BREAKING - XC Honor for Newbury Park's Leo Young

Gatorade California Boys XC Player of the Year

Leo Young - Newbury Park (SS)

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Leo Young from Newbury Park High School (SS) has been selected as the California Boys Cross Country "Player of the Year" by Gatorade following a historic senior season where he ran one of the fastest times ever to win the Clovis Invitational, helped the Panthers to CIF-Southern Section, CIF-State, and XC Nationals team titles, and went on to win the USATF U20 championship.

Amazing accomplishments all on the nation's strongest boys XC team that includes his twin brother, Lex Young, and classmate Aaron Sahlman. Lex won CIF-Southern Section and CIF-State titles with Leo running second in both and Sahlman third. Aaron was first across the line at Team Nationals in Portland with Leo 11th and Lex 35th.

What a team. How does one choose?

Clearly Leo's performance on the 8K layout in Mechanicsville, VA, where Lex was 12th and Aaron wasn't in the field, is what ultimately set him apart. He ran the course in 23 minutes, 47 seconds to beat a field that included current college athletes to earn the first of six spots to represent the U.S. at U20 Worlds in Australia on Feb. 18. 

Below is the race highlight video from the Clovis Invitational where Leo ran 14:26, the second-fastest time ever on the 5000-meter Woodward Park course in Fresno. It bettered his previous No. 3-ranked time of 14:28 recorded at the 2021 CIF-State Finals. It also surpassed the 14:27, the previous No. 2 mark, set by former teammate Colin Sahlman, Aaron's brother -- and last year's Gatorade XC overall runner of the year. 

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Highlights from the Gatorade news release:

CHICAGO (January 30, 2023) - In its 38th year of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Leo Young of Newbury Park High School is the 2022-23 Gatorade California Boys Cross Country Player of the Year. Young is the third Gatorade California Boys Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Newbury Park High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Young as California's best high school boys cross country player.

Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Player of the Year award to be announced later this week, Young joins an elite alumni association of state award winners, that includes his older brother Nico Young (2019-20, Newbury Park High School, Newbury Park, Calif.).

Leo Young has volunteered locally as a board member in the school's chapter of Doctors of the World, helping to organize a Ukraine Drive, which resulted in the donation of thousands of pairs of gloves, bandages and other medical supplies.

Young has maintained a 3.95 GPA in the classroom. He -- along with Lex -- signed National Letters of Intent to run on scholarship at Stanford University in the fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection

Committee, which leverages experts including coaches, scouts, media and others as sources to help evaluate and determine the state winners in each sport.

Young joins recent Gatorade California Boys Cross Country Players of the Year Colin Sahlman (2021-22 & 2020-21, Newbury Park High School), Nico Young (2019-20, Newbury Park High School), and Liam Anderson (2018-19, Larkspur Redwood High School), among the state's list of former award winners.

Being a Gatorade Player of the Year means paying it forward for the next generation. Through Gatorade's Play it Forward initiative, every Player of the Year receives a grant to give to one of Gatorade's social impact partners, supporting Gatorade's ambition to fuel the future of sport. To date, Gatorade Player of the Year winners' grants have totaled more than $3.5 million across more than 1,300 organizations.

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Photos by Marie Marheineke and Tavan Smith