The competition for a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team is fierce. It all rides on one competition — the Olympic trials, which will take place June 21-30 in Eugene, Oregon. Some consider it to be the best track and field competition in the world, even surpassing the Olympics. The top three finishers in each event qualify for the team. In a country as talented and deep as the U.S., many world-class athletes are left on the sideline.

The last Utah native to make the team was Jared Ward, a Davis High and BYU product who competed in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Games (and placed sixth). No Utah woman has made the U.S. team since Tiffany Lott Hogan, a native of American Fork and graduate of BYU, qualified in the heptathlon in 2004 (20th place).

There are at least a dozen Utahns who will compete in the trials. Most of them are distance and middle-distance runners and all of them are current or former BYU athletes. Three of them are steeplechasers. For whatever reason, this has been a strong event for Utahns. Three Utahns have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in that event — Henry Marsh (1976, 1980, 1984, 1988), Josh McAdams (2008) and Shayla Kipp (2012) — and 10 have won NCAA and/or U.S. championships.

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Connor Mantz, from BYU and Smithfield, and Clayton Young, from BYU and American Fork, have already qualified for the Paris Games, having finished 1-2 at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this year. They qualified by time and place, and it’s a good thing, too.

There are two ways to qualify for the Olympic marathon: either meet the Olympic standard of 2:08:10 or produce a fast enough time to finish among the top 80 in the world before the Games. Leonard Korir, the third-place finisher in the U.S. trials, has not met the qualifying standard and his best time ranks 84th fastest in the world. It will mark the first time since 2000 that the U.S. failed to qualify three for the marathon.

Here is a rundown of BYU ties with top prospects for the 2024 Olympic Trials:

Kenneth Rooks (steeplechase). He came out of nowhere last year to win the NCAA and U.S. national championships. He placed 10th in the world championships. Before the 2023 season, his biggest claim to fame was a sixth-place finish in the 2022 NCAA championships. Rooks turned professional last winter following the college cross-country season. In his only steeplechase race so far this season, he placed fourth in the Mt. Sac Relays with a time of 8:23.33 on April 18. His personal record is 8:16.78.

Whittni (Orton) Morgan (5,000 meters). The 2021 NCAA cross-country champion is a rare talent whose biggest challenge is to avoid injuries. She has battled stressor injuries throughout her running career. Morgan, who grew up in Panguitch, Utah, managed to set numerous school records at BYU and won 10 All-America certificates. Since turning pro, she has clocked 4:04.86 for 1,500 meters and 15:02.07 for 5,000 meters, the latter putting her among the top 10 Americans last year. She faces stiff competition to make the team, the best being Alicia Monson, who set the American record of 14:19.45 last year.

Anna (Camp) Bennett (1,500 meters). She’s another small-town Utah (Fillmore) athlete who made good at BYU, winning the 1,500 at the 2021 NCAA championships in her final collegiate race. She has made a good start to her 2024 campaign. She placed third in the 1,500 at the U.S. indoor championships. She placed second in two outdoor 800-meter races in California, with times of 2:01.14 and 2:00.81, just missing her personal record of 2:00.60 set in 2022. She won the 1,500 in both the Bryan Clay Invitational and the Drake Relays in 4:07.33 and 4:07.82 (her PR is 4:04.99 from last season). She’ll likely have to run under four minutes to make the Olympic team.

Courtney Wayment (steeplechase). The 2022 NCAA steeplechase champion ran well enough to qualify for the U.S. world championships team last year, but finished last in the final, more than 30 seconds behind the winner. In her one and only steeplechase race so far this season, she finished second, nearly three seconds behind BYU’s Lexy Halladay. Fate is lending her a hand, though. Emma Coburn, a three-time world championship/Olympic medalist, and Courtney Frerichs, the Olympic silver medalist and American record holder, are both injured. Coburn will miss the trials with a broken ankle. Frerichs, who lives and trains in Park City, suffered an Achilles injury and she told one insider that she also will miss the trials. They are the only Americans ever to medal in a world championships event. Their loss paves the way for Wayment in the steeplechase.

• Lexy Halladay (steeplechase). She’s an up-and-coming BYU junior from Meridian, Idaho, who is redshirting the current outdoor season. She owns the second-fastest time among Americans this season — 8:26.55 — and is unbeaten, having won two major races in California. She was fourth in last year’s NCAA championships. Gabrille Jennings is the national leader, at 9:19.59.

Meghan Hunter (800 meters). It has taken years to recover from an auto accident, but she began a resurgence last year by placing eighth in the NCAA championships and clocking 2:01.53. Her resurgence continued with a third-place finish in the NCAA indoor championships in March. She is redshirting the outdoor season. This 800-meter race has taken off in the U.S., making it much more challenging to make the Olympic team. Four Americans ran 1:57 or better last season — Addison Wiley (who was 19 at the time), Olympic champion Athing Mu, Olympic bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers and Nia Akins.

Lucas Bons (1,500 meters). A BYU sophomore, he has covered 1,500 meters in 3:37.68 and the mile in 3:54.82. There was a time when those times were good enough to make the Olympic team, but everything has changed in the era of the carbon fiber-plated running shoes. He placed third in the NCAA indoor championships. This is another loaded event in America.

Casey Clinger (5,000 meters, 10,000 meters). He is a seven-time All-American at BYU (via American Fork) who is redshirting the season. He has great range, from 1,500 meters to 10,000 meters, and holds the school record at 5,000 meters of 13:17.36. At the trials, he’ll have to contend with, among others, Stanford grad Grant Fisher, who holds the American records for the 5,000 (12:46.96) and 10,000 meters (26:33.84) and placed ninth and fifth, respectively, in those events at the last Olympics. He lives and trains in Park City.

Sebastian Fernandez (800 meters). Since walking on at BYU a couple of years ago he has become an All-American. He finished second in the recent Big 12 Conference championships with a time of 1:46.32, .02 off the Trials qualifying standard.

Dallin Shurts (discus). A 6-foot-6 senior who majors in molecular biology, he is capable of delivering a surprise. In 2022, he finished second in the U.S. championships. He ranks fourth among collegians this year with a best throw of 207-6.

Cameron Bates (javelin). He ranks 10th among collegians with a trials-qualifying throw of 246-7 (he set the BYU school record of 253-2 in 2021).

• Cierra Allphin (high jump). She is a five-time All-American at BYU who cleared 6-0 ¾ outdoors this season (ninth in the collegiate rankings) and a school-record 6-2 ¼ in the indoor season.

BYU's Whitney Orton competes in the 2021 NCAA championships in Tallahassee, Florida. Orton is among a handful of runners with BYU ties who will participate in the U.S. track and field Olympic trials next month in Oregon. | Nate Edwards, BYU Photo