2022 CROSS COUNTRY
This wasn't the plan.
But the whirlwind courting and signing of national championship coach Sean Brosnan by UCLA in early August left high school distance powerhouse Newbury Park without the coach who had led them to national prominence.
The plan was for a summer spent training in Big Bear, a slow rollout to the fall cross country season ramping up in October and again in the second half of November culminating atop a podium in Portland the first Saturday of December.
"It happened really quick," Tanya Brosnan said of the college job offer for her husband. "When it came along, he couldn't pass it up."
But that left the Panthers program -- one with three of the nation's top returning boys in seniors Leo and Lex Young, and Aaron Sahlman, not to mention stratospheric expectations -- without its spiky-haired crazy-like-a-fox architect.
Enter Tanya Brosnan and Steve Hawkins. The former, a hall-of-fame collegiate runner, had been an assistant to her husband for six seasons. The latter, a former college coach, had been helping the Panthers program for three.
They assume the team with a not-so-simple task of maintaining continuity of a program whose boys won Southern Section, CIF-State, and Garmin RunningLane National titles last fall, and whose girls won Southern Section, ran second at CIF-State, and placed among the top 10 at RunningLane.
"We just plan to keep everyone on the same trajectory, keep this team on top," Tanya Brosnan said before a practice in mid-August. "I was with (Sean) every step of the way leading up to it for the past six years. I know what we're doing. We've got a good program here, a really good environment and a really good team. So, I'm really excited to see what we can do this year."
Brosnan, the former Tanya Zeferjahn, with roots in Southern California, has been inducted into the athletic Halls of Fame at both Cal State San Bernardino, and Queens University of Charlotte, NC, where she was a two-time Division II 10K champion, and still holds school records in the mile (4:53.33) and 3000 meters (9:22.95). She was a four-time USTFCCCA All-American at Queens while getting her MBA.
Her day job is as an engineering geologist for State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control. She said the main role of her department "is cleaning up hazardous waste sites in SoCal." Which is quite the contrast to polishing the glistening pearl that is the Newbury Park distance program.
"Expectations are just as high, if not higher," she said when discussing the boys team. "They can do great things."
As for the girls ...
"We have a great team this year," she said. "I'm really excited. We have three 4:50 girls and the next two are around 5:05-5 flat. ... If we keep everyone healthy and do the training right, they're definitely a state championship team, no question."
After graduating from Newbury park, Fiona Hawkins has earned Division II All-American recognition at Adams State University in Colorado. Ailish Hawkins, a rising senior, is the Panthers' top returning runner.
In defining his role as an assistant coach, Steve Hawkins jokes that he is a "bus driver with a stopwatch."
He said he is an "extra hand at practice" with a focus on "making sure the young kids get feedback everyday."
While the news came quickly of Sean Brosnan's departure for UCLA, Hawkins said he wasn't surprised.
"I've known for several years that he was going to have opportunities," Hawkins said. " ... It became evident that he had the ability to really drive programs to really high heights.
"I knew he'd get an opportunity. I hoped it wouldn't come this year. And I say that selfishly only because it affected Ailish and the kids. But it was always going to affect some kids. Somebody was going to be that first class to have him leave.
"The value of it happening now is that we have this strong group of seniors that can maintain the culture that is such a key part of what we do here, what's been done here, and teach it to those younger kids. And hopefully it will keep going."