Colin Sahlman: State Athlete of Year

State Boys Athlete of the Year Colin Sahlman of Newbury Park was inspired to do what he did in his senior year by the 2020-21 State Boys Athlete of the Year. Photo: @NPHSXC / Twitter.com.


Add another big honor for the phenom runner from Newbury Park. It’s not just that he already was crowned Gatorade National Male Athlete of the Year. This one also adds something extra for him since he’s done it just two years after his former teammate at Newbury Park, Nico Young, was honored in the same way for California. The two are now teammates again in college.

For a look at all of the other boys from the 2021-22 school year to be selected as a winner from each category plus lists of other top overall athletes, CLICK HERE.

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More than three years later, Colin Sahlman can still remember the night his approach to running changed and when the pursuit of greatness began for him at Newbury Park High.

Sahlman watched as teammate Nico Young captivated the crowd April 6, 2019, with his victory in the marquee 3,200-meter race at the Arcadia Invitational and knew he wanted to have a similar impact on the sport during his prep career.

“When I first started to really get the motivation was when freshman me saw Nico win the Arcadia Invitational in 8:40 and everyone was going crazy, and I thought to myself, ‘I want to do that,’” Sahlman said. “There was a big shift in my mindset from that point on because Nico made it seem like anything in the sport was possible.”

Colin stands with his parents after he was named the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year on the boys side at a ceremony in Los Angeles. Photo: Erik Boal / DyeStat.com.


That included Young, a former Nike Cross Nationals champion and now an All-American at Northern Arizona University, being honored in 2019-20 as the Cal-Hi Sports State Boys Athlete of the Year.

Sahlman used the inspiration of his friend and teammate to not only surpass many of Young’s high school achievements, but to produce several record-setting performances in cross country and track before reconnecting this fall as a member of the Lumberjacks’ program in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Whether it was the fastest 5-kilometer cross country race in U.S. prep history at the Garmin RunningLane Championships in December or a track resume that includes a pair of sub-4 mile efforts and the top all time high school 3,200 performance, it all added up to Sahlman joining Young once more with his recognition as Cal-Hi Sports State Boys Athlete of the Year.

“It’s cool to share that with him, knowing that we’re both from the same school and we’ve been teammates ever since youth track,” Sahlman said. “We were teammates in youth, in high school, and I’ll be teammates with him again in college, so it’s cool to follow his footsteps and be right there with him.”

Sahlman’s selection marks the seventh consecutive year that the state’s top male athlete has competed in track, along with another set of teammates in former Murrieta Vista Murrieta standouts Javelin Guidry in 2016-17 and Michael Norman in 2015-16.

Sahlman and Young join German Fernandez of Riverbank in 2007-08 as the only distance runners to receive the state’s top boys award in the past 50 years.

“I think I’ve had pretty much a perfect senior year and it’s been amazing,” said Sahlman, who also became the first distance runner to be selected as Gatorade National Male Athlete of the Year. “If that freshman me were to be able to look ahead and know what I did now, I think he would be super happy.”

Sahlman’s senior year started in humbling fashion when he finished fourth on his own team in September in 13 minutes, 48 seconds at the Woodbridge Classic in Norco, as Newbury Park swept the top four spots in the sweepstakes race, led by Leo Young achieving the fastest 3-mile cross country performance in U.S. prep history at 13:38.1. Aaron Sahlman, Colin’s younger brother, ran 13:42.3 and Lex Young clocked 13:44.4.

That provided all the necessary fuel for Sahlman to win the ASICS Clovis Invitational championship race, followed by the Marmonte League crown, CIF-Southern Section and state Division 1 titles, before traveling to Alabama for the Garmin RunningLane event.

“When we started out at the beginning of the season, the top four runners on our team were the top four runners in the country and we were just pushing each other,” Sahlman said. “I actually lost to all three of them in my very first race and I told myself that would never happen again, so I just motivated myself and I ended up coming out on top in all the other big races.”

Sahlman joined Young again as only the second athlete ever to produce a pair of sub-14:30 efforts on the 5-kilometer course at Woodward Park in Fresno, including the No. 2 all-time performance of 14:26.5 in November to capture the Division 1 state title.

That set the stage for Sahlman to set the record for the fastest all-time high school 5-kilometer cross country race Dec. 4 at the Garmin RunningLane Championships, clocking 14:03.29 to eclipse the 2000 national mark of 14:10.40 established by Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford High in Michigan.

Sahlman led three Newbury Park athletes under the previous record, followed by Leo Young at 14:05.07 and Lex Young at 14:05.49, with Aaron Sahlman sixth overall at 14:14.38.

Colin needed every ounce of energy to edge one of his Newbury Park teammates to win the 3200-meter run at last spring’s Arcadia Invitational. Photo: Chuck Utash / DyeStat.com.

“It’s really cool to think back now that it’s all said and done, and it’s all over, and to look back at the cross country season when we went 1-2-3-4 at Woodbridge and what we did at Clovis, state and RunningLane, it’s cool to see what we actually did,” Sahlman said. “It’s crazy and it’s something that has never been done before. It’s cool to really just appreciate that now and know that all of our hard work as a team, because we all put in so much work, to see it pay off like that, even greater than what we expected, it’s cool to have that experience.”

With indoor track opportunities few and far between for California athletes during the winter, Newbury Park traveled to New York on multiple occasions to compete at The Armory at the Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge and New Balance Nationals Indoor finals.

Sahlman achieved his first sub-4 mile by clocking 3:58.81 at Dr. Sander to prevail against a professional and collegiate field that included multiple Olympians. He also contributed to a national high school record 16:29.31 in the 4xmile relay in March with his brother and the Young twins at New Balance Nationals.

“We sacrifice a lot and we sacrifice all that stuff together, including training up in Big Bear every summer for a month, which no other team does,” Sahlman said. “So when you’re sacrificing that stuff with your team and with your friends, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and kill it together.”

With the leadership, guidance and careful planning of former Newbury Park coach Sean Brosnan, who was hired Aug. 2 as head cross country and distance coach at UCLA, Sahlman was able to target several ambitious goals during the outdoor track schedule, beginning in February with his 8:33.32 all-time prep performance in the 3,200 at the Sundown Track Series event at Azusa Pacific University.

Sahlman also triumphed in the 3,200 in 8:34.99 in April at the Arcadia Invitational, breaking Nico Young’s meet record.

“That was our big goal this season. We wanted the range of the 800 and the mile and the 3,200, and we definitely got that,” Brosnan said. “We never got him in a 5K because it never aligned right, but otherwise I think he has a good little portfolio and resume of times.”

Although Sahlman decided not to pursue competing in the state postseason schedule, the final six weeks of his prep career offered a remarkable showcase of his versatility and competitive spirit, racing on multiple occasions against college and professional athletes in California, Oregon and Washington.

Sahlman clocked 3:39.59 in the 1,500 meters May 6, followed by 3:56.24 in the mile May 28 at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene to make him the No. 3 all-time high school competitor – including a 3:39.06 split for 1,500 meters – and won his final prep race June 15 at the Brooks PR Invitational by running a personal-best 1:48.07 in the 800 meters.

At the event in Oregon, Sahlman also competed with more Olympians. One of them that he passed was 2016 bronze medalist Clayton Murphy. The winner of that race was Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, who won the gold medal in the 1500 at Tokyo last year.

Colin and younger brother Aaron collected a lot of hardware when they ran at a national cross country championship in Alabama. Photo: Maynard St. John / DyeStat.com.


“It’s really cool just to see that range from the half-mile to the 3-mile to the 5K. I’ve always kind of had that speed because I worked on that in youth track and then I really just built on that as the distances got longer, and I just went along with that and got stronger after every year,” Sahlman said. “When you’re a distance runner and you have that speed, it’s pretty deadly, and you kind of have to be racing in a world-class field because you have to be able to close.

“It’s cool to know that even though I may be more of a 3,200 or 5K runner because I’m built like that, I can still hop in an 800 and throw down a decently fast time. To have that range and have that speed, it’s something that we’ve worked on even more in track. When you have that in track and in cross country, it’s amazing, and to develop that over the years was something cool.”

Sahlman credits not only Brosnan’s long-term vision for success when he took over the Newbury Park program in 2016, but also the examples set by Nike Cross Nationals All-Americans Jace Aschbrenner and Nico Young to help create a foundation on which the Panthers have continued to build in recent years.

“It all started years ago when Nico and Jace came on the team and they were trying to build something up because that was Sean’s first year coaching when they were freshmen, so that was kind of a perfect little coincidence right there,” Sahlman said. “Sean put the motivation in them and really built up the program and they passed that motivation down to us because we wanted to be the best, and year after year, the team wanted to be better and better. It just grew each year, and we’d get hungrier every single year and we’d try to push each other to get even faster and the way we did that was pretty perfect and we built such a good team culture.”

Sahlman credits Brosnan for his development from a freshman athlete who ran 15:52.8 at Woodward Park in his first state cross country final and his improvement from a ninth-grader who clocked 4:16.44 for the mile to become one of the most well-rounded competitors in state history.

“You’ve got to (create) that mindset in your athletes and you’ve got to keep them motivated and push them to their limits and I think our coach did a great job with that,” Sahlman said. “He’s developed so many great athletes in the short time that he was at Newbury Park, so he’s done a lot for us.”

Even with all of his success, Sahlman never lost sight of the humble beginnings, both during the first year of his prep career watching Nico Young excel and in his first race as a senior under the lights at Woodbridge.

“It was that internal drive, knowing they were just as good as me, so I have to push myself even harder than I have before,” Sahlman said. “Once I found my motivation, I definitely expected that I could accomplish all of this.”

ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
STATE BOYS ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

Nico Young is about to break the indoor national record in the 3,000-meter run during the 113th Millrose Games held in New York in 2020. Photo: Kirby Lee / Image of Sport.


2021-22 – Colin Sahlman, Newbury Park (cross country, track)
2020-21 – Domani Jackson, Santa Ana Mater Dei (football, track)
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 (footb, bb, 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.
Note: 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.


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