OLYMPICS

6 Olympians celebrate 2 Utah runners, the first Americans to qualify for Paris Olympic Marathon

Feb 13, 2024, 10:23 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 5:44 am

ALPINE — A group of some of the most accomplished people in the world came together, celebrating two Utahns who became the first Americans to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic marathon.

Conner Mantz and Clayton Young qualified for Paris in Florida this past weekend at the Olympic marathon trials.

Olympic silver medalist McKayla Skinner was among the crowd, as well as Meb Keflezighi, who flew in from Florida to congratulate the two who not only come from the Beehive State but run on the same team together.

“Very unique because you don’t hear that every day,” Keflezighi said. “Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I hope they can help each other.”

Keflezighi brought his silver medal and handed it to Mantz and Young for inspiration.

“The hard part is over. They’re going to be an Olympian no matter what they do,” Keflezighi said. “Just enjoy it.”

Mantz grew up in Smithfield and won two years in a row running the NCAA cross-country championships for Brigham Young University.

“Ever since I knew what the Olympics was, that was something I thought would be a really cool thing to be a part of,” Mantz said.

Representing all who have supported him through the years is what he thinks of when Mantz pictures running in Paris. For Young, his running goals have been more of a step-by-step process.

“I wanted to make the varsity team in high school and then get in the traveling team, then regionals, then nationals,” Young said. “It’s been baby steps the whole way.”

While running in Florida, Young said he was considered the underdog. He said his wife Ashley shifted his mentality from running a defensive race to running offensively.

“He’s always had that self-belief that he can get to this level,” Ashley said.

The mentality is all about playing to win instead of playing to lose, Young said.

Mantz took first place in the Olympic marathon trials, finishing one second before Young. As they celebrated their victories, Mantz and Young were already looking towards training for Paris.

Young will do most of his training in Utah, using saunas and wearing layers to simulate the humidity he’ll run with in Paris. For Young, it will be his first international trip.

Mantz hopes to move to Europe for a few months ahead of the games to train in the environment overseas. Both are part of the first official professional running group in Utah.

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6 Olympians celebrate 2 Utah runners, the first Americans to qualify for Paris Olympic Marathon