PORTLAND, Ore. -- One of the greatest high school cross country boys teams in recent years continued to add to their legacy as Newbury Park claimed it's second national title at Team Nationals on a bitterly cold and windy Saturday morning at Glendoveer Golf Course.
With only one athlete returning from their 2019 title-winning team, Newbury Park was led by senior Aaron Sahlman. Sahlman won the race in a new course-record time of 14:44.5.
Senior Leo Young was second for Newbury Park in 11th place, running 14:58.2. Coming in with a huge performance was senior Brenden Seymour, who transferred from Florida over the summer. Seymour finished in 24th place at 15:26.2. Senior Lex Young was 35th at 15:36.8. Rounding out the top five was senior Aaron Cantu, who ran 16:01.1 to finish in 78th place.
Newbury Park was the only team to put four of their runners in the top 35. They easily won the title with 66 points, proving why they were ranked No. 1 as a squad.
They averaged 15:21 as a team with a 1:16 split between their 1-5.
The intrigue came down to second and third place, which was decided by a narrow margin. Portland Jesuit just edged out Herriman (Ut.), 152 to 155 points. Although Herriman had the faster team average (15:47 to 15:51) than Jesuit, it was Jesuit's 52 second 1-5 split that sealed the deal for them.
The individual race featured a handful of lead changes.
Sahlman actually pushed the pace very earlier on in the first half kilometer of the race before his teammates, seniors Leo Young and Lex Young, took over the lead. Crater (OR) senior Tyrone Gorze, Benzie Ventral (MI) senior Hunter Jones, and St. Raphael Academy (RI) senior Devan Kipyego were right there as well, keeping the group mostly bunched together.
At one point in between the first and second miles, it seemed like Leo and Lex were going to separate entirely from the pack. Even Sahlman thought so.
"When they started breaking away, I was like, 'good for them," Sahlman said. "I was just running my race, I didn't care what they were doing. I knew they would take it out strong, finish strong, so I just wanted to run my race."
And he did.
Sahlman attacked the uphill -- an area he said was one of his greatest strengths on the day -- and was able to get back into contact with the leaders by the two-mile mark, where Newbury Park held a 2-3-4 advantage.
Leo Young then made a move to take ahold of the race as Gorze and Sahlman chased in second and third. Heading into the last kilometer, Leo Young had extended a 3.9 second lead.
But in the last half mile, as the announcers were literally discussing Young's win, Salhman was refusing to go away. Sahlman then put together one of the best stretches of racing in his career. In the infamous hill that precedes the final stretch of the race, Sahlman launched a winning charge that will surely be remembered.
As he crested the last hill with the finish line in sight, a moment of surprise hit Sahlman.
"In my head, I was like, 'Oh crap, I think I can actually win this. I just need to push a little harder so I can extend a gap,'" Sahlman said. "And I did."
From there on out Sahlman sprinted to the end, crossing the finish line in 14:44.5 -- breaking his former teammate Nico Young's record of 14:52.3 from 2019. It's the first time ever that Sahlman, who will be joining Nico and older brother Colin next year at Northern Arizona University, has been the top runner for Newbury Park in cross country.
For his entire high school career, Sahlman has watched his teammates win individual championships and rack up national awards.
"It feels good," Sahlman said. "I mean, after four years of running with them in high school, I've always been, 'Colin's brother,' just a little bit behind Lex and Leo and Nico, so it feels really good to be on top. And everyone knows my name now."
That now means Newbury Park has three individual national champions in cross country over the past four years, with Nico Young winning at Team Nationals in 2019 when it was last held, Colin Sahlman winning the Garmin RunningLane title en route to his high school 5k record in 2021 and this year with Aaron Sahlman.
Runner-up was American Fork senior Daniel Simmons, who ran 14:51.7. Simmons was outside of the top 10 for a majority of the race before storming his way up the ladder and through the pack, all the way to second overall.
Gorze rounded out the top three in third place with his time of 14:53.8. In total, 11 athletes ran under 15 minutes.
TOP 10 RESULTS
1 Aaron SAHLMAN SR NEWBURY PARK 14:44.5
2 Daniel SIMMONS JR AMERICAN FORK 14:51.7
3 Tyrone GORZE SR SOUTHERN OREGON 14:53.8
4 Kole MATHISON SR MIDWEST-5 14:55.5
5 Jackson HEIDESCH SR HEARTLAND-3 14:55.5
6 Simeon BIRNBAUM SR HEARTLAND-1 14:55.5
7 Noah BREKER SR HEARTLAND-2 14:55.9
8 Weston BROWN SR NORTHWEST-2 14:56.4
9 Benne ANDERSON SR MIDWEST-2 14:57.2
10 Hunter JONES SR MIDWEST-4 14:57.6