Northern Arizona Lands Newbury Park Star Colin Sahlman

* Newbury Park's Colin Sahlman committed to NAU on Wednesday

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/California MileSplit

By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent

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No, that wasn't a gust of wind you just heard.

Instead, it was a collective sigh from every distance program in the NCAA not named Northern Arizona. 

That's because on Wednesday night, some big news dropped: Newbury Park (CA) superstar Colin Sahlman, the No. 4 ranked athlete in the MileSplit50, announced via Instagram that he will be joining the Lumberjacks come signing day. 

Now, Sahlman's commitment to NAU is hardly a shock.

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In fact, back in August we even stated that the Lumberjacks were the best fit for him on paper. 

All the tell-tale signs were there for this athlete-program pairing.

Sahlman is an outstanding long distance runner who is truly among the best in the nation when it comes to distances like the 3,200m, the three mile, or the 5,000m during cross country. 

He's also an elite high school miler. 

But Sahlman's emphasis toward the longer distances and his still-expanding cross country resume makes him a perfect fit for Northern Arizona. This is a program that has built its reputation in events like the 3,000m, 5,000m, 10,000m and in cross country.

Not only that, but Northern Arizona is an ideal location from Southern California. 

With the exception of Stanford and maybe UCLA, there weren't many other distance-heavy track and field programs in California or the surrounding southwest states.

Despite all of those factors, we also can't ignore the fact that former Newbury Park teammate and high school superstar Nico Young currently attends Northern Arizona.

Seeing Young go to NAU and instantly have success certainly couldn't have hurt Sahlman's impression of the men's head coach Mike Smith or the program. 

We would also be remiss if we didn't mention that Young and Sahlman have been running together for quite some time. The two distance standouts were teammates as far back as their youth track days.

Landing a recruit like Sahlman is obviously exciting for everyone involved. However, there are also numerous implications and plenty of questions that come with this commitment.

We mentioned earlier that Sahlman is among the nation's best high school milers. The Newbury Park senior boasts personal best times of 3:46 for 1,500m, 4:03 for 1,600m and 4:04 for the mile.

Depending on who you ask, those distances may be Sahlman's sweet spot in terms of racing. 

This leads us to a question: How will Smith and his staff manage Sahlman's unique strengths?

Enter Theo Quax.

When it comes to championship meets, NAU has largely made the 1,500m and mile distances afterthoughts. However, Quax has found his niche in those events, holding personal best efforts of 3:39 for 1,500m and 3:58 for the mile.

As a redshirt freshman, Quax shifted his focus to the grass, where he earned his 13:49 personal best for 5,000 meters and effectively translated it to the cross country course.

Based on his skillset, Quax should be the poster child for what Sahlman can be at Northern Arizona, minus the injuries. Lumberjack-turned-pro Luis Grijalva is also a great comparison.

Sahlman's eventual move to Flagstaff, Arizona also has significant implications for the future.

Not because of his scoring value, but because of his recruiting value.

It's no secret that Newbury Park is currently in the midst of what feels like a never-ending dynasty. This year, the Sean Brosnan-led high school program has been headlined by four names: Sahlman, Aaron Sahlman, Lex Young and Leo Young.

This season, Colin Sahlman is the only senior of this group. However, come next year, Newbury Park will have three of their current top four scorers in their last years. 

By that time, Lex Young and Leo Young will already have their older brother Nico Young at Northern Arizona. Similarly, Aaron will have his older brother at NAU as well.

It seems far-fetched to even ask this, but is there a world where Northern Arizona lands all three?

It sounds like a stretch, but based on the family ties and the factors mentioned earlier, it would be very surprising if at least one commits to Northern Arizona this time next year.

That's a scary thought for anyone hoping that the Lumberjacks' reign of dominance will end soon.

The thought gets even scarier when you remember that NAU also landed Connecticut native Aidan Puffer back in late September.

Between redshirt years, extra eligibility due to Covid and a star in Nico Young, the Lumberjacks were already primed to extend their grand success for the next few years.

Now, they'll be able to place Puffer -- who has run 14:24 for 5,000m and 8:55 for 3,200m -- next to another elite star in Sahlman. 

That is a lethal amount of firepower.