Conner Mantz and his good friend Clayton Young were side-by-side for the entire 26.2 miles of the Orlando U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon on Saturday, and they insisted there was no negotiating the finish.
“There was absolutely no rehearsal,” said Mantz, who has looked up to Young his entire career and won with a 2:09:05 clocking. “I was just trying to get to the finish … because I thought I might collapse and not finish.”
Leonard Korir, a Kenyan-born racer who lives in Colorado Springs, finished third in 2:09:57 and did not qualify automatically for the Paris Games. He will have to await the release of the international rankings to see if the U.S. is awarded a third spot in the Games. The rankings will be released May 5.
In her first marathon, North Carolina’s Fiona O’Keeffe prevailed in a U.S. qualifying record 2:22:10.
After the race, Young said that fellow BYU alum Mantz just had more in the tank.
“My conversation with Conner the last couple of miles was just, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s do this. We’re doing it. Stick on me,’ ” said Young, who finished one 10th of a second behind Mantz. “The last couple of 100s I was just like, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy it. Soak it in. Soak it in,’ and I peeled off.”
“My first exposure to Clayton was … they came out with the MaxPreps article .. and I was like, ‘This guy is running for BYU. … He has a 4.0 GPA and he does every single extra-curricular activity you could have,” Mantz said. “I was like, ‘That guy is cool.’ … So it’s just a great relationship.”
Now Young can look up to Mantz. Besides training together, the two share many off-the-course moments as well. Mantz and his wife baby-sit sometimes for the Youngs’ two daughters.
“It’s almost as close to marriage as you would think. We have our disagreements sometimes. … We’re very, very competitive,” Young said. “Conner and I are better when we’re together. … That’s more of a testament to today as we worked together to break away and finish 1-2.”
For the women, O’Keeffe was followed by Emily Sisson (2:22:42) of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Dakotah Lindwurm (2:25:31) of Hopkins, Minn. All three women advance to Paris.
Running in her first marathon, O’Keeffe said that she tried to ignore the crowd’s chants as she headed toward the finish line.
“There was a lot of excitement. … People were yelling, ‘You’re going to Paris. You’re going to Paris,’ ” O’Keeffe said. “But I knew there was somebody coming behind me and I was scared a little bit.”
Orlando hopeful Jenny Barringer Simpson dropped out of the race during the 18th mile.
“I didn’t get to show off all of my hard work and preparation today, and that’s a tough way to finish the day,” Simpson said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the finish but I’m learning, and somehow some way this will make me better.
“I cannot say enough about the incredible support and love I got through the miles when I started to cramp and slow down. It’s easy and obvious to cheer when things are going well. Orlando kept loving me even when things took a turn for the worst. I’ll cherish that loyalty forever.”
The families of both Young and Mantz were celebrating at the finish line as their favorite runners hit the tape. Young’s mother Kelly and wife Ashley both were brought to tears in the end.
“We’ve been dreaming about this day for a very long time,” Ashley Young said. “When we first got married  we always said we’d give it two Olympic cycles and see what we could do. … so 2020 and 2024 and here we are.”
“He has worked so hard,” Ashley said, crying as she spoke. “His dream is my dream.”
Young’s mother was pinching herself as her son came to the finish.
“Clayton has had posters on his wall since he was little,” Kelly Young said. “He always wanted to be an Olympian, so it’s a dream come true. … It was like I was in a dream.”
Both families enjoyed the fact the the two friends were able to finish the race the way they did.
“It’s just amazing. They really work together so well and they help each other so much,” Ashley said. “Now all that matters is Paris.”
Young lauded the Orlando organizing committee and the fans who lined the streets of downtown by the thousands.
“A big shout-out to Orlando,” Young said. “What a phenomenal event, great community, great course out there. It was flat, fast and we ran what we needed to do to get to Paris.
“The crowds were amazing, almost too loud. I almost thought I needed some earplugs out there. I’m really grateful to the city of Orlando for having this event.”
Chris Hays covers high school and college football, as well as college football recruiting. He can be found on X @OS_ChrisHays and on Instgram @OS_ChrisHays. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.