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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Ryan/Oyama Awards 2018: A Banner Year For James Lick Sports

The 2017/2018 School year is just days from ending. This school year was a standout year for James Lick sports. I’ve written in the past about the struggles James Lick has experienced over recent years, both academically and athletically.

Rise and Fall of JL Track

What The Comets Overcome When They Make CCS

Our teachers, coaching staff, and administration have been working hard for a long time to try to help James Lick through these struggles and I think that we are starting to see the fruits of that labor.

For the 2017/2018 school year, James Lick Sports had a combined record of:

101-85-4 

I have totaled up James Lick’s records the past 5 years, and this is the first time in that span that James Lick Sports have had a combined winning record (And by quite a margin as well).  While I haven’t added up the years before 2012, I think there’s a good chance this is the first winning season for James Lick sports combined in well over a decade.

A Few sports contributed to this success in particular. The girls volleyball team claimed the first ever title for James Lick in the sport. The team worked hard for a 13-1 record, a dramatic turn-around for a team that was 3-11 the year before. Girls Basketball won their first division title since 1997 as well. They went undefeated in league play to the tune of a 10-0 record, and they also won their 1st round CCS game.

Over the past 5 years, James Lick has a total of  8 division championships. James Lick had 12 championships in the previous 18 years combined. The hard work of school AD Ray Iniguez has been a huge factor. Mr. Iniguez had worked hard to change the fortunes of James Lick sports, and many of the athletes responsible for the schools success were honored at the Ryan/Oyama awards on Tuesday May 15th.

 

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Members of the Track team After the Ryan/Oyama Awards

The Ryan/Oyama Awards is the biggest athletics event of the year for James Lick. The Ryan Award is given to the senior who most exemplified the qualities of a James Lick student/athlete over their 4 year career. The Oyama award is the female equivalent. Class awards and more are also distributed at the awards ceremony.

Every sport gets to give two awards per team. The Cross Country Awards were as follows:

Varsity Boys: 

Most Valuable Runner: Azael Zamora

Award for Leadership: Inteus Castro-Lopez

Varsity Girls: 

Most Valuable Runner: Arlet Miranda

Award for Leadership: Analilia Regla

Frosh/Soph Boys: 

Most dedicated runner: Daniel Portillo

Most improved runner: Hugo Marquez

Frosh/Soph Girls: 

Most improved runner: Ashley preciado

Most dedicated runner: Emely Lopez

 

For Track and Field the awards were as follows

Varsity Boys: 

Most dedicated athlete: Austin Swank

Most Valuable Athlete: Cody Huoch

Varsity Girls: 

Most valuable athlete: Valeria cortez

most dedicated athlete: Aliana Santos

Frosh/Soph Boys:

Most improved athlete: Melvin Estrada

Most valuable athlete: Salvador Lopez

Frosh/Soph Girls: 

Most valuable athlete: Kirsten Yutuc

Most improved Athlete: Yesenia Martinez

Several XC/ Track athletes also featured in the class awards.

Emely Lopez took home the Freshmen of year honors for the girls, and Omar Fimbres claimed the title on the boys side. Omar played baseball in addition to running cross country.

Nien Tran won sophomore of the year on the boys side. In addition to making CCS in Cross Country, Nien was also a CCS qualifier in wrestling.

Valera took home junior of the year on the strength of her entire year. She helped the volleyball team to a division title, placed 4th at CCS in wrestling, and was a division champion in 2 events in track. She beat out Marquise Nelson, a girl who was the MVP of both the champion basketball team, and champion volleyball teams.  Marquise and Valeria have traded off their class awards every year since they were freshmen, and both girls have GPAs over 3.5. The competition for the Oyama award figures to be tight next year.

Misael Herrera took home junior of the year, he had previously been named sophomore of the year and freshmen of the year. In addition to track, Misael also played football and wrestled.

Finally the stage was set for the senior class awards. Alejandra Ceron was named senior of the year, and the runner up for the Oyama Award. The Award went to Miranda Sanchez. Miranda played volleyball, basketball and softball for multiple seasons. She was the starting point guard on this years championship team.

On the boys side, Josh Garcia was the 2nd runner up for the Ryan Award. Josh played football, Basketball and Track for the past few seasons. Inteus took home the Senior of the year award and was the 1st runner up for the Ryan Award. Azael Zamora took home the Ryan Award, the 2nd year in a row that the Ryan Award has gone to an athlete who participated in both XC and Track and Field. Azael’s 3.8 GPA was a decisive factor in him winning the award. Azy was also a 2 time CCS qualifier in Cross Country and placed 12th at CCS this past season. He is also a 3 time BVAL qualifier in track, he ended his career 10th on the schools all time list in the 1600 and 7th in the 3200.

Coach Oliphant, the schools volleyball coach, took home the Keith Antes Coach of The Year Award for the dramatic turnaround achieved by the girls volleyball team.

The Ryan/Oyama awards are always a great day to be a Comet.

5 Comets will take to CCS Trials at Gilroy High School on Saturday May 19th.

Thanks for reading!

 

Comet runners looking strong as meets approach

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The team’s fastest runners about to begin the North Rim Time trial 

The 2nd week of school just ended for James Lick, and the XC team is rapidly growing in strength. The summer training period saw a small but dedicated group of around 12 runners practicing regularly. On Friday 8/18 however, we had over 40 athletes at practice, and nearly 20 freshmen alone, always an encouraging sign.

We always start the year with a pair of time trials in the first 2 weeks, a timed mile (mainly to give the newcomers a starting point that is easy to understand) and a timed run over the North Rim trail. The version of north rim that we use for time trials is longer and harder than our league race version. At 3.03 miles, the difficult course takes longer to complete than any course the team will race on this year. This makes it an excellent time trial in my opinion.

Nobody looks stronger than co-team captain Azael Zamora. Azael had a tremendous base period in summer training and is looking to have a huge senior year if he can continue to carry and build on his current form. Azael ran a PR of 17:54 for the course. He is only the 2nd athlete to run under 18 minutes on the course in our 8 years of using it, and he is the first to do it at the beginning of the season time trial. Inteus Castro-Lopez was the 2nd runner in at 20:17, a solid time considering the last minute nature of this years trial.

On the varsity boys side, the 4th and 5th runners have been the need since we began summer training. A few young runners look ready to step up. Sophomore Mark Orpia was the next boy in at 22:06, a 30 second PR from his end of season time last year. Fellow sophomore Hugo Marquez came across in 22:15 for a 2 minute PR as well, 7 minutes better than his beginning of the year time trial as a freshmen. Sandwiched between them was junior Jose Limon in 22:10. Jose was our top sprinter in track, taking 2nd place in the frosh/soph division of the willow glen invitational in the 200m, before losing his season to a hamstring injury. He joined XC thus year to work on his strength and build towards a healthy season, and has moved himself into varsity contention.

Arlet Miranda was the 1st girl across in 23:06, the best beginning of the year time by any girl since we’ve used the course. Arlet is highly motivated after an injury plagued track season that nonetheless saw her make CCS for the first time.

Daniel Portillo came across the line in 23:12 a massive 4 minute PR for the hard working sophomore. Melvin Estrada took 40 seconds off his own PR running 23:19. Jesus Deloya ran a solid time of 25:17 despite missing all of summer training. Nien Tran would fight through cramps to run 25:56, more than a minute better than his time from a year ago. Kevin Bach came in faster than last year as well running 26:33 with Jared Resendiz right behind him in 26:34. Omar Fimbres was the lone freshmen boy to run the course, but opened up his JLXC career with a very promising time of 27:04. This is a faster starting time than Hugo, Melvin or Daniel.

Adrian DeLaRosa ran 28:26, following a similar path to Lemon, (Jose Limon’s preferred moniker) working on his strength with his first season of XC after 2 years of track. The 2nd girl to come in was Belen Sanchez in 33:41. It was Belen’s first practice after missing all of summer, and it will take time for her to return to the great shape she was in during track. Freshmen Jahna Kikhia ran a strong debut time of 34:07 and may factor into teh varsity conversation as well. Ashley Preciado was next, leaps and bounds ahead of where she was last year with a 4 minute PR of 34:12.

Kirsten Yutuc and Justine Austria, a pair of sprinters in track ran 37:07 and 37:12 for their first official XC practice as well. Aliana Santos and Susie Peterson both came across the line soon afterward. Erika Camacho was next in 37:40 for her first timed run. Elizabeth Perez narrowly edged out her sister Mariana, 38:04 to 38:08. A few more freshmen spilled across the line next, Emely Lopez in 39:05, Maya Hammond in 41:04 and Estefani Herrera in 44:06. On the boys side Gabriel Garcia and John Pham both finished in the 42 minute range with John Ramirez rounding out the group in 52 minutes. The girls side was done after Xoe Balgos and Siyun Zuo finished in 52:42.

Our initial mile time trial was done on the 2nd day of school, but we did a 2nd one yesterday with many new runners joining. Azael looked very strong in the time trial running 4:56 without any track specific work. Erik Olsvold also ran a decent 5:21 as he works himself into shape. Many of the freshmen showed strong base fitness with their times. Omar ran 6:55 for his first ever timed mile as a HS runner.

Freshmen Jonathan Bradley ran a strong starting time of 7:16 for his first ever day of practice. Brandon Cruz and Jose Ruiz also had very solid debut times of 7:40 and 7:47.

On the girls side the most impressive debut time was by freshmen Xochitl Godinez. Xochitl (pronounced So- Chi) ran 7:31, a time which indicates varsity potential in the short term. Xochitl is the younger sister of Ivan Godinez, a runner who was a rival of many recent Comet  athletes as the top distance runner for Yerba Buena High School and Independence High School as a senior.

Many of the freshmen girls ran mile times in the 9-10 minute range. The boys team is full of depth with a large group of dedicated FS runners and at long last the girls team is poised for the same breakout. If our large group of freshmen runners stay dedicated, from Omar, to Xochitl, to Jonathan to Emely, this team will set the Comets up for success for years to come.

The Alumni Race will take place on Friday September 1st in Alum Rock Park. The Race will begin at 6:00 P.M. Any alumni of the school are welcomed to attend and my thanks to anyone who spreads the word.

The teams first official meet will be on September 7th in Alum Rock Park. We’re just a few weeks away now, stay strong Comets.

I will try to post a season preview within the next week or so, as a first year full time teacher however I am still learning to balance things.

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

James Lick Cross Country 2016 Season Summary

The 2016 season started with some big goals for the James Lick Comets. The team set competitive goals of winning the STAL on the boys side, and improving on a 2-5 record from 2015 on the girls side. The team was hoping to also place within the Top 5 teams at BVAL finals on the boys side, and the top 12 on the girls side. The team also set the time goals of running 86:30 (1:26:30) on the boys side at BVAL finals and 112:30 (1:52:30) on the girls side. The team wanted to do this while representing and performing well in the non-varsity races as well.

From the first days of summer training in early June, the likely group of varsity boys showed how much they wanted to achieve their goals. Based on the PRS of the team’s top 5 returners, Nathan Bernardo 17:02, Inteus Castro-Lopez 17:55, Gustavo Aguilera 18:00, Azael Zamora 18:13 and Erik Olsvold 18:14, the team would run  team time of 89:24. While Track season showed dramatic development, especially from Azael and Erik, the team would have to improve quite a bit to hit their ambitious goal. 2015 marked the first seasons since 2003 that the team had run under 90 minutes at Crystal Springs, and a time in the mid 80s would show the team was back to being a tough local team consistent with the teams of James Lick’s glory years.

As these boys worked hard in the early days of summer, more and more freshmen boys joined the team. Athletes like Jerricho Habon, Melvin Estrada, Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo followed the lead of their veteran leaders working their way into good shape. These boys are very admirable for the fact that they lacked natural running ability, but worked hard all season to better themselves and turn themselves into strong Frosh/Soph runners. The Frosh/Soph team was made especially strong with the addition of more freshmen boys: Mark Orpia and Nien Tran once school started, along with sophomore Rudy Peterson. The team became so rich in young boy runners, that by the final league meets of the year, the team consistently had 3-4 potential Frosh/Soph boys run reserve who would have been scoring members of half of the other Frosh/Soph teams in the league.

The depth of hard working athletes that the boys team saw, the fruition of 4 years of hard program building lead by team captain Nathan, never developed to the same degree on the girls side. After a breakout track season, Arlet Miranda was a weapon at the front of the team all season, but top returners Maria Mendoza and Daisy Nava both worked various jobs throughout the season in addition to taking numerous AP classes, cutting into their practice time and curtailing their improvements despite their best efforts. This coupled with the fact that 3 of the girls teams top 6 returners, did not in fact return for the 2016 season. The team did gain Milka Perez, who was a team star in the 2014 season, fresh off a 2015 season that she missed due to a torn ACL. Her addition and gradual improvement is a bright spot for the team going forward. While the boys team experienced a large group of incoming freshmen with future varsity potential, the girls team did not receive the sam boom. They gained several hard working freshmen like Ally Floreza and Ashley Preciado, and one clear future varsity runner in Camila Hernandez. The hard work of Analilai Regla, Denisse Calixto, and Belen Sanchez saw them help out as varsity runners despite being well behind the speed of a ‘B’ division varsity runner when the season started.

In the early part of the season, the team struggled with inconsistency but showed they had the potential to achieve their goals. The Alumni Race was a strong performance for the team,  Azael lead the team with a  time of 12:57, the first JL athlete to break 13 for the course in many years. The boys team in general ran well, and had the privilege of meeting JLXC all time greats Joe Amendt and Greg Machado.

Despite a great performance at the Alumni Race, the team did not perform as well at STAL 1 and STAL 2, their only two Alum Rock Park meets of the year. Erik, Azael and Nathan did move into 7th, 9th and 11th on the 2.85 mile course JL all time list, but the team was unable to achieve their league race goal of having 5 boys under 17 minutes. In any case, the Varsity Boys emerged from STAL 2 4-0, with a  win over Prospect, one of two STAL teams to beat them at BVAL finals in 2015.

The team did have some success at their first 2 invitationals, setting school records at both the Lowell Invitational and the Delasalle Invitational. In both cases, Azael lead the team, finishing narrowly ahead of Nathan both times. This was only the 2nd time the comets have run at the Lowell Invitational and the 8th time they have competed at DLS. In any case, both team time records were set by huge margins. The teams consistency issues continued at these invites, while Azael and Nathan performed exceptionally well, Inteus struggled as did Gustavo A. Gustavo P however, began to show huge progress, running 18:31 at the DLS invitational for a new PR by over 1 minute. The Lowell invitational was significant for the team however as they defeated both Santa Teresa and Evergreen, two of the top teams in the MHAL (‘A’ division). The team began the 2015 season looking like a solid ‘A’ league team only to finish 13th at BVALs and the team was determined to not repeat that type of placing.

The team worked very hard over a 2 week hiatus, showing improvement at the 2016 edition of the watermelon run. Nathan became the first Comet athlete to run under 18 minutes for the 3.03 mile version of North Rim, a course which should take longer to run than any other course we race on. The team was very much motivated for a big performance at STAL 3, where they would take on 2 time defending champion Pioneer, at Montgomery hill. The team put it all together at this race, Nathan lead the group as a captain should, running a PR of 15:52 to become the first Comet under 16 at Montgomery Hill since 2003, and only the 3rd ever to do so. The Comets managed to have 6 athletes under 17 minutes at STAL 3, with Gustavo Parra as the 6th boy in, beating the #3 runner from every other school. Even Jesus Deloya as the teams 7th boy  ran 18:22 beating the 5th boy on 4 of the teams in league.

In coming weeks more PRS were set, with the team’s top 4 all achieving PRS under 16:20. Erik Olsvold would go on to run 15:27, the 2nd best James Lick time ever at Montgomery and the best by a Sophomore by far.

The boys extended their record to 7-0 with strong times achieved at the Crystal Springs Invite and Mt. Sac invite as well. Nathan lead the team at Mt. Sac as the first Comet under 17 minutes for the course in a decade.

The team ramped up their focus once more BVAL finals knowing that a good performance would see them achieve their goals. They did all that and more, running a team time of 85:19, and finishing 2nd in the BVAL overall. They were spearheaded by Erik once again, in a time of 16:22. Erik’s times as a freshmen were quite good, his track season was more impressive and this cross country season more impressive still. Erik has truly broken out as a force within the BVAL. Nathan and Azael both run under 17 minutes as well. Inteus had a slightly off race by his standards, but the team saw all 6 competing boys run 17:40 or faster.

The team competed 2 weeks later at CCS without Erik (who cannot compete on Saturdays due to religious commitments) and while their performance was poor at CCS compared to BVAL Finals, the season was overall a huge victory for the varsity boys. The 2016 season saw many milestones for the team, including team course records at Golden Gate Park, Newhall Park, and most significantly Montgomery Hill.

Just as they set out to do, the 2016 JLXC boys team ended the season as STAL champions. This is the 15th cross country league/division championship in school history. It is the 13th league title for the boys, the 5th JLXC title in the BVAL era (1996 and on) and the first ‘B’ division championship for JLXC in the BVAL era, (the first since 1999). This victory is significant for the school as a whole. Since the BVAL went to its power league structure, (1996)  James Lick has only won 17 league/division championships counting this one. This is only the 4th ‘B’ league championship, and the first since Wrestling in 2004.

These varsity boys will now take a break and look ahead to track, where they hope to continue their winning ways.

The Varsity Girls struggled with numbers and finding the time to train as described earlier, but managed to repeat their placings of 2015. The team went 2-5 and placed 14th at BVAL Finals. They also defeated every team in the WVAL (‘C’) league one again, indicating that the time would have won 3 straight championships had we elected to stay down in the WVAL after our 2014 championship. We as a program would much rather move up and push ourselves with greater competition than simply strive for as many titles as possible.

Arlet ran a myriad of good times as the teams leading girl runner. She broke the 20 minute barrier at Alum Rock park and Montgomery hill. Over the course of the season she set school records at Golden Gate Park and at Half Moon Bay HS. She moved up to #2 on virtually every other all time course list, behind only Kayla Matusda. As only a sophomore, Arlet’s future is very bright. At CCS finals she ran 20:02, missing making the State meet by only 7 seconds, the closest any Lady Comet has ever come to qualifying for the State cross country meet.

Arlet helped lead the team to their middle of the pack finish at BVAL finals. Despite the season being slightly disappointing overall for the girls, the team still competed well and had several bright spots. At STAL 5, the girls ran a team time of 109:29, the 2nd best team time at Montgomery Hill in school history. Maria, Daisy and Milka were all quality varsity girls despite difficulties in other areas. Denisse and Analilia stepped up from 2015 and embodied true Comet spirit to become varsity girls. At BVAL final Denisse and Analilia ran 24:26 and 25:08, compared to times of 25:25 and 26:57 in 2015. Belen Sanchez showed great dedication in the 2nd half of the season and looks to be a potential star going forward as well.

The JV and reserve girls suffered from the same lack of numbers that hit the varsity girls,  but they nonetheless had a large group of hard working athletes. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, the team’s top JV runner. Camila began her season at Alum Rock park, running 27:25 for a 9:37 mile pace. She worked her way all the way down to 24:34 at Crystal Springs, running 8:20 mile pace. Susie Peterson had her best season so far, and teammate Aliana Santos had a very quality JV season as well. Fellow hard working athletes like Ashley Preciado, Diana Romero, and Ally Floreza also helped the JV team to a 3-4 placing in the STAL and a 12th place finish at BVAL Finals.

The Frosh/Soph boys had an exceptional season much like their varsity counterparts. The team started slow, with the top boys at STAL 1 being Melvin Estrada in 20:43 and Mark ropier in 20:46. The FS team time at STAL 1 was 105:35, (1:45:35). By STAL #4 however, the team would run almost 10 minutes faster, recording a team time of 96:12 (1:36:12), a new school Frosh/Soph team record at Montgomery hill.They were aided by Vincent Giglio running 17:49, a new FS race record for the Comets at Montgomery Hill. After starting the season in the high 20s, Mark worked his way all the way down to 18:15 at STAL 5. Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon also ran under 20 minutes, with Rudy Peterson running exactly 20 seconds for his PR. This group of boys, along with Melvin and Hugo Marquez, went on to run a team time of 1:40:17 (100:17) at league finals, the best Frosh/Soph team time of the BVAL era. This hard working group  of athletes makes the upcoming track season even more excitement.

It’s very easy to focus on the scoring teams, and to especially hone in on the fastest varsity athletes. This sport truly is about improvement, and the fact that an athlete is willing to put themselves through miles and miles of effort in the cause of bettering themselves is a fact wort admiring regardless of the athletes competitive level. Valerie Flores exemplified this, starting the season with times consistently in the 29-30 minute range before working her way all the way down to 27:09 at league finals. Brittany Salazar also ran huge improvement throughout the season as the only other reserve girl on the team.

The reserve boys were the team’s biggest group and several athletes had seasons to remember. David Bejines lead the team all season, running quality reserve times of 20:14 at Crystal Springs and 19:23 at Montgomery hill. Isaak Herrera had a breakout season, running under 20 minutes at Montgomery hill as well,a dramatic improvement from a year ago when such courses took him over 23 minutes. Austin Swank, Esteban Garcia-Gomez,  Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo consistently helped fill out the team along with Jesse Friaz. Kevin and Daniel in particular, as freshmen runners, made great strides over the course of the season.

The 2016 XC season has come to a close for the Comets. All that stands left is the team banquet in December. Many athletes have moved on to Winter Sports, while many more take a break to focus on school. Beginning in December several of the teams athletes will come together to begin training, and on January 1st 2017, the preparation for Track 2017 will begin in earnest. JLXCTF will look to continue the momentum from a very successful XC season into an equally strong track season.

Thank you for reading and a happy Thanksgiving to you all.

-Benny Reeves

STAL 5/ Mt. Sac Invitational Recap

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The team at Mt. Sac after running the course the night before the race.

This blog will detail the Comets final two meets of the regular season. All that remains now is league finals on Monday October 31st, where all 3 divisions of the BVAL will compete together.

On Thursday October 20th, the Comets had STAL # 5, their final meet of the year at Montgomery Hill. The fact that the meet was run with higher temperatures than any of the other Montgomery meets this year hurt the ability for athletes to run huge PRs, but the team competed well nonetheless.

Vincent Giglio and Mark Orpia started the team’s day off very strong, with a 1-2 overall finish in the Frosh/Soph Boys race. Vincent’s time of 17:49 was a small PR and Mark’s time of 18:15 was a 20 second PR. Mark’s time as a freshmen is better than the freshmen PRS of top runners such as Nathan Bernardo and Erik Olsvold, making his future very bright indeed. Rudy Peterson ran a sizable PR of 20:00 to be the 3rd boy in for the Comets. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon had off days, running 20:02 and 20:09 after both boys ran under 20 minutes a week ago. Hugo Marquez ran a PR of 20:32 and Melvin Estrada ran a solid 21:16 to be the 7th boy.  The Frosh/Soph Boys defeated Independence and finish their season 4-3. They head into league finals 4th in the STAL, but a win over Branham at league finals would likely have them finish in 3rd place in the division. The Frosh/Soph Boys group has rallied strongly over the second half of the season. After having no boys under 20 minutes and only 2 boys under 21 minutes at STAL 1 and 2, the team ended with 4 boys under 20 and a 5th at 20:00, and a 6th boy solidly under 21 minutes. The Frosh/Soph boys represent the depth the boys are building and the likely strength of the program for years to come.

The Varsity girls also defeated Independence, giving them a 2-5 record for the season. This means the girls will likely finish 6th place in the STAL as a team, a respectable showing considering the lack of depth on the girls side. For the girls to be as successful as the boys have been, recruiting more athletes and eliminating athlete turnover need to be focal points going forward. Despite the lower finish on the girls side, it needs to be acknowledged that the girls cross country team is the only James Lick girls team in any sport that is not in the WVAL (c division). Last year the team beat every team from the WVAL by several minutes and is likely to do the same this year. Arlet Miranda lead the team at STAL 5, though she missed her PR running 19:23. Maria Mendoza ran 21:51 and Milka Perez ran a small seasons best of 22:12 to be the 3rd girl in. Daisy Nava ran 22:26, missing her PR by a few seconds. The big breakthrough for the team was Belen Sanchez finishing in 23:37. This huge PR helped close the gap between the team’s 4th and 5th runner, and gave the team a team time of 1:49:29 (109:29) the 2nd best team in school history, only to the team of 2014. Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the team’s scoring.

Despite the absence of Erik Olsvold, the varsity boys were victorious again,finishing their season 7-0 with the win over Independence. Nathan Bernardo lead the group though he had an off race running 16:08. Azael Zamora ran a small PR of 16:13 as did Gustavo Parra who ran 16:45. Gustavo Aguilera, Inteus Castro-Lopez and Jesus Deloya helped finish off the team, though none of them had good races. With their 7-0 record, the Varsity Boys had the chance to get the team their first XC boys championship since 2009 and the school’s first non ‘C’ league championship since the turn of the century. The boys XC team of 1999 won the STAL (and were 1st at BVAL finals overall) to be the last James Lick team in any sport to win a championship in anything higher than the WVAL. The varsity boys team of 2016 will need to finish 1st among STAL schools at BVAL finals to clinch their title.

The JV girls were missing members and unable to field a full team in STAL 5. As a result, they finish 3-4 on the season, though several athletes showed big improvement throughout the season. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, who ran a PR of 24:06 to place 8th in the JV race overall. Camila’s time is promising for a freshmen girl, and she could be a factor on the varsity side as soon as this track season if she maintains her current level of dedication. Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos both competed as well, and though they missed their PRS, he duo has given the team a solid base all season long. Both girls started the STAL season in the 28 minute range, and have worked their way down to the 26’s. Valerie Flores and Brittany Salazar competed on the reserve side and ended the lady Comets day.

The Reserve boys had one of their best showings of the season, with two boys breaking the 20 minute barrier in the same race. David Bejines lead the group in 19:27, a small PR. Isaak Herrera ran a huge PR of 19:31 to place 5th overall. Isaak has improved by leaps and bounds each season, from a league meet best of 28:22 as a freshmen, to 19:31 as a junior. Only last year he was running in the 22 minute range. The drastic improvement of athletes like Isaak is what has us excited about the number of freshmen boys running under 21 minutes this season. Austin Swank ran 20:16 a narrow miss on a PR. Manuel Villalobos, Daniel Portillo and Jesse Friaz rounded out the Comets day at STAL 5.

The next day, a group of 7 boys and 7 girls headed down to Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac Invitational. This trip has been a James Lick tradition since the year 2000, and the team was looking to run fast times in preparation for league finals. The team’s schedule necessitated that they would compete against Division 1 schools (2500 or more students) despite James Lick’s status as a Division 3 school with only 1240 students.

The girls raced first, and battled heat and fatigue to run a solid result. Arlet Miranda ran 20:36 for the 2nd best time in school history. Maria Mendoza was the next girl in for the Comets at 23:08. Milka Perez ran 23:51, and Daisy Nava ran a sizable PR of 24:02. Denisse Calixto ran 25:46 to be the 5th girl and Analilia Regla ran 26:16 to finish off the girls team.The team time of 1:57:23 was the 5th best team time in school history. The team also defeated 3 of the 20 division 3 schools in the race.

On the boys side, Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 16:54. Nathan’s time places him 4th on the school’s all time list at Mt. Sac. Azael Zamora ran 17:16 to move onto 8th on the school’s all time list, and Inteus Castro-Lopez moved into 14th with a time of 17:25. Gustavo Parra was the 4th boy in 17:48, a huge PR for 18th on the school’s all time list. Gustavo Aguilera was the teams 5th boy in a  very poor race for him of 18:27. Jesus Deloya and Austin Swank also competed at Mt. Sac for the first time, running 19:44 and 21:40 respectively.

Considering the long drive, short night sleep etc, the Comets competed well, though based on the team’s times I’d say the team underperformed considerably at Mt. Sac. Even so, the team placed well on the boys side finishing 9th/20 D1 schools. Their team time of 1:27:50 (87:50) is 4th in school history, and the first sub 90 minute clocking at mt. sac since 2003. The team raced in the same race as fellow BVAL school: Evergreen, a team which recently finished the MHAL (A’ division) season with a 6-1 record. The Comets beat the Cougars by nearly 5 minutes. It should be acknowledged that Evergreen was missing several members of the their varsity team, but their consistent #1 runner was in attendance, and the Comets and 3 boys in before a single Evergreen boy.

The team is now busy at work for league finals, only one week away as I write this now. BVAL finals is the biggest day of the season for most of the team. The top 12 varsity teams at BVAL finals will advance to CCS (assuming that all 24 teams run a full team). After the top  12 teams are determined, the runners from these 12 teams are omitted, and the remaining top 9 individuals advance to CCS as well.

“At Large” marks are given in the CCS as well. These are times that guarantee a spot at CCS if achieved at league finals, regardless of place. These marks exist so that worthy runners are not excluded from CCS in the case of an extremely competitive league. Generally, it is easier to make it to CCS via place than it is to hit the at large marks. In any case, the CCS at large marks for Crystal Springs for a division 3 school are:

86:31 as a team, and 17:34 as an individual on the boys side. In short, any individual varsity boy who runs 17:35 or faster at BVAL finals will go to CCS regardless of place. The same goes for any team who runs a team time of 86:31. On the girls side, the team standard is 106:41 and the individual standard is 21:36. 

This week is all about getting the team primed and ready for league finals. We are looking for every athlete, from boys varsity to girls reserve to end the season with a strong performance. Most athletes are training to peak for league finals, though the Varsity Boys and Arlet are training to peak at CCS. Today the team will run a mile time trial to track the team’s progress from the beginning of the season.

The season is nearly over and it is go time for the team as a whole. Be ready Comets.

 

Two James Lick Team Records Fall at STAL #4

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Varsity Boys Huddling Before The Race

On Thursday October 13th, the James Lick Comets faced off against the Oak Grove Eagles in STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill. The meet was a very successful one, in which two different team records fell, 20 PRs were set, and the team scored wins in every division.

The Frosh/Soph boys kicked off the action with a fantastic start. Vincent Giglio won the race in a huge PR of 17:54, finally rounding into form. Vincent’s time not only won the race, but is the best Frosh/Soph time for a James Lick runner at Montgomery Hill ever. Freshmen Mark Orpia had by far the best race of his young career, placing 6th in 18:35. Both Vincent and Mark nearly ran the best mile pace of the season, despite the fact that Montgomery Hill is a very slow course pace-wise. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon ran 19:24 and 19:37 respectively, giving the FS team 4 Comets under 20 minutes at STAL 4, compared to 0 at STAL 1 and 2. Projected 5th runner Melvin Estrada was absent, but Rudy Peterson sealed off the scoring team with  a 20:42 clocking. Hugo Marquez was close behind in 20:51, and Manuel Villalobos ran 21:08 for a 44 second PR as the 7th boy.

After seeming like a typical Frosh/Soph team for much of the season, the team busted out at STAL 4. Their team time of 96:12 (1:36:12) establishes a new Frosh/Soph school record at Montgomery Hill, beating the 98:49 of the team of 2010 handily. This young group continues to look very promising. Only the reserve boys of 2010, a very strong group, ran a faster Non-Varsity team time than this group of Frosh/Soph Boys. They move to 3-3 on the season with the win over Oak Grove.

Next up were the Varsity Girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 19:13 to lead the group in 5th place overall. Maria Mendoza struggled with knee pain, but ran a solid 21:54 to be the 2nd girl. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez finished in the middle of the pack, coming in together at 22:19, a 20 second PR for Daisy. The 5th girl continues to be a weakness for the team, as Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the group in 24:26 and 24:55. The 24:55 time by Analilia was her first time breaking 25 minutes for the course. The win over the Eagles netted the Varsity Girls their first win of the season, putting them at 1-5 on the season.

After tying the school record time of 81:48 as a group a week ago, the Varsity Boys were determined to make the top team time their own. Erik Olsvold won the race overall in a huge 30 second PR of 15:27. Erik is the first individual Varsity winner in a BVAL league race for James Lick since Carlos Montes in 2009. His time moves him firmly into #2 on the school’s all time list. Erik will be on religious retreat next week when the team has their final Montgomery meet, but as a Sophomore, the school record of 15:05 is firmly in sight. Nathan Bernardo had an off race by his standards, but ran a good time of 16:05 to place 6th overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez and Azael Zamora came in next with PRS of 16:17 and 16:22 respectively, giving the team 4 runners in the top 8 overall. Gustavo Parra ran 16:50 as the 5th boy, to give the team a combined time of 81:01 (1:21:01) smashing the old school record. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:22, and Jesus Deloya established a new PR of 18:22 to finish the varsity boys day. The team moves to 6-0 and with a win against Independence next week, will end the regular season undefeated.

The Reserve Boys race was next and David Bejines once again lead the group, though he missed his PR narrowly, running 19:37. Austin Swank ran a 20 second PR of 20:10, not far behind to place 11th out 98 reserve runners. Isaak Herrera ran a small PR of 20:42 to finish 16th. Kevin Bach ran a huge PR of 22:04, and Daniel Portillo just missed his own PR, running 23:34, 8 seconds off. Though technically non-scoring, the reserve boys are 4-2 against the other reserve teams so far.

The JV and reserve girls finished up the team day. Camila Hernandez continues to impress, breaking 25 minutes for the first time with a 24:42 clocking. Susie Peterson ran a PR of 26:08 as did Aliana Santos who ran 26:54. A PR for Ashley Preciado followed in 30:42, and Diana Romero rounded out the group in 31:55. The JV girls took the win over an incomplete Eagles team, moving to 3-3 on the season. Valerie Flores knocked down a PR in 28:36 as did Brittany Salazar, running 31:51 to break 32 for the first time.

The Comets have one league meet next, and will record their final PRs, and records for the season at STAL 5 on October 20th. The next day, a select group of highly dedicated Comets will take the trip down to Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac invitational.