With the Alumni Race just days away, now is a good time to examine the history of JLXC at Alum Rock Park.
Alum Rock Park has long been the training grounds of the James Lick Comets. Being located only 2 miles away from the park, it is only natural that the team has trained there for decades, and the races held there are a sort of home field advantage for the Comets and other Eastside teams.
The long tradition of racing in Alum Rock Park stretches back to even before the MHAL (the league which is now a division of the BVAL) was formed with James Lick as one of it’s founding members. With the MHAL Finals beginning in 1965, Alum Rock Park’s 2.25 mile course took on new significance, playing host to the MHAL finals every year on record form 1966-1989. In the 1990s, the MHAL altered their race course to it’s current 2.85 mile format. The popularity of the park as a race course declined as Alum Rock suffered road damage, and the league began to turn to alternative race courses. By the early 2000s, Alum Rock was not being used at all for races anymore. In 2008 however, races were brought back to the 2.85 mile race course, and it has been used for BVAL league meets off and on ever since.
The 2.25 mile course, beginning in the deepest parking lot of Alum Rock, took runners through a fast first mile on the slight downhill stretch of the Penitencia Creek trail leading to the North Rim trail. Runners then scaled the famous North Rim hill, before continuing on the undulating North rim trail, eventually making their way to a speedy downhill descent to the finish line in the starting parking lot. The North Rim Hill at 485 meters, is the single longest hill any Comet will encounter in a race this season.
The course we now use for the Alumni race is slightly different, beginning and ending near the youth science institute. Despite the slightly altered course beginning and ending points, the Alumni Course is essentially the same as the traditional North Rim “short course.” I estimate that runners of today would run about 5-10 seconds faster for the old race course which was used for so many years, than they do on our alumni course. This small potential time difference aside, the Alumni race is a great way for the runners of today to compare themselves to the runners of the past, as we continue working to build the program back to its glory days and beyond.
A few considerations should be taken into account before we go over times:
- The runners of the 60s, 70s, and 80s used the course for the annual Alum Rock Invitational, as well as the MHAL finals and occasionally for the CCS Regional meet as well. As such, runners of the past had the opportunity to run the course in late October and mid November, the point in the year where a typical HS XC athlete needs to be at peak racing fitness. By comparison, the runners of the past decade or so, since the short course was brought back (in slightly altered format) for the alumni race, do the course only once, in early September, before races have even begun. As a result the team’s current athletes do not run their best times on the Alum Rock short course, usually running faster paces for the longer course because of its status as an actual league meet course.
- The Alumni Race is more of a time trial than an actual race, due to the fact that the team is not competing against any other schools. Without a high level of competition (occasional outstanding alumni not withstanding) the athletes of today are not pushed as thoroughly as the athletes of the past were at the AR invitational and at MHAL finals.
Even so however, the times of the James Lick Comets on the Alum Rock short course over the years are extremely impressive, and continue to serve as a reminder to our current athletes that there is work to be done to restore the team to the level of past seasons.
The sheer number of JL runners to race the course at big meets from 66-89, combined with the high caliber of the program during those years, makes the JLXC All time boys list for the Alum Rock short course the schools 3rd most impressive list in my opinion, (Behind only Crystal Springs and Half Moon Bay HS). The girls list is not as strong however, since JL only began fielding girls XC in the late 70s, and the best ever era for JL girls XC is currently in full force.
Some of the fast early times on the AR short course, were run in the earliest days of the MHAL. In 1966, Junior Mick Coyle took home the win in the Alum Rock invitational, running a strong time of 12:32. Coyle’s time currently stands as the 20th best time in school history for the course (on record).
It would be several years before a Comet broke the elusive 12 minute barrier for the course. The 1970 team saw Luis Sanchez and Jim Sena run 11:42 and 11:46 respectively. This 1-2 punch helped lead the team to the only XC CCS championship in school history, with James Lick winning the small schools division at CCS Finals. The team of 1970 was exceptional, Nathan Bernardo and Hector Ramirez ran 13:25 and 13:27 to lead our team at the Alumni race last season. The 6th boy on the 1970 team ran 13:23. Even if one grants Nathan 10 seconds for the slightly altered course, he wouldn’t nip the team’s 5th boy (Bob Amaro) at 13:07. Amaro went on to have an outstanding running career at James Lick. As a senior in 1972, Amaro broke 12 for the course himself, with a time of 11:49. He would also go on to run 1:55 for the 880 run, which converted still stands as the 3rd best 800m in school history.
The two top times in school history were run in 1975, when Joe Salazar set the long standing school record of 11:20 for the course, more than 20 seconds better than the 11:41 of teammate Sierras. Salazar also holds the school 2 mile record (also the 3200m record converted) and all things considered, is probably the best XC runner ins school history. The one man with a good argument against Salazar is Joe Amendt, who in 1987 would become the 10th and final Comet (according to my records) to break 12 for the AR short course, running 11:47. The two Joe’s share the school record of 15:21 at Crystal Springs. While I’d give Salazar the slight edge as JL’s best ever XC runner, Amendt’s supreme track pedigree makes him James Lick’s greatest ever distance runner all around.
Any very strong list of JL times could not be complete without the teams of the 1980s. The decade saw Frank Munoz, 11:42 in81, Ben Trujillo, 11:48in 80, and Greg Machado, 11:53 in 84 break the barrier. Randy Pangelina also narrowly missed, running 12:01 in 1981. Of all of the school’s all time lists, this one poses the greatest challenge to alter for the runners of today, not only because of it’s strength, but because of the timing of the run.
The only records of the Alumni course since 1990 are from former coaches, David Porter and Alex Ponik, and from my soon to be 4 years of experience. With roughly 11 years on record (2006-present) No Comet boy has run sub 13 for the Course yet, though the times of Nathan and Hector were by far the best of the past decade.
The team will need to have extremely strong early season form to take another step towards the times laid down by the great Comet runners who came before them.
JLXC Boys ALL TIME LIST:
Alum Rock Short Course 2.25 Miles
|1||Joe Salazar||11:20||5:02||1975||MHAL Finals||1st||12|
|3||Luis Sanchez||11:42||5:12||1970||MHAl Finals||4th||11|
|4||Frank Munoz||11:42||5:12||1980||MHAL Finals||2nd||12|
|5||Jim Sena||11:46||5:13||1970||MHAL Finals||6th||12|
|6||Joe Amendt||11:47||5:14||1987||MHAL Finals||1st||12|
|7||Ben Trujillo||11:48||5:14||1980||MHAL Finals||3rd||12|
|8||Bob Amaro||11:49||5:15||1972||MHAL Finals||10th||12|
|9||Greg Machado||11:53||5:16||1984||Alum Rock Invitational||5th||12|
|10||Adolfo Alvarado||11:54||5:17||1973||MHAl Finals||4th||12|
|11||Randy Pangelina||12:01||5:20||09/26/1981||Alum Rock Invitational||8th||11|
|14||Gil Zaragosa||12:16||5:27||1980||Alum Rock Invitational||20th|
|15||Tim Mezzapelle||12:16||5:27||11/08/1973||MHAL Finals||14th||12|
|16||Luis Borunda||12:21||5:29||11/08/1973||MHAL Finals||18th||10|
|17||John Acosta||12:28||5:32||1987||MHAL Finals||8th||12|
|18||Jose Gonzales||12:29||5:32||11/08/1973||MHAL Finals||20th||12|
|20||Mick Coyle||12:32||5:34||1966||Alum Rock Invitational||1st||11|
A theme of our current JLXCTF program is that the boys are trying to restore a winning tradition, while the girls are building one, and raising its strength year by year. While not a single addition has been made to the boys list since the courses removal from official racing (Those boys teams were tough man) the girls list only has 4 times that weren’t set in the past 10 years.
The Early 80s was one of the few bright spots in the competitive JLXC girls history. Kim Willoughby’s time of 15:25 in 1980 stood as the school record for over 20 years. Michelle Ruiz in 1983 with a time of 17:38, and Chaves in 1980 with a time of 18:05 add respectable but not particularly impressive times to the list.
At the 2008 Alumni Race, Kayla Matsuda ran 15:24 to establish the current school record for the course. As it stands now, Kayla is undoubtedly the best XC runner in school history, holding the course record on every course she competed on. In 2014, Daniela Camacho ran 16:03, the team’s #3 all time clocking. 2014 also saw Paloma Contreras run 17:29. Those two would help the team to the WVAL championship, the second XC championship in JLXC girls history.
The remainder of the girls list is mostly solid athletes of the past few years filling in the spots, and it is exciting for the current team to be able to alter and strengthen this all time list every year. Arlet Miranda will look to improve on her 17:35 run as a freshmen.
JLXC Girls ALL TIME LIST:
Alum Rock Short Course: 2.25 Miles
|1||Kayla Matsuda||15:24||6:51||2008||JL Alumni Race||1st||12|
|2||Kim Willoughby||15:25||6:51||1980||MHAL Finals||6th||11|
|3||Daniela Camacho||16:03||7:08||9/5/14||JL Alumni Race||1st||12|
|4||Paloma Contreras||17:29||7:46||09/05/2014||JL Alumni Race||2nd||12|
|5||Arlet Miranda||17:35||7:49||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||1st||9|
|6||Michelle Ruiz||17:38||7:50||1983||MHAL Finals||11|
|7||Chaves||18:05||8:02||1980||Alum Rock Invite||12|
|8||Elsie Carrillo||18:12||8:05||2008||JL Alumni Race||2nd||12|
|9||Maria Mendoza||18:26||8:11||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||2nd||11|
|10||Ana Tapia||18:48||8:21||09/11/2009||JL Alumni Race||3rd||12|
|11||Genny Poet||19:03||8:28||1980||Alum Rock Invite||12|
|12||Raquel Rodriguez||19:08||8:30||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||3rd||9|
|13||Elizabeth Guevara||19:12||8:31||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||4th||12|
|14||Gabriela Aguilar||19:30||8:40||09/06/2013||JL Alumni Race||3rd||10|
|15||Daisy Nava||19:43||8:45||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||5th||11|
|16||Andrea Ortiz||19:43||8:45||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||7th||12|
|17||Brianna Flores||20:17||9:01||09/05/2014||JL Alumni Race||12|
|18||Karen Ruiz||20:34||9:08||09/06/2013||JL Alumni Race||12|
|19||Destiny Lopez||20:37||9:09||09/06/2013||JL Alumni Race||12|
|20||Jocelyn Aguirre||20:55||9:17||09/04/2015||JL Alumni Race||8th||10|
It’s only a few days until the Alumni Race and the team will use the Alumni in attendance as inspiration. Taking place only 6 days before the official first race of the season (STAL #1 9/8 at Alum Rock Park), the Alumni Race will be the team’s final barometer of readiness for the 2016 XC season!
The team will be actively chasing goals of a STAL championship on the boys side, a winning record on the girls side, and more importantly, the maintenance of a team culture which has drawn plaudits from around the league for its welcoming and sportsman-like nature.
As always, full JL All time lists, as well as All Time team lists, and the best times since I’ve been coaching can be found here: https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/cross-country-history/
Alumni race recap coming soon.
Thanks for reading as always,