Clayton Young edges Conner Mantz in close USATF 20 km Championships race

Clayton Young beat Conner Mantz in a close men's race to secure the 2023 USATF 20 km Championships road running title here on Monday's Labor Day morning.

Clayton Young and Conner Mantz in the USATF 20 km Championships 2023 race

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW HAVEN (Sept. 4) — Clayton Young won the 2023 USATF 20 km Championships road running title at the 45th Faxon Law New Haven Road Race. Young, 29, who runs for Asics, edged defending champion and training partner Conner Mantz (Nike) in the final sprint on Temple Street, 59:15 to 59:16 on a sunny, warm and humid Labor Day morning here. The champion won $9,000.

Clayton Young Takes Tight Finish

Unlike the women’s contest, which was easily won by Emily Sisson, the men’s race played out quite differently.  A pack of eight developed early with Mantz doing most of the leading. 

The group consisted of Young, Sam Chelanga, Daniel Mesfun, Futsum Zienasellassie, Leonard Korir, Andrew Colley, and Biya Simbassa, who all ran through the 10-K mark together.

The second half of the race featured multiple lead changes.  Colley put in a surge as did Mesfun, Simbassa and Zienasellassie.  But it wasn’t until the 10-mile point in East Rock Park that the race began to break up. Zienasellassie passed Mantz, who responded with Young right behind him. 

It looked like those three were going to slip away, but there was momentary confusion about the direction of the course after they exited the park before the 11-mile mark.

“Totally my fault,” Young told Race Results Weekly. “Coming down off of the hill I looked to the left and and I saw Blake Boldon (a USATF official who was on the lead vehicle) kind of hesitate and talk to the driver. 

“Before Blake Boldon yelled, I said, ‘it’s a left!’  We’d already gone past, so Mantz and Futsum doubled back.”

Dramatic Final Sprint Mantz Wanted To Defend

With everyone back on course, the racing resumed.  Into the final mile, Young and Mantz took control and the contest was down to just two.  But the final sprint was odd. 

Instead of sprinting as hard as possible to get the win, Young hesitated.  He said that he was thinking about the overall standings of the USATF Running Circuit.

Men's race at the USATF 20 km Championships 2023 race
The men’s lead pack of the 2023 USATF 20-K Championships at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (left to right): Andrew Colley, Conner Mantz, Daniel Mesfun, Clayton Young, Sam Chelanga, and Biya Simbassa. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“We had talked maybe before this race that because I’m further up in the points and Conner Mantz doesn’t have a chance to place in the points because he hasn’t ran in so many of the USA circuit races that maybe it would be advantageous for me to take the win and him take second, if that was a possibility,” Young told Race Results Weekly.

That’s not what Conner Mantz was thinking.

“I was trying to beat him,” Mantz told reporters.  He continued: “He passed me with like 300 to go and he’s like, ‘hey, let’s finish it in together.’  And I’m like, dude, I’m trying to beat you.”

While their coach Ed Eyestone looked on, Mantz and Young came to the finish line together, and Young crossed first by just half a step.  

“Mantz is an incredible training partner,” Young said.  “He is the one leading just about every workout.  He’s the real workhorse, so I owe a big credit of this race to him.”

Today’s win represented Young’s third national title. Earlier this year he won the 8-K title at the Crazy 8’s 8-K in Kingsport, Tenn., and in 2021 he won the USATF 15-K title at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla.

Sam Chelanga got third in 59:26, Mesfun took fourth in 59:32, and Zienasellassie got fifth in 59:36.  Khalid Khannouchi’s 1997 event record of 57:37 was never threatened, and neither was Matt Tegenkamp’s 2012 championships record of 58:30.

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