Newbury Park sets national record at Woodbridge Invitational
Seconds after crossing the finish line, Leo Young stopped, looking at the electronic standings.
The Newbury Park runner’s mouth was gaping, sucking air to fill the exhausted lungs that had just propelled him to a first place finish at the Woodbridge Cross-Country Classic at SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco. The blue screen displayed his time of three miles: 13: 38.1, a second shorter than the fastest time record ever set by an American high school student – held by his brother Nico.
Young’s jaw dropped even further.
“I finished and I was like, ‘Wow, that was a good race,’ but… I didn’t think a record was in our cards,” Young said, wide-eyed. “I saw that, and honestly I was like, ‘What just happened?'”
There was a lot of family competition on Saturday night in Woodbridge. In the boys’ draw, Young fought for the three-mile position in a Newbury Park quartet that also included his twin, Lex, and brothers Aaron and Colin Sahlman. The four, along with a women’s team that placed three in the top 30 riders, ensured a dominant overall performance for the Panthers.
“Our guys, they want to be the best team in history,” said coach Sean Brosnan. “They’re not afraid of this.”
The Sahlmans, not the Youngs, had the best two-mile times. Still, for most of the race, the four maintained themselves in a leading pack socially removed from any other challenger – fifth, Kevin Sanchez of Vandergrift High in Texas, finished 18 seconds behind fourth.
Aaron Sahlman was second with a time of 13: 42.3, Lex Young was third a few seconds later and Colin Sahlman fourth at 13:48. Young thanked his teammates after the race, especially the Sahlmans, for setting the pace.
“I didn’t have to work until that last quarter mile, when I decided to go,” he said.
On a fast, flat course from Woodbridge, the boys from Newbury Park smashed their own national team average record – 14:14 – from 20 seconds to 13:54.
Brosnan said ahead of the race that the girls’ goal was to finish in under 17 minutes, and they hit that mark. Senior Sam McDonnell propelled the group to second place, clocking 15: 54.6. Senior Morgan Nygren placed 27th and rookie Tiffany Sax finished 30th.
Eleven seconds ahead of McDonnell was Mira Costa’s Dalia Frias, who came through the last corner on her own in a end-to-end victory. Coach Renee Williams-Smith said Frias, a senior, “wanted this one”.
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Despite the motivation, Frias was surprised to learn that she had broken a course record.
“I am in seventh heaven,” she said. “I certainly wasn’t thinking of a competition record at all, but it’s great.”
Young never attracted all the buzz his brother Nico, now a runner at Northern Arizona University, received during his tenure at Newbury Park. But this Woodbridge Invitational race saw him sprint past his older brother’s long shadow.
“It was kind of a realization for me that, ‘Wow, I can actually maybe be as good as Nico was in high school,’ Young said. “It’s something I never thought possible. Even now, I still don’t understand.