By David Rogers. MANCHESTER, Conn. — In elite distance running’s lingo, the 2022 Manchester Road Race saw a “brawling” finish on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24. Only three seconds separated Provo, Utah’s Connor Mantz, who crossed the line first in 21:04 and Blowing Rock, N.C.’s Andrew Colley, fourth in 21:07 — all after running 4.748 miles with a few elevation changes between the start and finish.
In between Mantz and Colley were Morgan Beadlescomb of Boston, Mass. (No. 2, 21:05) and Wesley Kiptoo of Flagstaff, Ariz. (No. 3, 21:06). It was the 86th running of the Manchester Road Race, which was first held in 1927, when only 12 athletes competed.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2022, more than 10,000 entries ran or walked in support of muscular dystrophy research and various local charities. “Manchester,” as the race is commonly called and staged in a town of just over 35,000 in population, is believed to be the nation’s second-oldest competitive road racing event (after the Boston Marathon).
From the mass of humanity that started the race, the lead pack quickly narrowed down to approximately 50 runners before being narrowed down even more, to around 20 halfway through. By the last mile, that lead group was down to seven, including Colley, before Mantz took charge with his patented kick. The former Brigham Young University cross country star won back to back titles in the 2020 and 2021 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Earlier this year, Mantz won the USATF 20k Championships in New Haven, Conn., and placed second in the USATF 8k Championships in Kingsport, Tenn. That is how formidable this field of athletes was.
This year’s Manchester race may have been described as “brawling,” but there were no fisticuffs at the end, only panting smiles, handshakes and a couple of hugs or leaning against one another for support. The top five finishers in the Men’s Division broke the course record of 21:16 set in 2018, by Edward Cheserek of Kenya.
Colley, who is a member of the Blowing Rock-based ON/ZAP Endurance elite running team, was joined on the day by teammates Ryan Ford (who finished No. 12, 21:38), Dan Schaffer (No. 14, 21:50) and Eric van der Els (No. 16, 21:56).
While Mantz was the overall winner and the top finisher in the Men’s 19-29 age category, Colley captured first place honors in the 30-39 age group, according to the race results website.
The top female finisher for the race also traveled to Connecticut from the High Country region. That was Weini Kelati of Johnson City, Tenn., in 23:39, slightly slower than her winning time a year earlier, in 22:55.
Joining the ZAP Endurance team just a few months ago seems to be working for van der Els, who ran the Manchester Road Race in 2021, 21 seconds slower than this year’s finishing time. Having competed collegiately for the University of Connecticut, he has ties to the area.
Schaffer is similarly familiar with the Northeast U.S., having competed at Binghamton University in New York, roughly 175 miles directly west of Manchester. Before joining ZAP, Ford competed for the University of Tennessee-Martin and Iowa State University. Colley was a 5-time All-American and 11-time All-ACC athlete while competing for North Carolina State University, from where he graduated in 2014 and joined the ZAP team the same year.
The top 25 finishers in each of Manchester’s Male and Female divisions won cash awards, including $7,000 for first place. Colley’s fourth place finish earned him $2,000, while Ford at No. 12 took home $300, Schaffer at No. 14, $200, and van der Els at No. 16, $150.
Ford, Schaffer and van der Els are all first year members of the ON/ZAP Endurance team and were running their second professional event after debuting in the USATF Men’s 5k Road Championship in New York City on Nov. 5.
“I am really proud of our guys’ performances and especially pleased for Andrew Colley and his progression since injuries plagued him in 2016-17,” said ZAP Endurance head coach Pete Rea. “When you consider that more than 10,000 runners competed in this race and that included maybe two dozen world class runners and potential Olympians in the men’s division, for ZAP, Blowing Rock and the High Country to have four of the top 16 finishers in this historic race is pretty special. And that five of the runners finished ahead of the course record well, that is astonishing.”