After all the qualifications were sorted out, 27 Utahns have qualified for the U.S. Olympic track and field team trials, but earning a spot on the team that will compete in the Paris Olympics is another matter entirely.

This is a new level of competition. The Olympic trials might rival the Olympic Games for sheer drama, intense competition and the quality of performances. With an unrivaled array of talent and a population of more than 333 million, the U.S. can offer only three spots in each event to represent the U.S. at the Olympics.

It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. The top three finishers move on to Paris; everyone else goes home, and, in the past, that has included world and American record holders and Olympic medalists.

There is no team in any sport that is more difficult to earn a spot on.

The Olympic trials, which will double as the U.S. championships, will be held in Eugene, Oregon, June 21-30.

Utah’s best hopes to make the team are former BYU runners Kenneth Rooks and Courtney Wayment in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Conner Mantz in the 10,000-meter run.

Rooks came out of nowhere last year to win the NCAA and U.S. championships. He placed 10th in the world championships in Budapest. Since giving up his senior season at BYU to turn pro last winter, he has run three races this spring, winning two of them handily and setting a personal record of 8:15.08. Rooks made headlines last year by winning the collegiate championships after falling and somersaulting in the middle of the race. Notwithstanding, he is a savvy racer and possesses a strong finishing kick that serves him well in championship races.

“(Rooks) will do well (in the trials) if he can just stay upright,” said Rooks’ coach, Ed Eyestone. “Or maybe if he doesn’t.”

His chief rival will be 34-year-old Hillary Bor, who was born and raised in Kenya and became a U.S. citizen. He won the U.S. Olympic trials in 2021, but didn’t advance out of the heats in the Olympics. He has run a U.S.-leading 8:13.30 this year and has a lifetime PR of 8:08.41 from 2019.

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Wayment placed third in last year’s national championships, but finished a distant last in the world championships with a time of 9:25.90, 16 seconds slower than her personal record, which was set in 2022. She has competed in two steeplechase races this spring, finishing second to BYU’s rising star, Lexy Lowry, in the Payton Jordan Invitational and sixth in the Prefontaine Classic.

But the path has been cleared for her to win a spot on the Olympic team. Courtney Frerichs, the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist, and Emma Coburn, an Olympic bronze medalist and world champion, are both sidelined by injuries, and defending U.S. champion Krissy Gear has not run well so far this year. Wayment’s biggest challenger will be Val Constien, who beat Wayment at the Prefontaine meet.

Mantz, along with training partner and former BYU teammate Clayton Young, has already earned a spot on the Olympic team by winning the Olympic marathon trials in February. Mantz, who recently defended his title in the prestigious Bolder Boulder 10,000-meter run in Colorado, makes his living on the road racing circuit these days, but he has maintained a presence in track and field. He was 10th in the 10,000 and sixth in the 5,000 at last year’s U.S. track championships; he was fourth in the 5,000 and seventh in the 10,000 at the 2022 U.S. championships.

His personal record in the 10,000 is 27:25.23 from 2022. That makes him the fifth fastest entry in the trials. Grant Fisher, Nico Young and William Kincaid have all run under 27 seconds.

If Mantz does finish among the top three, he would have the option to double at the Olympics, running both the 10,000 and the marathon.

“We would need to decide,” says Mantz’s coach, Ed Eyestone. “I would say 60/40 no at this point.” On the other hand, Eyestone notes, “He would have eight days of recovery between the 10,000 and the marathon, which is doable.”

Another of Eyestone’s runners, Casey Clinger, is also seeking a double. Clinger, an All-American who redshirted the 2024 collegiate season to heal an injury and prepare for the trials, has qualified for the trials in both the 5,000 and 10,000.

When considering Utah’s top entries in the trials, Eyestone noted, “I’ll tell you who’s running well — Lexy Halladay-Lowry.” Lowry, a first-team All-American who redshirted the 2024 collegiate season at BYU, finished fourth in the 2023 NCAA championships and a surprising eighth in the 2023 U.S. championships. She is stronger this year. She won two major California competitions in April, but finished no better than 10th against an international field in LA. Two weeks ago, she rebounded with a fifth-place finish against professionals in the 5,000-meter run at the Portland Track Festival with a time of 15:02.89.

Former BYU All-American Zach McWhorter would be a strong contender to make the Olympic team in the pole vault if not for an injury. In 2023, he placed second in the U.S. championships and eighth in the World Championships.

“I injured my ankle and I will need surgery,” says McWhorter, who hasn’t competed since February. “Therefore I will not be at the Olympic Trials.”

Dallin Shurts, a discus thrower who just finished his senior year at BYU, has the fifth farthest entry mark headed into the trials, but you never know what you’re going to get from him. In 2022, he didn’t even qualify for the NCAA championships; a few weeks later, he placed second in the U.S. championships (and fifth in 2023). Shurts has never placed better than seventh in the collegiate championships, but he’s capable of a big throw.

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Anna Camp Bennett, the 2021 NCAA 1,500 champ for BYU, is running professionally for Adidas and is producing some of her finest performances. She won the 1,500 at the Portland Track Festival in mid-June in her final tuneup. She ranks No. 12 in the 1,500. Adidas teammate Whittni Orton Morgan, the 2021 NCAA cross-country champion for BYU, ranks 12th among the entries in the 5,000. Both Bennett and Morgan will need big personal records to make the team.

BYU's Meghan Hunter competes at the Big 12 indoor championships in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 23, 2024.
BYU's Meghan Hunter competes at the Big 12 indoor championships in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 23, 2024. | Rebeca Fuentes, BYU

Meghan Hunter, another BYU All-American who redshirted the collegiate season, appears ready to break the two-minute mark (her best is 2:00.75), which is what will be required to make the team. Six of her rivals at the trials have run under 1:59, four of them 1:57 or faster.

Kate Sorensen, a former state champion at Gunnison High, has qualified to compete in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 56.88. She started her collegiate career at Weber State, where she was a three-time conference hurdle champion while studying microbiology, then transferred to Oregon State for graduate studies. She holds school records in the 400 hurdles at both schools. She’ll have to drop two to three seconds to make the final at the trials.


Utah ties

Here is a list of those with Utah connections who have qualified to compete in the Olympic trials.

Women

  • Jaslyn Gardner (BYU), 100 meters
  • Meghan Hunter (BYU), 800 meters
  • Anna Camp-Bennett (BYU), 1,500 meters
  • Riley Chamberlain (BYU), 1,500 meters
  • Whittni Orton-Morgan (BYU), 5,000 meters
  • Lexy Halladay-Lowry (BYU), steeplechase
  • Courtney Wayment (BYU), steeplechase
  • Taylor Lovell (BYU), steeplechase
  • Kate Sorensen (Weber St.), 400 hurdles
  • Cierra Allphin (BYU), high jump
  • Kelsi Oldroyd (Utah Valley), javelin
  • Alysa Keller (BYU), javelin

Men

  • Riley Hunt (BYU), 110 meters high hurdles
  • Sebastian Fernandez (BYU, 800 meters
  • Lucas Bons (BYU, 1,500 meters)
  • Kenneth Rooks (BYU), steeplechase
  • James Corrigan (BYU), steeplechase
  • Dillon Maggard (Utah St.), 5,000 meters
  • Casey Clinger (BYU), 5,000/10,000 meters
  • Creed Thompson (BYU), 10,000 meters
  • Conner Mantz (BYU), 10,000 meters
  • Logan Hammer (Utah St.), pole vault
  • Danny Bryant (BYU), shot put
  • Dallin Shurts (BYU), discus
  • Cameron Bates (BYU), javelin
  • Cody Canard (Weber St.), javelin
  • Joshua Trafny (Weber St.), javelin
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