Newbury Park’s Aaron Sahlman is the Daily News 2022 boys cross country runner of the year

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Aaron Sahlman, Newbury Park, Sr.

Running can be perceived as monotonous, especially as the mileage increases like it does in the sport of cross-country. Running a timed mile is likely one of the least-desirable gym class activities and gassers are dreaded by athletes of all levels.

But for a select few, like Newbury Park’s Aaron Sahlman, running is embraced.

“I wish people didn’t see cross country as every other sport’s punishment,” Sahlman said. “It brings out the best in people. I think it’s one of the hardest sports, which people don’t understand.”

Sahlman brought his own best this cross country season, which culminated in an individual national title at Portland’s Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) in early December.

The senior finished the 5K race in 14 minutes and 44.5 seconds to set a new course record as Newbury Park won the team title with a collective score of 66 points. The second-place team, Portland, finished with 152 points.

Family connections power Newbury Park cross country program’s national title success

Prior to winning the national title, Sahlman took third at the Asics Clovis Invitational in early October and third at the CIF State Championships in late November.

“It’s all mental, basically,” he said. “Physically, you’ve got to be in shape. Physically, you’ve gotta tell yourself that you can do it. But you can’t get through a cross country race without at least 80% mental work.”

Sahlman announced his commitment to Northern Arizona Univeristy in November, where he’ll join his older brother Colin. The elder Sahlman was a top runner for Newbury Park in his own right and held national records in the 3,200 meters and 5K distances.

Jai Dawson of Dana Hills along with Aaron Sahlman of Newbury Park compete in the boys 800-meter run during the CIF-SS Track and Field Masters Meet at Moorpark High School in Moorpark on Saturday, May 21, 2022. ( Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

The younger Sahlman’s season further separated him from his brother’s shadow, but the sibling rivalry has also benefited him.

“We fought sometimes. Not much, mostly was just competition who could be better than who,” he said. “I tried to beat all his times. I always try to be better than my brother. My brother tries to be better than me.”

With cross country season now transitioning into track and field season, there’s little to no break for Sahlman. Runners like him within the Newbury Park program rarely take off more than a week of training.

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Distance running can be seen as monotonous, but it could also be interpreted as consistency. Sahlman’s results are constant, and fit right in with the high standard that Newbury Park has become known for.

“Expectations are always high here,” he said.

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