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Newberry Park’s high school boys team just completed the most dominant cross country season of all time. California is typically one of the most competitive states when it comes to prep distance running, and Newberry Park’s top seven runners made a mockery of the state meet finishing 1-2-3-4. It defies logic, it’s indisputable; head coach Sean Brosnan will probably receive a book deal based on this season alone.
It doesn’t feel entirely appropriate to write about high school athletes and for that reason I’m going to try to avoid naming the athletes specifically. But there’s no doubting that Newberry Park team has become a bit of a meme in the running community. How many college teams would they have beaten this season? Where would the top 4 place in senior level World Cross? How would they handle foreign policy affairs compared to Joe Biden?
We have this infallible, flawless team. My question is: What does Newberry Park have to do in order to finish a perfect indoor/outdoor track season?
While track team might be able to win the CIF state championship led by big scores from the distance squad, there’s little precedent for a “record” point total in CIF record books. This is because the scoring system has changed many times over the years, and the current system was only adopted in 2010. Some historian could look through all the meet records and re-score the meets. Since 2010, the highest point total was Vista Murrieta with 54 points. They were led by Michael Norman that year. He was so elite and versatile in high school that he could have scored 30 points on his own, I’m not going to check the results but he probably did run the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 4x400m.
It’s possible to get 30 points out of this distance squad on a great day. Add in a few other state caliber athletes (Not easy–California is a talented state and their track championships are not separated by division) and you’re set for a podium finish. The thing about this, and why any superlative here would probably be overlooked, is that this could be a day of immense individual glory. I truly doubt the coach would endanger a miler’s chances of getting on the podium by trying to force a 4x800m team to get the top spot, even though that’s a possibility.
This is it for team goals in terms of the entire track team. Although you technically could score New Balance indoor/outdoor championship meets, there’s no precedent for doing that. Picking up the team win in major invitations during the season is also cool but probably will be overshadowed by fantastic individual or relay performances.
This is where things get intriguing. There are plenty of interesting relay race records. Having a fast, low-mileage distance squad is any coach’s dream. I wouldn’t be surprised if Newberry Park really goes after a few of these. The 4x800m is the only regularly-contested NFHS event, the rest are only run under special circumstances and tend to draw talented competition. Records can be found here.
4x800m: 7:33.48 (NFHS), 7:28.75 (Non-NFHS, post season)
4xMile: 17:04.55, 17:01.81 (indoor)
4 x 1500m (6k relay?)
First, let’s cross out the 4x1500m. It’s fun to think about, but this isn’t contested in any high school invitationals. It’s unheard of. The record dates to the early 1980s and though that team was talented to hit a 16:03, it pretty much converts to each guy running a 4:18 full mile. So, ironically, it’s the softest record, but the Newberry Park team won’t have an opportunity to go for it unless they create it. If you assume that on a good day the top 4 could run 3:45ish 1500s, they could end up on the all-time performance list by going under 15:05.
Chance of this happening: 2%. The only scenario in which we see this is if they’re trying to do a tune up to chase the US Trials 1500m standard which is 3:37.50. Would be too much effort to set up.
4 x 1600m
This event is contested at the legendary Arcadia Invitational. The time of 16:41 was set by the 2017 American Fork team at Arcadia (video). Here’s the problem: Arcadia usually has the deepest 1 mile and 3200m fields at any point in the outdoor season with star athletes traveling by air to get there. Here is the meet schedule. It’s a ridiculous ask to have Newberry Park’s boys put together an all-star 4x1600m and compromise the mile and 3200m. Remember, people were already talking about these guys last year. 4 guys under 9:00 with another one sitting out to run the mile instead.
Going after a low 16 4x1600m is in NP’s wheelhouse. They’re deep enough that they can take their 5, 6, 7 from cross country, pluck someone else from the practice squad, and at least win the event outright at Arcadia with a mid 17. I think the record-setting opportunity will be cast aside in favor of chasing all-time rankings in the 3200m.
Chance of this happening: 6%. If they do contest a relay at Arcadia with their “A” Team, it’ll be this. The DMR occurs immediately after the 3200m, so that isn’t happening. Still, the odds aren’t good.
4 x Mile
The 4 x Mile is contested both at New Balance Indoor and Outdoor nationals. It is also contested at the Penn Relays in the collegiate division. This is a soft record. American Fork’s 16:41 4x1600m is significantly better especially when you see that they had one guy run a 4:25 and the rest of the team was like 4:08 or faster.
The reason we’re discussing these relays is that Newberry Park can easily break the record. Getting a top 4 to run around 4:15 each in a relay is very difficult. For the outsider, understand that high school teams usually won’t even have a single runner under 4:25. This is not difficult for NP as some of the splits they ran on the cross country course this year were, amazingly, within striking distance of 4:25.
Since I started writing this article, folks have grown impatient. Nobody wants to wait until the end of the season to see Newberry Park do something crazy. They want Newberry Park’s true top 4 to race the NCAA 4 x Mile at the 2022 Penn Relays on April 28th, 2022. April 28th is pretty much mid-season for high schoolers, occurring three weeks after Arcadia. However, NP’s coach already hinted at this being a team goal:
If you have a high school team that is better than many college teams, you want that team to run against college teams. Rather than runners 2-3-4 running alone after dismantling the competition in the first leg, why not pace yourself against D1 programs? Go home with the record and some bragging rights. How would Newberry Park fare in a re-run of the 2019 Penn Relays 4 x Mile?
Granted, most of these collegiate guys will be doubling back or planning to run other races. It’s impossible to look at this performance list and not imagine Newberry Park placing in the top 3 if the race was re-run. That’s why the hype is at all all-time high. Granted, 2019 was a very weak year. The race is usually won in the vicinity of 16:20 (that’s 4:05 for each man) and the 10 fastest times in Penn Relays history span 16:15.14->16:04.54.
Here is my blueprint and my predictions:
2022 Indoor Nationals (March 11th-13th 2022): NP doesn’t run the full top 4 but still contests this race and takes an honest shot at going sub 17, taking the record from Loudoun Valley.
2022 Arcadia: I think we’ll see a full B team here showcasing impressive depth. NP can win this race with a time in the 17s using runners 5-9, though I doubt this will be a productive exercise if they can get seeded into the 3200m instead.
2022 Penn Relays: This is the race that has to happen. Newberry Park’s top four can probably go sub 16:30 (4:07.25 each), will beat most of the college teams, and will go down in history. This would be the race to cement the legacy. We’ll be talking about it for a long time. I’ll predict a 16:26.
2022 New Balance Outdoor: I doubt NP will contest this race. They will likely pursue fast mile or 3200m times.
4 x 800m
People think I’m crazy for talking about the 4×8 record. There is a shot this happens. This is a widely contested event and is the only relay race mentioned here that is part of the NFHS Track & Field lineup. Considering that, I myself have contested this race probably 20 times, compared to running 2 DMRs and never even attending a meet that featured the other relays. Because it’s a popular event that’s part of the high school meet schedule, it’s a very competitive record.
Why are there two records? The NFHS record can only be achieved at an NFHS event, which must be sanctioned and contested within the academic year. Post season meets like New Balance or the “National Scholastic Championships” (I don’t know what this is) don’t count, so there are separate records. I was in high school when each of these records were set and I can tell you that the NFHS record was more eye-popping. Tom Mallon was an animal and to do this at the PIAA state championships was a feat. First of all, the team had to get out of the PIAA District 1 championships which included a preliminary round and featured several teams that would earn state medals. They won in 7:37 which was a district record, overcoming the 1982 Wissahickon district record, but not the state and national record of 7:36.25, which was also set by that Wissahickon team, except at states. Finally, they had to go through rounds again at states which took a 7:53 (the school record at most schools). The competition at the Pennsylvania State Championships that year was outrageous, with 9 teams dipping under 7:48! That’s fast! That’s a fast day for some D3 collegiate teams.
History lesson aside, the Newberry Park top four are all going to be chasing the sub-4 minute mile. If you’re chasing that, running a 2:00 800m is a cinch. So is running a 1:58. So is, probably, a 1:56. Beyond that, we don’t know. I’ve dug in to YouTube comments where the current NP guys claim low-50 400m speed, and at some point coach Brosnan claimed something like Nico Young could hit a 50s 400m in workouts. It’s possible.
Each member of the team needs to run 1:53.X to nab this record. Newberry Park might have a 1:52 guy sitting on the sidelines somewhere (this is elite fitness) but they could probably manage with the cross country top 4. They’re going to need to work on speed to attack the mile, so maybe this will be in the cards. I say 5% chance this happens.
The DMR is a 1200m-400m-800m-1600m relay. The world record, held by the United States, is 9:15.50. The US collegiate record is a very fast 9:20.10. The US high school record is 9:49.78. Let’s check out the splits.
Richard Smith 3:03.2, Justin Smyser 50.2, Kanda Karmo 1:56.6, Alan Webb 3:59.80https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_high_school_national_records_in_track_and_field
The legendary Alan Webb popped a 3:59.80 to bring in this record. All things considered, it’s a pretty difficult record. If you took that same Central Bucks South team from 2009 featuring Tom Mallon, you would have ended up with something like:
Runner 1: 3:03.00, Runner 2: 50.X, Mallon: 1:49.0, Runner 3: 4:21
CBS had a team specialized in the 800m. How specialized? Their other 3 runners didn’t even contest the 400m, 800m, or 1600m at districts, despite the fact that they all could have medaled in the 800m at states. Mid-distance specialists can’t save you in the DMR–you need a miler who would be considered a generational talent.
If Newberry Park’s top 4 contest the DMR, I think it would look something like this:
Runner 1: 2:57.00, Runner 2: 52.0, Runner 3: 1:54.0, Runner 4: 4:00.00
No out-of-this-world performances, but each member would be performing at 95% of potential. I’d love to see this race, and so would a lot of other people. If the miler had a freak last lap, this record would last forever.
The relays are more interesting because depth in track isn’t rewarded particularly well. These guys are chasing fast times, so that’s how I’ll provide my predictions. I think that the Newberry Park top four, in any order, will achieve these marks:
Mile (1600m adjusted up):
Summary: They’ll focus on the 3200m outdoors and will have a stronger showing in that event. It’s widely expected that we’ll get one sub-4 miler. I think it’s likely we get two of them. If we get two in the same race from the same school, that’s when the national news media will take an interest in this story.
Summary: if they all run at the Millrose Games, they’ll all be under 8 minutes, and someone will break Nico Young’s record of 7:56.97.
3200m Outdoor (2 mile adjusted down):
Summary: Yes–the top 3 will break German Fernandez’ record of 8:34.23.
I don’t want to take anything away from what Newberry Park has already accomplished. The distance squad is the greatest of all time. There are plenty of relay races that the team could use to set really special marks, and there awaits a season of individual track races where the boys will chase historic performances. Though it’s hard to watch high school track events live, I will make every effort to follow the team’s progress. I hope the projections here largely come true and in some way do track the team’s warpath in the 2021/2022 season.