The name preceded Aaron Sahlman to the starting line Saturday.
It always does. When your last name is synonymous with a school renowned for its national-record running prowess — and your older brother ranks among the very best distance runners in the nation — expectations tend to rise like gasoline prices.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Sahlman said. “People see my name and they always expect me to run fast. If I have a bad day, it’s going to be like, ‘What happened?’ “
The Newbury Park High junior had a very good day in the CIF-Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Moorpark High.
Sahlman coolly, calmly and decisively won the Division 1 boys 800-meter race in one minute, 52.54 seconds. He took the lead approximately 200 meters into the race, then quashed all challengers to break away on the final lap.
He said he wasn’t exactly feeling crisp for the race.
“I wasn’t feeling very strong,” he said. “My legs felt kind of tingly for the entire race. It was a close pack, and I kept going hard. I felt like if I could get in front early and set the pace, that would make everyone else try to catch up.”
Nobody could. Second-place Jacob Robison of Foothill crossed in 1:53.44.
Sahlman’s presence for the all-divisional finals amounted to a star attraction. All other Newbury Park elite boys runners, including Colin Sahlman and Lex Young, elected to skip the Southern Section postseason meets to focus on other races.
“For me, I wanted a chance to win a CIF championship and a state championship,” said Aaron. “That’s a big deal for me. It’s a special opportunity to try and win those championships.”
One down, one to go. Sahlman will race next Saturday in the CIF-SS Masters — also at Moorpark High — to lock down a berth in the CIF-State Championships.
Sahlman runner was one of five area boys athletes to win CIF-SS individual championships Saturday.
Liam Gair of Villanova Prep and Ellis Delvecchio of Thacher made it a memorable day for two small-school programs from Ojai. Gair earned the Division 4 individual title in the 400 and Delvecchio dominated the Division 4 field in the 800.
Moorpark’s Victor Ezike, competing in his own stadium, earned first place in the Division 3 high jump with a school-record leap of 6 feet, 6 inches. His teammate, Jordan Navarro, also cleared 6-6, but finished second on attempts.
Foothill Tech’s Aiden Hagerty, prevailing among five county athletes taking the top five spots, won the Division 4 pole vault at 15-3.
Gair sped to victory in 48.28 seconds, becoming only the second athlete in Villanova Prep history to win an individual section title. He easily held off second-place Deven Lewis of Serra, who finished in 49.18.
It’s been a while since a Wildcat won a crown. The last time was 1950, which makes Gair the only school winner in the modern era of CIF-SS track and field.
“It’s very special,” said Gair. “I’ve had the opportunity to come to (Villanova Prep) for my senior year and it’s such a great feeling to cap it all like this. I got to thank the school and my coach. It doesn’t happen without them.”
Gair was raised in Ojai, but said he has moved around, including attending high school as a junior in the Fresno area. He came home for his senior year and has thrived while virtually learning a new race.
“I had always run the 100 and 200,” he said. “But my coach (Ed Italo) suggested that I might be better at the 400. I’m good at taking risks. I decided I should try it, and obviously it’s gone very well for me.”
Gair is doing his part to make 2022 a historic year for Villanova Prep athletics. The boys basketball team earlier won the school’s first ever CIF-SS team championship.
“It’s really good news for Ojai,” said Gair, who will attend Boston University.
Delvecchio, Thacher’s ace middle-distance runner, overpowered the Division 4 field in the 800.
He crossed in 1:52.38. Luke Zanuck of Windward was a distance second in 1:59.65.
It wasn’t as easy as Delvecchio made it appear. After his victory, he spent the next 10 minutes disgorging fluids into a trash can.
“Not as easy as it looked,” he said with a smile. “It’s actually pretty hard.”
Delvecchio zoomed out in front from the starter’s gun, and never relented. He said he began the race seeking a personal best.
“I came in wanting to get a PR, but I realized that wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I still wanted to set a fast pace. I wanted to keep pushing. I’m happy. I’m looking forward to Masters and a chance to get to state. That’s the plan.
Delvecchio’s mother, Sarah, is head of the history department at Thacher, so the senior is always inspired to run for the school as well as himself.
“It’s a nice feeling to come through for everybody,” said Delvecchio, who will attend Claremont McKenna College. “It’s good for Ojai.”
There was one boys relay team to take a home a title. Oaks Christian’s 4×400 relay team of Justice Williams, Prince Williams, Curtis Somerville and Aram Sarkissian won the Division 4 crown with a time of 3:22.06.
A number of other county athletes, competing on virtually their “home” track at Moorpark High, performed notably in the divisional finals.
Jeremy Frank of Thousand Oaks was second in the Division 2 110 hurdles (14.84) and 300 hurdles (39.75) to help the Lancers claim fifth place in the team standings. Jaelon Barbarin of Simi Valley took second in the Division 2 100 (10.57) and anchored the Pioneers to second in the 4×100 (41.84).
“It’s disappointing, considering that I had such a strong start to the season,” said Barbarin, a junior. “At the same time, I’m also happy with the time. I’ve been sick lately, so it feels good to come back and run like I have today.”
Ethan Godsey of Agoura was second in the Division 2 1,600 (4:13.31).
“I’m good, I’m happy,” said Godsey, a senior. “I wanted to come out and set a fast pace. I do that was going to hurt me as far as winning the race, but my biggest concern was putting in a time that qualifies for the Masters.”
Colin Guenther of Buena was second in the 110 hurdles in Division 2 (15.25) and eighth in the 300 hurdles (41.29).
Oaks Christian’s Elijah Gipson produced a busy and successful day in placing second in three events in Division 4. He was second in the 100 (10.45), 110 hurdles (14.87) and 300 hurdles (38.61).
Gipson’s efforts helped the Lions finished second in the team standings. First-place Serra had 95 points; Oaks Christian was second with 72.
Joey Nations of Simi Valley was third in the Division 2 long jump (22-2), seventh in the high jump (6-0) and ninth in the 200 (22.39).
The Division 4 pole vault was basically an all-county event. The top 5: 1. Hagerty of Foothill Tech (15-3); 2. Jake Reed of Oaks Christian (15-3); 3. Ethan Bergman of Oaks Christian (13-9); 4. Cole Dinkler of Foothill Tech (12-3); 5. Thomas Kephart of Oaks Christian (11-9).
Westlake’s Adam Laycock was fourth in the Division 2 discus (174-5) and fifth in the shot put (51 feet, 2 inches) to help the Warriors place fourth in the team standings.
In other results, Jonah Bazerkanian of Royal was third in the Division 2 1,600 (4:15.60), Mason Jekogian of Ventura was fifth (4:18.38) and Micah Grossman of Ventura was eighth (4:26.60) in the same race; Khari Butler of Oaks Christian was third in the Division 4 110 hurdles (15.49); and Taylor Johnson of Westlake was sixth in the Division 2 400 (49.46) while teammate Ife Orekoya was eighth in the same race (50.05) and Ventura’s A.J. Monarres was seventh at 49.54.
William Boyd of Buena was third in the Division 2 100 at 10.60 and fifth in the 200 (21.73); Ryan Fabian of Oxnard was third in the Division 1 800 (1:55.37) and Adam Olson of Newbury Park was eighth in the same race (1:56.85); Somerville of Oaks Christian was third in the Division 4 800 (1:59.72) and Braedon Elliott was sixth (2:02.21) in the same race; Daniel Appleford of Newbury Park was sixth in the Division 1 3,200 (9:17.11); Micah Contreras of Camarillo was seventh in the Division 1 300 hurdles (39.94); and Chance Harrison of Rio Mesa was seventh in the Division 1 long jump (20-11).
Michael Camillo Torres of Fillmore was fourth in the Division 4 3,200 (9:38.32) and Jonah Billings of Foothill Tech was sixth (9:42.71); Erik MuroMurillo of Ventura was sixth in the Division 2 shot put (48-11); Robert Hernandez of St. Bonaventure as fourth in the Division 4 discus (136-8); James Crawford of Agoura was seventh in the Division 2 200 (21.73); Atticus Hall of Thousand Oaks was eighth in the Division 2 800 (1:59.38); and Noah De la Rionda of Royal was sixth (9:33.28), Turner Hayes of Thousand Oaks was eighth (9:35.74) and Ventura’s Anthony Fasthorse was ninth (9:43.84) in the Division 2 3,200.
Nathaniel Ocegueda of Fillmore was fifth in the Division 4 shot put (50-8.50); Cade Sommers of Westlake was fifth in the Division 2 pole vault (14-9), Christopher Spinelli of Thousand Oaks (13-9) was eighth and Cooper Anderson of Ventura was ninth (13-3); Ellie Toumeh of Buena was seventh in the Division 2 long jump (20-8.50) and ninth in the triple jump (40-7.50); Braden Hopkins of Thousand Oaks was eighth in the Division 2 high jump (5-10); Jaren Hyde of Oak Park was eighth in the Division 3 boys 100 (11.01); Moorpark’s Cade Larsen was eighth in the Division 3 discus (141-6); Sarkissian of Oaks Christian was fifth in the Division 4 400 (50.95); Shawn Gerk of Foothill Tech was ninth in the triple jump (40-2.25); and Wyatt Schrader of Ventura was ninth in the Division 2 boys discus (133-6).
Westlake’s Orekoya, Marcus Nortey, Cole Jarvis and Johnson finished second in the Division 2 4×400 relay (3:20.07) and Jarvis, Johnson, Brandon Orlow and Orekoya took fifth in the 4×100 relay (43.02).
St. Bonaventure’s 4×100 relay team of Joaquin Johnson, Chris Diaz, Koy Mortenen and Trevor McCarthy finished third in Division 4 with a time of 42.99.
The Thousand Oaks team of Ryan Morreale, Chase Martin, Matthew Crellin and Andrew Simon-Lacombe finished fourth in the Division 2 4×400 relay (3:21.21).
Fabian, Devon Marzette, Daniel Erickson and Samuel Adams led Oxnard to an eighth-place finish in the Division 1 4×400 relay (3:26.70).
Loren Ledin is the Prep Editor for The Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or 805-437-0285.