Comparing Eras of James Lick Cross Country

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.

  1. 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.

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2014 BVAL Champions -WV

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.

 

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2016 BVAL Champions – ST

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.

Conclusion 

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!

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

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James Track Moves Up To ‘B’ division for 2018 Season: 2017 Season Summary

The 2017 Track season was another step forward for the James Lick Comets. I am happy to announce that with the BVAL meetings having concluded, the James Lick track team will be officially be placed in the ‘B’ division for the 2018 season. The strength of the team’s past few seasons, especially  the 2017 season, is what catapulted the team out of the WVAL.

The old local leagues of the BVAL, the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League) the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) merged together in 1996 to form the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League). The BVAL is a 24 team ‘power league’ with the 3 former leagues operating as an ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ division.

The BVAL formed at a point where James Lick was well past it’s heyday in most sports. The track team of James Lick for example, was placed in the ‘C’ division from the very beginning of the BVAL era (like most James Lick sports) and has remained there ever since. 20 seasons of the BVAL era have passed with James Lick in the ‘C’ division every single season. That is all set to change in the 2018 season.

James Lick will compete against the teams of the STAL, with Andrew Hill moving down to replace James Lick in the WVAL. The ‘B’ division was won by Pioneer on the boys side, and Evergreen on the girls side. Other teams in the STAL are: Prospect, Lincoln, Sobrato, Oak Grove, and Piedmont Hills. We will be fully focused on trying to prove we belong in the STAL division, by achieving a middle of the pack finish in our first year in the division.

Now a look back at the season that moved us up. With any luck, we will look back on the 2017 season as the last season James Lick was in the ‘C’ division for track and field.

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Some of the Track Team after the Team Banquet in Alum Rock Park

 

We began conditioning as a team in January. At this early stage we had a large number of boys out, but the majority of our girls were participating in Winter sports. We had the goal all season of trying to win the WVAL on both the boys and girls side.

We came close, going a combined 13-1 for a girls title, narrowly missing the boys.

Here is a breakdown of scoring by event for the 2017 season:

Boys : 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 24.31 27 90% 49
Hurdles 15.14 18 84% 22
Jumps 15 27 55% 17.5
Relays 5 10 50% 13
Sprints 13.14 27 48% 18
Throws 12.85 18 71% 8

Girls 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 16.41 27 60% 32
Hurdles 14.35 18 79% 26
Jumps 17.85 27 66% 28
Relays 3.5 10 35% 10
Sprints 8.56 27 32% 0
Throws 17.27 18 96% 45

Both hurdle squads, the girls throws teams and boys throws teams were very dominant in the WVAL. They will look to lead the team next season as the team takes on the STAL.

The team’s top point scorers were:

  1. Valeria Cortez: 130 points 
  2. Cody Huoch: 99 points
  3. Arlet Miranda: 99 points
  4. Erik Olsvold: 80 points
  5. Lyndel Ventura: 75 points
  6. Nathan Bernardo: 70 points
  7. Azael Zamora: 65 points
  8. Alejandra Ceron: 63 points
  9. Jonathan Rodriguez: 61 points
  10. Ace Medina: 53 points

As the team heads up a division, an encouraging note is that all 5 of the teams top point scorers are not seniors, as are 8 of the teams top 10. The team will need a good returning group of athletes in order to compete at the next level.

At the Willow Glen Invitational, many athletes competed for the team and things looked very promising. Jose Limon began the season with times of 11.97 and 24.40 for 100/200 both of which were top 5 finishes for the meet’s frosh/Soph division. This was a fantastic start to the year as no Comet had run under 12 seconds in 2016. Unfortunately, at the very first dual meet of the season, Jose aggravated his hamstring running the 4×100 and never fully recovered, effectively losing his very promising sophomore year.

One of the sprinter’s who stepped up the most in Jose’s absence was Misael Herrera, the team’s next best Sophomore sprinter. Misael opened the season at 12.80 for the 100 and 26.70 for the 200. Over the course of the season, he worked his way down to big PRS of 12.30 for the 100, 24.56 for the 200, and 56.48 for the 400. By the end of the season, Ace Medina would be the team leader in the 100/200 with PRS of 11.68 and 24.17, despite opening the season at 12.70. Cody Huoch would run 24.40 as well to give the team 4 boys under 25 seconds in the 200, a big improvement over the 1 athlete from 2016. The team scored points at WVAL finals in all 3 boys sprint events for the first time since I’ve been coaching.

In the girls sprint events, the team lost their #1, #2, and #3 sprinters from 2016, putting the team in a tough spot. Silvia Amaya emerged as the team’s top sprinter on the side. She opened the season at 15.20 at Willow Glen and worked her way down to 14.30 by seasons end, scoring points for the team in many dual meets along the way. Freshmen Yeimili Adame emerged mid-season as a potential standout athlete, demonstrating impressive range in the two meets she competed in before becoming academically ineligible. We hope she’ll return as a force next season.

This was the first season that the team’s jumpers were under the tutelage of coach Christopher Turner. In this one season, the future strength of the team’s jumpers was shown through massive improvement. Juan Gutierrez opened his season with jumps of 15-2 for the long jump and 31-1 for triple jump. He would end up with PRS of 17-8.50 and 36-3.  Freshmen Jamie Vong had the most encouraging improvement, going from 31-0 at our first dual meet in triple jump, to 37-6 at WVAL finals. He also went from 14-4 in the long jump to 16-10. Hadji Yono-Cruz lead the team in long jump with a leap of 18-3.  Cody Huoch lead the team with a triple jump of 39-4 at WVAL finals.

On the girls side, Lyndel Ventura finally broke the 15 foot barrier officially with help from coach Turner. She started the season at 13-3 and 25-2, and worked her way up to 15-3 and 28-10.50 by WVAL finals. Kirsten Yutuc joined the jumps crew late in the season, but in a very short amount of time went from 12-10 to 13-9 and from 27-7 to 29-10. I’m very excited about the future of these athletes under coach Turner, only bigger things are ahead.

The team also had a much improved season in the high jump. Elyse Elder achieved a PR of 4-8 to take 2nd at WVAL finals, the highest placing by a JL girl at WVAL finals ever. Jonathan Rodriguez went 5-6 and Ace went 5-8 to give the team two boys who scored pints at WVAL finals, after having none the year before.

The hurdles team also took a big step forward. Two boys ran 44 seconds for the 300 hurdles, and Cody Huoch won the team its first ever league title in the event at WVAL finals. Cody also ran the best 110 hurdles time in years for the Comets, clocking 17.16. Hadji also broke the 18 second barrier running 17.83. Jonathan and Gustavo Aguilera ran under 19 seconds to give the team 4 boys under that mark, compared to only two last year.

Valeria Cortez captured the WVAL title in the 100 hurdles with a PR of 16.75, good for #3 in school history. She also brought her 300 hurdles PR down significantly to 52.12. Susie Peterson did the same thing by running 58.99, and Kirsten Yutuc ran a strong freshmen time of 54.44 in the event, as well as running under 20 seconds for the 100 hurdles.

The girls distance team stared the season with some difficulties. Arlet Miranda opened her season at Willow Glen with two great performances, running 5:41 and 2:34, nearly PRs for both events. She suffered injuries the rest of the season which greatly impacted her training. She was eventually able to run a PR in the 800 however, qualifying for CCS by running 2:28.42 at BVAL championships. Belen Sanchez stepped up to be a contributor for the team. She began the year at 7:05 at our first dual meet, and worked her PR all the way down to 6:12 by the end of the season.

On the boys side, the team was lead by Erik Olsvold. Erik took his freshmen year PRs of 4:54 for the 1600 and 10:36 for the 3200 down to 4:37 and 10:20 despite missing time due to a few different issues. While he was able to capture the WVAL title in the 3200, to some extent this was a disappointing season that Erik will be looking to bounce back from in XC. Azael Zamora took his 1600m PR down to 4:40, even though he too struggled with injuries through most of the season.

The freshmen boys were a highlight of the distance team. Hugo Marquez, Melvin Estrada, Daniel Portillo, Nien Tran and Mark Orpia all finished a full year of distance training between XC and track with great results. Hugo’s ran the mile trial for us in August and ran 7:37. He ended track season with a PR of 5:21. Similarily Melvin started off at 6:50 (though he actually had summer training) and ended Track at 5:20. Daniel started off at 7:23 and worked his way down to 5:52.

Mark and Nien did not have as much training time as they both came out from Wrestling late, but they enjoyed big improvement as well. Mark worked his way down from 6;06 to 5:06 and Nien from 6:20 to 5:28. This young group of boys figures to be a strong FS team in XC.

The throws team was improved on the boys side, and exceptional on the girls side. 3 boys threw above 100 feet in discus on the same team for the first time under coach Vela. Alex Alonzo lead the group at 111-4, a 10 foot PR from 2016.

The girls side was the truly remarkable group for the team however. Alejandra Ceron improved her Shot Put PR from 31-9.50 to 35-8.75, a new school record. She also improved her Discus from 90-10 to 95-11. Valeria improved from 99-8.50 to 108-3 in discus, and from 31-1 in Shot Put to 33-4. Charli took her PRS up to a whole new level after missing her Sophomore season. She went from 29-10 to 32-5 in Shot Put, and from 79-0 to 109-4 for discus. With her throw of 109-4, she took the school record from Valeria and became made CCS finals. A  fitting end of the season for a strong team.

The team ends this season with a lot to be proud of, and a big season ahead in 2018 with the ‘B’ division on the horizon.

A few notes looking ahead

For the first time this summer, James Lick athletes who join the East Side running/track club will compete in all comers meets in preparation for the 2018 track season. My club is open to anyone who wants to join of any age group, and the only fee is the USATF registration fee.

Some of the team’s athletes will begin preparation for their fall sports in a few weeks time as well. Coach Turner is the JV girls volleyball coach, and Coach Vela is the JV boys football coach (and I think Coach Steve may join him as a positions coach this year).  I will begin cross country conditioning with the oh so lovable distance rascals in a few weeks, and am happy to say I will be joined by two new coaches this season who have served as volunteer coaches this past track season.

Lastly, I’m very happy to announce that I will be beginning my teaching career when the 2017/2018 school year begins (teaching world history). 90% of my students grades will be participation in cross country or track! (just kidding of course).

I’ll do a general recap of JL sports for the school year if there is an interest in one. This was the best year we’ve had as a school this decade in terms of championships/overall record. Please comment if you’d be interested in such a blog.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

Ryan/Oyama Award Ceremony 2017

One of James Lick’s best traditions, the Ryan/Oyama Award ceremony was held on Tuesday May 16th in the James Lick gym. The Ryan award is given every year to the male Comet athlete who best exemplifies what being a scholar athlete is all about. The award is named Thomas P. Ryan, the first principal and Superintendent of James Lick High School. Past winners include James Lick greats such as CCS champion Joe Amendt, and Superbowl/Heisman winning quarterback Jim Plunkett.

The Oyama award is the female equivalent of the award. It is much younger, with many Ryan awards having been given out before girls had High School sports competition. Joyce Oyama was a James Lick teacher who created an unofficial league for Lady Comets to compete in before official girls competition began in the mid 70s.

The past two Oyama award recipients have also been the past two girls Track MVPs, Paloma Contreras (2015 WVD 400m champion) and Andrea Ortiz (300 hurdles school record holder).

The ceremony honored the fact that James Lick won 3 titles as a school this year. The boys cross country team won the STAL (‘B’ division), while the Badminton team and girls track team won the WVAL (‘C’ division). This is the first school-year that James Lick has won 3 sports league titles in the entire BVAL era (since 1996).

Several Comet athletes got special honors. Mariah Santos, the team’s top freshmen thrower won the school’s freshmen of the year award on the girls side.

Misael Herrera won the school’s Sophomore of the year award after winning freshmen of the year last year. Misael worked hard in Track, taking his 400m and 200m times both down by over a second. Misael was also a starting running back/ wide receiver for the school’s JV football team (under Coach Vela, our highly esteemed throws coach).

After winning Sophomore of the year a year ago, Valeria Cortez did not win the honor, a testament to the excellent Sophomore year of winner Marquise Nelson. Marquise was a star for the school’s Volleyball, Basketball and Softball teams. The softball team especially had a strong season, narrowly missing winning a 4th title for the school on the year with a loss to Independence in the final game of the season. That’s two titles those 76ers cost us this year as a school! (I’d like to note for the record that Independence has over 3,000 students in their school to draw from while we had barely over 1,200 this year. Just saying.)

The junior of the year award went to Inteus Castro-Lopez on the boys side. Inteus was a huge part of our 2016 XC championship, typically finishing as our 4th runner but placing in the top 10 of STAL races overall. His strong season in Track saw him score a personal best, 30 points for the team, a big improvement on the 6 points he scored as a Sophomore.

Senior of the year on the boys side went to Jonathan Rodriguez. Jonathan was an excellent member of the track team for 3 years and was the starting quarterback for the Varsity football team the past 2 seasons. He also played for the school’s basketball team. Jonathan will be attending San Jose State next year.

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Daisy Nava, Myself, and Nathan Bernardo following the Ryan/Oyama Award Ceremony

Daisy Nava was the 2nd runner up for the Oyama award, after a senior year where she was the captain of the WVAL champion track team. Daisy had a tough year competitively, having to balance a job as well as her school work and captaincy. She nonetheless acquitted herself well and will be attending UC Merced next year.

Nathan Bernardo won the Ryan award, in what I would call a very deserved victory. Natan has exemplified the kind of person we hope to produce as a program. He was not only a quality athlete for us, but a selfless leader who always put the needs of his teammates above his own needs. People like Nathan are rare, and the success of the program from here is in large part thanks to his outstanding leadership. Nathan will be attending UC Irvine next year.

 Another school year is coming to a close and our seniors are getting ready to move on to new adventures.

4 Comets will compete at CCS trials this Saturday at Gilory HS.

Recap of that meet coming soon.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

What The Comets Overcome When They “Make CCS”

 

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The team running up the North Rim Trail in the rain 

I think it is important to understand our leagues and their structures, and to at least think about issues in education that spill into athletics, so if you take the time to read this whole ugly mess, thank you very sincerely.

This blog will be interesting to you if you want to better understand the BVAL, the CCS, how qualification works, and how the different CCS leagues stack up against each other. I will also include a lot of sociological analysis of the different leagues, and breakdown in my opinion, why certain leagues are strong and detail exactly what the Comets need to overcome to succeed, and compete against more advantaged schools and leagues.

Often times when talking about goals, we discuss “making CCS.” For our newer athletes, and for casual readers, the significance of this goal is unclear. This blog will serve as an explanation of what the CCS is, how it works, and how competitive it is.

All high schools in California operate under National and State rules. Our state governing body is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). Here is an explanation of the highest level of competition an athlete can advance to in high school cross country.

  1. The Footlocker/Nike National Meets. There are two national meets these days, athletes may qualify for both/either and choose between them. The best athletes in the country are split between these two national meets. Generally speaking, Footlocker is the individual race, and Nike is the team race, but there is overlap. It is a strange system to say the least, having two separate same day national championships meet.
  2. To qualify for the National meets, athletes compete at their Regional Meet. There are four regions, West, Midwest, Northeast and South. We of course find ourselves in the Western Region with 11 other States.
  3. Only the very best athletes from the State Meet proceed to the regional meet. The State meet brings together competitors from each of the CIF’s 5 cross country divisions. In Cross Country, every team has a CIF (State) division based on population. Therefore, nowadays there is a CCS and State champion in each division, so 5 boys champs and 5 girls champs, both for teams and individuals.
  4. The CCS is one of 10 sections in California. The CCS (Central Coast Section) covers schools from San Francisco to King City, roughly 150 total schools. Division 1 schools are the largest schools, with over 2,000  students, whereas Division 5 schools have less than 500 students. We are currently a division 3 school, though we are on the smaller end of D3. For division 3, the top 3 teams at CCS advance to the State Meet, as well as the top 5 individuals who are not on those 3 teams, provided these 5 individuals were in the top 14 overall. If you place 15th or lower in CCS D3 finals, your only chance to make State is as a team.

Only 8 Comet Athletes have ever made it to the State Meet (all boys). The State Meet was founded in 1987, and Joe Amendt was the first athlete to run at State for the Comets that very same year. No Comet has made State since 2005 when Erick Herrera qualified (James Lick was a D4 school that year).

James Lick has one CCS Cross Country team championship. The team of 1971 won the small schools race, the first year that CCS had divisions (just large schools and small schools). A few years later the CCS would move into 3 different divisions, and gradually grew into it’s 5 division format of today. Other sports have various numbers of divisions. In short, in cross country both CCS Finals and CIF (State) Finals both have 5 champions for each gender, one for each division.

In terms of the 10 State Sections, the CCS is among the upper middle of the pack in competitive success. The SS (Southern Section) is by far the best section, though it should be considering it consists of over 500 schools, while The SDS (San Diego Section) is the 2nd largest at roughly 200 schools. The CCS, SJS (Sac-Joaquin Section) NCS (North Coast Section) and CS (Central Section) are all very comparable in size, ranging from 140-170 schools. As logic dictates, there is a direct correlation between the size of a section and it’s competitive success. The Oakland and San Francisco Sections are the two smallest sections in the CIF, both comprising less than 20 schools. As a result they are virtually always the two weakest sections competitively by far.

Originally, James Lick was a member of the NCS. By the 1960s however, the CCS was formed, largely composed of schools in the Santa Clara Valley area. As the CCS grew, and more and more schools popped up under its jurisdiction, it moved to structure things more formally. The CCS now has a total of 3 Conferences (which don’t actually mean anything) and 3 ‘Power Leagues’ within each conference.

The strongest conference of the CCS in cross country and track is the Central Conference. The 3 leagues here in the Central Conference (Morgan Hill to Palo Alto) are:

  1. WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
  2. SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) a 14 team public school league made up of schools from West-Side San Jose to Palo Alto, including Los Gatos and Saratoga. They use 2 divisions or smaller leagues, the ECAL (El Camino League, their ‘A’ division) and the DAL (De Anza League, their ‘B’ division).
  3. BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) 24 teams including Campbell, Central, South, and East Side San Jose, as well as Morgan Hill. It is the largest league in the CCS, and is the only one to use a 3 division format, MHAL/STAL/WVAL as discussed in other blogs.

The other 6 leagues include:

  1. The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
  2. WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
  3. PSAL (15 team Private School Athletic League, mainly small private or charter schools). These leagues make up the Norther Conference of the CCS.

The Southern Conference includes

  1. The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
  2. The MBL (15 team Monterey Bay league). The MBL uses two smaller leagues, the “Gabilan” as an ‘A’ division and “Pacific” as a ‘B’ division
  3. The MTAL (16 team Mission Trails Athletic League). This league is geographical with an Mission Trails Division division and a Coastal division, but has most of it’s strong teams in the Mission Trails Division.

In Track and Field for 2016, it was clear that the 3 strongest leagues were the SCVAL, WCAL, and the BVAL. While the BVAL lags far behind the far richer schools of the SCVAL and WCAL, it is considerably stronger than any of the other CCS leagues in regards to competitive times and marks, in large part because it has more schools than the other leagues. Just for comparison, the 10th fastest boy in the 100m dash in the WCAL and SCVAL ran under 11.30. The 10th fastest boy in the BVAL ran under 11.45. In no other league was the 10th fastest boy under 11.65.

In cross country things are a bit more spread out. The SCCAL (Santa Cruz County Athletic League) has some extremely strong runners. In particular, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, produce top tier CCS runners every year. The Aptos’ girls team is the reigning D3 State Champion, and under coach Dan Gruber (arguably the best coach in the CCS) they may well win State again. CCS is essentially already locked up.

There are also strong runners in other leagues, King City in the MTAL  has produced some outstanding runners over the past few seasons, though the WCAL and SCVAL are dominant overall. I often compare the BVAL, and James Lick specifically, against the SCVAL. The SCVAL being a public school league right next to us, but a highly competitive one at that, makes for interesting comparisons.

James Lick last season placed 13th in the BVAL on the boys side and 14th on the girls side. Considering we were the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, and the 2nd poorest (based on percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch) this was a solid accomplishment, placing solidly in the middle of the 24 team league despite disadvantage. The majority of the school’s sports have losing records in the ‘C’ division by comparison.

In the SCVAL however, the teams would have finished 13th/14. Despite only being a 14 team public school league, the SCVAL is extremely strong, putting many other public school leagues to shame.

For example, in 2016 Kaylah Grant of Live Oak won the BVAL Championship meet in the 1600m run, in  a very strong time of 5:11. 6th Place in the BVAL was 5:19, also a very high quality time. 6th Place in the SCVAL however was 5:08, faster than the BVAL winning time of Kaylah Grant.

Here is an article that my dad  wrote for the Mercury News about the strength of the SCVAL in cross country.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2015/09/23/high-school-cross-country-scval-teams-continue-to-excel/

As discussed in the article, the SCVAL has several advantages, one is large schools. The smallest school in the SCVAL, Saratoga, outnumbers James Lick by several hundred, and is the only D3 school in the SCVAL.

The SCVAL also has the benefit of a highly motivated student body in a good area to train. Many parks, such as Fremont Older and Rancho San Antonio are in close proximity to the SCVAL schools, and their highly driven students are very determined to stand out to colleges and take both academics and athletics seriously. Monta Vista, a top SCVAL school, ranked 11th in the entire State in academic rankings done by “U.S. News Best High School Rankings,” in 2015.

Lastly the SCVAL has the benefit of extremely capable and intelligent coaches. Gunn High School in Palo Alto’s current head coach is Patti Sue Plumer, Stanford Alumni and former American record holder in the 5000m run. Patti Sue has already coached several runners to huge success, last year Gillian Meeks of Gunn won the State Meet for division 2 in XC, and yet, the case could be made that she is not even the best coach in the SCVAL.

This area also has a number of very strong middle school programs. Students getting a head start on training can be very helpful. The primary feeder schools of James Lick are George and Shepherd, and this is the first time in the past decade that they both even had a cross country team in the same season, (no runners form either school advanced to the County meet however, the middle school equivalent of CCS). Evan Franco of Branham won the first three  STAL meets of the 2016 season despite being a freshmen. Last year at Price Middle School, he ran 4:41 for the 1600m as an 8th grader. A middle school which develops athletes like Evan, helps schools that they feed like Branham to a large degree. Erik Olsvold, our top sophomore won STAL #4 in a fantastic time of 15:27, finally defeating Evan. The difference is Erik came in un-trained from Joseph George, running only 6:19 for the 1,600 as an 8th grader. Evan was able to run 16:13 in his very first STAL meet. As a freshman, Erik ran 18:14 and that was after a summer of training. The SCVAL schools have many schools like Price, sending already experienced athletes to high school, ready to be a factor from day one.

The last big factor contributing to SCVAL success is their financial status, despite being a public school league. It makes sense that private schools have a huge advantage in this regard. Bellarmine has its own private buses, enabling the team to run in awesome locations whenever they want, whereas the only bus we get all season is for our league finals meet. This advantage is also significant at wealthy public schools such as those in the SCVAL.

In my dad’s original article,he mentioned the fact that having financial flexibility affords one greater ability to succeed. This acknowledgement was ultimately deleted by the Mercury News.

It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge the systemic issues that affect academic and athletic success in our schools, but the simple reality is that they are present. I would make the case that this issue colors all others.

A student who is fortunate enough to not have to worry about money at home can afford to train and get enough sleep every night, without needing to work a job. Standing around for several hour shifts is not ideal for a distance runner’s recovery, nor is getting home late and having to do homework until 3 AM when they should be sleeping.

A recurring issue in James Lick athletics is students not being eligible to compete due to failure to “make grades.” Some of these students simply did not work hard enough or take agency of their education. Some of these students had no interest in taking their schooling seriously. Many however,  had family issues which are not conducive to achievement, or need to work long hours to simply help make ends meet. The student who works until 9 PM, gets home at 10 PM, does homework until 1PM wakes up at 6PM and has to skip breakfast to walk to school for ‘0’ period on time, is necessarily going to have a hard time succeeding in school compared to someone who has less responsibility. Provided this student makes grades, they are then at disadvantage because of their tiring lifestyle and inadequate rest/nourishment. If this student fails to make grades, they will be lumped in as “another statistic”  or a “screwup” just the same as the students who are genuinely unengaged or disinterested in school. It is also wrong in my opinion to label students who are “failing” as failures. Many students who are unengaged in school are uninterested due to a lack of guidance or inability to cope with difficult situations. This is true of students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Some schools in our league have the luxury of a training room, with an athletic trainer and facilities designed to help athletes grow stronger and recover from injuries. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this, but I suspect virtually every school in the SCVAL has this advantage. Comparatively I’m not sure if we even have a school nurse.

Through academic struggles, James Lick has received labels such as “at risk” and in my 4 years coaching, I’ve heard young Comet athletes relay this type of  message from 8th graders more times than I can count:  “they said James Lick sucks, so they didn’t want to come here.” Through economic flexibility, a parent can spend time helping their student excel in pursuits such as cross country. The number of (expensive) running/track clubs on the West Side reflect this. Many parents at James Lick do not have the time to be invested in their students academic or athletic success. Using Maria Mendoza as an example, Maria qualified for CCS last year with a strong Crystal Springs time of 20:35. I’ve had to send letters home convincing her parents to let her continue running, because her family needs her to work two jobs to help make ends meet. Despite her status as a CCS qualifier in XC and a BVAL qualifier in Track, her family has never seen her compete. Not because they don’t care, but simply because they don’t have time with their own busy work schedules to make time for what they see as a luxury, but what could be for students like Maria, an outlet for success.

A student whose family is struggling is unlikely to have the ability to eat the healthy diet that a runner should ideally eat. It is far cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy a big mac, than it is to head to the store, buy meat, rice, vegetables, pasta etc. and prepare them each day.

When comparing the BVAL and SCVAL, a total of 38 schools, in the 2014/2015 school year, James Lick tied for 2nd most students that qualify for free and reduced lunch as a percentage of total students. At James Lick 78% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.Only 9/38 schools had more than 50% of students in this category, all 9 were BVAL schools. 8/9 were East Side schools.

15 schools had less than 20% of their students in this category, 9/14 total SCVAL schools are in this group however. There are only 4 schools in the SCVAL where more than 30% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These 4 schools finished 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th last year at SCVAL’s finals (again out of 14 teams) on the boys side. On the girls side they finished 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. On the girls side Saratoga finished in 14th, though one of the wealthiest schools in the SCVAL by a measure of free and reduced lunch percentile, they have 400 less students than any other SCVAL school.

A great way of comparing the schools and leagues of the CCS is through the “league finals combined results” provided by former Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Using a course conversion formula, he combines every ‘league finals’ meet from the CCS. Course conversions are done to equalize times to Crystal Springs. Course conversions are never fully accurate, but they give one a rough idea of where everyone stands.

Last year under the format, with 115 total boys teams combined, 5 of the top 10 schools in the CCS at league finals were from the WCAL. Bellarmine in 1st, and St. Francis in 2nd. 4 of the top 10 were from the SCVAL. The lone exception was top BVAL school Willow Glen, a perennial powerhouse under coach Santa Maria. The 2nd BVAL school was Lincoln at 31st. James Lick came in at 60th,  solidly in the middle of the pack.

Contrary to the perception of some, struggles in communities like the East Side are not born out of a lack of work ethic, rather, they are the product of a system which is not entirely receptive to upward mobility. The majority of funding for public schools in California comes from property taxes of the surrounding area. A poor area necessarily produces less money in property taxes, and less funding for schools as a result.So while many students at James Lick struggle with the hardships that relative poverty create at home, they also receive less funding at school to help them rise above their circumstances. The case could be made that the students who need more school programs and strong school funding the most, receive the least of it. A poorer school cannot pay teachers and coaches as much as a wealthier school could.

I made less as a varsity head coach my first year at James Lick than a colleague of mine did as a JV assistant coach at Cupertino High School in the SCVAL. Teachers and coaches who accumulate a good reputation, are more likely to coach at the already successful SCVAL schools, where they can count on the already strong programs to provide them with a plethora of motivated student-athletes.

Students are asked to work hard and earn a better life for themselves. It is very possible to achieve success with enough hard work in our current education system, but the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity at attending a top college for example is inaccurate . The notion that our education system is a meritocracy is at best a false claim. I would call it a farce.

Schools like James Lick which have gained negative reputations, see a high percentage of potentially high-achieving students flee to other local schools or private schools as a an alternative. This phenomenon only drives school performance down further. Teacher turnover is a nationwide issue, and one that plagues poor schools to a far greater degree. When schools like James Lick perform poorly, they are subject to intervention, which only makes teachers desire to transfer greater. If teachers do not stay long enough to establish a rapport at a school to effectively teach students, students will not be educated as well as they could be. If students who are already struggling at home, do not have teachers who can teach them as well as students at richer schools, is it in any way surprising that rich schools would perform better academically than poor schools? That’s only one contributing factor. If top colleges heavily weigh AP (advanced placement)  participation, and schools like James Lick cannot offer even close to the same number of AP classes as a school like Los Gatos, is it fair to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed?  A Comet who wants to go to Stanford University does not have to work as hard as a typical student at Palo Alto high school, they have to work significantly harder (not even taking the potential of legacy enrollments into account.)

There are plenty of Comet success stories over the past few decades. Students who despite difficult living stations, worked hard, earned scholarships and achieved immense success in post high school life. Shawn Herrera, CEO of Mazda technologies is a good example of this type of former JLXC athlete. So is Paloma Contreras, currently attending Santa Clara University on a full academic scholarship (she could also run track for them if she chose).

It is very possible for a JLXC athlete to succeed in this system, but this system is not made for JLXC athletes. The fact that Paloma “made it” should be an inspiration to her fellow Comets who are striving to do the same. It should not however be an indictment of those who don’t “make it.”

Just this year, we had a strong JLXC athlete transfer to Piedmont Hills High School because their parents felt that Piedmont was simply a better school. No blame can be placed on a parent trying to do what is best for their child, and in this parent’s mind, what was best for their child  wasn’t James Lick.

The reality is James Lick is not nearly as disadvantaged as some schools across the country. I myself was fortunate enough not to have to worry about having food on the table every day, and I was always allowed the unconditional support of my parents. These were huge factors on the moderate amount of XC success I achieved. We have many high achieving students on the team, cross country tends to produce mentally strong athletes after all. I have no doubt that students like Nathan Bernardo, and Azael Zamora (both have very high GPAs) will go on to college and be successful in whatever they pursue. I’m worried about athletes like Maria who have to fight so hard just to make it in our current system.

In a few days the James Lick Comets will run at BVAL Finals, and will work to run as fast as they can, earn PRs, and high places.

Come what may however, it bears remembering that when the Comets toe the line and tear up hills at league finals, they will carry more than simply the pain of cross country with them.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Comets Open Season With First League Meet

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The Varsity Girls on the Starting Line 

 

STAL # 1 took place on September 8th, with the Comets facing off against Branham and Leigh. The temperature at the start of the first race was 82 degrees (Fahrenheit) making it a bit warm for very fast times, but not too bad compared with some of the practice temperatures this season.

The Frosh/Soph Boys kicked off the action on the 2.85 mile course. Melvin Estrada and Mark Orpia came up big, running 20:43 and 20:46 to lead the team. With Jerricho Habon 3rd in 21:14, it became clear that the team’s strength would come from having  tightly-nit pack. Jerricho was the team’s expected number one runner, but a fall earlier in the week resulted in a bruised hip, and he ended up running a much slower pace than he did at last weeks Alumni Race.  Lone sophomore, Rudy Peterson and Hugo Marquez sealed off the team’s top 5, with times of 21:23 and 21:46, giving the team it’s whole top 5 within about a minute of each other. Kevin Bach and Nien Tran ran 22:29 and 22:39 to rap the race up for the Comets. Melvin, Hugo and Mark all ran significantly faster mile paces at STAL 1, than they did at the Alumni Race, showing that they are progressing rapidly. The Frosh/Soph Boys beat Leigh solidly, by a score of 26-33. They were narrowly defeated by Branham, with a  final score of 27-28, giving the a 1-1 start to the season.

The Varsity girls were the next team up. Arlet Miranda opened her season with a very strong 20:08, a huge improvement from her 21:55 to open last season. This time makes her #3 in school history and placed her 6th overall in the extremely competitive (on the girls side) STAL division. Maria Mendoza was second for the team in 22:51. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez came in together in 23:29 and 23:34, both runers finishing in the middle of the pack. Denisse Calixto was the 5th girl at 25:36 and Analillia Regla was 6th in 25:47. Both girls ran huge PRS, but the lack of depth to support the 5th girl role on the varsity team was evident. The Comets fell to both Branham and Leigh on the Varsity Girls side.

The Varsity boys team was another story however. Based on time trials and the Alumni Race, as a whole several of the boys underperformed somewhat severely, but the team nonetheless won the meet comfortably against both Branham and Leigh. In fact, the boys would have beaten any team in the STAL, despite the fact that several boys had bad races. Azael Zamora lead the group in 16:17 in what was a solid performance and a Huge PR for him. Erik Olsvold was just behind him in the same time, the two boys were 2nd and 3rd overall. Azael and Erik ran 17:55 and 18:14 to start last season, showing their remarkable development of the past year. Nathan Bernardo had an off race, failing to improve on his time from last season, but still placing 5th overall in a very strong 16:34. Gustavo Aguilera crossed the line in 17:44, and Inteus Castro-Lopez was 5th in 17:55. All things considered, this was probably the worst Cross Country race of Inteus’ career, but he was 16th overall as the 5th boy nonetheless. By the time Inteus finished as the 5th boy, only one other team (Pioneer) had 3 boys in. Gustavo Parra was the 6th boy in 18:10 and Jesus Deloya the 7th in 19:15, both boys improving on last years season opening times. The Varsity boys start 2-0 overall. Their teaam time of 84:46 (1:24:46) is the second best team time in school history, and 2 minutes faster than last season already.

The Reserve boys were the next team up. David Bejines lead the group in 20:38, a strong reserve time. Isaak Herrera ran a huge Pr to finish in 21:29. Austin Swank rounded out the team’s captains in 21:55. Daniel Portillo 24:15, Alfonso Farias 24:18, and Manuel Villalobos in 24:32 were next. Jesse Friaz rounded out the group in 25:57, giving the team 7 Reserve boys. While reserve boys is ethnically “non scoring” They beat Branham and lost to Leigh giving them a record of 1-1 though the league will not officially score them.

The JV/ reserve girls was the final race race of the day. Susie Peterson lead the group in 27:08, a 3 minute PR to start the season. Ariana Santos ran a solid 28:05 in her XC debut. Valerie Flores lead the reserve girls in 28:49. Diana Romero and Elizabeth Perez ran 31:19 and 32:57 respectively. Freshmen Ashley Preciado was the 5th JV girl in 33:25. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the Comets day with times of 34:51 and 35:36. The JV girls fell to Branham but beat Leigh, opening the season 1-1.

Overall it was a good day for the Comets. The team competed well, especially on the boys side, and went home with a lot of PRs. The Comets who had an off-race will look to rebound Saturday in Golden Gate Park, and then the team will prepare for one more meet at Alum Rock Park on Thursday 9/15.

One Comet On to CCS after BVAL Championships

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Valeria Cortez and Coach Vela sharing Enthusiasm after her huge PR and school record in the girls Discus. 

 

 

The Comets took a record number of athletes to the BVAL Championship meet at Sliver Creek high School on May 12th. In total 16 Comets competed. The meet held such strong results for the team, though it was not a great showing for the team overall. The team will look to emphasize this meet to a greater extent in future seasons, with more and more Comets advancing from WVAL finals with ease.

The BVAL Championship meet is contested between all three BVAl divisions (A, B and C). A total of 16 automatic qualifiers advance to BVAL Championships, based on their divisional meets. The top 8 Athletes in each event at BVAL champs advance to CCS trials.

The girls 4×100 team of Lyndel Ventura, Maria Mendoza, Karen Montes and Elyse Elder ran 54.68 to end their season. Arlet Miranda got valuable big-race experience in the girls 1600. She placed 10th in a time of 5:41, the fast first lap of the race costing her in the later half. As a freshmen however, Arlet will look to build on her performance in future seasons, coming within 2 places of making CCS. In the boys 1600, Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo competed, though they did not perform well, running 4:54 and 4:58 respectively.

Andrea Ortiz had a strong final 100h race of her high school career, running 17.68 for 10th place after not even making BVAL champs in the event the year before. Valeria Cortez competed as well, though she had a poor race. Hadji Yono-Cruz ended his season on a high note, running a PR of 18.27. Hadji will look to break through next year.

The girls 400 had Maria running 1:08.91, while Jose Limon ran the boys 400 in 55.99. The girls 800 had another solid race for Arlet, coming home in a high 2:31. Daisy Nava competed as well running 2:46. Erik Olsvold ran a small PR in the boys 800 of 2:08.14. Nathan ended his season with a 2:10 following his 1600. The girls 300h had Andrea placing 10th in 50.96. Andrea’s injury plagued season limited her potential in the event. Her knee pain was so bad she was on the verge of dropping out 100m into the race, but decided to finish at a lessened effort level. She ran a time which only missed qualifying for CCS by .3 seconds, despite being hampered by injury causing her to hold back. Andrea’s toughness is a lesson in perseverance, as well as illustrating the fact that things don’t always go smoothly just because you work hard. While we dearly wish she could have run to her full potential, she has a bright future ahead of her and will be competing at De Anza college next year. Gustavo Aguilera competed in the boys 300h, running 46.80.

The team finished the running events with the 4x400s. The boys team of Jose, Gustavo, Misael Herrera and Nathan ran a seasons best of 3:45. The girls team of Maria, Daisy, Andrea and Arlet ran a solid 4:34. In the field events, Elyse Elder placed 11th in girls high jump at 4-4. Lyndel Ventura jumped 14-4.5 for 12th place in girls long jump.

In the girls Shot Put, Alejandra Ceron threw a PR of 31-9 for 10th place. Valeria threw a solid 30-0. The event of the day for the team however was the girls discus. Alejandra struggled, throwing 82-0, but Valeria had a huge day throwing a new PR of 99-9.50. This was good enough for 6th place and a CCS berth. This also makes Valeria the school record holder in the girls discus, beating the 96 foot throw of Ward in 2002. Valeria has had a tremendous season. At her first ever high school competition, Valeria competed in her 3 primary events. At the Willow Glen Invitational she threw 25-5.50 in the Shot Put, 65-10 in Discus and ran 22.94 in the 100 hurdles. Valeria worked hard all season under Coach Vela in the throws and myself in the hurdles, and drastically improved her marks. She ended up throwing 31-1 in the Shot Put, 99-9.50 in Discus and 17.80 in the 100 hurdles. Valeria should be a huge factor in the WVAL, and the entire BVAL for years to come.

Valera will head to Gilroy High school next Saturday for the CCS Trials, while some members of the team will contest the Stanford Cardinal All Comers Meet at Gunn high School in the same day.

 

 

 

A Brief History of James Lick Track

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Daniela Camacho, James Lick School Record Holder in the 800, 1600 and 3200  (Left) Now Competing For De Anza college. Arlet Miranda, Freshmen and heir apparent to Daniela’s records (right).

 

With only one dual meet remaining in the season before the team heads to WVAL finals, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the rich history of James Lick Track in order to better contextualize the success of this years team.

James Lick began competing in Track and Field very soon after it was founded in 1950. The low number of schools in the area helped ensure James Lick was abundant in talent. By 1954 the team was winning league championships in Cross Country in the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) and producing great athletes in Track and field. This was before the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) or the CCS (Central Coast Section) were in existence.

The team produced multiple championships, with athletes like Ray Russ in the 880 yard run (804 meters) and Henry Aguilar in the 120 (109 meters) yard hurdles winning not just the SCVAL, but the entire NCS (North Coast Section) title in their events. Records of times and marks throughout much of James Lick’s history are scarce, making the All Time lists I have complied only mostly completed. In order to compare the athletes of JL history to the athletes of today, all marks achieved in yard events have been converted to their metric-event equivalents. Ray Russ’ 880 time of 1:55.7 for example converts to a 1:55.24 800 time which still stands as the 3rd best time on record in school history. Henry Aguilar’s 14.90 converted 110 hurdle time is still the school record.

The CCS was formed in 1965, the same year that James Lick and several other schools formed the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League). During the 60s and 70s James Lick demonstrated incredible depth, with several of James Lick’s best ever marks achieved during this era. Dave Pike’s long jump record of 22-6.50, Dan Lloyd’s school record 59-9.50 Shot Put throw, and James McGhee’s school record 159-9 Discus throw were set during these years.

As more and more schools popped up around San Jose, the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) were formed. At this time the leagues were purely geographical, with the MHAL being the east side league, the STAL the south league, and the WVAL the western league. The foundation of more schools nearby James Lick, such as Independence and Piedmont , began to make a dent in James Lick’s Track and Field depth, as more and more students piled into other schools. Even so, the best athletes of James Lick in the late 70s and 80s were phenomenal, and 1975 marked the start of girls competition in the MHAL.

The 3200 school record of 9:26 (converted from a 2 mile time) set by Joe Salazar, and Peter Moreno’s outstanding 50-1 Triple jump were both set in 1976. The CCS has existed now over 50 years and with hundreds of athletes contesting the triple jump every year, Moreno’s mark still stands as the 3rd best in CCS history. The mid and late 80s saw two more JL greats. School record holder and double CCS champion Henry Barba ran 10.69 for the 100, and 21.57 for the 200 in 1985. Joe Amendt won 4 straight MHAL titles over 800 meters, from 1985 to 1988, eventually running a time of 1:50.75 for a school record and still 4th best time in CCS history. Joe also ran what stands as the converted school 1600 record of 4:18.49. By the early 1990s however, as James Lick began to suffer academically, more and more students chose Private schools or other local choices. This severely weakened the strength of the Cross Country and Track Teams, with much of James Lick’s would be talent turning elsewhere.

The early years of girls competition in the 70s and 80s had some strong marks, but the girls team never achieved the success of their male counterparts. A few years after girls were allowed to compete, the team produced very little athlete turnout on the girls side. Kathy Shelby’s school record 34 foot Shot put throw and Joan Jacobs school sprint records of 12.26 and 25.44 (again converted from yard events) were set in these early years. Again it should be noted that records were not well kept in this time, so records are based on what I could verify.

In the very late 1980s and 1990s, as James Lick declined, more and more schools opened around San Jose. As the CCS grew, and sought more organization, leagues began to experiment with Power league structures, where teams would move up or down between leagues of varied competition level based on ability.

In 1996 the BVAl was formed, with the MHAL, STAL, and WVAL coming together to form the biggest “Super League” in the CCS, with 24 total teams.  The MHAL served as the ‘A’ league, the STAL the ‘B’ League and the WVAL the ‘C’ League. While some great marks were set in the 90s, including a school record in the 100 hurdles by Jamalia English of 15.51, James Lick was getting weaker by the year as more and more students flocked to schools that were performing better academically.

James Lick Track was immediately placed in the WVAL (C League) in 1996, and has been there ever since, along with most of the school’s sports. By this time, James Lick was not competitive in Track and Field at all anymore, with a few standout athletes not being able to help the team finish better than last place on the girls side, and 6th on the boys side in the weakest league of the BVAL in it’s first ever year.

In short, James Lick Track has struggled in the entire BVAL era (1996 on). The girls history, having never been strong as a team, saw several record breaking performances in the 2000s despite team struggles. These included a school record in the girls Discus by Ward in 2002 of 96-6 and outstanding girls Jumps records by Ruth Lebeau, 17-5.50 for long jump and 37-5 for Triple jump.

In 2009 The Track team was on the verge of folding with only 12 athletes on the entire team between boys and girls combined. Coach turnover was high, with soccer coach Ray Iniguez, school teacher Ms. Everet, and off campus coach Juan Trejo all stepping in to ensure the team at the very least existed. Over the course of 5 seasons from 2009-2013 the team did not win a single meet, going a combined 0-70 during this span.

In 2013 I came on as the Head Coach for Cross Country (along with Coach John Quasarano) and Track, having graduated from James Lick in 2011. It is a testament of the extent to which Track was not emphasized at James Lick in the early 2000s that I ran Cross Country all four years without ever participating in Track until college. I hoped dearly that we could gradually improve the fortunes of the team, and perhaps in a few years have a winning record. I was thrilled in my first season to be joined by throws Coach Jon Vela, who shared my ambitions for the team and obsession with fostering improvement.

What myself and Coach Vela, along with Coaches Juan Trejo and Ricardo Flores experienced was a student body which has blown away all expectations put on them. Despite the reputation James Lick has amassed in some circles regarded as an “at risk” school full of gang bangers or delinquents, the team has overcome the struggles of much of the BVAL era. As fall coaches (Vela coaching football), myself and Coach Vela are able to put a greater emphasis on recruiting athletes from within James Lick’s student body to come out and try Track and Field and this was the first step to success. The team of 2014 grew from 12 total athletes to 25. With this increase came the end to the team’s long losing streaks, and an encouraging breath of air along with it. The graduating class of 2015 was a truly special group of athletes. Team members such as Daniela Camacho, Paloma Contreras, Mario Perez, Karan Singh, Brianna Flores, and Robert Rios were instrumental in recruiting many of their friends and teammates from other sports to Track and,  with it came far greater success.

Prior to 2015, myself, Coach Vela and Coach Q discussed the teams prospects. Our number one priority is always that every athlete improves as much as possible, but we also set the goal of finishing with a winning record on both sides for a combined winning record. At the time this was a very ambitious goal, having gone just 1-6 on both sides the year before, with the last winning record on other side being the 4-3 record of the boys in 2002. In fact, in the entire BVAL era, from 1996 to 2014 the Lady Comets Track team had NEVER had a winning record even once. The best combined record was the 7-7 team of 2001, when the boys went 5-2 and the girls 2-5.

The Team collectively demonstrated that they were ready to change that. the team of 2015 finished a combined 10-4, with the Varsity girls achieving the first winning record on record in school history (1975-2015) and definitely the first winning record in the BVAl era.  The rapid turn around of the program speaks to the very hard working group of student athletes on the Comet Track team. James Lick still has limitations. We are still considered academically “at risk” we are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, but despite these limitations, the Track Team’s size spiked from 25 athletes in 2014, to 44 athletes in 2015.

The great 2015 JLTf renaissance boasted the school’s best girls team in the BVAL era and likely the best one in school history. Daniela set school records in all three distance events, and Andrea Ortiz set the school record in the 300 hurdles. The most commendable thing about the group of athletes who have turned JLTF around however isn’t the way that they compete, but the way they cohere. At WVAL finals last year, I had the immense pleasure of being told by multiple coaches that the James Lick Track team stood out for their remarkably welcoming and supportive treatment of their teammates and opponents. The Sportsmanship demonstrated by the team shows that the group of athletes we currently have aren’t weighed down by the perceptions of outsiders, or the limitations placed upon them.

Another measure of the 2015 team’s success was the number of athletes sent to BVAL Championships. This is a meet contested by all 3 of the BVALS leagues, with the top 4 athletes at WVAL Finals, the top 5 athletes at STAL Finals and the top 7 athletes at MHAL finals qualifying for the meet. For much of the 2000s, only a handful of athletes from JL would attend BVAL champs, with the highest number of the 2000s being 5 individual athletes in 2003. In 2015 however the team sent 9 individuals and 3 relay teams for a total of 16 athletes at BVAL champs.

The foundations set by the team of 2015 have set the team on the course for success for years to come. When a program is truly successful, it’ll have special years with special graduating classes, but it will continue to be successful even when it loses strong athletes because it has a system that works and a tradition of success. This is illustrated by many of the strong teams around the CCS such as Los Gatos, Lynbrook and local powerhouse Mt. Pleasant. The James Lick Track team is not yet a CCS power, nor  a BVAL power, but only a few years ago it was the weakest team in the WVAL, and it is now arguably the best.

The team of 2015 was unquestionably the best team of the BVAL era (effectively the modern era or JLTF) with it’s 10-4 combined record. Despite the loss of the Top 3 Point scorers on the boys side, and the loss of school record holders and League champions on the girls side, the 2016 team has already improved upon the 2015 season standing at 11-1 with a highly anticipated dual vs YB remaining.

With the girls team at 6-0, they are on the verge of the first league championship in school history. This is amazing even in the C league when one considers that only 2 years ago the team had never even had a winning season in the BVAL era. The addition of experienced coach Steve Nichols in Sprints and Jumps has been huge in maintaining the team’s growth.

The team will need to throw down their best performances to defeat the also undefeated Yerba Buena warriors on their home turf, but the heart and determination the 2016 Track team has shown time and time again will surely serve them well. I count myself as extremely lucky for having a group of student athletes so determined to better the reputation and standing of their school.

On behalf of my coaching staff Thank you for your support of the James Lick Track Team and stay tuned for Final Dual Meet recap and WVAL finals preview coming soon.

All time list:

http://www.xcstats.com/track_all_time.php?school_id=1097

More can be found under Track History:

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/q/

 

Comets Take to Los Gatos All Comers for Final Pre-Season Tuneup

13 Comets made the journey to the tradition Los Gatos all comers meet this Saturday. The team used the low-key meet to tune-up and test their fitness to start the season, with very encouraging results. Several Comets were able to achieve PRS despite the fact that their season will not begin officially until next Saturday at the Willow Glen Invitational.

The meet began with Gustavo Aguilera contesting the 800m. Despite being fresh out of soccer season, Gustavo ran a small PR in 2:18.27, a very encouraging early season performance. Next the team saw Arlet Miranda competing in her first high school 800m race. Teammate Hector Ramirez paced her through the first lap at 1:17 and Arlet trudged on to run a 2:41.69. This is 6 seconds better than her middle school PR and places her 6th on the girls all time 800m list.

Misael Herrera and Manuel Villalobos got their first track experience contesting the 100m and 200m races. They ran times of 13.02 and 14.36  respectively for the 100, and 26.78 and 29.42 for 200. Both athletes look stronger than they did when they first joined track, with Misael especially having made dramatic progress. Coach Steve has had a very string impact on the teams sprinters already.Gustavo joined them in the 100m and ran 12.95 to be the first comet under 13 this season.

Meanwhile the throwers were getting some early season marks in shot put and Discus. Isaias Castrejon threw 18’2″ in Shot put using a 16 pound ball (4 pounds heavier than the high school weight). Alex Alonzo has shown tremendous improvement. He began last season with marks of 25′ in Shot put and 58 feet in Discus. He was able to end the season at 31′ exactly and 78′ in discus. He managed to start this season by matching his PR of 31′ and throwing 91’1″ in discus to shatter his PR. Alex looks to be  a factor in the WVAL this season. Alejandra Ceron, had strong early season PRS of 27’9″ and 71’2″, showing she is also well ahead of where she last year at her first meet, where she could only throw 21 feet.

Next on the ledger the boys distance crew contested the 5000m run as strength training. Nathan ran a fairly comfortable 17:54, unleashing a potent 33 second final 200 to finish the race. Hector Ramirez followed him in at 18:20, a strong performance for the athlete fresh out of soccer. Hector passed through 3200 at 11:30, while last season he started the year with a 3200 of 11:44. Guillermo Villalobos, 19:14, Inteus Castro-Lopez, 19:31 and Jesus Deloya 20:03 rounded up the distance day, and will have no trouble competing in the 3200 following the trying 5000m run.

The Comets rounded up their day with Gustavo Aguilera contesting and winning the 300 hurdles. He did so in a small PR of 48.74, beating the 48.93 PR he set last year at the end of the season.

The James Lick track team looks ahead to next week where they will bring greater numbers to the Willow Glen Invitational for their fruit official meet of the year.

JLTF Improves their marks at K-Bell Invitational

Davion before his 200m
Davion before his 200m

Fresh off their first league meet, some of the Comets headed to Los Gatos to compete in the historic K-Bell Invitational. The best marks of 2015 list grew stronger across the board with PR’s from every athlete who attended the invite.

Freshmen Jesus Deloya started the meet by running 11:55 in the 3200, becoming the 5th comet this year to break the 12 minute barrier following a year in which no Comet was able to. Alejandro Alonzo threw 32 feet in the Frosh/Soph Shot, just a week after he threw 28 in his debut. Alex was joined by Charli Chircop who threw 23’5 to also beat her PR. They are part of Coach Vela’s hard working throws group that has been a team strength early on. Senior Karan Singh ran 10:59 in his first 3200 for time, becomming the first comet since 2011 to break 11 minutes.

Some newcomers to invitationals were seen in the 100. Jon Rodriguez ran 13.37 for a big PR. Isaak Herrera broke 15 for the first time as did Hector Ramirez in place of Stanley Nguyen. The Varisty girl’s impressed with Maria Mendoza running 14.17 and Paloma Contreras running 14.38, both marks better than the team best 14.49 of 2014. Susie Peterson ran a pr of 16.28 and Daisy nava broke 16 with a 15.87. The best 100 of the day for the comets however, was Junior Davion Thomas’ clocking of 11.93. Davion became the first James Lick athlete to break 12 for the 100 meter dash since 2003.

Similar success followed in the 200 with Davion running 24.38. Paloma and Maria ran 28.86 and 28.73 respectively, both very strong early season marks. The 28.73 for Maria catapulted her onto the JL Track all time top 10 list. Isaak Herrera also ran strong breaking 32 and 31 for the first time. The 800’s also saw new season’s bests for the team. Sophomore Nathan Bernardo ran 2:11.64, continuing his rebirth as a distance runner. Hector Ramirez ran a pr with a solid 2:24.40 as did Guillermo Villalobos with a low 2:30. Daniela Camacho narrowly missed her PR in the 800 by clocking 2:32.68 in heat winning fashion. Daniela followed this performance with a PR in the 400, running 1:08.17 for a good day of work.

Daisy Nava ran the 300 hurdles in 1:02.96, over a 2 second pr and is approaching the minute barrier. Guillermo made it two PRs on the day with a 5:26 mile in which he was paced by teammate Hector Ramirez.

Overall the comets had a great day of work at K-Bell and are eagerly awaiting a matchup with Gunderson this thursday as they aim to start 2-0. Following that meet the distance runners will head up to Sunnyvale for the first annual King’s Academy Distance carnival, (a meet I am particularly excited about.) Stay tuned for more Comets news.