The 2018-2019 school year has begun and with it, the team completed their annual North Rim trail time trial. This has been a team tradition since 2009, with the team starting at the Alum Rock Park entrance, running the north rim trail and finishing at the entrance once again. The course is 3.03 miles, and it is a great indicator of where the team stands, because every course the team will race on should yield a faster time.
With this being the 10th year of our “North Rim Time Trial” to start the school year, we have a solid amount of data to make projections with. We run the course again, later in the season to track progress. Our main goal is for each athlete to start the season faster than they started the previous year, putting them on track for PRs (personal records) as the season goes on.
Mark Orpia was the fastest Comet on the day, running 20:10. This is the first time since 2014 that no Comet ran under 20 minutes for the course at the beginning time trial. Despite this fact, there is a lot of reason for optimism. Last season, Mark began the season by running 22:06, nearly 2 minutes slower than his time this year. He was followed by Jerricho Habon in 20:25. Jerricho put a hard summer of work in, and the results show. Jerricho’s PR was 21:38, a mark he demolished despite it being the infancy of the season.
Erik Olsvold in 20:35 and Brandon Cruz in 20:59 rounded out the team’s top 4. While last year, Azael Zamora spearheaded the team by running 17:54 at this time trial, only one other boy (Inteus Lopez) ran under 21 minutes for the trial, compared to 4 this season. Inteus would go on to run 16:37 at Montgomery Hill and 17:30 at Crystal Springs, both high quality ‘B’ division times. If the team’s top 4 from today run anywhere near that, the team will be a force to be reckoned with.
The next boy in was Jared Resendiz in a 4 minute PR of 21:54. Geovanny Campos and Melvin Estrada were next in 22:15 and 22:27. While it was a bad day for Melvin, it was a very strong showing for Geo, one of the team’s top sprinters in track, who only joined cross country in late July. Daniel Portillo and Nien Tran were the next boys in 22:32 and 22:34, with Arlet Miranda finishing as the first girl just ahead of them. Nien and Daniel are both well ahead of last season, where both boys ran over 23 minutes for the course. Arlet’s time of 22:32 is the best girls time to start the season of any Comet girl for the North Rim Course. The Previous best was 23:06 by Arlet last season. In her senior year, Arlet looks ready to lead the girls team to big accomplishments.
Gustavo Madrigal and Omar Fimbres came in together at 23:43 and 23:45 respectively, adding depth to the team. Jonathan Cortez came in at 24:41, not far ahead of the #2 girl on the team, Yeimili Adame who ran a 1 minute PR of 24:57. Alberto Trejo, Rodolf Ocampo and Adrian DeLaRosa finished in the 27 minute range, just ahead of a pack of lady Comets.
Ashley Preciado (28:10) Belen Sanchez (28:13) Yesenia Martinez (28:16) and Erika Camacho (28:26) ran the time trial as a pack. Last season, the girls team managed to run the 6th fastest James Lick team time ever at Crystal Springs, on their way to a middle of the pack finish at BVAL Finals (16th out of the 24 teams). That years team saw Arlet run 23:06 at the time trial, followed by Belen in 33:41 and Ashley in 34:12 as the 2nd and 4th girls respectively. With all that the team of 2017 was able to manage, it’s clear that the team of 2018 has very high hopes indeed.
Jenny Villagomez was next in 30:18, with top freshmen Ruth Rodriguez not far behind in 30:27. a solid time to start the season. Mya Hammond and Emely Lopez both finished at 32:57, and Estefani Herrera ran 34:18. This trio has improved leaps and bounds since a year ago. To start last season, Emely ran 39:05, Mya ran 41:04 and Estefani ran 44:06.
Kirsten Yutuc ran 34:37 for a 3 minute PR, and Giulissa Correa came in at 35:14 as the next girl across. Josh Merin ran 31:21 for his first time on the course. Angel, Sebastian and Idan, 3 newcomers from the soccer team ran 32:10, 34:27 and 35:18 for their very first practice to round out the boys day.
Krystal Tran, Ellie Castro and Francine Estranero came in together at 37:50. Jessalyn Santos, sister of top thrower Mariah Santos, came across in 38:16 for her first time on the course. Fellow freshmen Mia Hammond and Angelina Guevara came through in 39:42. Adriana Marcelino and Araceli Mejia also cracked the 40 minute barrier, running 39:46 and 39:50 respectively. Morayma ended the Comets day by clocking 51:59 for the course.
When all was said and done, 43 Comets contested the time trial, a new high for the team to start the season. Many showed dramatic improvement, and the team can be very optimistic about what is to come.
The team will not race again until the Alumni Race on Friday August 31st. It will be in Alum Rock Park at 6 P.M. All former Comets are invited to come, whether they want to race or not.
This is a long post where I essentially try to divide up James Lick’s XC history into eras. If you’re into that sort of thing, read on at your own peril.
It is never easy to compare across eras in sports. Many American sports have radically changed over time. Pitchers used to pitch 16 inning complete games, football teams hardly employed the passing game, Steph Curry could not have dominated in the days before the 3-point line.
One of the beauties of Cross Country and track is the relative lack of change over the years. Dirt and cinder tracks have evolved into rubber/synthetic tracks. Shoes have gotten better. Beliefs around training have changed and participation in the sport has only grown. Some events and courses have changed, but there is a lot of history around the Bay Area when it comes to Cross Country.
The ultimate example is the Crystal Springs 2.95 miles long cross country course. James Lick first raced there in 1973, and then every year since 1975 for a grand total of 44 years of history. This is enhanced by the fact that Crystal Springs has always hosted significant races. It is the site of BVAL Finals every year nowadays, and it has been the host site of CCS Finals more years than any other course (and it will be host again this year).
Remarkably, James Lick is approaching it’s 70th year of existence, the school has plenty of years to compare. This will be my attempt to compare James Lick’s various eras of XC. It is of course subjective, and damaged the difficulty finding complete information on James Lick’s older teams.
The Early Years/ NCS Era Years: 1950-1965 League Championships: 3 Highest Section Finish: 4th- 1956 Team Section qualifications: 3 (16 possible)
James Lick was founded in 1950, the school predates the CCS. It was the first public school in East Side San Jose, and the first member of the East Side Union High School District. San Jose was a different city at by many measures. Today, San Jose ranks as the 10th biggest city in the country by population, with over 1 million residents. I can’t find data from 1950, but by 1960, San Jose was only the 57th biggest city in the country, with 200,000 people.
James Lick had a bigger school enrollment in the early years, seeing as it was the only school on the Eastside, there was no other school to compete with for students. Despite James Lick being a new school, it found success in cross country quickly.
James Lick was initially placed in the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) and by 1954 they were the league championships on the 1.95 miles long, Stanford Golf Course. The Comets defeated runner up Santa Clara by almost 5 minutes. Keith Antes is listed as the winner of the race. Before the CCS was formed, Antes would become James Lick’s cross country coach.
The team managed to repeat as champs in 1955 and 1956, one of two different “three-peats” in James Lick’s cross country history. The fastest Comet in 1955 at SCVAL finals was Carlos Saldivar, who would go on to coach with Keith Antes for many years and then head the team himself when Antes retired.
After their 3-league championships, James Lick experienced a down-period where they did not qualify for NCS (North Coast Section) finals for several years. The end of their time in the NCS was fairly unremarkable. The 50s and early 60s saw the foundation of several other East Side Schools, including Overfelt, Mt. Pleasant, and Andrew Hill.
The Mt. Hamilton League and the CCS (Central Coast Section) were formed within a few years of one another, and by the time they were formed, the Comets had 3 titles to their name.
The level of competition in the bay area would see a big spike in the 60s and 70s.
2. The Early CCS Era Years: 1965-1976 League Championships: 0 Highest Section Finish: 1 (1 championship) Team Section qualification: 4 Var 3FS (12 possible)
The MHAL formed in the mid 1960s and became competitive very quickly. James Lick was consistently competitive from the get go. The Comets were first represented at CCS finals by Mick Coyle in 1966. He ran on a shorter version of the current Crystal Springs course. By 1970 the Comets had their first team qualify for CCS.
In the mid 1960s, the MHAL began using Alum Rock Park as it’s primary course. The 2.25 mile course was only slightly different than the course we use for our alumni race.
1970 was significant for a few reasons. It marked the first time that the CCS added divisions to CCS finals. They created a small schools division and a large schools division. The James Lick team of 1970 won the small schools division, claiming the only CCS championship in school history in any sport. Jim Sena claimed the individual CCS title in 12:39 for a 2.5 mile course (at least that’s what it’s listed at) in Golden Gate Park. Teammate Luis Sanchez was 2nd in 12:49.
Everything lined up for the team of 1970. A year later, the team failed to qualify for CCS. The teams of the early 80s ran more impressive times, but the team of 1970 achieved what no other James Lick team ever has.
In the mid 70s, James Lick began making regular trips to Crystal Springs for Center meets, invitationals, and eventually CCS. While James Lick was a bigger school in the 70s, the Crystal Springs course is exactly the same as it was then, making comparisons easy. The team of 1973 team ran a combined team time of 82:25, which still stands as the 3rd best Crystal Springs time in school history. Both the team of 1973 and the team of 1970 ran 61 minutes as a team at MHAL finals for an impressive average of 12:12 per runner at Alum Rock Park. This makes it a tough call to name the best James Lick team to this point.
In 1975 at CCS finals, Joe Salazar ran 15:21 at Crystal Springs, a time which no Comet has beaten to this day. To this point, we’ve only discussed boys teams because girls competition did not start until the mid 1970s.
3. The Golden Era Years: 1976-1989 League Championships: 7
Highest CCS Finish: 4 1981 CCS Team Qualifications: 6
In 1978 James Lick won it’s 4th league title, and the first one in the MHAL. By this time, the Comets also had girls competing. The greatest teams in James Lick history are the teams of 1980 and 1981 in my opinion. The Comet boys won the MHAL in both seasons, and the girls won the MHAL title in 1981 as well. This is the only time that both the boys and girls teams have been champions in the same year. The 3 titles in a 2 year span is also a James Lick best.
The girls team ran a record of 1:46:41, at Crystal Springs. This is still the only James Lick girls team to combine to finish the course under 1 hour and 50 minutes (something we’re trying to change this year). The boys team of 1981 also ran what stands as our school team record time. Headed by Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina, the team clocked in at 80:46, an average of 16:09 per boy. In some years this is good enough to win CCS, bad luck and tough competition stopped the Comets from claiming that prize. The teams of 80 and 81 also won the Artichoke Invitational two years in a row.
While the girls achieved great success early in the decade, they would struggle to consistently field competitive teams, an issue that would continue well into the 2000s.
The success I’ve already described is a enough to explain why I call this the golden era of James Lick Cross Country. The fact that the Comets would achieve their 2nd ever “three-peat” from 1985-1987 further proves the case. James Lick has achieved 15 league/league-division championships in it’s long history. Nearly half come from this 14 year span.
As I’ve said, Crystal Springs is the course with the most complete history (44 years) for the Comets. The team of 1981 was the fastest Comet team ever on the course. The team of 1977 was 2nd, the team of 1987 was 4th, the team of 86 was 5th. In fact over the last 44 years, 8 of the fastest 10 James Lick teams at Crystal Springs ran in this golden era of James Lick cross country.
4. Transition Era/ Early BVAL Era Years: 1990-2001 League/ Division Championships: 2
CCS Team Qualifications: 11 Highest CCS Finish: 5th – 1992
This era marks the transition into the BVAL era, where the MHAL becomes a division of the larger BVAL. There were several changes during this time period. The CCS arrived at its modern format, a 5 division final with only varsity races. Qualification became easier as a result. At this point, James Lick’s academic reputation had fallen considerably, and its athletics suffered from a general decline of enrollment. The 3 division format of the BVAL ( that we still use today). Montgomery Hill and Toro Park were introduced as major courses, and finally, Coach Saldivar would retire shortly after this era ended.
While James Lick was in decline during this period by many measures, it still achieved considerable XC success. With the changes to CCS qualifications (with League finals taking the place of the CCS regional meets) the Comet boys made CCS as a team every single year from 1992 to 2001. In 1993, the lady Comets qualified for CCS as a team for the first time and they did so again in 2001.
The team captured two division titles, one in 1996 and another in 1999. Both times the Comets won the ST division (‘B’) division title. An impressive feet considering most James Lick sports had been relegated to the ‘C’ division by this time. The team also had 5 of their 7 State Meet qualifiers during this period. This is largely because of the fact that the State meet wasn’t held until 1987, when Joe Amendt became the team’s first ever qualifier.
5. BVAL/Modern Era Years: 2002- Present League/Division Championships: 3
CCS Team Qualifications: 13 Highest CCS Finish: 6th- 2014
Finally we arrive at the modern era. The beginning of this era saw James Lick finish it’s decline. In 2003, though the school was struggling, the varsity boys were the 3rd best team in the entire BVAL. By 2007, the team time at Crystal Springs was 97:40. This is the slowest varsity boys team time on record for any James Lick team that ran at Crystal Springs. While the girls team was pretty strong, mainly because of the presence of Kayla Matsuda, they were not strong enough to win the WV division (‘C’ division). This was the low point in James Lick’s XC trajectory.
In 2009, the team rebounded to win the WV division on the boys side, the 12th title in school history. In 2014, the team won just their 2nd ever girls championship, and in 2016, the boys won the ST division, just the 1st ‘B’ division title for the school in any sport since 2004.
In years to come, I may create a new dividing line around these past few years, because of a new notable changes. First and foremost, this is the greatest era of success the James Lick girls have ever achieved. While the #1 girls team time in school history is still the team of 1981, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th are the past 5 seasons. The 2014 team placed 6th at CCS, the highest finish for a Comet girls team at CCS in school history.
This era could easily be called the Montgomery Hill era, as Montgomery Hill became the primary race course of the BVAL in 2001. We still had races at Alum Rock Park over the 2.85 mile course most seasons, but as of 2018, sadly there will be no more races at Alum Rock Park.
We will continue to run the alumni race on the old 2.25 mile course, but unfortunately, there might never be an official race in Alum Rock Park again. This might make 2018 and on the “post Alum Rock Park era.” Time will tell if there’s enough to distinguish it from past years.
It’s difficult to know what we as a school could do now if we didn’t have to fight so many schools for student enrollment. It’s tough to say what runners of the past might have done with modern technology. In any case, James Lick cross country has achieved some level of success in every era, and the Comets of today are dedicated to making sure that continues.
A season preview and/or Time trial recap will come soon. The first day of school is only 9 days away!