James Lick Track 2019 Season Preview: Year 2 In The ‘B’ Division

The James Lick track team is conditioning now ahead of what will be it’s second year of competition in the Santa Teresa (‘B’) division of the BVAL in track and field. A year ago in my season preview, I said that our goal was simply to go 5-9 between the boys and girls sides, to prove we belonged in the division. We exceeded that goal by going 6-8, just one win shy of a .500 record. The team of 2018 was the largest track team I’ve coached, with a max total of 69 athletes competing for James Lick in our dual against Pioneer last year. We were also able to re-institute pole vault at James Lick for the first time in decades. Coach Raul Lopez managed to help two Comet boys advance to BVAL finals in the event.

BVAL Shakeup

Last season, the combined records in the division looked like this:

1. Evergreen: 14-0 

2. Pioneer: 11-3

3. Lincoln: 11-3

4. James Lick: 6-8

5. Prospect: 6-8 

6. Piedmont Hills: 5-9

7. Sobrato: 2-10

8. Oak Grove: 1-13

Normally the BVAL stays pretty stagnant, but things were shaken up after this season. Evergreen was dominant. Their closest dual meet was decided by more than 20 points, and they were the outright winners of several invitationals. They moved up to the ‘A’ division with Mt. Pleasant moving all the way down to the ‘C’ division, and Live Oak moved up to join us in the ‘B’ division.

The makeup of the division is much different without Evergreen. Live Oak will look to make an impact with some very impressive young talent.

With year 2 on the horizon, the Comets are working towards their first winning season in the ‘B’ division, and we have our sights set in attacking a ‘B’ division title on the girls side outright. While the girls team of 2018 only went 3-4, it finished very strong. We opened the season with 4 straight losses then finished with 3 straight wins. At Division finals last year, the lady Comets finished 2nd overall, only losing to dominant division champions.

This strong performance on the girls side showed the potential the team has for a title chase, and 2019 figures to be an exciting season with the team more prepared for the thralls of the Santa Teresa division.

Girls Season Preview (Boys Below) 

Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness. 

Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 10.7 27 40% 5
Hurdles 12.5 18 69% 22
Jumps 12.5 27 46% 12
Relays 3.5 10 35% 6
Sprints 7.7 27 28% 2
Throws 16.7 18 93% 48

Top returning girls

On the girls side, the team’s weakest area was sprints. That being said, it was actually the best sprint corps the team has had on the girls side in some time, it was primarily the greater strength of the ‘B’ division that created the low point total. The year before in 2017, the lady Comets had 32% of available sprint points. That total barely dropped as the team moved up to a substantially more difficult division. The team will be counting on a few key athletes in these events to take the next step. Furthermore, the team ran the best 4×100 that James Lick has managed since 1993. It did so with a team that contained no seniors or juniors. There is great reason to be optimistic about 2019.

The distance team also will look to improve. Similar to the sprint squad, the Comets are returning all of their best distance athletes. The team scored 40% of points available, a respectable total in a year where we only managed a 1-6 record in cross country. This school year we went 5-2 in cross country, and I think this greater XC success will translate into greater distance results in track.

Jumps are an area of focus as well. While the team’s top 2 triple jumpers are back (both scored  at division finals) the team lost the stalwart of presence of Lyndel Ventura. Lyndel moved up to #4 on the school’s all time long jump list with a leap of 16-7.25 last year, and her graduation leaves a bit of a void in the event. The team will also look to improve in high jump, with their 3 top athletes returning (all were sophomores last year). Last but not least, a major deciding factor in the title race will be the Comets ability to produce lady pole vaulters. Only a handful of girls pole vaulted in the entire division last year, which could give the Comets a big advantage if they succeed.

The Comets were very strong in hurdles, with a returning division champion in the 100 hurdles and the top returning 300m hurdler in the division as well. With the team’s top 3 hurdlers returning, it should be another great area of strength for the team.

Throws have been absolutely dominant for James Lick over the past few seasons. The case could be made that we were the best girls throws team in the entire BVAL. We produced 3 CCS qualifiers in throws for 2 consecutive years, but we are likely to take a hit in throws this year. While the team returns Valeria Cortez, as by far the division’s #1 ranked discus thrower, the loss of Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron, ( the school record holders in discus and shot put respectively ) will make this area more challenging. We will need some younger lady Comets to step up.

Key Comet Athletes 

We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes. 

Valeria Cortez: While I would love more data to have more athletes to compare her to, as it currently stands, Valeria is likely the 2nd best female track athlete in school history. (She certainly is based on the records I have).  She is the only James Lick athlete I know of to have qualified for CCS trials in 3 different individual events. Based on last season, among returners she is ranked #1 in girls discus (112-8, while 2nd is at 100-8) , #2 in the girls 100 hurdles (16.88), and #3 in girls shot put (33-7). Her 300 hurdles PR is better than all but 1 girl in the division as well. To make things more interesting, Valeria is only a few feet behind the current school discus record.

Arlet Miranda: Arlet has had a very string career, plagued with injuries. Whenever healthy, she’s been a force for the team. As a sophomore, she became the first girl in school history to make CCS outright in the 800 (and she wasn’t fully healthy at the time). She is coming off of only her 2nd XC season to be injury free, and is poised for a big season if she can continue that. She is ranked #4 in both the 1600 and 800, and #6 in the 3200.  She is also #2 in school history in all 3 distance events, making this an exciting year in terms of potential school records.

Natalie Rem: As a freshmen last season, Natalie took the division by storm. She was primarily focused on jumps for most of the season, but came on very strong as a sprinter by the end of the season. She is the #3 returning triple jumper with a PR of 33-1. She is also ranked #8 in long jump (15-1) and #3 in the 100 at 13.49. That 100m PR put her 9th place in school history, and she is by far the fastest girl we’ve had since I’ve been coaching. Natalie could be a force for this team if she continues to develop her sophomore season.

Kirsten Yutuc: Kirsten has two consecutive BVAL qualifications in the 300 hurdles, and she took major strides last season. With Evergreen gone, Kirsten stands as the best 300 hurdler in the division with a PR of 51.80. Kirsten is a very versatile athlete. She is on the top 14 rankings of more events than any athlete in the entire division. She is a threat in all 3 sprint events. She is ranked top 10 in both Long Jump (14-9) and Triple Jump (30-9.5) and she is ranked #4 in the 100 hurdles (18.22).

Yesenia Martinez: Yesenia was our most improved athlete as a sophomore last season. While she was only our 10th best sprinter, by the end of the season she qualified for BVALS in the 100 hurdles. She is ranked 6th in that event (18.43) 6th  in teh 300 hurdles (54.72) and tied for 4th in High Jump at 4-6. We will be looking for Yesenia to hit the ground running this season.

Boys Season Preview

Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness. 

Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 16.5 27 61% 10
Hurdles 9.7 18 54% 6
Jumps 10 27 37% 3
Relays 2.86 10 28% 9
Sprints 7.6 27 28% 0
Throws 6.28 18 35% 4

 

Top returning boys

The team’s strongest area a year ago was distance. This isn’t too surprising since the cross country team was already competing in the ‘B’ division, but the loss of top runner Azael Zamora does leave a void. Younger Comets will have to step up, but the team will need to use depth to overcome the loss of a top-notch runner.

Hurdles were the 2nd best area, primarily because of Cody Huoch. With Cody also graduated (now competing at San Jose City College) the team will need to find some new hurdlers, and we aren’t drawing from a position of strength the way that we are in distance. Finding new hurdlers is a key to success this season.

The sprints and jumps squads should be radically improved this year, and that is an area of excitement for us. While we took only 28% of points in sprints, and 37% of points in jumps, the vast majority of our top athletes are back and looking strong. By the end of the season, the team was much better in these events, and will look to build on a strong finish by their sophomore athletes.

Throws are the biggest area of concern at present. We netted 35% of points last year, but virtually all of those points graduated with Daniel Medina and Josh Garcia. Last year the frosh/soph boys scored only 10% of possible throws points. The team desperately needs reinforcements in throws, this is a critical area of improvement for this season.

Key Comet Athletes 

We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes. 

Salvador Lopez: Sal was one of our top athletes in his sophomore season. He was the starting Quarterback for the varsity team this year, and has gotten much more explosive through working out and natural growth. For example, last season his High jump PR was 5-2. At an all comers meet earlier this month, Sal jumped 5-8 despite the fact that he hasn’t practiced high jump in months. One can only wonder what improvements he’ll show in other events. He was already ranked as the #6 returning triple jumper (37-8.5) and #10 returning long jumper (17-10). He’s also just 1 spot off the list in the 400 but I suspect Sal will be a great athlete for us across the board this year.

Raven Alcantara: By the end of last season, Raven was our top sprinter. He ended the season with a 100m PR of 11.79, the #6 returning 100m runner in the division. Raven has always struggled to double and we are focusing on helping him be more capable of running the 200 as well. He is also ranked 7th in the boys triple jump (37-8). Raven and Sal both decided not to play basketball this season in order to focus on track and this could mean big things for their development.

Erik Olsvold: Erik’s career has been up and down. As a sophomore, he was poised to be a tremendous distance runner, winning the ‘B’ division championship in XC and the 3200 title in the ‘C’ division in track. Injuries kept him out most of his junior year, but in a period 3 weeks, Erik went from not being able to job without pain, to placing 6th at division finals in the 800. Erik’s focus will be the 400/800 this season, and he is determined to go out on a high note.

Conclusion: 

We are very optimistic about the 2019 season. We will need to be creative over the next few weeks as our track and field is being resurfaced. The expectation is that we will host our first home meet on March 15th against Live Oak on a brand new track.

Official practice begins tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

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James Lick Track Season Comes to a Close: A Reflection on 5 Years of Coaching

When Charli Chircop hurled the discus 100-10 at CCS Finals, she signaled the end of not only her career, but of the 2018 track season (as far as James Lick is concerned). The 2018 season ending was very significant for me personally. It signified the end of my 5th year coaching, and also the end of my first year as a teacher. This blog will be a reflection on my first 5 years as a coach, and the growth of the cross country and track programs over the past 5 seasons.

The team has improved a lot over the past 5 seasons, that is especially demonstrated in track. If this years team faced the team of 2014 in a dual meet, assuming everyone matched their seasons bests, this would be the result:

Boys 2018: 116             Girls 2018: 102

Boys 2014: 19               Girls 2014: 25

I began coaching in fall of 2013. Alex Ponik, one of my coaches at James Lick, was stepping down as head coach. He offered me a position as an assistant coach, a job I was happy to accept. The day before school began for James Lick however, I was informed that our intended head coach would be unable to coach after all. As a result, I was forced to take the helm along with John Quasarano at the last moment.

That first year was tough. As a 20-year old, I lacked confidence in  my own authority as a coach. Our top runner and team captain was Armando Aguilar. Armando and I were teammates just a few years before when I myself was team captain. We were also a very inexperienced team on the boys side. 5 of our 7 varsity boys had never run cross country before 2013. Only Armando had been a member of the varsity team before. This combined with our placement in the ‘B’ division, saw us finish with a 1-6 record on the varsity boys side. Honestly, we were lucky to even win 1 meet.

The huge bright side of that season was the varsity girls team. We pulled off a 4-3 season, the first winning season for the Lady Comet since 2009. Of the 24 BVAL teams, we finished in 15th place on the girls side at BVAL Finals. Our Combined team time was 117:28 (or 1:57:28). It was the first time the team had run under 2 hours at Crystal Springs in several years, giving us good hope for the future.

The boys however finished 20th. Our team was 97:09 (1:37:09). This was partly due to the fact that Armando was unable to finish the race, but in any case, a 20th place finish was not where we wanted to be. Seeing our BVAL places, and our inexperienced coaching staff, the BVAL moved us down to the ‘C’ division for the 2014 season.

That was my lowest moment as a coach so far, largely because I believed that we did not belong in the ‘C’ division. We were a young coaching staff and a young team, but I was very confident we could turn things around.

Track was a different season. I joined the track coaching staff along with Ricardo Flores, Juan Trejo and Ray Iniguez. At the time, James Lick track had not won a single dual meet in over 5 years. The Comets had not had a winning season since 2000, and the girls had not had one on record in school history (definitely not since 1996 when the BVAL began keeping records).

The setup that first year saw me in charge of the girls track team, while the other 3 coaches handled the boys team. We managed to eek out our first wins in years, which gave us cause to dream bigger for the future.

On a personal level, 2014 was my most important year as a coach. My goal has always been to help my athletes improve by as much as possible, and hope that wins and success will follow from great improvement. 2014 was when I first gained confidence in my ability to foster improvement in my athletes, thanks to the hard work of a few key athletes.

Daniela Camacho had run 5:49 for the 1600 as a freshmen, though she slowed down to 6:02 as a sophomore, (not an uncommon phenomenon among girl distance runners). That year as a junior, we managed to reverse that trend and Daniela ended the season at 5:43 for the 1600. She lowered her PR to 5:27 the next season, a mark which currently stands as our school record (though Arlet Miranda ran 5:31 this season so here’s hoping she will beat it next year).

Destiny Lopez was maybe the most important athlete towards helping me believe in my own training methods. Destiny had run track since freshmen year, and her PRs were 6:51 in the 1600 and 15:47 in the 3200. 2014 was her senior year, my only year coaching her. It was a trough process, but at division finals, she ran massive PRs, 6:31 for the 1600 and 14:11 for the 3200.

Our track team had 23 athletes in 2014 and we had our first wins in years. Most important to me personally, I felt that just like the James Lick teams of old, we could work hard and improve substantially in pursuit of bigger victories. Our goal for XC 2014 was simple, prove that it was a mistake to send us down to the ‘C’ division.

Our girls thrived in that goal. The team went 7-0 and won the division handily. At BVAL Finals, after placing 15th in 1:57:28 the year before, we finished in 8th place in 1:50:00. The 1:50:00 mark is the 2nd best team time in school history. The team of 1981 is the only team to have run faster, incidentally the only other girls championship team in school history. The boys team improved significantly as well, moving up from 20th place to 15th place, and running 6 minutes faster as a team.

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2014 Team at CCS Left to Right: Mila Perez, Maria Mendoza, Paloma Contreras, Julia Cruz, Evalilia Garcia, Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores

The 2014 team will always be special to me because it was my first division championship as a coach. The more rapid improvement was in track and field. In 2015, we had our first winning season in over a decade. By 2016, a girls division title. In 2017 a 2nd girls title, followed by our move up the ‘B’ division. The success in track and field is in no small part thanks to the excellent coaches I’ve had the chance to work with. From Coach Vela who was by my side in track from the beginning, to coach Nichols, and Turner, and recently coach Raul Lopez. Every coach we’ve had in track has played a pivotal role in improving the team.

The most impressive team of my coaching career however was the 2016 XC team, my only boys title to date, and my only ‘B’ division championship team so far.

That team showed what the culmination of years of hard work could lead to. Team captain Nathan Bernardo did an exceptional job leading that team. Truth to be told, I had to miss many practices throughout the season but Nathan never let the team waver. He lead practice when I could not. All of the teams hard work paid off with the boys going 7-0 and placing 2nd at BVAL finals, only losing to the ‘A’ division champions Willow Glen.

Our team time of 1:25:19 was a respectable mark for James Lick in any era. While it is nowhere near the school record of 1:20:46, it was the 12th best team time in school history,  and the best ever JL time at BVAL Finals.

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2016 Championship team Left to right: Me, Gustavo Aguilera, Erik Olsvold, Nathan Bernardo, Inteus Castro-Lopez, Gustavo Parra, Azael Zamora

After 5 years, I feel pretty good about where the program is at. We are solidly in the ‘B’ division in both cross country and track, and we have a very young team on both sides. Long term, coach Raul Lopez and myself will be looking to help take the program to the next level, eventually being a member of the ‘A’ division.

I’m proud that we’ve been able to outperform many schools that are larger than us, and better funded. We are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL with a tick over 1100 students. The schools that are still consistently better than us have a few things in common. Some are outside of our control, such as larger enrollment and greater funds to draw from.

The most difficult discrepancy to overcome for us in my opinion is the lack of experience many of our athletes have. Our primary feeder schools are Joseph George and Shepard Middle School . Neither school had a track team this year. They often do not have cross country and when they do, it is not a substantial program. Willow Glen is consistently the best cross country team in the BVAL. This is in large part due to the amazing work of Coach Victor Santamaria, but every year, Willow Glen Middle School churns out multiple boys in the low 5 minute range in the 1600 and sometimes even some sub 5 minute boys.

The same is true of many of the schools we struggle to beat. Many of the top athletes in the area have been training for a long time. Our athletes have a lot of catching up to do. Azael Zamora just graduated with HS personal bests of 4:33 in the 1600 and 9:55 in the 3200. He did not join cross country until his sophomore year, and to that point he had never broken 6 minutes for the mile.

Long term, we are aiming to help ensure  that some of our alumni will take on coaching positions at some our local middle schools to help athletics not just at James Lick, but throughout the east side as a whole.

I also hope to have more alumni join my coaching staff. Coach turnover has been an issue for us, and having a more consistent solidified coaching staff will help us improve.

We are not at the same level of James Lick’s greatest teams, but restoring the greatness of James Lick in XC and track has been my goal since I started coaching. We are not nearly there, but we are a lot closer than we were 5 years ago. I want to thank every Comet that has been apart of it, and everyone who actually reads my rambling with interest/support.

Best marks/times under me can all be found under the history section of the blog ^

The 2018 XC team will begin conditioning on June 18th at 9:30 A.M.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!