A Host Of Records Are In Play For Newbury Park In 2019

There's breaking a record. 

And then there's breaking a record. 

We won't know what exactly Newbury Park's Nico Young is capable of on Saturday at The 39th Annual Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Norco, California, until the high school senior has crossed the finished line. 

But suffice to say, it's a heavily anticipated finish. 

"If I'm being honest, I think people will be surprised with how fast he goes out," said Sean Brosnan, the fourth-year head coach of the Panthers. "But I know he'll go for it." 

It, as it reflects to in this situation, is the overall 3-mile meet record of 13:55, which was achieved by Stockdale (CA) graduate Blake Haney in 2013 when it was held on the Estancia Course--Luis Grijalva owns the Silverlakes Sports Park record at 13:58.00.

But larger than that, perhaps, is the overall 3-mile national cross country record of 13:50.60, which last was recorded over four decades ago.

Craig Virgin still holds Illinois' state 3-mile record of 13:50.60, which he planted in 1972 at Detweiller Park and has never been challenged since. Only 15 athletes have broken 14 minutes for 3-miles all-time. 

The crazy part is that Brosnan thinks his No. 2, Jace Aschbrenner, can do it, too--breaking 14 minutes. No team has ever done that before.

And that kind of summarizes, in a larger sense, just how good this team can be in 2019. From the Panthers' No. 1 down to its seventh, there's so much potential. 

Newbury Park finished sixth at last year's Nike Cross Nationals and won its CIF Division 2 Cross Country Championship. A shift in enrollment and a move up to Division I wasn't meant to be -- Brosnan was hoping that move would pit the Panthers against Great Oak -- so Newbury Park will largely live as California's best Division 2 team. But steam is picking up as to how powerful this team could be at NXN. 

"We're picking our battles wisely," Brosnan said. 

Newbury Park's opener at the Marmonte League Meet on September 12 was a very good first indication. The Panthers had a 3-mile average of 14:49, which is No. 1 according to MileSplit's team rankings, and a spread of 73 seconds. Young finished in 14:08.82, but what you won't see is how easy that effort was. 

"I kept telling him to relax," Brosnan said of Young's performance. "I didn't want him to go past a certain point. I told him to run the first mile whatever they went out in and then in the second mile just hammer. He did that and got so far (ahead). He was looking at me, 'Should I keep going?'" 

Aschbrenner wasn't far behind, either. The senior finished in a US No. 2 time of 14:19.51. And that's the illuminating part of the equation, Brosnan said. Newbury Park has three athletes with 3-mile times inside the top 50 nationally. The team total record at SLSP is 1:12.36 and was broken by Great Oak last year. Newbury Park can go after that. 

Brosnan doesn't think there's a weak link. 

"The thing is, they're so focused," Brosnan said. "The kids are 100-percent accountable."

So how has this team gotten there? Brosnan is relatively new to high school coaching, having worked in college previously and with post collegiate athletes. His practices have the look and feel of a very structured environment -- and maybe the pressure-cooker of college workouts -- though he says he keeps it low key. 

A summer camp at Big Bear laid the foundation. The buy-in from the team incubated early success. 

"You have to be dedicated (to be on this team)," Brosnan said. "It kind of feels like a college environment, but at the same time these kids know when they can joke around, there are times when these guys can be off. I don't want them to be tired. They have planned days off and they'll get together and go to the beach or water park. This is what they need." 

Brosnan's training cycle for this group is important. He's training Newbury Park at 10-day increments, sprinkling in three kinds of runs: hard days, recovery days and easy days. The Panthers are really only going to "race" three big meets this year, including Woodbridge, Clovis and NXN. You might be thinking? What about the Division 2 state championships? But it comes a week before NXN, which means Newbury Park will likely race to win and not for records. 

It seems likely that, if healthy, Newbury Park could go after the lowest team score at NXN, set over the past two seasons by Loudoun Valley. 

Within this whole idea is an obvious objective. Get after the races we have set our sights on.

"It's more of a mental approach," Brosnan said. "You guys are going after it. You guys are going to win those. That's what the team wanted and that's what we'll go after." 

Young and Aschburnner are the models of this to-be-determined blueprint. Both have blossomed into stars. Young will challenge for an NXN title toward the end of the year, but if you're thinking he's doing that with 100 mile weeks, you'd be mistaken. Brosnan says Young tops out at 69 miles a week. 

Young was absolutely incredible over the track season, laying down a US No. 1 time of 8:40.00 at 3,200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational. He finished fourth at NXN a year ago. 

But really, nothing has been accomplished yet. 

This team still has to prove it has the mettle to make their vision a reality. 

"We aren't shying away from it," Brosnan said. We want to win (NXN). I think we're one of the teams that can do it." 

Correction: We have amended this story to reflect Craig Virgin's time from 1972 as the previous national record at three miles 

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