‘Better together:’ How friendship and faith helped guide these two US marathon runners to Paris 2024

‘Better together:’ How friendship and faith helped guide these two US marathon runners to Paris 2024 - Sports - News

The Extraordinary Friendship Between Two Elite Marathon Runners: Conner Mantz and Clayton Young

Friendship and competition intertwine in a unique way for Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, who have been pushing each other to new heights both personally and professionally as top marathon runners in the US. This dynamic duo, bound by years of camaraderie and shared ambitions, met at Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2017. Their friendship transcends the typical boundaries of companionship, as they not only live close by in Utah but also engage in various aspects of each other’s lives.

Ambitious Friends with an Olympic Dream

Since their first encounter at college, Mantz and Young have embarked on a near-seven-year quest to represent the United States at the Olympic Games. Their bond grew stronger as they trained together, fueled by their shared determination and aspirations.

In an emotional and highly anticipated Olympic trials race in February 2023, these two friends made their dream a reality by finishing first and second. With only one second separating them, both Mantz and Young achieved the pinnacle of their athletic careers by earning a spot on Team USA for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Emotional Recollections of Achieving a Lifelong Goal

Young, who turned 30 during the interview, expressed how he and Mantz continue to be consumed by their Olympic aspirations. “There’s this wave of emotion that comes over you, and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I did make the Olympic team. I’m an Olympian,’” he shared with News Finder Sport.

Mantz, a 27-year-old athlete, added that the achievement has taken some time to fully process but is now becoming more “normal” as they prepare for Paris 2024.

The Power of Competition and Support

Reflecting on their accomplishments at the Olympic trials, both men acknowledged that they could not have achieved this feat without each other. Over the years, they have logged over 10,000 miles together during their training sessions. The mutual support and shared experience offer a deeper level of understanding and encouragement.

“We’re able to learn from one another when we’re not running, and then when we are running, we’re able to push each other,” Mantz explained.

Young echoed the sentiment: “I think about standing on the starting line in Paris. I’m going to be standing next to [Mantz] again, and just having the confidence that I’ve trained with one of the best athletes in the world will give me a lot of confidence knowing that I belong.”

The Complexity of Competition and Friendship

Despite their deep bond, the competitive nature of both athletes is well-known. They acknowledge that there may come a time when they must prioritize personal glory over friendship and their country’s interests. However, they have managed to maintain an impressive working relationship for nearly seven years of intense training.

“It’s definitely a dance that we have to play, and we just have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re better together,” Young explained.

Mantz nodded in agreement: “We are very competitive, and we want to beat each other at the end of the day. But ultimately, I have decided to fully embrace this relationship and know that I will just be better because of it.”

Faith as a Foundation

In addition to their shared passion for running, Mantz and Young also attribute their success to their joint faith, which they believe grounds them during the pressures of competing on a global stage. Both are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have served missions before attending college.

Mantz, who spent his mission in Ghana, and Young, who spent two years in North Carolina, believe that their faith offers them a deeper sense of purpose. “Through our canonized faith, we’ve realized that we’re more than just a couple of runners,” Young shared. “We’re husbands, I’m a father, and we’re ultimately sons of God.”

Preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games

As Paris 2024 draws closer, both Mantz and Young are dedicated to fine-tuning their preparations. Young is looking forward to competing in the NYC Half marathon on March 17, while Mantz has recently sustained a minor injury that forced him to withdraw from the event. Although this setback is not expected to impact his participation at Paris 2024, both athletes remain committed to pursuing a podium place in the Olympic marathon.

“I’d be lying if I said that [Young] and I don’t have it in the back of our minds that we want to go and get a medal,” Mantz admitted. “Whether that’s public or not, it shouldn’t matter.”

Young agreed: “I’m going to put myself in the best position possible and see what happens.” The 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games are set to begin on July 26, with the men’s marathon scheduled for August 10.

As Mantz and Young continue their journey together, their bond of friendship and fierce determination remains unwavering as they strive to achieve Olympic glory.