NPHS XC shatters records at championships

14 minutes, 3 seconds. The crowds in John Hunt Park roar with excitement as the runners in the Boys Gold race reach the final stretch of the competition. After preparing for months and traveling 2,000 miles to compete, the top three runners passed the finish line, breaking the national 5k record; Colin Sahlman, Leo Young, and Lex Young come in as the top three runners, winning the 2021 Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships. As the last race of the season, the cross country team of Newbury Park High school competed and performed outstandingly in this 5k race in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Boys and Girls Cross country teams’ season has come to an end after the teams made extraordinary successes this year; the boys team was able to win the Clovis Invitational Meet, earned first place in the CIF State Division One meet with the girls taking second, and then broke US record for fastest team time on multiple of their races, making them the best high school team in the nation. The team chose to finally compete in Alabama after the Nike Cross Nationals race (NXN) was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but were fortunate enough to race among some of the fastest high school teams from all over the nation in the Huntsville race.

Leo and Lex Young, juniors, have become the fastest twins in the nation after earning times of 14:05:07 and 14:05:49 respectively in the Huntsville race. The two have been racing together since freshman year along with NPHS alumni Nico Young, who holds the American U20 record time for indoor and outdoor 5k. “We get to race each other and we get to have fun with each other. And we get to push each other harder,” Leo Young said. “Watching Nico go and be very successful definitely inspires me to try and do the same,” Lex Young said. The self-dubbed dynamic duo have received a lot of support from their family and each other in their practices and races leading up to this event. “[My family] helped propel me forward by taking me to meets and helping me with anything I need, like recovering and making sure I have proper recovery.”

The team has trained rigorously this year to prepare for this race among many others. Zaki Blunt, senior, explained that the team ran everyday in 2 hour practices, and even practiced twice a day during the season to ensure their best results “All season, we’ve been doing really hard workouts. So leading up to the race, we took it a little easier. We still did workouts but they were shortened just to make sure we were fresh for the race,” Blunt said.

Samantha McDonnell, senior, noted that most practices are co-ed, with only slight variations with the girls team. “I know some of the girls will do a little less mileage, but my training schedule is exactly the same as the guys and just a few that are a little bit different at times,” McDonnell said.

Once the team arrived in Alabama, they mentally and physically prepared for the race day as much as they could to ensure their best results. Colin Sahlman, senior and first place winner in the race, ran three miles of the course with his team in the prior days and maintained a good attitude leading up to the race.“I was just like, visualizing it in my head, just like thinking about what I had to do during the race and where to push during the race. And really just keep a good mindset and just stay positive,” Sahlman said.

On race day, the Newbury Park team became a winning name as the boys team broke the record for the fastest team 5k and Sahlman broke the record for fastest high school individual time. “There were more guys from across the nation in the field. So it was a faster race and more guys to push you,” Sahlman said. The team was thrilled with their results in the race and how they performed against some of the fastest individuals in the nation. “The course itself was wide. The footing was good. It wasn’t too hilly. And there’s somewhat of a downhill finish, which made it really really fun,” Leo Young said.

Along with all their hard work the cross country teams were grateful to spend time together and have fun in Alabama. After Huntsville, the team got to take a trip together to Nashville and spend the day golfing before returning home. Although the season is over, the runners expressed how much they truly enjoyed competing with their friends. “Anytime you get to go out of state with your best friends and stay in a house together. It’s all super fun. We had a really great time and I definitely made a lot of memories,” Blunt said. Even after an intense season, these runners keep pushing on as track season is just around the corner. “Track season, that’s coming up right now. So we’re really excited for that. We’re already starting training and we’re going to be very prepared,” Leo Young said.

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