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Four High School Athletes Who Are Making History

A look back at when Roger Bannister ran the mile in under four minutes. File photo dated 06-05-1954

A look back at when Roger Bannister ran the mile in under four minutes: 06-05-1954 Photo credit: PA/PA Wire. URN:53287634 (Press Association via AP Images)

The legend of the four-minute mile still persists even though it has been broken numerous times. Roger Bannister was the first to accomplish this milestone in 1954 at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Track. Since then, countless others have managed the same feat. [1]

For a high school athlete, anything under five minutes is considered elite. Only 13 runners between grades 9-12 have ever eclipsed the four-minute mile, but Colin Sahlman is one of them at Newbury Park High School. The institution is about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and Sahlman isn’t the only one who can run a fast time. [2]

The high school has four of the best athletes in the country on the same track team at the one-mile distance. Their coach, Sean Brosnan, told The New York Times he believed that the four-by-mile relay at the New Balance Nationals Indoor Championships could be run in 16 minutes and 20 seconds.

That’s an average of 4:05 per runner. If Coach Brosnan’s prediction were to come true, the group from Newbury Park would smash the national high school record for the event by approximately 40 seconds.

Brosnan wasn’t far off. The four-man team won the event in 16:29.31, beating the national high school record by more than 30 seconds. [3]

Two Sets of Brothers Are Taking the Country By Storm

Brosnan says the secret to success for the four boys is pretty simple. They don’t set any boundaries.

When elite athletes are under your care as a coach, it’s easy for people from the outside to think you’re living vicariously through them. For Brosnan, he competed at the NCAA D2 level and some NAIA competitions before becoming a professional runner. Once his career was over, he got into coaching.

Newbury Park High School hired Brosnan to coach distance and cross-country running in 2016. He’s been coaching the boys and girls teams since 2017.

With four potential milers who could break four minutes, many view Newbury Park as a track powerhouse. It hasn’t been that way. Before Brosnan, the school hadn’t won a league title for two decades.

When things first started, Brosnan says he was full of ideas about getting into sleep patterns, how to hydrate, and different training techniques to use. The athletes would just goof off in practice, which led him to “nearly quit ten times” during those early days.

These Four Athletes Are Destroying Numerous Records

Nico Young, who is the older sibling of two of the Newbury Park milers, was the first athlete to take Brosnan’s vision and run with it. His records while competing sound like a championship resume that comes along once in a generation. [4]

Nico set several national high school records with his performances. He was also a two-time state cross-country champion, and he even placed ninth in the 5000m competition at the U.S. Olympic trials.

With the Newbury Park milers today, his records are in jeopardy.

Brosnan says that he refers to Bannister during his coaching because being the first to cross four minutes seemed like an incomprehensible feat during that era. In the months and years that followed, many more joined him in that elite club.

Whenever you’re doing something that others cannot, it seems like magic. Once something becomes possible, a supportive culture encourages others to go after even loftier goals. “We’ve created this culture where I have three or four guys who do not think a four-minute mile flat is fast,” Brosnan said. “One of them already broke it, and we’ll probably have more break it this year.”

That’s the approach you need.” [5]

During the fall cross-country season, Newbury Park knew they would have a special season on their hands when the Sahlman and Young brothers took the top four spots. Another runner on the squad finished seventh.

The following week, Newbury Park won their second consecutive national title, sweeping the top three podium spots and breaking the national high school record for a 5km cross-country course in the process.

The boys get lots of attention, but Brosnan has the girl’s team working hard to match those accomplishments. Senior Sam McDonnell led her squad to a runner-up finish at state and finished in sixth place at nationals.

References:

[1] https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records/hall-of-fame/first-sub-four-minute-mile; [2] https://www.nphs.org ; [3]https://results.armorytrack.com/meets/11230/relays/68731/results[4] https://nauathletics.com/sports/track-and-field/roster/nico-young/5448; [5] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/sports/newbury-park-high-milers.html

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