BYU’s Whittni Orton, Conner Mantz wins NCAA cross country national championships

Sports

TALLAHASSEE (ABC4 Sports) – BYU’s Whittni Orton and Conner Mantz both won individual national titles at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee Saturday.

For Mantz, it was his second straight national title, while Orton is the first BYU woman ever to win an individual crown.

Orton also led the BYU women’s cross country team to a second place. The Cougars won the overall title last year. The BYU men’s team finished in seventh place overall.

Orton ran with the front pack of the top-4 runners for the majority of the race, breaking off at the 5K mark as she approached the hill leading to the finish line.

The senior from Panguitch, Utah, would go on to beat Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, the reigning individual champion, by nearly four seconds. Her 6K time of 19:25.4 is the second fastest all-time at Apalachee, beating a time of 19:26.2 set in 2014.

At the 2020-21 NCAA Cross Country Championships held earlier this year, Orton led the pack before dropping into 17th place toward the end of the race. 

“That definitely fueled me a lot,” Orton said. “I did think about it many, many times, not just today but throughout the whole year. I always think that the setback does help with the comeback.”

Orton also talked about BYU women’s cross country head coach Diljeet Taylor and the impact that she’s had on the program.

“Her culture, I’ve been a part of it for about six years now,” she said. “I am a completely different person because of  it. I’m just so grateful for her and these girls. I’ve seen them grow as well and it’s really amazing to see. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t come to BYU.”

Mantz won the individual title for the second-straight year, the first repeat champion since 2014-15.

It is just the second time in NCAA history, however, that the two individual champions have come from the same school. Michelle Dekkers and Robert O. Kennedy from Indiana accomplished the feat in 1988. 

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