AOTY BOYS DISTANCE Historic Season for Colin Sahlman


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One in a series of articles profiling 2022 track and field athletes of the year by event grouping as selected by MileSplitCA editors.

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In 1996, Bell Gardens senior Michael Granville ran the 800 meters at the State Meet Trials to establish a new high school record that stands to this day. 

In 2001, Big Bear senior Ryan Hall completed this 1500 meters race in 3:42.70 to establish a new California record for the distance.

in 1966, Chula Vista senior Tim Danielson ran the mile in 3:59.4 to become the second high schooler after Jim Ryun to break the four-minute mile. 

In 2008, Riverbank senior German Fernandez set a new California record in the 3200m as he ran 8:34.40 in a 2-mile race that converts to 8:31.42. 

All those runners are considered among the all-time greatest runners in the state and you can also make a case for them to be included alongside the greatest distance runners in the nation as well. 

Fast forward to 2022 and we were fortunate to witness the greatest overall season by a California distance runner. EVER! Newbury Park senior Colin Sahlman stamped himself among the best in every distance noted above and was easily our choice as the MileSplitCA Distance Runner of the Year.

In the fall, Sahlman led his Newbury Park teammates to their second cross country national championship title by winning the Garmin RunningLane race in Huntsville Alabama following their 2019 NXN team title. Sahlman broke Dathan Ritzenhein's national 5000m record of 14:10.40 with his 14:03.29 winning effort.

The interview above took place on February 5th following his 3:58.81 winning effort at the Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge. Sahlman broke the four-minute mile for the first time and defeated a slew of professional runners to boot. 

Later in March Sahlman along with younger brother Aaron Sahlman and teammates Lex and Leo Young shattered the indoor national record in the 4 x mile with a time of 16:29.31 (4:03.74 split for Colin Sahlman). He also ran 1:50.90 the following day in the 800m as he finished in 2nd place behind Cade Flatt.

Outdoors picked his spots taking specific aim at fast efforts. Before his indoor efforts, Sahlman ran a 4:05.13 mile at the Sundown Track Series #1 on January 22nd. He then followed that up with a 8:33.32 effort at the 2nd Sundown Track Series on February 19th.

Sahlman's first official effort of the season took place on March 26th at the Azusa Distance Meet of Champions. Pressed by his younger brother Aaron, Colin won the 800m in a new personal best in the 800m with a time of 1:48.84. 

At the Arcadia Invitational, Sahlman won the always uber-competitive 3200 meter race with a time of 8:34.99 as he held off another tenacious effort from teammate Lex Young

Sahlman chose to bypass the remainder of the CIF schedule past his league finals in order to focus on pursuing additional faster times. 

His first big effort was at the Sound Running THE Track Meet as Sahlman raced in the 1500m to finish in 3rd place with a new California record 3:39.59. That time also placed him as fourth fastest competitor by a high schooler trailing only Hobbs Kessler (3:34.36), Alan Webb (3:38.26/3:38.50) and Jim Ryun (3:39.0).

Sahlman's last mile of the season turned out to be his fastest as he laced up his spikes against some of the top distance runners in the world at the Prefontaine Classic. Sahlman finished in 13th place but more importantly with a new personal best of 3:56.24. That effort made him the 3rd fastest high schooler ever in the mile trailing only Alan Webb at 3:53.43 and Jim Ryun at 3:55.3.

Below is an interview with MileSplit's Cory Mull following his Prefontaine effort as he summed up his season.

Sahlman had one more effort left in the season at the Brooks PR Meet. He chose to race the 800 meters there as he won with a new personal best of 1:48.07 finishing ahead of fellow sub-4-minute miler, Gary Martin who was 3rd in 1:48.59.

Sahlman will take his talents next to Northern Arizona University (NAU) as he joins former teammate Nico Young. Per his college coach Mike Smith, Sahlman is capable of winning NCAA titles, and based on everything he accomplished this past season, we agree.

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Albert Caruana is a Bay Area-based coach and a regular contributor to MileSplit.

Photos by Daniel Hernandez and Raymond Tran