Examining A Truly Historic Weekend For Newbury Park

* Newbury Park's front four converted on a historic run on Saturday at the Woodbridge Classic

Photo Credit: Daniel Hernandez/California MileSplit

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"It was good; I thought the guys were good...the guys up front killed it." -- Sean Brosnan

Go into the record books. Take a peak into the MileSplit database for all-time performances for three miles in high school.  

The top five names are now all from Newbury ParkFour of them were recorded on Saturday. 

Say what you will about courses being different and times being run in different states and on different terrains. Those concerns are all valid. 

But what you can't debate is how fast those performances were, or how historic that moment was on Saturday, with Newbury Park's boys claiming the first four spots on the finish line at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in Norco, California.

It was arguably the most dominant high school cross country team performance ever. Four Panthers finished under 14 minutes: Leo Young ran a new all-time best of 13:38.10; Aaron Sahlman was second in 13:42.30; Lex Young was third in 13:44.40; and Colin Sahlman was fourth in 13:48.00.

"I crossed the line and I saw the time and I didn't believe what was going on," Leo Young said. "...I don't have the math on top of my head, but it was crazy. Going through there, I didn't think that was even going to happen. We finished, I didn't even think I would win. I thought people would go with me.

"I think what it says is, honestly, you're capable of anything." 

Perhaps the only drawback was the scale of the performance -- it was a mid-season meet with no championship implications. 

"It was good; I thought the guys were good," Newbury Park head coach Sean Brosnan said this week. "...the guys up front killed it." 

Few reference points exist that even compare. Perhaps only American Fork (UT) has come close. The Cavemen featured three seniors in the top 20 at Team Nationals in 2016, including winner Casey Clinger, ninth-place McKay Johns and 20th-place Patrick Parker. 

But placement is in fact different than securing historic times.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, Brosnan was already evaluating and looking on to the rest of the season. He even thought his boys team left some time on the table.

His team's assumed fifth runner, Daniel Appleford, was opening up his season slowly and debuted in the rated race, finishing ninth in 14:53.90. The team's seventh, Hector Martinez, stepped up and finished 25th in the sweepstakes race in a personal record time of 14:38.10. 

The MileSplit50 No. 2 ranked Sahlman was coming back from a small ankle issue and still managed to break 14 minutes, while the team's sixth-runner Aaron Cantu was working out calf issues and finished in 15:09.70.

The boys scored 25 points in a field of 30 teams. The average was an unprecedented 13:54. Six boys eventually broke 15 minutes. 

What's more is that Brosnan's girls team also won. Samantha McDonnell broke 16 minutes, becoming only the eighth girl to ever do that at Woodbridge. She now owns the No. 3 time in course history. 

Ultimately, Brosnan knew that his team accomplished something special. He continually beckoned the credit to this scorers. 

"I think (the four) are pretty interchangeable," he said. "They're that good. They know each other. They know each other's faults. They know their accolades. I told the guys beforehand, we had a plan: "You'll lead this thing. No one will go as fast as you." 

And yet, there is success in the moment, and then there is the byproduct of that success. What Newbury Park experienced in the coming days was both good and slightly unnerving. 

Brosnan and his team returned home from Norco around 2 a.m. When he finally peered back at his phone late at night, before he called it quits at 3:30 a.m., he said he had about 90 texts he had not responded to yet. 

"It took me two days to get through," he said. "I feel bad." 

There would be lot of positive praise, including a sea of congratulations from college coaches and contacts who had gotten to know Brosnan and his program over the past few seasons.

But there were also detractors who immediately made accusations. 

"People sent some messages that I was honestly shocked about," Brosnan said. "'You guys are on drugs.' These kids are in high school. It rocked me a little bit. Here we are doing something great and people criticize. It kind of made me mad. This is not happening. You have to stop that.

"After running this meet and Clovis, we're about one thing: That's the state meet and nationals," Brosnan said. "That's it. For both squads. That's the focus. We don't want to over race. We will have a good block, keep everything to ourselves and go into state qualifiers feeling good."

"Don't even start that. It made me think, people have this self defense. They want to bring down something special or not believe it. It made me mad." 

What's more illuminating is that once the athletes returned to school on Monday, there was hardly any run-off hype, either. 

Brosnan said, "I don't know if I even talked to anyone. My class is off the beaten path. I think I saw two teachers." 

But in other ways, that was exactly the way he wanted it.

"I like it in a way," he said. "(The kids) are well known when they go into their element. But here, no one thinks twice. A lot of the teams here are good. They don't know the significance of cross country. 'Oh, your kids ran 13:40 or something? Great.' 

While the success that often follows prep football or basketball teams from local media turns its head in the form of radio or television spots, few of that found its way to the Panthers. 

Local television channel KTLA (Los Angeles) aired a shout out in the form of a photo, Brosnan said, but he didn't see anything else. 

And so, maybe it was a blip on the radar, the kind of history that goes down in record books, into the memories of anyone who was there that night. Ultimately, it's not the be-all, end-all. The Newbury Park program has bigger plans. 

The returning Team Nationals boys champions have aspirations of returning to Portland, Oregon, and accomplishing an even more important task: Surpassing the team's performance in 2019.

Next up is a date with the Clovis Invitational, then the postseason dip in California, and the qualification that comes with a state meet merge. 

"After running this meet and Clovis, we're about one thing: That's the state meet and nationals," Brosnan said. "That's it. For both squads. That's the focus. We don't want to over race. We will have a good block, keep everything to ourselves and go into state qualifiers feeling good."

 Related Links: 

Woodbridge Classic Meet Page