The James Lick Track team saw some 14 athletes get their first competition of the season at the Los Gatos All-Comers meet on February 25th. The team will open their official season next Saturday at the Willow Glen Invitational. This all comers meet was a good chance for the team to get their feet wet, and to get some early season competition in a low-key setting. Despite the peak of the season being two months away, the Comets saw some very strong performances.
The 4×100 team of Hadji Yono-Cruz, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Chris Okoro ran a 47.98. Last season, it took the team until mid April to run under 48 seconds for the sprint relay, so this early season start is encouraging. Based on this start, the Comets should work their way down to 46 seconds and perhaps even 45 seconds this season.No James Lick team has run under 46 seconds for the 4×100 since 2002.
The most impressive performer of the day for the team was Jose Limon. Jose joined Track with only 5 weeks left in the season last year, but proceeded to make BVAL champs as a freshmen in the 400m regardless. His strong work ethic has shown over the past few months, and paid dividends at the all-comers meet. Jose ran 11.97 for the 100m dash, smashing his PR of 12.31 and becoming only the 2nd Comet to officially break 12 for the 100m dash in the past 7 seasons. He followed this up with a strong showing in the 60m dash, running 7.47 and winning his heat in both races. We believe Jose’s future is in the 200/400 but this great improvement to his start and top speed will aid him greatly.
Hadji also ran a PR in the 100, notching a time of 12.45 compared to a previous best of 12.68. Hadji also long jumped 18-3, only 2 inches off his PR from a year ago, and scratched on a much bigger jump, showing that he is ready for a big breakthrough soon. Misael Herrera was less than a tenth of a second off his 100m dash PR and Chris Okoro is well ahead of his starting point from last season as well. This was a strong showing for the sprint group, despite the fact that many of the teams potential top sprinters were not attending the meet.
In the throws, the team got off to a very strong start as well. Valeria Cortez and Alejandra Ceron both threw in the high 20s in the Shot Put, and Daniel Medina threw 33-7 in the boys Shot Put. All 3 are well ahead of their early season meets a year ago. This is even more clear in the discus. Valeria ended last season with a school record of 99-9.50 after starting the season at 66 feet. She threw 97-1 at the all comers meet, indicating the Comets may have their first ever 100 foot discus girl within the week. Alejandra also threw her PR of 90 feet with an 84 foot toss. Daniel missed his PR by less than a foot throwing 92-8.
The team will be looking for girls throws to continue their dominance from last season, and for boys throws to step up to help overcome tough opponents like Yerba Buena and Independence.
The hurdlers at the meet also started off their season strong. Gustavo Aguilera ran 10.78 for the 65m hurdles, compared to a previous PR of 11.75, despite a very poor first hurdle. David Bejines ran 11.84 for his first ever hurdles race. This solid start shows that in a WVAL that was very weak in hurdles a year ago, David may be a very useful asset to the team. Valeria ran 11.30 for the 60 hurdles as well, the fastest time on record for the team in the event.
The distance team only had 4 members compete. Hugo Marquez ran 2:32 for the 800, just weeks after running 2:49 at the teams time trial. Hugo is building towards being a key future contributor to the distance team. Azael Zamora ran the 5000 and turned in a 17:34 performance. This is 16 seconds better than the time Azael ran at the end of last track season, meaning he is likely already in better shape than ever as well. Arlet Miranda turned in a similar performance, running 20:20 for the 5000, compared to a PR of 20:46 from the end of last season.
The official meets are just days away. Very soon these Comets will be joined by many others at the Willow Glen Invitational on March 4th, and then at San Jose High on March 8th for the first dual meet of the season.
The team will run a mini meet on Wednesday to practice dual meets and give a final test run to all athletes.
The team will have some strong WVAL teams to battle if it is to win a double WVAL title, and move up to the STAL for the 2018 season, and the teams/ athletes of the WVAL will be the focus of this blog.
The Comets have their eyes set on a 14-0 season in the WVAL, and a double championship as a result. The West Valley Athletic League, is admittedly , the weakest division (‘C’ division) of the BVAL. Even so, a boys title would be the 1st WVAL championship for the team since the year 2000, and only the 6th title in the more than 60 year history of boys track at James Lick. A girls title would be the 2nd title in school history on the girls side after we claimed the first one in 2016.
We as coaches preach that Track is all about progress. Whether you are an 11 second 100m runner or a 19 second 100m runner, all we can do is work within our ability to improve ourselves. There’s nothing more worth doing than working to make yourself better. As recently as 2014, the team was in the middle of a combined 74 meet losing streak, so finishing 12-2 in 2016 was a huge turnaround for us. This speaks to tremendous team-wide improvement. Progress is what is worth being proud of because progress takes dedication and willpower, regardless of talent level or competition. This focus on improvement has moved us to a more and more competitive position, to the point that we can now add the goal of WVAL championships alongside our chief goal of the improvement of every athlete on the team.
Given the nature of High School sports, it’s possible for any team in any league to have a sudden down year, or to receive an outstanding class of athletes that propel them to new heights. Time will tell what new athletes will burst on to the scene in 2017, but here are the top returning athlete from last season in each event.
Only one of the top 5 point scorers on the girls side in 2016 was a senior, meaning the girls are in an excellent place to repeat as WVAL champions. Currently the team has a small number of girls practicing, but with the winter sports season now over , the team will hopefully add many more athletes on both sides.
Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season:
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Last season, the Comet girls team lead all teams in the WVAL in distance, throws, and hurdles points at WVAL finals. Distance and throws on the girls side are poised to repeat this feat. Arlet Miranda and Daisy Nava were the teams top distance scorers last season, with Arlet finishing 2nd in both the 800 and 1600, and Daisy finishing 4th and 7th respectively. With both athletes back, the team can aim for even more points in the distance events this season.
Similarly in throws, the girls had a 1-2 finish in discus, a 2-3 finish in Shot Put. The throws team scored a whopping 86% of available dual meet points over the course of last season. The girls throwing group is growing in numbers as well, with 8 Lady Comets poised to throw for the team, including Charli Chircop returning from injury. The ability of Coach Vela’s top 3 throwers, Valeria Cortez, Alejandra Ceron and Charli, make throws a source of strength for the team. We can aim for all 18 available throws points, in virtually any dual meet we contest this season.
Keys to the team will be the development of the team in jumps, sprints and hurdles. Last seasons relay teams peaked very well for WVAL finals, finishing 2nd in the 4×100 in a minor upset, and 3rd in a tightly contested 4×400. The relay teams lost two members however, meaning new athletes will need to step up. Maria Mendoza figures to lead the sprint team, and time will tell how many athletes she brings with her from a girls soccer team that took a big step forward this season. Newcomers like freshmen Kirsten Yutuc give the team reason to be hopeful in these events.
Lyndel Ventura and Elyse Elder figure to continue leading the team in jumps. Both athletes had strong seasons last year, but struggled a bit at the very end of the season including WVAL finals. The team will be counting on them to rack up points in the horizontal jumps both at dual meets and at WVAL finals.
The hurdle events will also need athletes to step up with Andrea Ortiz (2nd in both hurdle events at WVAL last year) having graduated. The team does have 3 returning scorers from WVAL finals though, with 100h 4th place Valeria Cortez, 6th place Susie Peterson and 300 hurdles 6th place Belen Sanchez all returning. The void in the 300h is particularly concerning, as the team has no true 300 hurdler with Andrea gone. This is an event the team will be looking to new talent to fill.
Rival teams/athletes to watch
Every team in the WVAL will be treated with due respect and seriousness, but naturally some teams are more threatening than others.We won’t know more about the new athletes in the league until the season is underway, but based on last years results, here are the teams that I expect to pose the most competitive dual meets for the Comets this season on the girls side.
The 2nd place WVAL team last year was Yerba Buena.
They had a strong group of athletes in the hurdle races, and in sprints. Margarita Kirilenko in particular was one of the top 100/200 runners in the WVAL, and will be tough for any Comet runner to take down. Vanessa Ta in the 1600/3200 was also a BVAL championships qualifier and Arlet will be keying on her in the 3200 where Vanessa was able to beat Arlet both times they raced in 2016. There are 127 available points in a WVAL dual meet, meaning that 64 points is our magic number. Last year against Yerba Buena, the lady Comets scored 76, a solid victory, but our lowest margin of victory of the season. Many of Yerba Buena’s best athletes are returning, and the Comets will need to be wary of allowing victory to go the Warriors way this season. Head coach Jesus Pineda is no stranger to WVAL titles either. His boys teams won 3 straight WVAL titles in track from 2013-2015, and his girls won the 2015 WVAL title in cross country as well.
Live Oak: The Acorns were the team with the 2nd most points at WVAL finals last season. They boast the best distance runner in the entire BVAL in Kaylah Grant, making the dual with Live Oak the one dual where Arlet is unlikely to win the 1600 or 3200. Live Oak’s signature over the past few years has been a strong sprint group, winning the WVAL 4×100 title the last 3 years in a row and often advancing all the way to CCS. While their best sprinter and WVAL champion from 2016 graduated, they have two girls returning who scored in both the 100 and 200 at WVAL finals (No lady Comet scored in the 100 or 200 at WVAL finals last season by comparison).
The Comets will need to combat Live Oak’s strength in sprints with points in hurdles and throws. The dual should be god competition for both teams. As with most teams, Coach Vela’s throwing group should net the Comets many points in girls throws. Live Oak’s head coach Alberto Suarez is a throws coach as well however, and if his girls begin to follow the success of his boys (more on that later) the dual meet will be even more intense.
As the largest school in the entire CCS, Independence has a tremendous tradition in track and field. Similar to James Lick, Independence fell far from the success of its heyday in the 2000s. Current coaches head coaches, Don Barber and Khoi Tran are working hard to build their program as well. Khoi and myself especially have a bit of a friendly rivalry as we graduated only a year apart and are both back heading our former schools against each other. (We’ve also both been lucky enough to coach athletes who’ve become much faster than we were in HS).
The size of Independence, (3300 students compared to James Lick’s 1200) make it so that the 76ers can pull strong athletes out of seemingly nowhere. Last year the WVAL champion in the girls Shot Put emerged in the form of a senior who had never done track before. In terms of returners, Independence has the top returning 400m runner in the WVAL in Stephanie Justo, and the top returning 800 runner in Lydia Ma. (Lydia is a great rival for Arlet who may not compete this season due to other commitments but I for one hope she does in order to push Arlet). Based on the depth of returners on each team, the Comets should have an edge but the program in place at Independence, along with their number of students to draw from, make them a school to be wary of.
Gunderson: Gunderson head coach Joseph Miclette has built a strong program of jumpers and throwers. He has the WVAL champion in girls long jump, as well as 2nd and 3rd in triple jump all returning. He also has high scoring athletes returning in the 100, 200, 800, 1600 and 3200. Relative weakness in hurdles and Throws give the Comets and edge, though Gunderson is definitely another team to be wary of.
Others: As any team striving for success knows, every opponent needs to be taken seriously. It’s entirely possible for Overfelt, Del Mar, or San Jose to explode onto the scene with a strong team (we went from 1-6 in 2014 to 6-1 in 2015 after all). Overfelt has one of the top returning athletes in the WVAL in double hurdles champion Chrizna Milanes. Del Mar has had some strong teams in recent seasons when they get a good amount of athletes out for track, and San Jose High finally has a coach who knows track well and who will work to develop the talent that is already present on the team.
Boys Team Preview
Last year’s boys team placed 3rd in the WVAL with a 5-2 record, suffering losses to Independence and Yerba Buena. The team finished 4th in points at WVAK finals, losing to the two already mentioned teams and Live Oak. The boys team only lost one scoring athlete from WVAL finals however (Hector Ramirez who scored in both the 1600/3200) and should be much stronger this season with another hard years work in for an overall young team.
Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season:
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Last season the teams strongest areas were distance and hurdles. If the team is to pursue a WVAL title, points in these areas will be even more essential. At WVAL finals the Comet distance boys scored a whopping 38 points. The only event group from any team to yield a higher point total were boys jumps from Independence, scoring 41. The team has the top 2 returning finishers in the 1600 last season in Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo. This duo coupled with rising star Erik Olsvold make the team a very formidable force this season, and I expect the distance team to score in excess of 50 points this season at WVAL finals. The distance team will be aiming not just for WVAL titles, but for sweeps. The proscenia of strong runners like Jesse Cruz form Overfelt, and Quinlan Daley from Del Mar, make victory alone far from a certainty, but the Comets have great ambition in distance this season. We’ll be aiming for all 27 distance points at most dual meets this season.
In hurdles, the Comets had top 4 finishes in WVAL from Hadji Yono-Cruz in the 110h, and Gustavo Aguilera in the 300h. Hadji will be focusing on jumps this season however, meaning that athletes like Gustavo and Jonathan Rodriguez will need to step up to fill the teams void.
The jumps team struggled at WVAL finals and this will be a focus for the team this season. In addition to Hadji, the team has a host of newcomers who look to be ready to help the team to greater heights this season. Coach Turner is hopeful that the team will have several boys go farther than 20 feet in the Long Jump fro the first time in years.
Sprints and Throws are also key to the team being able to run the table. While coach Vela’s throwers have been dominant the past few seasons, the boys team has lacked a top level athlete since Robert Rios graduated. Alex Alonzo figures to lead the team. His discus PR of 102-0 makes it so that this is the first season that coach Vela has a returning athlete over 100 feet in the discus. Josh Garcia was recovering from injury in his last track season, but managed to score for the team at WVAL finals in the Shot Put after only one month of work. He’ll figure to combine with Alex and Daniel medina to try to earn the critical throws points the boys will need this season.
In Coach Steve’s 2nd year working with the sprinters, we’re hoping for na explosion of ability. Top returners Jose Limon and Misael Herrera figure to lead the team. After placing 4th in the 400 and 6th in the 200 at WVAL finals as a freshmen, we’re hopeful Jose will be able to spearhead a much more developed sprint corp.
We’ll need every group to come together to replicate the success of the girls team last season, and to overcome some very daunting opponents.
Rival teams/athletes to watch
The reigning WVAL champion. Independence blew everyone out of the water last season in a dominating performance. They scored 160 points last season at WVAL finals. 2nd Place Yerba Buena scored 119, and we scored 76 points in 4th. When we faced them head to head last season, we lost 86-38. This added with what I’ve already said about the school, and their ability to pull new athletes from their student body, makes them a fearsome opponent. Last year senior Devin Ary competed despite not doing track in previous years, he placed 4th in the 100, 2nd in the triple jump and 1st in the long jump at WVAL finals.
The 76ers did lose some very strong athletes however. Ivan Godinez was one athlete the Comets couldn’t beat last season. With him gone, Indy’s best runners Isiah Tulio, a sub 5 miler in his own right. Nonetheless, all 21 distance points Independence scored at WVAL finals last season were Ivan’s. Devin Ary’s 23 points are also gone. As are Anthony Ho’s 20 points from winning both the 110h and 300h. With Anthony gone, hurdles will be a critical event. The Comets will badly need to take victories there against a still strong Independence hurdles crew.
Independence is a balanced team up and down. In short, I think this will be the most competitive dual meet of my career so far as a coach, and it will have a good chance of determining the 2017 WVAL champion.
To get to the Independence dual meet undefeated however, we’ll first have to go through Yerba Buena first. Yerba Buena was the WVAL boys champion 3 years in a row before Indy unseated them last year. We fell to them in a close dual meet, 69-58, last season. 11 Points may sound like a comfortable victory, but just a switch in the 4×400 from a YB to a JL victory would make the score 64-63.
Yerba Buena was strong in sprints and jumps as well, tallying up the 2nd most points at WVAL finals. They lost the best sprinter in the BVAL in Anthony Richard to graduation however, and this loss alone could tip the scaled in the Comets favor. They have the top returning 300 hurdler in the WVAL, and have strong returners in the jumps and 400 as well. A weakness in throws makes them a bit vulnerable. Their recent track record shows they can also dig up strong athletes from nowhere, and this early season dual meet (2nd of the season) will be a huge test for the Comets. It’s been at least 10 years since James Lick beat YB in a dual meet on the boys side.
Live Oak: Live Oak has a very strong group of throwers which helped them to 92 points at WVAL finals last season. In particular, Brendan White is the reigning Shot Put champion, and finished 3rd in discus last year as well. Our dual meet against them last season was a very slim 67-59 victory. In addition to a strong returning group of throwers, Live Oak usually has a strong group of sprinters as well. The reigning WVAL champion in the 400, Damien Vasquez, is a senior now.
A weakness in distance and horizontal jumps held the team back last year, but their strong sprint corp mean they could find then athletes they need in jumps at any points. Live Oak is another strong team to watch.
Gunderson: Last year we opened the season against the Grizzlies and won by only 1 point. Gunderson typically boasts strong sprinters, and they also have a solid group of distance runners and throwers as well. Jose Alvarez returns as the WVAL champion in the 800, a title the Comets hope to win from him this season.
A lack of hurdlers gives the Comets a good area of focus against when they face Gunderson. Gunderson tallied a slightly higher point total than the Comets at WVAL finals last season, and if the team is to climb form a 4th place finish at WVAL finals, to a 1st place finish this season, they’ll need to beat out teams like Gunderson.
Others: The biggest threats to the Comets dominance in the distance events come from Del Mar and Overfelt in the form of Quinlan Daley, Chris Solorzano and Jesse Cruz. For reference, the only 3 runners of any WVAL track schools to run under 17 minutes at BVAL finals in Cross Country were Erik, Nathan, and Azael for James Lick. Quinlan from Del Mar ran 17:04 and Jesse from Overfelt ran 17:14.
As competition approaches, the Comets are gearing up to make a run at these ambitious goals, with their minds focused on training.
The team will participate in its first meet of the year with many athletes heading to the Los Gatos All comers meet this Saturday (unless it gets rained out). Rain or shine the team will see its first official competion on March 4th at the Willow Glen invitational.
A very good question my athletes sometimes ask is :who is the GOAT (Greatest of all time) of James Lick Track?
With over 60 years of history on the boys side, and over 40 years on the girls side, any school with James Lick’s history can expect to produce a number of top notch athletes. James Lick’s track history may not be as rich depth-wise as fellow East side schools like Mt. Pleasant and Independence (both have multiple CCS team titles), but the Comets have produced several athletes whose marks are on par with the best High School athletes in the State (if not the country) even today.
Marks/Times vs titles.
A big debate in the world of Track is what matters more: World records or gold medals? Time/marks or wins?
At the high school level, I would argue that striving for the best possible marks/times is a much higher calling than winning championships. There is a lot to be said for going out and competing against the athletes before you, and it makes sense to go for wins and titles whenever possible. With High School sports however, there is variation in the strength of various event groups from year to year. Exceptional athletes can fail to place highly because it is simply a deep year in their event group. Similarly, an athlete can claim titles in an event in part because of the relative weakness of an event in a given year.
One of the top athletes in James Lick history for example is Pete Moreno, a jumper in the mid 70s. Moreno is one of only 4 athletes in the entire history of the CCS (50 years) to go over 50 feet in the Triple Jump. Despite having the 3rd best Triple jump mark in CCS history, Moreno won only one league championship, and never won a CCS title. At MHAL Finals his junior year, Moreno had an off meet going only 43 feet, and coming in 4th. He would go 48 feet at CCS Finals, Comparatively, in 1954 the Comet jumper Lawrence went 42-7 to win a SCVAL title.
In short, I weigh marks/times far more heavily than titles and qualifications when considering who the best athletes are, because the later two are totally dependent on the competition of the given year and area. Times and marks however, (especially when Fully Automatic Timing is present) can be compared across era.
It should be noted that a 4:35 mile time in 1955 is more impressive than a 4:35 mile now, as shoes, track surfaces, and knowledge about training have all improved greatly over time.
My Top 5
This will necessarily be opinion, but given the full body of work that I’ve been able to find on James Lick Track’s history, this is my top 5 list of James Lick’s best ever track athletes.
5. Ruth Lebeau: Class of 2008 Triple Jump: 37-5.50 Long jump: 17-5.50
I put Ruth as the number 5 track athlete in school history, and the #1 girl in school history as well. It’s hard to make a case against the #1 girl status. Ruth is the only lady Comet to ever compete at the State Meet. Her 2nd place finish at CCS in the Triple Jump in 2008 is the only top 5 finish at CCS Finals on the girls side as well. Her Triple Jump PR of 37-5.50 is the only James Lick girls mark on the CCS top 100 list (60th place). She is one of only 6 Comet athletes of either gender to make the CCS top 100 list in general.
Ruth holds school records in all 3 jump events, with marks of 17-5 in the long jump and 4-10 in the high jump to go along with her outstanding triple jump mark. She won 4 WVAL titles in her career, 2 in the long jump and 2 in the triple. Again, Ruth suffers from having a very tough class to compete against that prevented her from winning bigger titles. In 2008, her second place finish at CCS Finals saw her lose to only Mt. Pleasant’s Vashti Thomas, the CCS record holder in the event. Because of Vashti’s presence, Ruth was never able to win a BVAL championship either, despite her outstanding prowess as jumper.
Ruth is only the 4th fastest Comet ever in the 200 and 400, and 6th fastest in the 100 completing a very impressive resume.
4. Randy Pangelina: Class of 1982 800m: 1:53.94 1600: 4:22
Randy Pangelina is one of just 3 Comets to win a CCS Championship, accomplishing the feet in 1982 with an outstanding time of 1:53.94. Randy would likely still stand as the best middle distance runner the school has ever seen, if not for the proscenia of Joe Amendt a few years later. During his tenure at James Lick, Randy set school records in both the 800 and 1600, and his 800m PR still stands at #67 on the CCS all time list. Any also holds the distinction of being the Comets first ever CCS champion, and the 2nd sectional champion in school history (Russ Ray won the NCS 880 yard run in 1957). His CCS title and membership on the CCS top 100 list put him at #4 on my ranking of best Comet athletes.
3. Henry Barba: Class of 1985 100:10.69 200: 21.57
This is probably the most difficult call on the list. Barba personally won 3 of the Comets 6 CCS titles. He won his first CCS title in 1984 in the 100, became the only James Lick athlete ever to win 2 CCS titles in the same year winning the 100/200 double in 1985. Barba is the school record holder in both the 100 and 200, with times of 10.69 and 21.57 respectively. Both of these times are still on the CCS Top 100 list, with his highest rank being 57th all time in the 100.
Barba won 4 league championships as well, wining the double at MHAL finals in both 1984 and 1985, the only Comet in school history to repeat as a double champion. His 4 league titles ties him with John Aguiar and Ruth Lebeau for the 2nd most league titles in school history behind Joe Amendt.
2. Pete Moreno: Class of 1976 Triple Jump: 50-1 Long Jump: 22-2
It’s difficult in my opinion to determine who should be ranked higher between Barba and Moreno. Pete Moreno holds claim to the 3rd best triple jump mark in CCS history. He is therefore the James Lick athlete with the highest ranking time/mark in CCS history. Moreno also holds one of the Comets best ever marks in the Long Jump at 22-2 (best I’ve found for him). His 3rd place finish at the State Meet in 1976 is the highest placing a Comet has ever achieved in the State Meet, with an outstanding mark of 50-0.75.
Moreno was jumping at an extremely competitive time in terms of jumps within the CCS. Despite his remarkable achievement of going over 50 feet on his best day, Moreno was unable to capture a CCS title due to the remarkable strength of the CCS in jumps at the time. Both as a junior and senior, Moreno placed 3rd at CCS finals with a best jump of 48-4 in 1975. That CCS mark would have won the CCS title any of the last 3 years, but again, only netted Moreno a 3rd place finish.
Moreno’s triple jump prowess puts him very high on the list, and the strength of his ability puts him just above Barba despite Barba’s better competitive success. Both athletes however are a step below the #1 athlete on my list.
1. Joe Amendt: Class of 1988 800: 1:50.75 1600: 4:18.49
Joe Amendt ran 1:50.75 for the 800m run in High School, which still stands as the 4th best 800m time in the history of the CCS. He is also one of only two Comet athletes to ever repeat as a CCS champion, winning the 800m CCS championship in 1987 and 1988 with times of 1:53 both years. He is also the only Comet on record to make it all the way to CCS Finals in each of his 4 High School seasons. He placed 4th at the State meet in 1988 for the 2nd highest placing at the State meet in school history. He’s one of only two Comet athletes to make the podium (top 8) at the State Meet.
Joe also has the most league titles of any Comet athlete, winning 5 MHAL titles, the 800 all 4 years and the 1600 as a senior to complete a distance double. In addition to his outstanding 800m school record, Joe also holds the school record in the 1600 with a converted time of 4:18. I also haven’t found any Comet athlete with a faster 400 than his 49.74 (converted) giving him the schools top 400m time on record as well. (If you know of a faster Comet time please pass it on to me).
Given his standing as the 4th fastest 800m runner in CCS history, his back to back CCS titles, his 5 league titles including 4 in a row in the 800, and his multiple school records, I think Joe Amendt deserves the status of the greatest Comet Track athlete of all time.
The Comets of today will continue to use the example of these great athletes as a point of inspiration, and strive to emulate their excellence.
As we look ahead at 2017, I thought those of you who read this blog might be interested in a little background about the current coaching staff of James Lick Track.
A little background:
As discussed at length, we are very much trying to build our program to the heights of JLTFs great programs of the past, and beyond. The earlier James Lick coaches such as Keith Antes, Carlos Saldivar, and George Carty, produced very successful athletes over their decades of coaching at James Lick.
Today we use their success as both an inspiration, and a bar to measure ourselves against. James Lick’s academics and athletics have fallen considerably from the school’s heyday, but I for one believe with enough dedication we can restore the school to its former glory, and give the east side a greater sense of pride in their local schools in general.
This is basically the 4th year that this staff has been in place with myself as the head coach since 2014. Coach Jonathan Vela came on in the same season to work with the throwers. We also had coach Juan Trejo and Ricardo Flores on that staff, working largely with the boys team. In this first year, I coached only the girls in all non throwing events.
In 2015, our staff consisted of Coach Vela in boys and girls throws, and myself in boys and girls everything else with the help of coach John Quasarano (now the head XC coach at Roberto Cruz Leadership Academy).
In 2016, Coach Steven Nichols replaced John Quasarano, and handled sprints, horizontal jumps, and hurdles for the team. This year we have added coach Christopher Turner to our staff, and he will be coaching horizontal jumps and working with Coach Steve who’ll focus on sprints and relays going forward.
Without further ado, in order of juniority:
Coach Christopher Turner Horizontal Jumps :
This is Coach Turner’s first year coaching track for the Comets. It is his 5th year coaching Track and Field, and his most recent experience was as the head coach of Yuma HS in Arizona. He competed collegiately at Binghamton university, competing in the 400 and the horizontal jumps.
He sites his proudest achievement as coaching several athletes to the Arizona State Meet. Notably, he coached two separate athletes to 3rd place finishes in horizontal jumps at the State Meet.
David Stiles long jumped 21-10 as a senior at the State meet for Coach Turner, a huge improvement on a PR of 19-1 from his junior year. On the girls side, he coached Michelle Watson from a 32 foot triple jump best as a junior, to a 35 foot triple jump best as a senior.
Coach Turner’s jumps experience is something we’re very excited to add to our staff. Boys jumps managed only 1 point at WVAL finals in 2016, and we’ll need big improvement in that area if we are to achieve our goal of a WVAL title.
Coach Steven Nichols Sprints/Relays:
This is Coach Steve’s 2nd year coaching track for the Comets. Steve competed from Homestead High School in Cupertino, and graduated in 2002. He then competed at De Anza college, focusing on the 100/200 as well as long jump and relays.
Steve has been coaching sprints for 10 years now, and has experience coaching at some of the top schools in the area, most recently Adrian Wilcox High School.
In Steve’s first year coaching sprints for the Comets, we had a very young sprints team that accomplished a lot despite their inexperience. With any program, it takes time to build top level competitive athletes, but the team as a whole took a big step forward. 9 boys ran under 13 seconds for the 100m dash in Steve’s first year, nearly doubling the amount of boys who accomplished in the previous year. The same went for the 60 second barrier in the 400, 9 athletes cracked that number compared to only 5 in 2015.
The girls team also ran the 2nd best 4×100 time in school history, and earned a 2nd place finish at WVAL finals, their best finish in over a decade. Coach Steve has expressed enthusiasm in the potential of Sophomore Jose Limon, who ran 24.22 for the 200, and 55.28 for the 400 last season, despite not joining Track until April.
I feel confident that our sprints are well attended to thanks to Coach Steve.
Coach Jonathan VelaThrows :
This is Coach Velas 4th season coaching track for the Comets and he is also the Head coach of the JV football team. Coach Vela graduated from Prospect High School and competed at Fresno State in both football and Track after that.
In the 35+ years of league finals records I’ve assembled prior to Coach Vela’s arrival, the Comets had only 2 league or division titles in throws, both in the Shot Put.
Coach Vela however, has coached a WVAL champion in each of his first 3 seasons coaching, including the first throws champion in school history on the girls side.
Robert Rios won back to back Shot Put titles for the boys in 2014 and 2015, throwing 43-2 which currently stands as the 8th best boys Shot Put mark on record for the team. He qualified for CCS trials in the Shot Put in 2015 as well. In 2016, Alejandra Ceron won the WVAL title in the girls discus, with teammate Valeria Cortez finishing 2nd. Then at BVAL championships, Valeria threw 99-9.50 to qualify for CCS trials and establish a new school record in the girls discus.
While the boys history is very rich for the Comets despite the huge amount of missing data, the girls records are far less high quality. Coach Vela has already greatly improved the Comets throws achievements list in just 3 seasons. Girl athletes coached by coach Vela hold 3 of the Top 10 spots on both of James Lick’s all time throws list. This includes namely Valiera’s school record in the girls discus and Alejandra Ceron’s #2 Shot Put placing of 31-9.
Girls throws was the teams strongest area last year and very well may be again. In order to achieve this years goal of a double WVAL championship, the team will be leaning heavily on their girl throwers, and looking to the boys throwers to step up and provide a good chunk of points for the team. Coach Vela’s leadership will be huge towards this goal.
Coach Benny Reeves Distance/Hurdles/High Jump
I ran 4 years of cross country at James Lick and graduated in 2011. I then went on to run 2 years at De Anza College. I competed in a variety of distances and even ran a few 4x400s legs for the team, but my primary event was the 3000m steeplechase.
I’ve long been a student of distance running and this is my area of speciality, though I did work with the hurdlers several times a week as Steeple work.
I am the first coach in quite a few years to head both the XC team and track team at James Lick, and I think this year long consistency has gone a long way towards building the distance program.
I’m proud of a lot of the different strides forward that the distance team has taken since I’ve been here. Daniela Camacho breaking the school record in all 3 distance events in 2015 made for a standout season. I’m also very proud of the increased depth of the distance team. From 2004-2013, the 10 seasons before I came on as coach, only 5 Comet boys broke the 5 minute barrier in the 1600. Past Comet teams have had such strength that breaking 5 minutes would not even qualify you for the teams top 3 Frosh/Soph boys.
In 2014, I did not coach boys distance, and in all honesty the fact that James Lick’s fastest distance times at WVAL finals that season were 5:30 in the 1600 and 12:08 in the 3200 frustrated me immensely.
In 2016, we had 5 different boys run under 5 minutes for the 1600, and 4 run under 11 minutes for the 3200. The James Lick teams of the past continue inspire myself and my distance runners, and we continue to work towards emulating their success every season. This season we are aiming for the goal of having 3 different Comet boys under 4:40 for the 1600, a feat which would have been a solid accomplishment during virtually any James Lick track era.
Coming off a STAL championship and 2nd place finish at BVAL Finals in cross country, I expect the boys distance team to carry the team as much as possible towards our goal of a WVAL title. At many duals, we will be aiming to take home all 27 available points in distance events, to make up for some of our developing areas.
In hurdles the team has made improvements each year, and we do well in the event at dual meets because half of the WVAL teams have no hurdles coach. Replacing the void left by Andrea Ortiz will be huge to repeating as WVAL champions on the girls side.
On the boys side, hurdles will likely be a critical event in the struggle to claw a WVAL title away from reigning champion Independence HS, a team that dominated in hurdles last year thanks to standout senior Anthony Ho.
This is year 4 of our program building for track. In the 5 years previous to myself and coach Vela coming on as coaches, the team went a combined 0-69-1. In the 3 years since we have gone 2-12, 10-4, and then 12-2 for a combined 24-18 record.
The students are the #1 reason for the turn around in track. Their ability to commit themselves, recruit, and compete, is what has taken James Lick from the cellar of the WVAL, to the pinnacle of it. We as coaches will do the best we can to make sure that the Comets get more improvement from their hard work, than our rival schools foster in their athletes.