STILLWATER, Okla. – Conner Mantz dominated the field late in the men’s 10K to claim the individual title and help BYU men’s cross country to a seventh-place finish at the 2020 NCAA Cross Country Championships on the OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
“I was happy to hold on and win an individual title for my team,” Mantz said. “My teammates work so hard and we weren’t able to have our best day as a team, but a win for one of us is a win for all of us. I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates for giving it their all today.”
Mantz patiently remained with the lead pack before picking up the pace in the final kilometer. The junior’s burst of speed on the difficult course proved too much for the other competitors as Mantz created a cushion of a couple hundred meters between him and the next runner as he approached the final stretch.
The All-American crossed the finish line in 29:26.1, nearly 22 seconds ahead of the second runner in. With the first-place finish, Mantz joins Josh Rohatinsky (2006) and BYU head coach Ed Eyestone (1984) as the only BYU men’s cross country runners to win an individual national title.
“Conner’s performance was otherworldly,” Eyestone said. “It’s been since 2008 since the last American won the individual title. Once he realized he could use his uphill running talent, he pulled away. He crushed them at the end and it was one of the gutsiest individual performances I’ve seen on the cross country turf before."
Sophomore Casey Clinger crossed next for the Cougars, taking 13th place (30:19.8) and claiming All-America honors. All-American Brandon Garnica ran aside Clinger up until the final kilometer before heat exhaustion caused him to be pulled from the race.
“Brandon had a little heat exhaustion problem with about 500 meters to go and went down,” Eyestone said. “He was running in a good position at the time. At that point in the race, the chance to win the title had already slipped away with NAU in a stronger position than anyone could handle. However, I think we still had a podium shot at that point in time.”
Senior Ethan Cannon (31:22.0) and senior Clayson Shumway (31:23.7) went 83-84 for the Cougars. Senior Elijah Armstrong (31:40.3) was the fifth Cougar to cross in 118th place and freshman Aidan Troutner (31:54.1) finished 125th to round out the six BYU finishers.
“I’m super proud of the guys and how they rallied,” Eyestone said. “We have a lot of younger guys on the team that will be that much stronger next time and will learn something from this.”
The team’s seventh-place finish marks the fifth consecutive season the men have finished in the top 10, including winning the national title last season in 2019. BYU hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since Eyestone took over the program in 2000.