Comets Tune up for League Meets with Alumni Race

The 2019 edition of the James Lick Alumni Race took place on Friday August 30th in Alum Rock Park.  With the team’s first league meet of the just days away, the Alumni Race was critical for coach Raul and myself to determine who would run on which squad for the team.

We were fortunate to have a myriad of esteemed alumni in attendance, and several made a big impression on the race itself. The 2.25 mile course is shorter than the Comets league races, but it provides a good indicator of a runners potential nonetheless.

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Just before the race began 

 

The first Comet to cross the line was Mark Orpia in a strong time of 13:22. Over the past 15 years of alumni races, only 2 Comets have run faster on the alumni course, Azael Zamora, and Nathan Bernardo, two of the spearheads of the 2016 league championship team.  Mark’s time was a 1:10 second PR and puts him in a very strong place to start the season. He should already be able to attack his PR at Montgomery Hill despite the earliness of the season.

The next finisher was Joe Amendt, the legendary Comet from the class of 88. Joe finished in 13:43, nearly 30 seconds better than his 14:10 clocking from a year ago. He passed Nien Tran on the downhills, where Nien typically struggles. Nien nonetheless finished in a PR of 13:55, a PR by 1:20. Branon Cruz was next in 14:01, a 40 second PR for him as well, giving the Comets a much stronger 1-2-3 punch where the top runners were Erik Olsvold at 13:50, Jerricho Habon at 14:06, and Melvin Estrada at 14:34.

Azael Zamora and Erik Olsvold ran together, finishing in 15:04, and Omar Fimbres impressed running 15:10. Jerricho had a very rough race, but is normally close to Brandon and Nien. As Such, the real question mark on the boys squad is around the 5th boy, and Omar’s performance helped to ease some of those concerns. Geovanny Campos ran 15:39, and Melvin Estrada ran 16:08 to round out the varsity group.

Alumni Don Mora was the next runner in, stopping the clock at 16:44, a big improvement over his 18:01 from last year. Josh Merin and Rodolf Ocampo came in together at 17:04 and 17:08, both big PRS. Hugo Marquez followed close behind in a 30 second PR of 17:22 to give the reserve team a solid trio.

Jessica Cervantes ran a strong time of 17:36, demonstrating hwo rapidly she has become the team’s heir apparent to recent graduate Arlet Miranda. Jessica isn’t quite at the elite ‘B’ division level of Arlet and her preceder, Daniela Camacho (they both ran in the low 16s at Alumni) but her mid 17 clocking makes her just the 4th girl this decade to break 18 for the course. The girls team has a a lot to feel good about, more on that later.

Ronaldo Castillo was the top freshmen of the day, running 17:48, a promising time on the course. For reference, Nien is working towards his 3rd consecutive CCS appearance in XC, and as a freshmen, he ran 17:34 at the alumni race, very comparable to the time Ronaldo managed.

Luis Escamilla as another reserve boy finished in a solid 18:26, followed by #2 Lady Comet Mya Hammond. The fact that Mya ran faster than Belen Sanchez and Yeimili Adame did in 2018 is very encouraging. It was a massive PR as a year ago Mya only managed a time of 21:11. She would not be the last lady Comet to really stand out.

Abraham Benitez, and Navbir Kahlon, newcomers to the team came in together at 18:49 and 18:50. Freshmen Daisy Flores and Justin Nguyen came in together at 18:55 as well. Daisy looks to be the next in a strong line of a good Comet family. Daisy’ brother, Ricardo Flores, was a friend and teammate of mine on the 2009 WV  (‘C’) division championship. Ricardo and I battled for status as the #1 runner on the team senior year, and he ended his HS career with a strong PR of 4:41 in the 1600. Daisy looks to have the genes for running, along with the work ethic, and she’s established herself as a runner to watch going forward. Her cousin, Brianna Flores, was a member of the 2014 WV division championship team. We’ll have to make sure that Daisy isn’t the only runner in her family without a league title.

Not far back was Omar Sanchez in 19:04. Omar has improved dramatically over the course of the summer and along with Carlos Nava in 19:20, (brother of Daisy Nava, scoring member of the 2016 and 2017 WV division championship track teams) gives the team 4 dedicated freshmen to work with going forward.

This insurgency of youth was badly needed. Of our top 10 boys at the alumni race, only 1 was not a senior (Omar Fimbres, junior). Our goal is to try to have these boys ready to be quality ‘B’ division varsity boys by next season.

Just before Carlos finished, Emely Lopez came across as girl #4 in a great performance, running 19:18. This is faster than key runner Ashley Preciado managed last year when she ran 19:27. Alumni John Acosta came in right with Carlos Nava in 19:20, with freshmen Alexa Rodriguez, and Senior Yesenia Martinez finishing in 19:34, and 19:40 respectively. Ashley had an off day but still ran 19:52, and Lizbeth Espana, a standout in track now trying XC for the first time, ran 19:53. Estefani Herrera just missed the barrier running 20:01.

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The team after the race

 

 

The 20 minute barrier is significant as it has always signified a standard for the varsity girls. In my 6 years of coaching, we have never been worse than the 16th best team at BVAL finals, we’ve always been at least middle of the pack. Last year we managed 12th, a top half finish and in 2014 we were 8th. In all those years, the highest total of girls we’ve had who could run under 20 minutes at the alumni race was 5. That was last year, when Arlet, Yeimili, Belen, Ashley and Yesenia did so. That group went on to place 12th at BVAL’s WITHOUT Yeimili, our then #2 runner.

Despite Yeimili’s absence today, the team had 8 girls under 20, and Estefani missed by less than 1 second. Our JV girls team has been a BVAL powerhouse the past few years, but this year is going to be special in that regard because of the sheer depth on the team. We will be aiming for a top 5 finish at BVALS on the JV girls side.

Huu Thai was the next Comet in at 20:02, just beating out alumni Andres Rosas. Ruth Rodriguez and Mariana Perez ran PRS of 20:14 and 20:18. Erika Camacho took a step forward from her time trial result, running 21:12. Melanny Sanchez and Kaylena Gil finished in 21:59 and 22:46 respectively, adding even more depth to the JV girls. Jason Garcia finished in 23:06. Deisy Carlos ran 24:43. Emily DeLaRosa and Francia Castro ran 30:22 and 30:25 and alumni Nancy Reed finished the race with a clocking of 33:07.

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The Alumni in attendance, including long time James Lick coach Keith Antes (3rd from right)

 

The Comets have a lot to feel good about, and the season is here! The team will take on Prospect and Independence in their first league meet of the season on Wednesday September 4th at Montgomery Hill. Then, they will head to Golden Gate Park for the Lowell Invitational on Saturday September 7th.

The season is here and exciting times are ahead!

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

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James Lick Cross Country Season Preview 2019

The 2019 school year is under way and with it, another cross country season for the James Lick Comets. This marks a significant milestone, as the 2019 iteration of the team will mark the 70th year of James Lick’s existence.

In the nearly 70 years of James Lick cross country, the school has managed 15 league/ division championships, (13 boys, 2 girls) more than any other James Lick sport. It is also the only James Lick sport I know of that has achieved a CIF section title, winning a CCS boys title in 1970.

As we head into the school year, James Lick stands as the smallest school in the entire 24 team BVAL. Despite this fact, in 2018 the team managed a combined 9-5 record in the ‘B’ division, placing 10th of the 24 teams at league finals on the boys side, and 12th on the girls.

By any measure we were a middle of the pack team, despite being at a huge disadvantage in terms of sheer enrollment to draft talent from. The 2019 team is aiming to build on this status, and take steps towards an even better year this season.

With these goals in mind, we completed our annual time trial of the 3.03 mile north rim course from the park entrance. We’ve used this course to track our athletes fitness since 2009, and I am personally a big fan of the course for the sheer fact that it is a slower course than any the team will run this year. Typically, a varsity boy will run 2 minutes faster at our league races at Montgomery hill, and 1 minute faster at Crystal Springs (our league finals and CCS course) than they can run for our north rim time trial course.

Obviously our team is not in their peak shape with 11 weeks until league finals, but we go in with the hope that our returning runners will be ahead of where they were a year ago at this time of year.

Our top boy runner immediately achieved more than this. Last year, Mark Orpia ran 20:10 to lead the team at our pre-season time trial. He would go on to run 16:19 at Montgomery Hill (8th all time in the 18 year school-history of the course) and spearhead a top 10 BVAL team at Crystal Springs with a time of 17:36.

Mark opened the season with a time of 18:14, the 3rd best time any Comet has recorded on the course, and the 2nd fastest early season time next to only the 17:53 clocking of Azael Zamora in 2017, a year that would see Azael get on the school’s all time-list at Crystal springs with a time of 16:17. This goes to show that Mark is in phenomenal shape, and he should be one of the best James Lick runners of the BVAL era if he can continue to improve on his current form.

As stated, Mark had a very strong 2018 after starting off at 20:10 for this time trial.This makes us very pleased with the 19:31 time by Nien Tran and the 19:43 time of Brandon Cruz as the 2nd and 3rd boys. Both boys are more than a minute ahead of their times from last year. It was even a 5 second PR for Brandon. Jerricho Habon had an off race but was still near his time from last year, stopping the clock at 20:45. The 5th boy on the team was a close race between Omar Fimbres, 23:17 Melvin Estrada, 23:25, and Hugo Marquez 23:31.  Hugo is working his way back to health after an injury plagued 2018, while Omar and Melvin are coming in off of a summer where they were not training with the team. These boys will need to narrow the gap between themselves and the top 4 to help the team reach it’s potential, which I see as a top 8 BVAL team.

The first girl across was Jessica Cervantes who has looked like a breakout runner all summer long. Jessica finished in 24:51, 3 seconds off of her PR but way ahead of where she was at to start last season. With the graduation of Arlet Miranda (2nd best female  XC runner in school history) just months ago, the team will need athletes like Jessica to step up.

Josh Merin ran 25:42 compared to a 31 minute clocking a year ago, and Rodolf Ocampo was more than a minute up on last year’s time as well. The next boys in were Luis Escamilla in 27:14, Jay Austria 27:16, Abraham Benitez in 27:40 and Josue Gomez in 27:43. These boys were sandwiched between a stream of rapidly improving lady Comets.

Mya Hammond ran 27:07, Ashley Preciado ran 27:32. Ruth Rodriguez (27:45) Emely Lopez (27:48) Estefani Herrera (27:50) and Alexa Rodriguez (28:14) came in close together, displaying the team’s formidable depth on the girls side. Depth will absolutely be the strength of a team full of girls who have transformed themselves into varsity caliber runners through sheer hard work and dedication.

When they began their careers, Mya, Emely and Estefani ran North Rim in 39:05, 41:04 and 44:06 respectively. I can’t say enough about these 3 who helped form the core of an undefeated JV girls team last year. None of them broke the 30 minute barrier to start least season’s trial, nor did Ruth. The addition of Ruth’s sister Alexa only makes this group stronger. The same goes for the knowledge that Yeimili Adame, Mariana Perez, and Erika Camacho all had very rough days by their standards. Even with those girls struggling, (The #1, #4 and #5 returning girls on the team based on last year’s times) the team has never produced more girls under the 30 minute barrier to start the year than the 9 the team managed this year. Yesenia Martinez (28:54) and Lizbeth Espana (29:10) both accomplished the feet as well.

Some of the younger boys on the team came across the line around this time as well. Navbir Kahlon, Ronaldo, and Justin Nguyen came across in 28:41, 28:52 and 29:00 as the 2nd 3rd and 4th  frosh/soph boys. Huu Thai ran 29: 14 not far behind. Two more freshmen, Carlos Nava and Omar Sanchez finished in 30:06 to give the team 6 frosh/soph boys at or under 30 minutes.

These times might not be particularly fast yet, but we have a great recent track record of rapidly improving frosh/soph boys around those times. Gustavo Aguilera for example, ran 31:50 in his first try on the course as freshmen. As a senior, he would run 19:10 and was the 5th boy on the school’s 2016 ‘B’ division championship team.

The team can look at similar examples like Nien Tran and Omar Fimbres. Both boys failed to run under 27 minutes at their first time as freshmen, but both boys were CCS caliber runners by the end of their sophomore years. In short, if these boys are dedicated, we have great confidence that they will improve by leaps and bounds.

Melanny Sanchez and Caylena Gil finished in 30:51 and 31:00 adding yet more depth to the girls team. It’s crazy to think that just 2 years ago only 1 girl on the entire team ran under 33 minutes at this time trial to start the season.

Emily De Dios and Jayson Garcia finished in 36:47 and 37:45. Alex Rios and Marisol Carlos rounded out the group in the 47 minute range.

As the team looks ahead at the season, the depth of the girls team should give the team a good shot at a 2nd consecutive winning season in the ‘B’ division. It should also produce an absolutely lethal JV girls team. Last year at the final division race our JV girls achieved a perfect score against every team except Sobrato, as our girls finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th overall. This year’s JV girls team should be even better as no girl on the JV squad has aged out of it.

On the boys side, the focus will be on having a strong top 5, and on developing the freshmen boys to be ready to replace our senior heavy group next season. Especially if Melvin Estrada can find his form, the boys team will be a force to be reckoned with.

The team will contest the Alumni Race on August 30th  in Alum Rock Park at 6:00 P.M. Any alumni, fans of James Lick, or runners in the area are welcome.

After that the team will have it’s first league meet of the season on the early date of September 4th at Montgomery Hill.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

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The team after the time trial.