Behind Newbury Park's Record Relay, History Achieved

* Newbury Park during the four-by-mile on Saturday at New Balance Nationals Indoor

Photo Credit: Joe Swift/MileSplit

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"I think I got a little bit of that relay excitement as it started. I went out really, really fast. But it was a lot of fun." -- Leo Young

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By Cory Mull - MileSplit

    NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- Amidst all the chaos of a record four-by-mile relay attempt on Saturday at New Balance Nationals Indoor, furious laps one after another, a crowd brimming with excitement, the blaring chords of Red Hot Chili Pepper's 'Dani California,' was Newbury Park High School boys track and field coach Sean Brosnan, his head peeking out just beyond the curve, shouting instructions, pinching his fingers and imploring his impossibly talented team, 'LET'S GO!', 'SLOW DOWN' and 'FINISH IT, FINISH IT.' 

      For 16 minutes and 29 seconds straight, this race, these runners and their coach seemed on edge, knowing that everything mattered, that every little detail made a difference, even if the final result was an absolute demolition of the former record. 

      Newbury Park has lived by a point this past year, very openly and in plain view for the wider track and field community: That to be the best you can't just win by a little. You have to leave no doubt. You have to leave your mark.

      And that's exactly what the Newbury Park boys did on Saturday, claiming a new high school national record of 16:29.31 seconds in the relay, defeating the next closest team by over a minute, surpassing the former record of 17:01.81, last achieved by Loudoun Valley in 2019, by over 30 seconds. 

      "It was an amazing race," Brosnan said. "16:29, I keep saying, we have high expectations." 

      He added: 

      "We let it roll. What happens, happens and I'm proud of the guys. It's a record by over 30 seconds. I can't really ask for anything else more than that right now." 

      From Aaron Sahlman's first leg of 4:11, to Leo Young's next carry at 4:06 to Lex Young's third mile in 4:07 to Colin Sahlman's finish in 4:03, almost everything went right on the day for the team from Newbury Park, California. 

      The team was so locked in, in fact, that they didn't even hear the crowd. They didn't pay attention to the music -- another solid music choice was 'California Love' by Dr. Dre -- and didn't get distracted by, well, the actual race, navigating around runners, making the first pass by midway through the second leg.

      "It was an amazing race," Brosnan said. "16:29, I keep saying, we have high expectations." 

      With such a long race and with so many variables, Leo and Lex Young felt Brosnan's orders from just beyond the track were just what they needed.

      "For me, I was really trying to nail into what Sean was saying," Leo said. 

      "On the indoor track, eight laps for a mile is a lot," Lex added. "They go by pretty quick. So I was able to see Sean and all his things, telling me if I was on or off." 

      Aaron Sahlman, the high school junior who in February ran a 4:05 mile, said he felt slightly nervous heading into the race, knowing it was his start that would create the blueprint for his team's success.

      "I just took it out from the gun," Aaron said. "I was supposed to do that. I went a little too fast for the first couple of laps, so that sort of killed me. But all these guys picked it up afterward." 

      Sahlman eventually found another gear in the final lap and half as he wound up into a fervor, finishing his final lap with abandon before he handed off to Leo Young.

      Perhaps that excitement may have also got Young's blood pumping, because the fellow junior went out like a 52-second quarter-miler, clocking just under 26 seconds in his first 200m split.

      "I think I got a little bit of that relay excitement as it started," Leo said. "I went out really, really fast," before adding, "but it was a lot of fun." 

      Brosnan, watching from a distance, screamed at the top of his lungs, 'SLOW DOWN,' before Young obliged and found his way, clocking 29s and 31s and 32s over his next few laps. He found his pace and finished the leg in 4:06.

      Near the end of his portion, the speakers began to blast 'Dani California,' and it reverberated across the expansive Armory facility, the drumbeats and belting chords bouncing off the walls.

      Perhaps halfway down, a calmness washed over the next two runners. Lex Young opened smooth and ran his first two laps in 60, almost perfectly, before hitting netting a 59 over the next 400m split.

      He closed, before handing off to Sahlman, the anchor and reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year in Cross Country.

      The sub-4 minute miler, much like Lex, looked smooth over the next two laps, going 59 and 62, as he wound up and used the energy inside the building to carry himself through.

      "Maybe I was a little too conservative," Colin said. 

      As the laps ticked off and Sahlman headed toward the finish, Dr. Dre belting over the speakers, the crowd began to rise, and the building became so loud Brosnan could barely be heard.

      Shouting with all his might, his runner barreling toward his last lap with the bell rattling, the Newbury Park coach implored, 'FINISH , FINISH!

      A crescendo of sound carried Sahlman to the finish, and the NAU signee obliged, pumping his fist through the line.

      "That last lap felt so good," he said. "I was flying. That was nuts. It was crazy." 

      In the minutes afterward, as photographers converged and the crowd still swelling, the team took one victory lap around the track, like a champion team bowing to its legions of supporters, and in that moment perhaps a realization took hold: That success takes more than just a team believing in itself but maybe a community at large believing in the same thing, too.