CROSS COUNTRY '22 in REVIEW - Southern Section - Boys

* * *

Once the sun set on the 2022 season, the Southern Section boasted three of the top seven teams in the United States, including another national title run from the boys of Newbury Park!  The section boasted three of the top eight squads in the nation in 2018 and 2019, but this season -- it placed three in the top seven. 

Rebounding from the lost season of 2020, we tip our caps to the boys of the Southern Section for an incredible display of talent and resilience.  This season provided further evidence that the CIF-SS is the most competitive in the nation over the past five years! 


DIVISION 1 -San Clemente continued its rise up the national rankings in claiming the Division 1 team title, but Great Oak earned final bragging rights.  The Wolfpack rebounded with their best race of the season to capture the sixth Division I State Meet championship over the past eight postseasons!  San Clemente performed well, but Great Oak was able to have five clicking at just the right time.  Also, ranked as one of the top 10 teams in California, Crescenta Valley earned the third-place plaque at the California State Meet to close out a solid season. 

At the divisional finals, Highland's Matthew Donis (pictured above) turned a six-second advantage with less than a mile to go into an overwhelming 25-second, 14:35.0 victory by the finish line!

DIVISION 2- Newbury Park established a new team CIF-SS divisional scoring mark of 25 points to easily run away with its third consecutive title, earning the Division 1 title a year ago.  They moved on to claim their third State Meet title and ended up ranked at top of the national rankings (more below).  Also one of the top five teams in the section, Ventura earned the runner-up plaque at the division finals before placing third at the State Meet, placing sixth in the overall California State Meet merge.   At the divisional finals, Lex Young (14:38.1) claimed the individual title (just ahead of Leo Young at 14:38.2) before also moving on to duplicate the feat at the State Meet.  

DIVISION 3 - Dana Hills welcomed the move to Division 3 and ascended to the top to earn its first divisional title since their three-year stint on top of Division 1 from 2007-2009. The Dolphins held off a much improved Moorpark squad 89-125 at the division finals.  This was Moorpark's first postseason plaque in school history. At the California State Meet, the Dolphins placed third to earn a podium spot.  Dana Hills sophomore Evan Noonan sat back with the pack, before emerging with a 10-second victory (15:03.7) to claim the individual title.  

DIVISION 4 - St. Francis of La Canada came into its own in the middle of October and never looked back creating a gap that the rest of the division could not match. The Golden Knights held off a tough Palos Verdes squad, 76-93, yielding them their first-ever CIF-SS division title. A week later, they continued their unforgettable season with a 93-114 State Championship win over Cathedral.  Cathedral junior Emmanuel Perez claimed the individual title at the divisional finals and went on to also claim the title at State (more below).  

DIVISION 5 - All season long, this was the toughest division to issue any prognostications on. But, in the end - Viewpoint claimed the division title with a 123-135 victory over St. Margaret's. This was the Patriots' first-ever title after back-to-back third-place finishes the prior two seasons. At the State Meet, the section's top placing team was Providence, a distant 10th-place finish.  Woodcrest Christian sophomore Eyan Turk (15:14.6) claimed the division individual title.  

(in alphabetical order)

Matthew Donis (Highland/Sr.) - Coming into the season, despite qualifying for the 2021 State Meet the season was relatively off the radar in regards to being one of the best in the state.  His 9:02.49 at the 2022 CIF-SS Masters Meet revealed his grit that became a cornerstone for that what we witnessed this past cross country season.  While his 14:35 performance to capture the Division 1 title on the Mt. SAC course was the top time in the section that day, it was the California State Meet where he cemented his legacy with a 14:51.3 victory!   At Team Nationals, he placed 13th overall and was the third-fastest Californian at the meet held in Portland.  

Anthony Fasthorse (Ventura/Jr.) - We saw signs of brilliance during his sophomore season, but after putting behind some early season struggles, the junior shined when it counted most in 2022!  Four became his go-to number, as he only placed fourth at his league finals.  But then moved on to place fourth at the division finals (14:57.3) and matched that same place once again at the California State Meet (15:08.5). His time was the third-fastest of all underclassmen while he also qualified for Team Nationals, where he placed 60th overall.

Evan Noonan (Dana Hills/So.) - (pictured above) The top sophomore in California, his breakout performance at the Mt. Carmel Invite in September first turned heads.  Keep in mind that in 2021, he was a distant 62nd-place at the division finals!  Fast forward a year later, Noonan emerged with the largest margin of victory at the State Meet, with an unmatched last mile defining his strength down the stretch. Noonan returns as the top underclassman (15:04.3 at the State Meet) going into the 2023 season.  Invited to the Team Nationals, he placed 46th overall and was the second-fastest sophomore on the course in Portland. 

Emmanuel Perez (Cathedral/Jr.) - Throughout most of the season, 'Manny' had placed second behind his teammate, Emmanuel Hernandez, to give the Phantoms a potent 1-2 punch.  But once the postseason hit - Perez ascended to his own stage!  Surprising us with his 14:50.5, 15-second victory at the Division 4 finals, the junior went into yet another gear with his 15:05.4 upset win at the California State Meet.  In leading his squad to the runner-up plaque, Perez ran the second-fastest time for all underclassmen (to Noonan) at State.  With his 44th place at Team Nationals, Perez was the fifth-fastest Californian and eighth-fastest underclassman overall.    

Aaron Sahlman (Newbury Park/Sr.) - One of THE Cinderella-type stories that emerged in 2022 was Sahlman's first-ever victory in the sport of cross country. Despite seemingly laying in the shadows of his older brother, Colin, and the Young twins the past two seasons, Aaron Sahlman put in a surge like no other to capture the win against the most talented field in the U.S. at Team Nationals.  Off to join his brother at the University of Northern Arizona next fall, Sahlman placed third in D-III at the California State Meet (14:41.1) and third at the Southern Section Finals (14:43.8).   

Leo Young (Newbury Park/Sr.) - Leo will graduate with one of the strongest resumes of any prep cross country athlete in CA history. He established a Southern Section record (14:25.9) for the Woodward Park 5K course at the Clovis Invite. Crossing under 14:35 for that same course on three different occasions over the past two seasons, it is astounding that he does not have a State or section division title on that resume. But that has more to do with being part of the dynasty he helped create more than anything else!  He placed 11th at Team Nationals and finished as the second-fastest Californian, only to teammate Aaron Sahlman.  

Lex Young (Newbury Park/Sr.) - In most cases in cross country, Young had placed behind his twin Leo, but that all changed in the last two weeks of the season as Lex won the CIF-SS Division 2 title at Mt. SAC (14:38.1) and a week later, he emerged over the last mile for his best race at the State Meet (14:27.9) to earn the D-II crown!  He is the only boy to ever run under 14:35 on four separate occasions in the illustrious history of the Woodward Park 5K course!  Overcoming illness, he was the team's fourth scorer at the national meet as the squad was the top team in the nation for the third straight postseason!  

As we all marveled at their older brother, Nico Young, back in 2018 and 2019 - it is safe to claim that the younger twin siblings also carved out their own individual legacies as well!


As the program continues to make this an easy decision on our part - Newbury Park is the Southern Section 2022 Team of the Year!   

Aside from their 2021 squad, this was the best team in California high school cross country history as the Panthers rolled to another California and MileSplit National title for the third time since 2019.  Since that 2019 season, the program has established a legacy on the athletic prep scene that will seemingly, never be matched.

Led by seniors Lex Young (14:28), Leo Young (14:39), and Aaron Sahlman (14:42), the crew rolled to a 74:37 team time (14:55 average) to set a Division II State Meet record along with their 24 points also creating a new precedent.  Facing off against nationally ranked Granada (NC) and a strong Ventura (SS) group, the NP crew still would have won if the rest of the division combined forces.  

Keep in mind that for the Woodward Park 5K course, no team had ever run under 76 minutes (15:12 average) as of four years ago. Newbury Park's boys have now done so on five separate occasions.  

With their fourth consecutive CIF-Southern Section divisional title, the Panthers also established a new Division 2 team scoring record of only 25 points. Continuing to place their dynasty into the record books, Newbury Park also established a new team-time record (74:26) for the prestigious Mt. SAC course! 

Aside from the accomplishments of Sahlman, Leo, and Lex Young, Brayden Seymour, a senior transfer from Florida, also played a vital role throughout.  He was the team's third scorer, coming through with his best race of the season at Team Nationals with his 24th-place finish. 

Also helping lead the Panthers to the 86-point victory, alongside their State title, junior Dev Doshi will return in 2023 to lead the team.  He placed seventh at the California State Meet with a 15:17.2 performance.  Senior, Aaron Cantu stepped up when Doshi was sick at the national meet by scoring in that fifth slot for the Panthers.    

* * *

1. Newbury Park - 30
2. Great Oak - 109
3. San Clemente - 128
4. Ventura - 205
5. Crescenta Valley - 263
6. St. Francis - 273
7. Trabuco Hills - 274
8. Cathedral - 310
9. Mira Costa - 333
10. Arcadia - 333
11. Tesoro - 334
12. Dana Hills - 348
13. St. John Bosco - 379
14. Loyola - 403
15. Palos Verdes - 424
16. Santa Barbara - 433
17. Foothill Technology - 481
18. Saugus - 487
19. Santiago - 490
20. Moorpark - 513

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Jeffrey Parenti, Dan Tyree

Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplit as the Southern Section editor