The Legendary NXN Performance That Will Go Down In History

* Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

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"And then when they said, 'Temecula, runner-up,' it was the greatest feeling ever."

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By Logan Stanley - MileSplit Correspondent

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PORTLAND, OREGON -- In a truly commanding performance, Newbury Park (CA) senior Nico Young made his latest entry in a season of incredible performances, winning Nike Cross Nationals on Saturday on a rainy and muddy Glendoveer Course in 14:52.23. 

And it was the final statement made this cross country campaign for Young, whose season may go down as one of the best in high school history. His NXN-winning time is a new course record, breaking Liam Anderson's mark of 14:57.60 from last year.

Meanwhile, in the team race, it was a genuine nail-biter as Young's Newbury Park also edged-out fellow Southern California foe Great Oak, 128 points to 132 points. By NXN terms, it was the closest finish since 2011 when Christian Brothers Acadmey and Southlake Carroll were separated by just four points. In third, Corner Canyon finished with 142 points, and in all, a mere 14 points separated the top three teams.

The race was thrilling on multiple accounts. But the individual race was never in doubt, with second-place finisher, Hersey (IL) senior Josh Methner, coming in 14 seconds behind at 15:06.1. Methner looked strong throughout, and on a different day he may have won, but Young led the pack from the early stages, making his move after the first turn on the course. It was his race to win -- or lose. 

He came in at 2:50 for the first kilometer, establishing a three-second lead by the first mile. By the second mile, that lead was up to eight seconds as Young passed through at 9:29. Young never relinquished the lead throughout the entire race. 

Despite the utterly sloppy conditions, he came with an aggressive game plan and executed to perfection. 

That was the plan all along. Newbury coach Sean Brosnan said on Saturday he strategically set up the whole season for Young and the team to peak and go full-throttle at NXN. Brosnan even held Young back at certain points in the season with this race in mind.

The move was risky, Bronsan acknowledged, but it paid off.

* Newbury Park discusses his NXN win

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"Our season was set up since June that we wanted this," Brosnan said. "I know some people may not believe it, but we had to hold Nico back last week [at state] just for this. And that was the agreement we had--he knew it was the bigger picture goal. He cut his track season early last year just for this goal."

"To see it come together, it's pretty awesome," he said. "I'm facilitating this, he's believing in it and saying yes. Just to see the team do that, it was a great moment for me too but even better to watch those kids be happy."

It's one of the greatest performances in NXN history for Young -- an individual title, a course record and a team title. The trifecta, completed. He became the second athlete since Neuqua Valley's Christopher Derrick in 2007 to win both an individual and team title. 

But the individual national championship was the latest in a series of enthralling accomplishments this fall for Young. He famously set the national high school record in the three-mile at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in September, running a scintillating 13:39.70.

He followed with a 14:28.90 in the 5K at the Clovis Invitational in October, before literally running away with the California State Division II Cross Country state title in 14:28.50 in November.

"I guess it's surprising and not surprising," Young said about his recent success. "I don't think I knew what I was capable of, but I knew that I had a lot of room for improvement. Coach [Bronsan] really helped me see that, and I kind of just worked up from there."

Rounding out the rest of the top seven in the individual race was Shelby senior (OH) Caleb Brown in third at 15:08.3, Jesuit (CA) senior Matt Strangio in fourth at 15:08.8, Dakota Ridge (CO) senior Connor Ohlson in fifth at 15:09.0, Ashland (OR) senior EJ Holland in sixth at 15:09.6 and Valor Christian (CO) senior Cole Sprout seventh in 15:10.1.

With the ultimate low-stick in Young, Newbury Park are the NXN team champions for the first time in school history.

The squad had the country's best No. 2, with senior Jace Aschbrenner finishing as an All-American in 18th at 15:29.1. Sophomore Colin Sahlman was 53rd at 15:51.9, junior Nick Goldstein was 95th at 16:16.2 and sophomore Daniel Appleford finished 100th in 16:17.8.

It was Newbury Park's only second time competing at NXN as a school.

"It's gratifying," Aschbrenner said. "Even since freshman year, we had a dream that we could be just better, have something bigger than ourselves. And to see that evolve from just going to state to winning a national title has been incredible. It seems like the ultimate achievement after four years of cross country." 

But the title didn't come without any drama. As always, the top three teams were brought onto stage to present trophies following the championship races. 

Nerves were building up for Newbury Park, as the Panthers were unsure of the final results.

Draper -- who led the team scores after one mile -- was announced first, leaving the two California rivals left.

You could feel the tension in the air like the rain as the announcers waited to deliver the results.

"That was probably the scariest moment of the day for us," Colin Sahlman said. "Because we heard [from bystanders] that Great Oak beat us -- we thought were second. When they said it was four points, we were all just like, 'Jeez, if we lose by four points that's going to be so hard on us."

"And then when they said, 'Temecula, runner-up,' it was the greatest feeling ever."

* Jesuit's (CA) Matt Strangio reflects on his top five finish at NXN

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For Great Oak, the runner-up finish is bittersweet. Being the second-best team in the nation is something to be proud of. But the bar has been elevated at Great Oak to where that wasn't enough.

A program that comes with a storied tradition of winning wanted to win the title in 2019. The boys won the team title in 2015 at NXN, and are perennial powers at the state level.

"We've won it, we've been second. In the last five years, we've gotten first, sixth, sixth second and second. So our boys are consistently in contention and up here running decently well," Great Oak head coach Doug Soles said. "I would've liked to raced yesterday instead of today --- today was a lot tougher conditions."

"But at the end of the day, I got a group of guys that came up here and gave everything they had. Really wanted to come out with a national title, but we knew that Newbury was going to be very difficult to beat having raced them."

It was an impressive showing from Great Oak considering their top runner from the Clovis Invitational finished as their No. 7 at NXN, their second runner finished as their No. 6 and their third runner didn't even compete today. 


      1. Nico Young, 14:52.3

      2. Josh Methner, 15:06.1

      3. Caleb Brown, 15:08.3

      4. Matt Strangio, 15:08.8

      5. Connor Ohlson, 15:09.0

      6. EJ Holland, 15:09.6

      7. Cole Sprout, 15:10.1

      8. Liam Murphy, 15:12.0

        9. Carson Benlap, 15:13.4

          10. Wil Smith, 15:15.9

            11. Nathan Green, 15:17.4

              12. Anthony Monte, 15:17.8

                13.Tristan Merchant. 15:19.5

                  14. Dylan Schubert, 15:20.0

                    15. Ryan Schoppe, 15:20.1

                      16. Sam Lawler, 15:21.1

                        17. Jack Spamer, 15:23.1

                          18. Jace Aschbrenner, 15:29.1

                            19. Bob Liking, 15:29.8

                              20. Cruz Culpepper, 15:30.8

                              TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS: 

                              1. Newbury Park, 128

                              2. Great Oak, CA, 132

                              3. Corner Canyon, UT, 142

                              4. St. Charles East, IL, 163

                              5. Western Albemarle, VA, 213

                              6. La Salle Academy, RI, 226

                              7. Dakota Ridge, CO, 236

                              8. Dana Hills, CA, 247

                              9. Wheaton Warrenville South, IL, 253

                              10. Loudoun Valley, VA, 255

                              11. F-M, 274

                              12. York, IL, 275

                              13. Mountain Vista, CO, 284

                              14. Southlake Carroll, TX, 285

                              15. The Woodlands, TX, 316

                              16. CBA, NJ, 327

                              17. Jesuit, OR, 386

                              18. Burnt Hills, NY, 407

                              19. Mounds View, MN, 415

                              20. Kamiakin, WA, 434

                              21. Stevens Point, WI, 491

                              22. El Paso Eastwood, TX, 581