Colin Sahlman Doesn’t Rule Out Turning Pro, Says He’s A Miler

“I really want to race the mile — like that’s where my passion is at right now.”

by Robert Johnson
March 8, 2022

On February 23rd, Newbury Park’s Colin Sahlman was named Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. After being surprised with the award at school, Sahlman was made available for virtual interviews. Below is a slightly edited version of my Q&A with the best US HS cross country runner of 2021 who already has broken 4:00 in the mile this winter.

RJ: Congratulations, you had an amazing cross country season and you’re having an amazing track season as well. It’s been fun to watch. [In cross country your team was] being called the greatest team ever and now you’ve done a sub-4:00 mile. Have you had a chance to think about like, what are you most proud of so far?

Colin Sahlman: I don’t know. It’s really tough. You know, I’ve accomplished and our team has accomplished so much over these last few months. It’s kind of crazy to think about, you know, with RunningLane and then now going into track, you know, with that sub-4:00 [mile] with that national 3200m record (8:33.32 on February 19), it’s really crazy. I can’t really pick one over the other because they’re all super special, but I’d say those are my main three highlights for sure that I’m proud of.

And what about moving forward? Have you guys come up with goals? I think a big part of distance running is having a good goal to keep motivated. What is your biggest goal for the outdoor season?

I mean, we don’t actually as Newbury Park, we don’t really set too many goals, we just kind of go out there and do it. I know that our next two biggest focuses are at New Balance Indoor Nationals we will be running a four by mile there, and we’re attempting to break the national record as a team so that’s definitely a goal that we have. And then the Arcadia 3200. Of course, that’s another big goal. It’s a goal every year for track. And we’re looking out there, we’re looking to go out there and run some really fast times and hopefully dip under that 8:30 mark.

So does that mean, are you focused on [Lukas] Verzbicas’ national record? I mean, do you know like that it’s 8:29?

Yeah, I know that he ran that in a full two-mile, I know that with our schedule, we probably won’t be able to run a full two-mile, we’ll mainly just be doing 3200s. But hopefully to go far enough under 8:30, that the conversion will hopefully be a little faster. But that’s probably the closest that I can get to it.

 There was a thread on our website this week on the message board saying, hey, wait a minute, people we need to start thinking of Colin Sahlman as potentially one of the greatest US high school runners ever (MB: Sahlman has to be in the GOAT conversation now for HS Distance). Do you think about that ever? Like, wow, this is crazy [I might be able to break records like the 3:53 mile by] Alan Webb or as I just said the Verzbicas record. Do you ever think about the history that you’re making or could potentially make?

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Yeah, it’s definitely something that comes across my mind. You know, when I look back to this cross country season, what we did as a team was — it’s crazy, its unheard of, and it made history and who knows when that will be touched again.

And it’s crazy to kind of take a step back and be like, Okay, we were like the best team ever. And it’s crazy that we’re all together and experiencing that. And then now to come out here in track, you know, when I’ve already gone sub-4:00 and 8:33 in the 3200, it’s crazy to think of how fast that is, when you see big names compared to it. I’m already running faster than some really big names. It’s kind of crazy to think about, but I mean, it’s not something that I really focus on, I just focus on going out there and running the best that I can at the end of the day.

Does Coach Brosnan have you focus on the process for the most part? Is that a key – just focus on this week’s training, today’s training?

Yeah, that’s for sure. He does a really good job at just keeping us focused in the moment. And we know what days our workouts are, you know every week, but we don’t usually know what the workout is, until we’re literally on the line getting ready to start, because he doesn’t want us to like overthink it or whatever. It’ll be like a last-minute thing. He’s like, ‘Alright, you’re doing this workout, go.’ And then we’ll go and then we’ll do it. And so I think he’s really good about that. So we really just live in the moment and when it comes to races, you know, we also live in the moment there we just we focus on what we have to do that day and I think that’s a big reason as to why we’re successful.

While I was talking about all the records you could potentially break, it’s wild to think about, but at the same time I often think, ‘Wait a minute, [while it’s] potentially true he could be the greatest runner in US [HS] history [given the records he could break], it’s also possible that someone on your own team, next year, beats your records — heck, even your younger brother could beat them.’ So do you ever think, ‘Wait, I may not even be the best guy in the history of my own family or my own school?’

Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about that, you know, because seeing Lex, Leo and Aaron’s progression this year, it’s far surpassed what I did last year — that’s for sure.

And when I’m up at Flagstaff [next year at NAU], I’ll be watching them. And just to think about what they could do next year based off of what they are doing already this year, it’s crazy to think about. They could break all my records for all we know, but it doesn’t really bother me. You know records are meant to be chased and meant to be broken. And if anyone going to break them, then I would love it for me for it to be those three.

You mentioned Flagstaff, I know you’re committed to NAU for next year, but in recent years, a lot of the top US high schoolers have just gone pro straight out of high school. I mean, Hobbs Kessler did it last year, Drew Hunter did it a few years before that. Has anyone approached you about that? Is that something that you might be interested in doing?

Sahlman and his parents

No one has approached me about it yet. It’s not something that I’ve given a lot of thought to….You know, I just don’t know, it’s kind of a kind of a weird topic for me, because I never saw myself, you know, going pro straight out of high school. But [with me] running these fast times, you know, it’s something that’s been mentioned, but I don’t really know what to how to feel about that yet. So right now, definitely the focus is NAU. But if offers like that do pop up, I mean, it’s really, [going to be about] how I feel at the end of the day.

And where do you see yourself [in terms of events]? I mean, in your sub-4:00 mile, the tactics [that you displayed] in that race for someone who’s never run an indoor race were amazing. Like, I heard you broke 4:00 and thought, ‘A bunch of high schoolers have broken 4:00 recently’ and then I watched the race and I was like, ‘This is special.’ So congrats — it was was just amazing. But do you see yourself as a miler? Like, in 10 years? Are you going to be a mile or 5k guy? What are you?

I don’t know. I mean, I know that NAU really trains for that 5k, but I really want to race the mile — like that’s where my passion is at right now. And it’s something I can see myself doing, you know, being that mid-distance miler for sure. That’s something that I get excited about.

Is there any chance that you could you get into the Pre Classic mile? Has there been any talk about you doing that as you know Alan Webb famously ran it in high school?

Yeah, Alan Webb and Jakob Ingebrigtsen they ran that and ran insane times there, and my coach has talked to me about it. We’re still not set. I’m not set in the race, but he’s pretty confident that I can get in, and I think that’d be a great opportunity and I would love to do that.

That’ll be exciting for all US distance fans. Well, it was great to meet you virtually. We’ve come full circle. When we founded LetsRun in 2000, everyone was so excited because the US had been so bad for so many years that it was about Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein and those guys, and now it’s like we’re getting that excitement again. So congratulations, and thanks so much.

Yeah, thank you.

Talk about the interview on our world-famous fan-forum / messageboard: MB: Q&A with Colin Sahlman who reveals he’s passionate about the mile & wants to run Pre and doesn’t rule out turning pro.

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