Colin Sahlman Named Gatorade National POY In XC

* Newbury Park's Colin Sahlman accepts the trophy for being announced as Gatorade's 2021 Player of the Year in cross country

Photo Credit: Gatorade

"We're used to that pain. We're used to pushing through it. In a race, when you feel that pain, it's not new. It's something you can push through even if it hurts." -- Colin Sahlman

By Cory Mull - MileSplit

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Two years ago, at right about this same time in February, Colin Sahlman was a face in the crowd of Nico Young's surprise announcement as Gatorade's National Player of the Year.

Inside the Newbury Park High School cafeteria, among family and friends, Young was granted one of cross country's top honors as its national Runner of the Year. 

Back then, a younger Sahlman -- sporting longer hair, wearing a white Newbury Park hoodie and ripped jeans -- remembered thinking to himself whether he could follow that same path. 

Two years later, he got his wish. 

"I think that kind of pushed me to be the athlete I am today," Sahlman, 18, said. "Now to walk in and have that happen, it's really special." 

This time, the Northern Arizona signee, who earned a national team and individual title in 2021, walked into the Newbury Park High School gymnasium and was announced as Gatorade's 2021 National Player of the Year in cross country, an honor bestowed to the country's top runner from the previous season. 

Following Young, who won two National Player of the Year recognitions over his tenure with Newbury Park, Sahlman becomes the second in the school's history to earn the honor, and became the second Newbury Park athlete to win the national cross country award over the past three seasons.

In December, Sahlman broke an unofficial national record with the fastest 5K ever recorded in high school history, winning the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships in 14:03.29. 

In a race that saw four athletes break the previous record of 14:10, Sahlman scored top honors. 

It followed a season where he helped lead Newbury Park to wins in every major race across the season, scored his first CIF Division I title and culminated with a national team championship in the final meet of the season.

He won his last four races, with each of his last three efforts all going under 14:30 for 5K. 

Sahlman credited his training at Newbury Park, his exceptional teammates and his ability to push through difficult moments in major races as critical factors in his success.

"I'd say that's the biggest challenge in cross country, just pushing through the pain," he said. "But that's something we practice every workout. We practice on hurting. And if you're hurting mid-workout, you still have to do a couple more reps. You have to do it. You have to hit your times.

"Everyone has bad workouts. But that's what we push to do. We strive to hit all of our times, even if we're in pain or if we're struggling. I think that's what helps us get through races. We're used to that pain. We're used to pushing through it. In a race, when you feel that pain, it's not new. It's something you can push through even if it hurts.

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Natalie Cook Named Gatorade National Player Of The Year In XC For 2021

Sahlman was one of three Newbury Park athletes to go under 14:10 at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, with both Leo Young (14:05.07) and Lex Young (14:05.49) also following suit. He also was among his four teammates to go under 14 minutes for three miles at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic in September. 

Regardless of the meet early on, what stood out for this program was the unity it showed in meets. Nearly identical finishes by team members at the Marmonte League Meet and the Marmonte League Finals followed. 

At the CIF Southern Section Championships, the first four Newbury Park athletes ran identical races down the stretch. Sahlman and Co. embraced a vision of togetherness, which ultimately made a difference at the end of the season, when this team competed side-by-side until the final moments. 

In the months to follow, Sahlman became the first high school athlete in 2022 to break four minutes in the mile, and on Feb. 19 ran the fastest straight 3,200m race in high school history.

Sahlman will continue his track and field and cross country career at NAU, the reigning NCAA men's champions. He has aspirations to study exercise science. 

The Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships

Sahlman's Record 3,200m Run At The Sundown Track Series

Cory & Olivia interview Colin Sahlman on a recent episode of On The Line

Gatorade National Cross Country Player of the Year Winners Since 2007

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