000 — one spot from qualifying — and seventh in the 10,000 at last year’s national championships on this same track. He was fifth in the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials at 10,000 meters.

“Conner has recovered nicely from his Boston Marathon and showed that his speed is better than ever with his recent PR of 3:37 in the 1,500,” says BYU coach Ed Eyestone, who has continued to train Mantz since the latter turned pro. “The 10,000 is a loaded field this year, but Conner has put himself in a great position to battle for a world championships spot.”

Among others, the field in the 10,000 includes Olympians Grant Fisher, an Olympic finalist, Paul Chelimo, a Kenya-born American and Olympic silver and bronze medalist, and Woody Kincaid, the 2021 national champion.

Eyestone’s stable of runners includes another strong threat to make the U.S. team. Kenneth Rooks, a junior at BYU, is unbeaten this year in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He won the NCAA championships a month ago, beating his nearest rival by six seconds. Earlier in the season he recorded a time of 8:17.62 to beat a field of professionals and break a 46-year-old school record held by four-time Olympian Henry Marsh. He has the fourth-fastest seed time entering the national championships. 

“Kenneth had a huge NCAA meet, dominating the final,” says Eyestone. “It was nice to have a week to recover mentally and physically, but he has ramped back up his training and the last two weeks he has had some great workouts, at times doing endurance work side by side with Mantz.”

On the women’s side, three former BYU national champions will compete in the distance and middle-distance events — Anna Camp Bennett (1,500 meters), Whittni (Orton) Morgan (5,000 meters), and Courtney Wayment (steeplechase). Orton has been slowed by injuries, but six weeks ago she ran a 1,500-meter race in California in 4:05.97, the fastest time ever by any Utah collegian.

Claire Seymour, who completed her collegiate career at BYU with a third-place finish in the 800 at the NCAA championships last month, will also compete in Eugene this week, as well as Lexy Halladay, who finished fourth in the steeplechase in the NCAA meet.

Among other entries with Utah ties:

Emily Venters, who completed her eligibility at Utah by placing second in the 10,000 and third in the 5,000 at the NCAA championships, will compete in the 10,000.

BYU’s Dallin Shurts delivered a big surprise with his second-place finish in discus at last year’s national championships, but he was unable to represent the U.S. at the world championships because he lacked a qualifying mark. He was seventh in the NCAA championships.

BYU’s Zach McWhorter, a 19-foot pole vaulter, redshirted the collegiate season but has entered the USA meet.

Brandon Garnica, a BYU All-American, will join Mantz in the 10,000; Dillon Maggard, formerly of Utah State, is entered in the 5,000; BYU’s Cameron Bates, who finished eighth in the javelin at the NCAA meet, and teammate Cierra Tidwell, seventh in the high jump at the NCAAs, also will compete in Eugene.

Two runners with Utah Valley University ties — Habtamu Cheney and Hannah Branch — will both compete in this week’s 10K. Branch recently joined the UVU track program as an assistant coach.

University of Utah runner Emily Venters has the fastest time in the nation this season in the 10,000-meter run at 31:48.35. The former Ute will be participating at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday through Sunday in Eugene, Ore. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News