Is Newbury Park The Best Team In History? Let's Dive Into It

* Newbury Park's Leo Young holds his medal after the Panthers won the CIF Division I State Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park

Photo Credit: Dan Tyree/California MileSplit

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There has been a lot of conversation lately about Newbury Park -- and rightfully so. 

Since the Woodbridge Classic in September, when the Panthers unleashed a performance that's never been seen before -- four runners under 14 minutes for three miles and a total team average under 14 minutes -- Newbury Park has been at the forefront of the high school distance running scene. 

This has prompted a lot of talk about records and history and ultimately, the legacy this team is leaving behind. 

Head coach Sean Brosnan has been the face of the squad's unbridled success, though if you were to ask him, he'd surely hand off those accolades to his runners, a list that includes Colin Sahlman, Aaron Sahlman, Lex Young, Leo Young, Daniel Appleford, Hector Martinez and Dev Doshi

Now, what's fascinating in all of this is that the Panthers only have two seniors: Colin Sahlman and Appleford. 

The rest of the unit will be back. 

For most high school programs, it would be hard to guarantee success year over year, because in theory a litany of things could happen: Athletes transfer out, injuries happen, fitness changes and improvements or regression could vastly change a runner's fortune. Your 10th guy might become your best. Your first guy might become your fifth. 

But that's with most high school programs. You wouldn't imagine anyone stepping into this team and becoming the No. 1 without Brosnan knowing about it. Or that anyone would drop that much over a summer. 

And in that way, Newbury Park, the current MileSplit50 No. 1 team which is headed to the RunningLane Cross Country Championships on Dec. 4 in Huntsville, Alabama, almost mirrors a college program. You have to put in the work to build up to that top seven. Even in 2018, when Newbury Park won its first CIF Division 2 state title with Nico Young leading the way, Brosnan brought a vibe that hadn't been seen before. 

Then the team won its second CIF Division 2 title in 2019. And then it claimed Team Nationals that same year. The pandemic only strengthened this team's desire to become something special. Newbury Park traveled to Indiana in November of last year and won the NSAF Meet of Champions. It was part of two races that had national appeal. 

How has this even been possible? Brosnan has created a culture of belief -- in running -- at Newbury Park. It has been part science, part game theory, part learning how to hurt. Those within the program have invested time and patience and effort.

Now, here's where we get into the question of what matters.

Is it the fact that every member of the squad is running as a unit and combining for 16 points at the CIF Division I State Championship meet, the biggest classification in California? That result was just insane. No team in history -- in California or otherwise -- has ever had that gap strength in one of the best state meets in the country. No national team performance has ever paralleled that, either. 


The action will be streamed via a cart cam, with select shots around the course and the finish line.


Or how about this? Is it the fact that Brosnan has somehow created four runners capable of winning a national championship? And with national championships comes aptitude: You have to have a runner that's capable of the time consistent with that performance. Newbury Park has four of those. 

And so, it's probably a combination of both of those things. 

While times will change course to course, value is a matter of perspective. There's value in both team strength and overall talent. There's obvious value in having a team that can compete on any given day, at any given course, and be the best four runners on that day. 

But you also can't discount the willpower and dedication it took to get to that level of running. Sometimes, you have to appreciate just how fast a team is going. 

The performances between the team's top four, and then its fifth and sixth, largely don't change however big or competitive the meet gets.

Looking at the team's averages across its four biggest meets, the team has compiled performances within 14 seconds of one another, across several months.

Woodbridge13:543-MilesSept. 18
Clovis14:435KOct. 9
CIF SS14:545KNov. 20
CIF DIvision I14:405KNov. 27

When we incorporate speed ratings into the equation, Newbury Park is also far and away the best team in the country. 

If you're unfamiliar, speed ratings project a rating for a performance regardless of the time run. It's an indication of how valuable or quantitative the effort was, regardless of where it was run or who it was run against. 

In other words, speed ratings can be seen as an objective metric. 

While 2021 has been a rather incredible year, with six teams over 180 averages before the RunningLane Cross Country Championships on Dec. 4 in Huntsville, Newbury Park is the only program over 190. In fact, the Panthers have hit 190 on three occasions. 

Newbury Park197.6CIF
Newbury Park185.6CC SS Div.
Newbury Park194.6Clovis
Newbury Park191.8Woodbridge
Cheyenne Mountain186.6Colorado State
Portland Jesuit181.4Oregon State
Union Catholic180.6MOCs
Grapevine180.4Team South
American Fork180.2Utah States
Farmington179.4Utah States
Niwot179.2Colorado State

Still, we're talking all-time. 

How about average? 

When we look at cross country programs, through and through, we always come back to average. 

A team's average can indicate overall speed, impact and performance.

A team's average can give you an idea of just how good that team was in a given year.

But a team's average won't always lead to a win -- primary case: Brentwood (TN) had the fastest average in 2016 but was second at Great American where it recorded that number.

Since 2010, in fact, only five times has the nation's fastest team won the national title that year -- we included American Fork's 2021 team, as it split national meets that year with Newbury Park.

Last year, American Fork ran the fastest average ever recorded at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships. 

The Cavemen claimed the overall win with an average of 15:00, defeating Niwot (15:03), Mountain Vista (15:07) and Skyridge (15:03).

Saying all that, we turn to this year. 

While Newbury Park's average does not wholly explain its success in 2021, the team's performances have certainly helped the cause. Because few teams are even in the same wheelhouse right now.

Few teams and their benches can even keep up. 

In October the Panthers crushed both of those all-time marks, claiming an insane average of 14:43 at the Clovis Invitational. 

Then, this past Saturday Newbury Park lowered that mark to 14:40. 

The Panthers are now a full 16 seconds faster than any team in history. 

I wanted to get a sense of just how fast teams have been over the recent decade, so I dived into the numbers. Here is a list of the fastest averages per year dating back to 2010. 

These averages are all based on real-time meets within those given years. 

2021Newbury Park14:41CIF State
2021Newbury Park14:44Clovis
2019Newbury Park15:05MCC League
2020American Fork15:00RL Nat
1978South Eugene15:01.02Oregon AAA
2020Niwot15:03.41RL Nat
2013Christian Brothers Academy15:03.79Shore Conference
2019Newbury Park15:05.34NXN
2012CBA15:08Shore Conference
2015Great Oak15:13CIF State
2011Southlake Carroll15:14Chile Pepper
2014American Fork15:18NXR SW
2018Loudoun Valley15:21Third Battle
2016Brentwood15:26Great American
2017Loudoun Valley15:28NXR SE

For reference, you can also see the fastest teams by year dating back to 2000: 


Newbury Park (SS) (CA)74
1) Colin Sahlman14:26.501
2) Leo Young14:28.002
3) Lex Young14:30.304
4) Aaron Sahlman14:43.508
Average Time: 14:39.96 Total Time: 1:13:19.80 1-5 Split: 45.00
7) Dev Doshi15:40.60239

2020: American Fork: First at RunningLane; Newbury Park: First at NSAF MOCs

American Fork (UT)225
1) Nate Jaster14:35.312
3) Samuel Nelson15:12.2959
4) Kooper Dibb15:14.4468
Average Time: 15:00.99 Total Time: 1:15:04.95 1-5 Split: 43.77
6) Lucas Peck15:33.20167
7) Nate Hess15:43.23248

2019: Newbury Park: National Champions

2Newbury Park (SS) (CA)406
1) Nico Young14:28.502
2) Jace Aschbrenner14:53.7018
3) Colin Sahlman15:09.8057
4) Nicholas Goldstein15:17.0091
5) Lex Young15:37.00238
Average Time: 15:05.20 Total Time: 1:15:26.00 1-5 Split: 1:08.50
6) Daniel Appleford15:37.70246
7) Leo Young15:41.60291

2018: Loudoun Valley: National Champions

Loudoun Valley (VA)250
1) Sam Affolder14:59.6013
2) Carlos Shultz15:08.1027
3) Jacob Hunter15:14.4049
4) Kellen Hasle15:22.3076
5) Connor Wells15:24.9085
Average Time: 15:13.86 Total Time: 1:16:09.30 1-5 Split: 25.30
6) Taylor Ney15:37.40164
7) Mateo Barreto15:38.80172

2017: Loudoun Valley: National Champions

Loudoun Valley (VA)447
1) Sam Affolder14:58.107
2) Peter Morris15:04.6012
3) Colton Bogucki15:24.6071
4) Jacob Hunter15:30.50105
5) Kevin Carlson15:47.50252
Average Time: 15:21.06 Total Time: 1:16:45.30 1-5 Split: 49.40
6) Chase Dawson15:48.10256
7) Jacob Windle15:55.10358

2016: Brentwood: Third at Nationals

Brentwood High School (TN)870
1) Brodey Hasty14:32.201
2) Taylor Vroon14:57.4012
3) Jackson Vroon15:26.5067
5) Ryaan Bashir16:18.30700
Average Time: 15:20.90 Total Time: 1:16:44.50 1-5 Split: 1:46.10

2015: Great Oak: National Champions

Great Oak (SS) (CA)308
1) Spencer Dodds15:00.0011
2) Cole Spencer15:04.5017
3) Isaac Cortes15:05.8018
Average Time: 15:13.72 Total Time: 1:16:08.60 1-5 Split: 38.30
6) Tony Robinson15:46.10283

2014: American Fork: Fifth at Nationals

American Fork (UT)564
1) Casey Clinger14:56.108
2) Zac Jacklin14:59.3011
3) Mckay Johns15:08.3030
4) Joe Simmons15:38.70193
5) Jacob Chase15:49.20322
Average Time: 15:18.32 Total Time: 1:16:31.60 1-5 Split: 53.10
6) Hagen Harmer15:53.00379
7) Daniel Bentley16:16.30782

2013: Christian Brothers Academy: Second at Nationals

Christian Brothers Academy (NJ)161
2) Blaise Ferro14:50.475
3) Fran Bogan15:09.1931
4) Tom Rooney15:12.4640
5) Josh Kruppa15:24.4883
Average Time: 15:03.79 Total Time: 1:15:18.94 1-5 Split: 42.14
6) Aidan Durney15:32.30129
7) Greg Paugh15:35.98149

2012: Christian Brothers Academy: Fourth at Nationals

Christian Brothers Academy (NJ)122
1) Jack Boyle15:04.4516
2) Fran Bogan15:08.3223
4) William Bragg15:09.9827
5) Tom Rooney15:11.1330
Average Time: 15:08.66 Total Time: 1:15:43.31 1-5 Split: 6.68
7) Josh Kruppa15:35.94143

2011: Southlake Carroll: Second at Nationals

Southlake Carroll (TX)189
1) Joe Sansone15:04.0017
2) Trevor Gilley15:11.3025
3) Ben Golestan15:17.1041
4) Nate Sullivan15:19.8048
Average Time: 15:14.68 Total Time: 1:16:13.40 1-5 Split: 17.20
7) Jordan Chavez15:37.80143

Averages Dating Back To 2000

2008The Woodlands15:28
2007Potosi (MO)15:12
2006Potosi (MO)15:22
2005Katy Cinco Ranch15:36
2004The Woodlands15:16
2003The Woodlands15:25
2001St. Xavier15:42