It's time to get fired up for cross country! In our final installment of the 30 Teams To Watch preview series, we saved the best for last. As always, if you catch an error or have updated information for us, email CA state editor Jeffrey Parenti (email@example.com) and we'll make the corrections.
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This article has been updated throughout from the initial posting.
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Despite the graduation of national runner of the year Colin Sahlman (1954), the Newbury Park boys cross country team remains loaded for defense of its national title led by seniors Lex Young (far left), Leo Young (1956), and Aaron Sahlman (far right). (DeAnna Turner photo)
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Newbury Park (SS/Division 2)
One cannot go into the 2022 cross country season without mentioning the boys of Newbury Park! Over the last several years, the Panthers program has upped the bar beyond what anybody ever thought was imaginable for a prep cross country team. Little did any of us understand that their 2019 national championship squad was simply the beginning of their assault on all record books!
In 2019, Newbury Park established a state record for the Woodward Park 5,000-meter State Meet course in running an astounding 75:28 (15:06 avg.). But, despite a year away from the course during the interrupted 2020 COVID season, the NP crew absolutely unleashed in 2021, capturing another State title but also erupting to a 73:25 team time. Yep... they averaged 14:41 per scorer!
To put that in greater perspective, only seven boys in California history have run that course that fast, let alone, a team of five averaging such a previously unthinkable time.
Here we are staring at the 2022 season and Newbury Park returns three of the most talented cross country runners in California history.
But the Panthers program moves into this fall season without two four-year mainstays -- Colin Sahlman, the national runner of the year, and Daniel Appleford, a consistent scorer -- and head coach Sean Brosnan.
Brosnan left the high school coaching ranks to take over the distance program at UCLA. He leaves the Panthers program to his wife, Tanya Brosnan (pending school approval) and assistant coach Steve Hawkins.
As for the team ...
With both recently committing to attend Stanford in 2023, Leo Young rolled to the third-fastest time ever on the Woodward Park course (14:28.0) while twin brother, Lex Young crossed with the fifth-fastest time at 14:30.3. Lex, comes off a track season that saw him establish a new junior class state record (8:35.72) for 3200 meters. Meanwhile, Leo set the junior-class state record for the 1600 meters (3:59.32) en route to his 4:00.77 for the mile!
Meanwhile, fellow senior, Aaron Sahlman also returns. Colin's younger brother was the Panthers fourth scorer in their triumphant state title run with his 14:46.4. In 2019, alum Jace Aschbrenner ran 14:53.7 as the fastest second scorer ever in State Meet history. Aaron Sahlman ran more than seven seconds faster and was their fourth in 2021! He comes in off a monster track season that saw him run 1:48.91 for the 800 meters and a 4:01.34 for the mile!
As their sixth scorer in 2021 (15:15.1), Hector Martinez has been fighting injuries since the spring and may return at some point this season. Also, watch for Dev Doshi. As a sophomore, he crossed at 15:40.6 at the California State Meet but a week later, checked in with an outstanding 14:59.6 effort at the Garmin RunningLane National Championships. The incoming junior improved down to a 9:02.27 for the 3200 meters this past Spring.
And, if that were not depth enough, Newbury Park welcomes the addition of senior Brayden Seymour, one of the top distance runners in Florida. Seymour -- who confirmed the transfer, as did Tanya Brosnan -- is coming off a junior track season that saw him run 4:11.07 for the mile and 8:59.72 for 3200 meters, Seymour is a game-changer that places this group with the Panthers lineup of 2021! At Hagerty High -- located in Oviedo, Fla., a northeast suburb of Orlando -- Seymour ran a 15:38.5 for 5K to place third at the Florida 4A State Championships in 2021.
Reflecting back to the 2022 track season, no team in the nation could touch what Newbury Park achieved in the 1600 meters or the 3200 meters. Converting the mile to the 1600 meters, they saw four boys run under 4:00! Three of those boys return and now you add a sub-4:10 into the mix!
For those returning, the 3200-meter personal bests are staggering. You simply cannot compare it to any other prep group as with Seymour added in, the returning five boys that averaged 8:49.11 this past spring.
With the news of Newbury Park moving to Division 2 -- making lots of D-1 coaches nod with approval -- the Panthers are the hands-down favorite for another state championship.
While also heavily favored as the best team in the United States, they will hold back through September, focusing on another historic run with warranted expectations of another national title!
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|Newbury Park (SS)|
|1) Leo Young||14:05.07||1|
|2) Lex Young||14:05.49||2|
|3) Aaron Sahlman||14:14.38||3|
|4) Hector Martinez||14:52.72||4|
|5) Dev Doshi||14:59.51||7|
|Average Time: 14:27.43 Total Time: 1:12:17.17 1-5 Split: 54.44|
|6) Aaron Cantu||15:29.19||15|
|7) Jonah Sloan||16:28.14||163|
2021 Returning Times for 3 Miles
|Newbury Park (SS)|
|1) Leo Young||13:38.10||1|
|2) Aaron Sahlman||13:42.30||2|
|3) Lex Young||13:44.40||3|
|4) Hector Martinez||14:38.10||14|
|5) Dev Doshi||14:58.20||31|
|Average Time: 14:08.22 Total Time: 1:10:41.10 1-5 Split: 1:20.10|
|6) Aaron Cantu||15:09.70||51|
|7) Jonah Sloan||16:01.80||256|
In both charts, the ranking is against all returning boys in CA.
(These charts are pulled from the XC Team Scores, a MileSplit database function accessible under the Rankings header.)
Mark Gardner is a teacher, announcer, former coach and a regular contributor to MileSplit.
MileSplit California State Editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this report.