Newbury Park standout becomes the first distance runner since German Fernandez of Riverbank from 2007-08 to gain overall State Athlete of the Year recognition. There was no CIF state track meet for Young to cap his prep career, but he was a national champion in cross country and shattered a long-standing state record in track-and-field in one of the events he did compete in this year (and that was just last week in Oregon). Nico also becomes the first from Ventura County to go onto the all-time State Athlete of the Year list in nearly 100 years.
For the rundown on the other 2019-20 State Boys Athletes of the Year, CLICK HERE.
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Perhaps it was only fitting that the final race as a prep athlete for Nico Young was mostly a solo effort in his pursuit of the national high school 5,000-meter record.
During his senior year at Newbury Park High, Young was performing at a level higher than any distance runner in the country, seemingly competing in a lane all by himself.
From his first cross country meet in September to his last track race June 23 at Franklin High in Portland, Ore., Young turned in one record-setting achievement after another, helping the Panthers capture both state and national team championships in the fall, before adding two more historical accomplishments in his only track races this calendar year.
Despite his final CIF outdoor track season being canceled in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young still did more than enough during cross country and indoor track in the winter to merit his selection today as the Cal-Hi Sports State Boys Athlete of the Year.
“I think everything we wanted was accomplished. I don’t think we had another goal that we didn’t get,” Young said. “This track season, we had a lot more things planned and there were a lot of things that I wanted to be able to show everyone. I had hoped certain things would have turned out differently, but there was no way we could have known what was going to happen.”
Young, a Northern Arizona signee, is the first boys athlete from Ventura County in Southern California to earn the state’s top overall honor since Clarence “Bud” Houser from Oxnard in 1921-22. Houser was inducted into the second class of the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2019.
Although the past four state boys athletes of the year – Kenan Christon of San Diego Madison, Kazmeir Allen of Tulare, and Murrieta Vista Murrieta standouts Javelin Guidry and Michael Norman – all ran track, the last elite distance runner to be the top male honoree was German Fernandez of Riverbank in 2007-08.
Fernandez set the all-time 5-kilometer cross country course record in 2007 at Woodward Park in Fresno by clocking 14:24, then achieved what many historians consider the greatest one-day double in state track finals history by running 4:00.29 in the 1,600 meters, followed by 8:34.23 in the 3,200, both still the fastest performances in meet history.
Young ran the second- and third-fastest times in Woodward Park history with his efforts of 14:28.5 and 14:28.9 during the cross country season, but those performances were only part of his outstanding resume.
Young ran the fastest 3-mile cross country time on any course in U.S. prep history Sept. 21, clocking 13:39.7 at the Woodbridge Classic at SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco.
After repeating as Division 2 champion at both the CIF Southern Section and state finals, Young added another record Dec. 7 by producing the fastest 5-kilometer time in Nike Cross Nationals history, running 14:52.3 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland to become the first athlete since Chris Derrick of Naperville, Ill., to capture both individual and team titles at the national championship meet in the same year.
“The one I was most proud of was NXN, just because of my individual accomplishment and our team’s accomplishment,” said Young, the first Newbury Park boys athlete to earn state recognition since football and track standout Will Svitek was the medium schools honoree in 1999-2000.
“That race alone made the entire year a success.”
Young achieved his first national high school record on the track Feb. 8, running 7:56.97 in the indoor 3,000 meters at the NYRR Millrose Games at The Armory in New York to eclipse the 2016 mark of 7:59.33 established by Drew Hunter of Loudoun Valley, Va.
“Nico is the guy who set the bar, who set the standard for everyone else,” Newbury Park coach Sean Brosnan said. “Of course, it’s always awesome to coach someone like Nico, but the way I look at it, is that he has set the bar so high for our team and our entire program. He has two twin brothers (Lex and Leo) that are going into 10th grade that are phenomenal athletes and the rest of my squad are a bunch of phenomenal athletes because of him.”
After running 8:40.0 in the 3,200 meters as a junior at the Arcadia Invitational, followed by winning the state title in 8:47.27, Young didn’t get an opportunity to pursue state or national records in that track event this spring.
But he was able to represent Newbury Park one final time on the track in Portland last week, running the No. 4 time in the 5,000 meters in U.S. prep history with his 13:50.55 performance at Franklin High.
“It’s cool because at least he got to end his high school career with something positive and just go for it, regardless of what happens,” Brosnan said. “His last three races were great and obviously you always want to try to go out on top, and this is on top. Not too many people run 13:50 in high school. It was cool to see, definitely.”
Although Young wasn’t able to take down the 2004 national record of 13:37.91 belonging to former University of Oregon star and Central Catholic High graduate Galen Rupp, he was able to move ahead of another Oregon prep legend and Ducks’ all-time great in Steve Prefontaine (13:52.8), in addition to shattering the California state record of 14:01.40 held since 1986 by Eric Mastalir of Carmichael Jesuit.
“I definitely think it was worthwhile, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten my last high school race,” Young said. “My last high school race would have been the 3K (in New York) and I guess I never would have planned for my last race to be there, so it was nice to have it (in Oregon).”
Young, who already earned the Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year and is one of the leading candidates for the program’s top track award as well, is joining a Northern Arizona team that won three consecutive NCAA Division 1 titles from 2016-18, before finishing second to Brigham Young last year. He could be just the addition to the lineup that helps coach Mike Smith guide the Lumberjacks to another championship this fall or in the coming years.
“I’m not glad to see him go, but where he is going to run for Mike Smith is nothing short of a perfect situation for him. I couldn’t give him what Mike can give him, and that’s just the truth, as a high school coach,” Brosnan said. “It’s time for him to move on and do bigger and better things, and I’m excited to watch it, and say that I coached him in high school.”
ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
STATE BOYS ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2019-20 – Nico Young, Newbury Park (cross country, track)
2018-19 – Kenan Christon, San Diego Madison (football, track)
2017-18 – Kazmeir Allen, Tulare (football, track)
2016-17 – Javelin Guidry, Murrieta Vista Murrieta (football, track)
2015-16 – Michael Norman, Murrieta Vista Murrieta (track)
2014-15 – T.J. DeFalco, Huntington Beach (volleyball)
2013-14 – Nick Nevills, Clovis (football, wrestling)
2012-13 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2011-12 – Khalfani Muhammad, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, track)
2010-11 – Marqise Lee, Gardena Serra (football, basketball, track)
2009-10 – Robert Woods, Gardena Serra (football, track)
2008-09 – Tyler Gaffney, San Diego Cathedral Catholic (football, baseball)
2007-08 – German Fernandez, Riverbank (cross country, track)
2006-07 – Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (football, basketball, baseball)
2005-06 – Chase Budinger, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (basketball, volleyball)
2004-05 – Drew Shiller, Burlingame (football, basketball, baseball)
2003-04 – Kenny O’Neal, Oakland Skyline (football, track)
2002-03 – Steve Smith, Woodland Hills Taft (football, basketball, track)
2001-02 – Aaron Piersol, Newport Beach Newport Harbor (swimming)
2000-01 – Antwon Guidry, San Jose Leigh (football, basketball, track)
1999-00 – D.J. Williams, Concord De La Salle (football, track)
1998-99 – Chris Lewis, Long Beach Poly (football, volleyball)
1997-98 – C.C. Sabathia, Vallejo (football, basketball, baseball)
1996-97 – Ken-Yon Rambo, Long Beach Poly (football, track)
1995-96 – Chris Claiborne, Riverside J.W. North (football, basketball)
1994-95 – Eric Guerrero, San Jose Independence (wrestling)
1993-94 – McKay Christensen, Fresno Clovis West (football, baseball)
1992-93 – Calvin Harrison, Salinas North Salinas (track, basketball)
1991-92 – Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph (basketball, baseball)
1990-91 – Rob Johnson, El Toro (football, basketball, baseball)
1989-90 – Ryan Hancock, Cupertino Monta Vista (football, baseball)
1988-89 – Lorenzo Neal, Lemoore (football, wrestling)
1987-88 – Adam Keefe, Irvine Woodbridge (basketball, volleyball)
1986-87 – LeRon Ellis, Santa Ana Mater Dei (water polo, basketball, track)
1985-86 – Brian Johnson, Oakland Skyline (football, baseball)
1984-85 – George Porter, Lompoc Cabrillo (basketball, track)
1983-84 – John Williams, L.A. Crenshaw (basketball)
1982-83 – Mike Smith, Hacienda Heights Los Altos (football, basketball, volleyball)
1981-82 – Jim McCullough, Hemet (football, wrestling)
1980-81 – Kevin Willhite, Rancho Cordova (football, track)
1979-80 – Darryl Strawberry, L.A. Crenshaw (basketball, baseball)
1978-79 – John Elway, Granada Hills (football, baseball)
1977-78 – Jesse Vasallo, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1976-77 – Brian Goodell, Mission Viejo (swimming)
1975-76 – Greg Louganis, El Cajon Valhalla & Santa Ana (diving)
1974-75 – Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove (basketball)
1973-74 – Tim Shaw, Long Beach Wilson (water polo, swimming)
1972-73 – Lonnie Shelton, Bakersfield Foothill (football, track)
1971-72 – Scott McGregor, El Segundo (baseball)
1970-71 – Anthony Davis, San Fernando (football, baseball)
1969-70 – James McAlister, Pasadena Blair (football, track)
1968-69 – Jeff Burroughs, Long Beach Wilson (football, baseball)
1967-68 – Mark Spitz, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1966-67 – Mickey Cureton, Compton Centennial (football)
1965-66 – Tim Danielson, Chula Vista (track)
1964-65 – Paul Wilson, Downey Warren (track)
1963-64 – Don Schollander, Santa Clara (water polo, swimming)
1962-63 – Tommie Smith, Lemoore (football, basketball, track)
1961-62 – Forrest Beaty, Glendale Hoover (track)
1960-61 – Ulis Williams, Compton (track)
1959-60 – Dennis Ralston, Bakersfield (tennis)
1958-59 – Dale Story, Orange (track)
1957-58 – Willie Davis, L. A. Roosevelt (basketball, baseball, track)
1956-57 – Bill Kilmer, Azusa Citrus (football, basketball, baseball)
1955-56 – Fred Lacour, S.F. St. Ignatius (basketball)
1954-55 – Dick Bass, Vallejo (football)
1953-54 – Don Bowden, San Jose Lincoln (track)
1952-53 – Ronnie Knox, Santa Monica (football)
1951-52 – Marty Keough, Pomona (football, basketball, baseball)
1950-51 – Charlie Powell, San Diego (football, baseball)
1949-50 – Lang Stanley, L.A. Jefferson (track)
1948-49 – John Henry Johnson, Pittsburg (football, basketball, track)
1947-48 – Bob Mathias, Tulare (football, track)
1946-47 – Bill McColl, San Diego Hoover (football, basketball, baseball)
1945-46 – George Stanich, Sacramento (basketball, baseball, track)
1944-45 – Jackie Jensen, Oakland (football, baseball)
1943-44 – Bill Sharman, Porterville (football, basketball, baseball)
1942-43 – Glenn Davis, La Verne Bonita (football, baseball)
1941-42 – Irv Noren, Pasadena (basketball, baseball)
1940-41 – Tommie Fears, Los Angeles Manual Arts (football)
1939-40 – Howie Dallmar, San Francisco Lowell (basketball, baseball)
1938-39 – Jim Jurkovich, Fresno (football, track)
1937-38 – Frankie Albert, Glendale (football, baseball, tennis)
1936-37 – Jackie Robinson, Pasadena Muir (football, basketball, baseball)
1935-36 – Bobby Doerr, Los Angeles Fremont (pro baseball)
1934-35 – Ted Williams, San Diego Hoover (baseball)
1933-34 – Hank Luisetti, San Francisco Galileo (basketball)
1932-33 – Don Budge, Oakland University (tennis)
1931-32 – Corney Johnson, Los Angeles (track)
1930-31 – Frank Sobrero, Oakland (football, basketball, baseball)
Note: List continues back to 1890-91 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac. All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.
Erik Boal has covered high school sports in California for 25 years, formerly serving as editor at the Glendale News-Press and Los Angeles Daily News. He is currently the editor for DyeStat.com and RunnerSpace.com, which focus on track and field, cross country and road racing, but has been a regular attendee at major Southern California high school sports events since the early 2000s.