Conner Mantz understands sacrifice. He consistently posts the best times for the BYU cross-country team, which doesn’t leave much time for a social life. He tucks in every night around 9 p.m. and his weekends are busy with meets and practices. The sophomore says it’s worth it because of what it is all leading up to.
Most runners began training for track and field when the cross-country season finished in November, but not Conner Mantz. He began his marathon training to prepare for the Olympic trials.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to make an Olympic team, so if I’m willing to put in so much work to do all these things, I think it’s worth the sacrifice,” Mantz said.
To qualify for the Olympic men’s marathon team, Mantz has to prove he can either run a marathon in less than two hours and 19 minutes or run a half marathon in less than one hour and four minutes. According to Eyestone, Mantz is planning on running the half at the Houston Marathon at the end of January, and if he runs it in less than 64 minutes, he’ll then be qualified for the trials in February.
If this happens, then the marathon at the Olympic trials will be Mantz’s first. He has run the distance of a marathon during training, and Eyestone said he will run it many more times before the trials, but it will be his first time running it as an actual race.
“What’ll be interesting and what’ll be kind of exciting is he will be going into the marathon as a total novice in terms of having ever competed in a marathon before,” Eyestone said.
Eyestone said he believes Mantz will be well-prepared when the time comes. His marathon training will be a little bit shorter than normal because of his commitment to the cross-country team, but Eyestone said this shouldn’t be a problem.
“What he’s doing right now is great preparation for the Olympics. That’s what you’re going to be doing anyway. You’re going to be training, you’re going to be racing,” Eyestone said.
Many of the runners Mantz will be competing against at the trials are people who have already gone through the collegiate program and are now running professionally. Three of these runners — Jared Ward, Clayton Young and Connor McMillan — also ran at BYU and will be training with Mantz under coach Eyestone. Ward trained with Eyestone before the 2016 Olympic trials, where he was selected for the American team. Ward took sixth in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Ward, Young and McMillan have already begun training for the marathon, and they sometimes run with the cross-country team during training. This has given them an opportunity to get to know Conner and to see his strengths. At the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, Ward and McMillan finished among the fastest Americans with Ward finishing first among all U.S. runners and sixth overall, while McMillan finished third among U.S. runners and tenth overall.
“I’ve had the chance to workout with Mantz a few times, and he’s tough. He’s just a really, really tough runner. You look at him and you think, ‘Oh Mantz must be hurting or he must be tired,’ but he just keeps going,” Ward said. “I don’t think you can ever count Conner Mantz out.”
Mantz has placed first in four meets this season and fourth and third in the other two meets. Eyestone said he’s a threat to other runners across the country.
“He will be one of the guys to beat at the national meet. If anyone wants to win a national championship, they’re going to have to do it going through Conner Mantz,” Eyestone said.
Mantz said he believes he has the skills necessary to go to the Olympics this year, but even if he hardly had a chance, he would try anyway. He said sacrifice is important, and he’s willing to do almost anything to achieve his goals as a runner. In fact, he said there are only two things that matter more to him.
“There are very few things that I’m not willing to sacrifice to be competitive in track, and that is, one, a great education and trying to do my best in all my classes, and then two, my commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and staying as an active and a dedicated member,” Mantz said.