Sean Brosnan needed only a few years to make Newbury Park High synonymous with running greatness on a national level.
In the process, the Newbury Park cross country and track coach, and business teacher, made himself a sought-after coaching commodity.
Which is why UCLA plucked the two-time national coach of the year out of the high school ranks Monday to coach its distance runners.
“That’s unheard of,” Newbury Park athletic director Michael Godfrey marveled, “a high school coach going directly to a Division 1 school?”
It speaks to what Brosnan achieved in the Conejo Valley, coaching the Panthers boys and girls teams to five section, four state and two national titles over the past three seasons.
The Newbury Park boys cross country team was recognized by USA Today on Sunday as its national Boys Team of the Year, lifting the Panthers over a field that included every male team in the country, in every sport.
Last month, Gatorade named Newbury Park’s Colin Sahlman as its Male Athlete of the Year.
“It’s big news,” Sahlman said Monday. “I think it’s a good opportunity for him.”
More sports in Ventura County:
- What makes Newbury Park cross country so dominant? Hint: It starts with the coach
- Sahlman, Engelhardt named California Track & Field Players of the Year by Gatorade
- Colin Sahlman is The Star’s Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year
Avery Anderson, UCLA’s director of track and cross country, called Brosnan “one of the best coaches in the country” in UCLA’s announcement.
“His resume speaks for itself,” Anderson said. “His ability to coach and develop athletes to a national caliber is unparalleled, and I’m excited for the student-athletes in our program and for future Bruin recruits.”
Under Brosnan’s guidance, Newbury Park’s Nico Young became the first male to win Gatorade’s National Runner of the Year honors in both cross country and track.
Young, who now runs at Northern Arizona, called Brosnan’s move “a necessary next step for him.”
“He deserves to coach at a higher level,” Young said.
While Brosnan had often said he was happy to continue coaching at the high school level, UCLA’s status academically and athletically — as well as its location — proved to be an irresistible lure.
“There were a few other schools I was speaking to, but nothing was as appealing (as UCLA),” Brosnan said. “Academically and athletically, UCLA seemed like a really good fit.”
Brosnan added he doesn’t have to physically move. He recently purchased an electric car for the commute from Newbury Park into Westwood.
“It’s an easy transition for us, because we don’t need to move,” said Brosnan’s wife, Tanya. “We’re already here. UCLA is in our backyard.”
Newbury Park returns three of its elite male runners this fall, twin brothers Leo Young and Lex Young and fellow senior Aaron Sahlman, which is why the announcement shocked some.
“I didn’t expect him to leave this year,” Colin Sahlman said. “I thought he would coach the (Young) twins and Aaron until they left.”
Brosnan admitted there was some regret that he wouldn’t be able to coach this group as seniors.
“Life is about timing and I had to make the move,” Brosnan said. “(UCLA) just doesn’t wait a year for you.”
The Young brothers were supportive of Brosnan’s move.
“It was definitely a big shock,” Leo Young said. “But I think that it’s most important to look at things from his perspective. That’s a good opportunity for him. We have one year left of high school. We’ll be just fine.”
Added Lex Young, “We’ll still execute the season exactly how we had it planned.”
Brosnan’s assistant coaches, Tanya Brosnan and Steve Hawkins, have been named Newbury Park interim coaches, according to Godfrey.
Although district procedure dictates a full search for Brosnan’s replacement.
“We have to go through the process,” Godfrey said.
Tanya Brosnan said she would “step up and help Newbury Park in any way I can.”
“We’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing here at Newbury Park,” she said. “It’s a great team with a great group of kids. We just want to keep it going and keep the tradition now alive.”
Leo Young made it clear that he expects continuity within the program.
“I think it’s crucial that the school appoints Steve Hawkins and Tayna Brosnan as the head coaches,” Young said. “That would mean we’d be able to continue the legacy.”