Comets To Be Represented at CCS Finals For 3rd Consecutive Year

The Comets took to Gilroy High School on Saturday May 11th 2019 for CCS trials. A total of 6 Comets competed in the meet, the most for James Lick in over a decade. The meet saw a few strong results for the team, and for the 3rd consecutive season, James Lick will have an athlete competing at CCS Finals in the girls discus.

The meet began with the boys 4×100. Geovanny Campos, Raven Alcantara, Rodolf Ocampo and Salvador Lopez combined to run 46.04, an off race due to a poor first exchange. This saw them place 28th in the meet. They are nonetheless the first 4×100 team for James Lick to compete at CCS since 2002. With an all junior quartet, the Comets will hope to be back at the event next season.

Marquise Nelson ended her track career with a PR in the Shot Put. She threw 33-8, a PR by 8 inches and moved up to #3 on the schools all-time list in the event. Marquise didn’t join track until this, her senior season. She showed great talent to finish 16th at CCS trials, despite her inexperience in the event.

Rodolf became the first Comet to contest the 110 hurdles at CCS in over a decade as well. Rodolf had alot go wrong with his race. He took 9 steps to the first hudle (All season we’ve used an 8 step takeoff) and this forced him to hurdle on his right leg for the race instead of his left. Rodolf can use both legs effectively because he spent most of the season “four-stepping” (alternating legs) but his left leg is his stronger lead led. He lost momentum and almost crashed into the final hurdle narrowly avoiding it. Despite all this, he ran 16.57, the 2nd best time of his career. He placed 19th and I am very excited about his chances to produce even greater results next season.

The final Comet to compete on the day has been our ringer for the past four seasons, Valeria Cortez. As detailed in past posts, Valeria has been our MVP for 3 straight seasons, and has represented James Lick to a very high caliber both on and off the track.  Because she has been such a strong athlete for such a long time, PRS have not been easy to come by for Valeria.

She entered the meet with a PR of 112-8, 2nd in school history, a mark that had not been improved upon since April of 2018. Both she, and throws coach Raul Lopez have worked hard all season with the goal of making CCS Finals, and finally achieving a PR in the girls discus. This involved weeks of fine-tuning and minor tweaks to her form, all with the hope of squeezing a last few inches out of Valeria’s arm before the end of her High School career.

Only the top 12 athletes advance to CCS Finals in field events, and Valeria was ranked to do so. That being said, the field was very strong.

Valeria’s first throw was a 95 foot mark. Well off her best. Her 2nd was a 108 foot toss with a very high release. The mark put her safely into the top 12, but it looked as if she had more in her on the day. Throw number three looked to be very strong, but Valeria was not able to maintain controlling, she stepped outside the ring for a foul.

On her final throw, Valeria had the same strong rotation, but the release still seemed a little too high. The discus wobbled in the air due to this, but the momentum was there. The throw measured at 116-10, a PR by over 2 feet to send her to CCS Finals as the #6 seed. This is the highest ranking for any James Lick athlete at CCS finals since Ruth Lebeau in 2007.

IMG_7155
Valeria Cortez taking a warmup throw before the meet

Valeria will represent the Comets next Friday at the Gilroy venue. Charli Chircop made CCS finals two years in a row in this event, and now Valeria will take her turn at representing the team at the CCS’ most hallowed event. According to my records, she will be the 26th Comet to compete at CCS Finals.

She and the other 11 ladies in the event will receive 3 throws. The top 8 at that point will be re-seeded and receive an additional 3 throws. The top 8 athletes will score points for their teams. The top 6 athletes make the CCS podium (and I think they get medals) and the top 3 athletes will advance to the State Meet.

Based on the standings, 3rd place is a difficult proposition (124-1 is the 3rd seed). That being said, Valeria is ranked to make the CCS podium. For an athlete who has racked up more medals than any other Comet in recent years, it would be a great one to end on. The competition will be fierce. the #4 seed is less than a foot ahead of Valeria. The #7 seed has a PR over 120′.

It is sure to be an exciting day on Friday May 17th, when Valeria Cortez will represent James Lick for what is likely the final time in a marvelous career that has defined what I affectionately think of as our attempt at a James Lick Track renaissance.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

Advertisements

Both Boys Relays Teams, 3 More Individuals Advance to CCS Trials

Counting the relay athletes, the Comets had 9 CCS qualifiers from the BVAL Finals meet on Thursday May 2nd at Westmont High School. This is the most athletes the team has seen qualify for CCS in the entire BVAL era (since 1996). That being said, the team only produced 3 individual qualifiers, compared to 4 the year before.

The meet features the top 7 athletes from the ‘A’ division finals, the top 5 athletes from the ‘B’ division finals and the top 4 from the ‘C’ division finals. In some events, additional athletes competed in the case that the “At-large” mark was reached. For example if the 5th place time in the ‘C’ division final was high quality enough, they would also advance to BVAL finals.

For the most part, every event has 16 entries and the top 8 in each event advance to CCS Trials.

The meet began with the pole vault. Last year at BVAL finals, both Mark Orpia and Rodolf Ocampo competed, representing the Comets at the meet in Pole Vault for the first time in school history. They went 9-0 and 8-6 respectively, both PRs at the time. The duo has come a long way, with the pair achieving PRS of 10-8 and 10-2 respectively at this years addition. They placed 10th and 12th.

Next up was the girls discus. Valeria Cortez took 2nd overall with a toss of 111-1, sealing her 4th consecutive CCS appearance in the girls discus. Joe Amendt and Ruth Lebeau are the only other Comets (on record) to make CCS four times in a single event. Marquise Nelson managed a PR in the event though she came in 10th, ending her career with a best of 94- 4.5, the 5th best mark in school history in the discus.

The running events began at 5:00 PM with the 4×100. This years squad has established themselves as the best 4×100 team from James Lick in many years and they backed it up, becoming the first 4×100 team from James Lick to make CCS trials in the BVAL era. The squad of Raven Alcantara, Rodolf Ocampo, Salvador Lopez and Geovanny Campos combined to run a seasons best 45.06 to place 7th, clinching their spot at CCS.

The next event with Comet competitors was the hurdles. Valeria ended her career in the event with a 17.28, finishing 10th place. Valeria’s PR of 16.75 in the event is currently the #3 all-time mark in school history (on record).It was an off race for her, where many times were hampered by a headwind. Yesenia Martinez was racing well until she clipped a hurdle and stumbled, losing her balance. She recovered but it was a poor time by her standards.

The performance of the day in my opinion, and perhaps the performance of my entire coaching tenure was Rodolf in the 110 hurdles. Last year, Rodolf began hurdling late in the season and ended the year with a PR of 19.01, not advancing to BVAL finals. This year, he improved dramatically, lowering his PR all the way down to 16.85 at ‘B’ division finals to place 3rd and qualify for BVALS. He went into BVAL finals ranked 11th, meaning he would need a big day to make CCS. Rodolf had more than a big day, he had an absolute breakthrough. He placed 5th in a massive PR of 15.97, making CCS by a wide margin. After “four-stepping” all year, it was Rodolf’s first time “Three-stepping” a race and it lead to the huge PR. Rodolf is the first boy to make CCS in the 110 hurdles in the BVAL era.

The Comets did not have any more competitors in the meet until the boys 100. Raven ran 11.63, the 2nd best time of his career in the event, placing 14th. Next up was the girls 800. After years of ups and downs, Arlet Miranda went out with the best time of her career, 2:28.08. This PR was not enough to get her to CCS however, as she finished 9th, one spot out of qualification. Arlet nonetheless ends her career #2 in school history in all 3 distance events.

Jerricho Habon competed in the boys 800 but had a poor race, gaining experience for next years addition. The final field events were going on at this time. Marquise Nelson threw 32-4.5 for 7th place in the girls Shot Put, punching her ticket to CCS trials. In the long jump, Sal barely missed his PR, going 20-3.5 but sadly finishing in 9th place. Even so, Sal had a great season as last year his best long jump was 17-10. Yeimili Adame contested the girls 3200 for the Comets, running 13:27, a PR by more than 30 seconds, moving her to #7 on the schools all time list in the event.

IMG_7114
Arlet Miranda in the final (and fastest) 800m of her HS career

The final event of the day was the boys 4×400. The Comets went in ranked 11th, needing a great performance and some good luck to make it through to CCS. The team of Sal, Erik Olsvold, Jerricho and Misael Herrera combined to run 3:36.78, the best time by any JL 4×400 team since the 3:35 clocking of 2002. Initially, it looked like the Comets were 10th, but disqualifications to Willow Glen and Pioneer moved the Comets up to 8th place.

IMG_7120
Left to right: Salvador Lopez, Jerricho Habon, Misael Herrera and Erik Olsvold after the 4×400 

The Comets who advanced to CCS trials will be competing on Saturday May 11th at Westmont High School with the chance to end the season with some good marks, and to potentially make CCS finals. The 9 total qualifiers is the highest number the Comets have ever produced at BVAL finals.

CCS Trials begins at 10 AM at Gilroy High School.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

Comets Fly High at Day 1 of Division Finals

Day 1 of ST (‘B’) Division finals kicked off on Thursday April 18th at Lincoln High School. The meet serves as the final determinant of standings in the division. Day 1 is trials in all lane events, with the top 8 athletes advancing to finals on Saturday. The top 8 athletes in each event score points for their teams in the following format:

1st place: 10 points

2nd place: 8 Points

3rd place: 6 points

4th place: 5 points

5th place: 4 points

6th place: 3 points

7th place: 2 points

8th place: 1 points.

The final point totals at division finals help solidify the standings for the regular season. In addition, the top 5 athletes in each final advance to BVAL Championships in 2 weeks (the CCS qualifying meet).

Most events were only trials on Thursday but the Comets did well in a few different finals.  The meet began with the pole vault for example. Mark Orpia managed a full foot PR of 10-6 to take 2nd place overall. Rodolf Ocampo was 3rd in 10-0 even. Last year, these two placed 4th and 5th with jumps of 8-6 and 8-0, to become the first vaulters from James Lick in a long time. Both have come along way, as both are now over the 10 foot barrier. Adrian DeLaRosa tied for 6th with a vault of 8-0.

The next event to take place was the boys high jump. Salvdor Lopez had an off day, only clearing 5-4 and tied for 6th, unfortunately out of the qualification for BVALS. Josh Merin tied with Sal in what was a PR for him, going 5-4 as well. Erik Olsvold went 5-2 in the event as well.

Meanwhile, the Girls discus was won by Valeria Cortez with a best of 111-11. This was the 2nd consecutive division championship in the girls discus for Valeria, and the 4th division championship of her career (she has two titles in the 100 hurdles). Valeria will certainly leave James Lick as one of the most decorated athletes in school history, with a shot at a 3rd consecutive division title in the girls 100 hurdles on Saturday.

Marquise Nelson was 2nd with the 2nd best throw of her career, 87-4. This 1-2 punch will advance to BVALs looking for even more. In the boys Shot Put, Nathan Rios managed 8th place with a huge PR of 34-0 (previous best 31-10).

The running events began with the girls 1600. Arlet Miranda placed 5th in 5:45, the 4th BVAL qualification of her career in the 1600. Ruth Rodriguez also ran, clocking in at 6:41, the 2nd best time of her career.

In the 100 hurdles, the Comets advanced two athletes to the final on Saturday. Valeria ran a seasons best 17.01 and enters the final as the #1 ranked athlete by a wide margin. Yesenia Martinez is ranked 5th entering the final with a time of 19.28.

On the boys side, the Comets also advanced two hurdlers to the final. Rodolf  ran a PR of 17.09 and is ranked 3rd entering the final. Josh managed a huge PR of 19.30 and is ranked 6th for the final on Saturday. Dekota Castro-Lopez also competed, running a PR of 21.70.

In the girls 400, Yeimili Adame ran a PR by more than a second, clocking in at 1:05.65 to place 2nd in her heat. Despite placing 2nd in her heat, Yeimili actually ran the 2nd best time of the day between the 3 heats. She will enter the final as the #4 seed because she did not win her heat, but figures to have a great shot at making BVALS. Estefani Herrera ran a PR of 1:17.34 in the event as well.

On the boys side, Misael Herrera made the 2nd division final of his career, placing 7th overall with the 2nd best time of his career (54.86). A big PR in the final could see him advance to BVAL Champs. He is ranked 7th entering the final. Angel Guerrero alos competed, running 59.56.

The 100m dash saw multiple false starts which hindered some of the times. Even so, Marquise managed a small PR of 14.19. Chantrea Thach ran the 2nd best time of her career as well (15.54). After missing the final narrowly last year, Raven Alcantara ran 11.81 to qualify for this one as the #6 seed). Geo Campos ran 12.10 to place 10th and Jordan Laguna also competed for the Comets.

IMG_6898
Raven Alcantara getting out in the 100m dash

The final field event of the day was the boys triple jump, where Raven, Jordan and Jamie Vong represented the team. Jamie and Jordan both scored points in the final, with Jamie taking 7th in 37-1 and Jordan taking 8th in 36-8.25.

IMG_6888
Jamie Vong on the final phase of his triple jump 

All 3 lady Comets in the 800 advanced to the final on Saturday and with strong performances to boot. Arlet took 2nd in her heat at 2:35, losing only to Hannah Gehrt, the #1 seed in the event. Arlet’s time was the 2nd best time on the day, so she enters the final as the #3 seed (since she was nota  heat winner). Mya Hammond ran a massive PR of 2:49.41 and is the #9 seed entering the final, putting her in a position to score. Mya’s previous best was 2:57, but her strong sprint times indicated she was ready for a big breakthrough in the 400/800. Ashley Preciado also advanced to the final running 2:51.62 for a seasons best, putting her ranked 11th for the final on Saturday.

Erik Olsvold ran the 800 knowing it would be the final race of his career since he will not be able to attend the final on Saturday. Erik went all-out , running a new PR of 2:05.90 in the event. It was by far the 2nd best time of the day, but unfortunately Erik’s distance season will end here. Jerricho Habon comfortably made the final, coasting to 7th overall in 2:13.47.

IMG_6917
Erik Olsvold in the 800 on his way to a PR

In the girls 300 hurdles, all 3 Comets made the finals. Valeria placed 4th overall in 54.41. Yeimili ran a new PR of 56.24 to place 5th and Arlet ran 56.64 for 6th. On the boys side, Rodolf and Mark head to the final ranked 3rd and 4th with PRS of 45.46 and 45.50.

In the girls 200, Mya ran a 2nd big PR of the day, running 29.89 for the event, the only Comet to break 30 seconds this season. Chantrea also ran a big PR, running under 33 seconds for the first time to clock in at 32.64. On the boys side, Raven made the final as the #8 seed with a new PR of 24.04. Misael matched his PR of 24.56 and Angel competed as well though he was not close to his PR.

The final event of the day was the final of the boys 3200. Two Comets scored points for the team. Melvin Estrada ran a seasons best 11:02 for 7th place and Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 11:07 for 8th.

The Majority of the finals will take place on Saturday, but with 4 finals finished on the girls side, and 5 finals finished on the boys side, here are the team scores so far:

Boys: 

  1. Pioneer 83 points
  2. Lincoln 29 points
  3. James Lick 27 points
  4. Prospect 24 points
  5. Sobrato 15 points
  6. Piedmont Hills 11 points
  7. Live Oak 6 Points
  8. Oak Grove 0 points

Girls: 

  1. Lincoln 25 Points
  2. James Lick 22 Points
  3. Pioneer 18 points
  4. Sobrato 20 points
  5. Oak Grove 15 Points
  6. Piedmont Hills 15 points
  7. Live Oak 6 points
  8. Prospect 6 points

 

If the current positions hold, the Comets are likely to move up in the standings on the girls side and Pioneer is in danger of losing their division title on the girls side are going 7-0 in the regular season.

The final day of Division finals will kick off at 11 AM on Saturday April 20th. Athletes who make BVALS champs will then have spring break to train hard for an even bigger meet.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comets End Season at CCS Finals

For the first time since 2007, James Lick had scoring varsity teams on both the boys and girls sides at CCS Finals.

This year’s CCS finals was held later than usual due to the devastating wildfires that have raged in Northern California over the past few weeks. While San Jose was fortunate enough to be many miles from the fires, the smoke from the fire has caused unhealthy conditions throughout the Bay area, and the team was not allowed to practice due to safety concerns for over a week.

The meet was postponed 3 times and finally moved to Toro Park in Salinas where the air quality was better. The lack of practice hurt the team, as the varsity boys had a very poor performance by their standards. The team of Nien Tran, Erik Olsvold, Jerricho Habon, Mark Orpia and Melvin Estrada made up the team. Despite a disappointing showing at CCS, the boys were able to represent the team well in what was a solid season for the team.

IMG_5739
The varsity boys before the race

 

The girls team was able to perform fairly well despite the unusual buildup to CCS. Arlet Miranda ended her HS cross country career with a PR of 20:42, a strong end to a great James Lick career. Arlet ends her career firmly entrenched as James Lick’s 2nd greatest female cross country runner ever.

She ends her career as: The school record holder on two courses: (Golden Gate Park and Half Moon Bay).

The 2nd fastest runner in school history on 6 courses: (Stanford, Mt. Sac, Montgomery Hill, Newhall Park, Crystal Springs and Alum Rock Park BVAL version).

The 3rd fastest runner in school history on 3 courses: (Toro Park and Alum Rock Park MHAL version).

Arlet was not able to approach the times of Kayla Matsuda, but was an absolute rock for our team over the past few years, despite often battling injury issues. Coming off of her first healthy XC season since her sophomore year, Arlet will attack the school record in all 3 distance events in track this season. She currently sits at #2 in all 3 to Daniela Camacho (Kayla Matsuda did not run track).

Yeimili Adame ran 23:04 for her first time on the course. Belen Sanchez, Jessica Cervantes and Ashley Preciado combined to form the 3-4-5 as they have all season. Yesenia Martinez rounded out the team. The Comets placed 11th as a team, beating Mercy-Burlingame and Seaside.

IMG_5740
The Varsity Girls before the race

 

That’s a wrap on the 2018 season!

I will do a season recap this week if I have time.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

Both Varsity Teams Advance to CCS Despite BVAL Finals Setbacks

The James Lick Comets competed in BVAL Finals on Monday October 29th. The race was held, as it always is, at the 2.95 miles long Crystal Springs course. The team went in to the race with several of their key runners missing, but nonetheless managed to qualify two full teams to CCS Finals for the first time 2008.  There were other highlights as well, particularly on the JV girls side.

The meet is always exciting as the final meet for most of the team. I love the fact that all 3 divisions race together, which provides extra incentive to show your best form. The top half of teams (top 12 if all 24 teams compete) advance their varsity squads to CCS finals.

The first race of the day was the reserve girls race, and it saw the first PR of the day for the Comets. Araceli Mejia ran a massive PR of 29:05, smashing her previous best of 30:22 set last year. Francine Estranero also competed in the race for the team.

The JV girls race was next, and the JV girls have been a strength for the team all season. The girls headed into the race 7-0, with aspirations of placing highly within the BVAL. With two varsity girls being absent, Mariana Perez, the team’s top JV girl was called up to varsity. Even without her, the JV girls managed to impress. Mya Hammond spearheaded the group with a time of 25:04, a PR by more than one minute. Estefani Herrera was close behind, running 25:16 to lop 40 seconds of of her PR as well. Erika Camacho and Ruth Rodriguez were next in 26:09 and 26:16. Emely Lope was the all important 5th girl in with a PR of 26:41. Jhesselyn Santos ran a big PR of 27:51 to round out the team. The JV girls ended up being the 5th fastest JV girls team in the entire BVAL, beating half of the teams in the ‘A’ division.

The next race up was the frosh/soph boys. Omar Fimbres lead the group wth a time of 19:15, a PR by over 40 seconds. Jay Austria and Jo-Jo Bradley were the 2nd and 3rd boys in. Alberto Trejo ran 22:34, a 43 second PR. Jordan Laguna ran 23:55 to round out the group. The frosh/soph boys placed 13th as a team, a solid end to the season for a team that struggled all season.

Next up was the varsity girls race. The team was without team # 2 Yeimili Adame, and the normal team #6 in Jenny Villagomez. The team was limited without these two, but still managed their highest team placing since 2014. Arlet Miranda lead the team with a 20:25 clocking, her best time on the course since 2014. Belen Sanchez and Jessica Cervantes were the 2nd and 3rd runners in 22:54 and 22:58. Both girls broke the 23 minute barrier for the first time. Ashley Preciado was next in a PR of 23:35. Yesenia Martinez was the 5th girl in 24:58. Mariana Perez finished in 26:26 to round out the team.  The team ran a team time of 1:54:20, a time good for 12th place in the BVAL. If the team had Yeimili Adame, and she ran her PR from the center meet of 22:12 (not a stretch since every other girl ran faster than they did at the center meet) the team would have placed 8th. The team advances to CCS for the first time since 2014 and will compete in the division 4 race. The girls hope to rebound with all of their team members at full strength.

IMG_5651
The varsity girls before the race

 

The varsity boys race followed. Mark Orpia lead the team in a PR of 17:35. Erik Olsvold was not far behind in 17:54. Jerricho Habon, Melvin Estrada and Jared Resendiz made up a closely packed 3-4-5, running PRs of 18:26, 18:27 and 18:35 respectively. Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 18:53 as the 6th boy, and Nien Tran rounded out the team in 19:16. The varsity boys team managed 10th place on the day, just their 2nd top 10 BVAL finals performance in the past decade. The team will advance to CCS alongside the girls.

IMG_5654
The varsity boys team

 

 

The final race on the day was the reserve boys. Geo Campos lead the reserve team in a time of 19:55. Gustavo Madrigal went out on by far the best race of his career, running 20:17 for the course. The 6:53 pace was the 2nd best race pace of his career. Daniel Portillo, Rodolf Ocampo and Hugo Marquez formed the team’s 3-4-5. Adrian DeLaRosa and Alexis Sarellano both achieved PRs, as did Rafael Yanez and Kevin Santacruz. Josue Gomez, Huu Thai, and Vincent Giglio also competed for the team. The reserve boys were the 7th fastest team in the BVAL.

Despite being the 2nd smallest school in the 24 team BVAL, James Lick’s lowest team placing on the day was 13th in the frosh/soph boys race. A strong end to the season in terms of competition.

The team will compete again on Saturday November 10th at CCS Finals, once again at Crystal Springs.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

Big PRs at Earlybird Invitational for James Lick Runners

The Comets took to the Earlybird Invitational for the final time on Saturday September 15th 2018. Meet management announced that this years edition would be the final Earlybird Invitational. The Earlybird meet had become a favorite for CCS schools especially in years where CCS was being held at Toro Park.  The Comets went out with a strong showing, as every Comet who had run the course before managed a PR, and many of the younger Comets had the best performances of their careers as well.

The meet began with the freshmen girls race, with three young lady Comets competing.

IMG_5370.JPG
Left to right: Jhesselyn Santos, Angelina Guevara, Ruth Rodriguez 

Ruth Rodriguez was the first freshmen girl in at 25:52. Toro Park is a 3 mile course, and typically, runners run at least 1 minute faster on the 2.74 mile long Montgomery Hill course. This shows that Ruth is already in 24 minute shape for league meets, which is a lower-end varsity caliber time. Jhesselyn ran 28:46, the first time in her young career that she has cracked 10 minute mile pace. The same was true of Angelina Guevara who ran 29:22 to round out the freshmen girls race for the team.

The boys freshmen race was next. Jay Austria made his debut for the team, running a solid 22:32. This was an unremarkable time, but one that we are confident Jay can build on greatly. Josue Gomez has been running a few weeks now, and the improvement is starting to show. Josue ran 26:52, 8:57 mile pace. Two weeks ago at the alumni race he could only manage 10:08 pace for the 2.25 mile alumni race. Josue even managed to run faster than he did at the Lowell invite, despite the Lowell course being easier and shorter. Josue is just one example of what hardwork can do.  Kevin Santacruz made his debut for the team as well, running 33:10.

The sophomore girls were up next, one of only two complete teams for the team on the day. Jessica Cervantes lead the team in 26:23. Jessica is rapidly shaping into a strong runner for the team. She did not run cross country for the team last year, but made a solid impression in track. She was the #5 sophomore girl at the alumni race two weeks ago, #3 last week at lowell and now #1 at Earlybird. Erika Camacho was not far behind in 26:40. This was the first time that Erika managed to run under 9 minute pace for an entire 3 mile race.  Mya Hammond was next in at 26:49, giving the Comets 3 sophomores under 27 minutes, in addition to Ruth’s time under 26 minutes.

We have a lot of optimism this year regarding the girls JV team. Last year the team went 4-3 and came in 9th place at BVAL finals. That year’s team produced only 1 JV girl under 27 minutes at Montgomery Hill.The Earlybird results indicate that the team should have multiple girls under 26 minutes, likely even under 25. Esetfani Herrera and Emely Lopez rounded out the top 5 with times of 27:41 and 28:27 respectively. Araceli Mejia also competed, running 32:47.

The upperclassmen were up next, with several Comets who had run the course before. Ashley Preciado was the first of the junior girls to finish. Ashley ran 24:15, shattering her PR from a year ago of 27:02. Ashley is one of many examples of great improvement on the James Lick team. Last year in the sophomore race, Ashley finished in 155th place. As a junior, against largely the same runners, show moved up nearly 100 spots to 56th place.  Giulissa Correa ran 26:59 the strongest showing of her career to this point. Adriana Marcelino ran 35:34, the 11:51 pace being the best of her career this point.

The junior boys would be the Comets final boys race of the day. While the team was missing 3 of their top 4 boys from the alumni race, (Erik Olsvold, Melvin Estrada and Mark Orpia) the team put up a strong showing with most of their other varsity contenders in the race.

Brandon Cruz, the team’s most improved runner was the first Comet in. He ran 18:54, a massive PR by over 5  minutes. As a sophomore, Brandon was 349th place at the Earlybird Invite. Brandon’s colossal improvement saw him finish in 81st place this year. He was not the only Comet to move up the standings from the year before. Jerricho Habon finished in 19:13, a PR by over 2 minutes. Jerricho improved from 228th place last year, to 98th this year. Jared Resendiz ran 19:28, the 6:28 pace being by far the best of his career. Nien Tran was right behind in 19:33. Nien improved from 227th place to 111th place. Gustavo Madrigal was the 5th Comet in at 21:02. Rodolf Ocampo ran 23:29 to end the boys day.

The final race of the day for Comets was the senior girls race. Arlet Miranda had a great race, placing 13th overall in a PR of 20:46. This moves Arlet passed Daniela Camacho into 3rd on the school’s all time list at Toro Park. Belen Sanchez ran 23:55, beating her PR of 24:47 handily.

The team showed great improvement across the board. Hard work leading to huge improvement is the way that James Lick has stayed competitive in cross country despite being a much smaller school than the teams they will compete against.

The team will look to keep the improvement rolling on Thursday September 20th when their league season begins.

The Comets will be competing in the ST division’s first race of the year, and will be scoring directly against Prospect and Independence.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

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.

cropped-photo.jpg
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.

img_1238
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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comet on to CCS Finals for 2nd Year In A Row

5 Comets competed at CCS Trials on Saturday May 19th at Gilroy High School. CCS Trials sees the 32 best athletes from the CCS, competing for spots at CCS Finals. Only 8 athletes advance to finals in lane events, and 12 advance to finals in field events.

For the 2nd year in a row, Charli Chircop advanced to CCS Finals in the girls discus. Her best throw was 107-6, which earned her entrance into CCS Finals as the 12th and final qualifier in the event. Valeria Cortez competed in the girls discus as well, placing 19th with a throw of 103-2.

In the girls Shot Put,  Alejandra Ceron placed 20th with a throw of 33-3. With that final competition completed, Alejandra’s career at James Lick is over. She leaves the school with much to be proud of, namely the school record in the Shot Put, a mark of 35-8.75.

Natalie Rem placed 25th in the girls triple jump with a best of 32-10. Natalie was the 3rd best freshmen girl at CCS Trials and in fact, of the 24 girls to beat her, 12 were seniors. Natalie is poised to do big things for the Comets for years to come.

The career of Cody Huoch ended with a 20th place finish at CCS in the 300 hurdles. Cody ran 42.84. Cody had an exceptional career for James Lick especially considering he did not join track until his junior year. Cody ends his career as the #3 300 hurdler in school history and the only one on record to compete at CCS.

Alejandra will be competing for De Anza college in track and field next season while Cody will compete at San Jose City College.

Charli gets one final competition at CCS Finals on May 25th.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

5 Comets Advance To CCS Trials From BVAL Finals

Team .jpg
Some of the Comets prepare for the meet while others pose for a picture 

 

The Comets competed at BVAl Finals at Westmont High School on Thursday May 10th. The BVAL Finals is the BVALs CCS qualifying meet. The top 7 athletes of the MH (A’) division, top 5 from the ST (‘B’) division and top 4 from the WV (‘C’) division meet to compete for spots at CCS Trials. Athletes who achieve the BVAL Automatic qualifying mark also advance from division finals, but for the most part, 16 athletes compete in each event. The top 8 athletes at BVAL Finals advance to CCS Trials.

The very first event contested was the varsity boys pole vault. Mark Orpia and Rodolf Ocampo placed 12th and 13th, not bad for their first year Pole Vaulting. Mark managed a PR of 9-0, while Rodolf matched his PR of 8-6. This was a good end to the season for the Comet pole vaulters, the first in several decades for James Lick.

Several other field events kicked off soon after. Alejandra Ceron booked her ticket to CCS trials for the 2nd year in row in the girls Shot Put. Her throw of 33-2.5 took 7th place in a very competitive field. Valeria Cortez just missed out on making CCS in the event, taking 10th in 32-5.5. Charli Chircop threw 30-11.5 for the final Shot Put competition of her career.

Lyndel Ventura competed in girls long jump for the final time. Her best jump was 15-7.5, the 2nd best jump of her career, a solid final competition for Lyndel. In the girls triple jump, Natalie Rem placed 9th with the 2nd best jump of her career, 33-0.5. A post meet scratch moved Natlie into the 8th place spot, meaning that she will compete at CCS trials as a freshmen, the first Comet to do so since Valeria in discus as a freshmen.

In the boys Shot Put, Josh Garcia ended his career with a toss of 40-6.5. The Girls discus was the best event for the Comets on the day. Charli threw 116-3.5 the 2nd best throw of her career for 2nd place overall, the highest placing at BVAL Finals by any Comet this decade. Valeria took 3rd with a throw of 109-1. Alejandra threw 100-3 for 9th place.

In the girls 4×100, the Comets ran their 2nd best time of the season, clocking 54.04 despite a very poor final handoff. Valeria, Kirsten Yutuc, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem accomplished the mark. On the boys side, the team improced upon their “best mark of the decade” status. Cody Huoch, Jose Limon, Geovanny Campos and Raven Alcantara combined to run 45.50. The team placed 11th, and with 3/4ths of the team returning, the Comets have their minds set on trying to make CCS next year.

Arlet Miranda competed in the girls 1600, running 5:46. Arlet has always battled injury issues, and despite barely running over the past few weeks, she competed well.

The one running events with two athletes competing was the girls 100 hurdles. Valeria ran 17.22 and Yesenia Martinez ran 18.53. It was the 2nd best time of the season for both ladies. Valeria narrowly missed making CCS, placing 9th, only .05 off of 7th place.

Kirsten competed in the 300 hurdles, running the 2nd best time of her career, 52.30. Cody became the Comets 5th CCS qualifier on the day, running 42.62, a small PR in the boys version of the event. Azael Zamora competed for the Comets in the 3200. Like many other Comets, he ran the 2nd best time of his career, 9:59.49, he missed out on making CCS by less than 1 second.

The final event on the day was the 4×400. The girls team of Yesenia, Kirsten, Yeimili and Arlet competed hard, but did not run particularly fast. The boys team managed to break the 3:40 barrier for the first time in over a decade. Salvador Lopez, Erik Olsvold, Cody Huoch and Misael Herrera combined to run 3:39.

5 Athletes are left competing for the Comets.

Charli and Valeria in Girls Discus, Alejandra in Girls Shot Put, Natalie in Girls Triple Jump, and Cody in the boys 300 hurdles. These 5 will compete at CCS Trials on Saturday May 19th at Gilroy High School.

The Ryan/Oyama Awards will be held on Tuesday May 15th in the school gym. A number of XC/Track athletes should be honored. Also, brand new banners representing James Lick’s most recent championships will be unveiled. (This includes boys cross country 2016, and girls track 2016 and 2017.)

Thanks for reading!

 

James Lick Track, Then And Now: The Rise and Fall and Rise (hopefully) of James Lick Track and Field

Forward: I have a profound love for James Lick High School. I have lived within a few minutes of the school my entire life. I learned how to swim there. I was raised next door to its most successful coach (who I will discuss later). I went to school there, as did my father and his sisters. Now I have the privilege of teaching and coaching at James Lick, and as a history teacher, I often find myself reflecting on the history of the school I hold so dear.

Through the hard work of my athletes, I’ve already experienced a lot of fortunate success as a coach as I approach the end of my 5th year coaching. I’ve been lucky enough to have coached 4 different division champion teams (2 in XC 2 in track). I have twice been awarded James Lick’s “Keith Antes Coach of the Year Award” (Undeservedly I might add, more on Keith Antes later). And above all, I’ve been pleased to have fostered a high rate of improvement among my student athletes. That is the only success that is really meaningful, because as I am about to detail, the competition my teams have beaten, pales in comparison to what the Comets of yesteryear had to face.

As I will discuss below, by many measures, James Lick “used to be a better school.” When I first started at James Lick in 2007, it had a very negative reputation, and that is still the case today (though to a slightly lesser extent). It is against this reputation and pervading negativity that we as a team fight today. For we as a team/school to continue to progress, I think it is important to draw pride, wisdom, and lessons from the past. As such, this is my best attempt to briefly compare James Lick (and the CCS as a whole) across eras. This is my attempt to summarize the track history of a school that is almost 70 years old, to the furthest degree possible by a 25 year old. To you kids reading this, understand the powerful tradition we are trying to reignite. To alumni reading this, thank you for setting the bar.

James Lick Track: Then

James Lick High School, like much of Eastside San Jose, contains a rich history that may easily be lost on a casual observer. James Lick opened its doors in 1950, as the first high school in the East Side Union High School district. James Lick track has such a history, that it predates the BVAL, the MHAL, and even the CCS.

When James Lick track began competing, it was a member of the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) within the NCS (North Coast Section). James Lick had immediate success, winning three straight titles in the SCVAL, in 1954, 1955, 1956. While the Green and White has been a constant, much has changed at James Lick over the years, not just in terms of track and field.

Many of the athletes on the great teams of the 1950s would be just as competitive if they were competing today. Despite the faster track surfaces, (rubber instead of cinders) some of James Lick’s best times come from a long while back.

It is worth noting that most of my sources are from a combination of internet/newspaper archives, and first-hand word of former James Lick athletes and coaches. As such, our current all time lists and information are incomplete.  Anyone with any information about past teams/times, can feel free to contact me at: reevesb@esuhsd.org. I would very much appreciate any information.

The first James Lick track champion that I have on record, was a pole vaulter at the 1952 SCVAL championships. This vaulter (last name Guzman) cleared 11-0 to take the title. The pole vault is very symbolic of James Lick’s rise and fall. The Comets were once great in pole vault, and we are now beginning to try to emulate that greatness. By the mid ‘60s, the Comets had already had 3 different league champs in the pole vault. The best of them was Ray Clayton, an athlete who cleared 14-2.5 in 1964 to make the State Meet.  We are attempting to re-institute pole vault competition this year. If any vaulter clears a height in a meet, they will be the first Comet to do so this century.

James Lick was a very strong school by every measure by the 1960s, a time period that saw the foundation of both the CCS and the MHAL (Mt. Hamilton Athletic League). The football team had its best run of success with Jim Plunkett at quarterback, winning multiple MHAL titles. The swimming and waterpolo teams also had a remarkable run of success under coach Gene Nyquist. Coach Nyquist is by far James Lick’s winningest coach, having over 20 league titles to his name.

My dad attended James Lick in the late 1960s, and ran track and cross country under the legendary coach Keith Antes. Coach Antes and his longtime assistant coach/successor, Carlos Saldivar, were both James Lick alumni. This connection to the school might help to explain the tremendous success that both of these coaches had at James Lick. In 1967, the team achieved its only MHAL track title.

In some ways, the ‘60s were the glory days of James Lick Track, if not San Jose track as a whole. With San Jose dubbed “speed city” the area bore witness to tremendous High School track competition. The one MHAL title is a result of the stiff competition the Comets had to face. For example, the Comets had to contend with Lee Evans of Overfelt High School in the early ‘60s. Evans would of course go on to win the gold medal in the 400m in the 1968 Olympics, and become the first man to run under 44 seconds for the event. You can imagine how tough he would have been against the Comets in a dual meet.

But the Comets strength and depth in track was fantastic. The team consistently had multiple athletes in the 4:40 mile range. The team produced top-notch jumpers like Phil Passafuime, Chris Moulton and Dave Pike. Pike is in fact still the schools long jump record holder at 22-6.5. Towards the later part of the decade, James McGhee and Bill Pabst threw for the Comets. Their best discus marks of 159-5 and 149-7 respectively still rank 1-2 in school history. To even make the varsity team was a huge challenge.

It wasn’t uncommon for James Lick to have 3 different boys go over 40 feet in the triple jump in the same dual meet. By comparison, as I write this in April of 2018, only 4 boys have gone over 40 feet in the triple jump in the entire 24 team BVAL.

There is of course a natural ebb and flow to the quality of CCS track. Some eras are stronger than others. But in some areas, the extent to which modern marks/times pale in comparison to those of more than 30 years ago is jarring.  For example, I will compare the MHAL finals of 1975, to the MHAL finals of 2017.

The MHAL of 1976 was its own league, whereas the MHAL of 1996- present has been a division of the BVAL. Regardless, in both cases the MHAL has generally had 8 teams. The modern MHAL is the ‘A’ division of the BVAL so it should be the strongest in any given year. The MHAL of 1976 had 11 teams, so while it did have several more teams to add quality to the league, it was a geographical league, not a power league.

The 1976 MHAL 4×100 (Back then the 440 yard relay, which is actually a tiny bit longer than the 400m relay)  was won by Mt. Pleasant in 41.8. A new MHAL record at the time. Piedmont Hills ran 42.2 and Yerba Buena ran 42.5. Times in this era were still hand-timed, meaning they are likely off by roughly .25 seconds. Even accounting for this, the times are substantially stronger than the 44.78 winning time of Santa Teresa at the 2017 version of the event.  Santa Teresa would go on to run a very strong 43.24 at CCS Finals. Even with that strong time, a time which placed them 6th at CCS finals, they would have only placed 5th at the 1976 MHAL Finals.

Some events are still as strong/stronger than ever around the area. The Winner of the 880 (Which takes about a half second longer to run that the 800m) ran 1:55.8. The top athlete in the MHAL right now is Jason Gomez of Westmont, he ran 1:52 last year as a junior in the event. Similarly, the mile was won in 4:26.7 by Johnson from Overfelt. That equates to roughly a 4:25 1600. That would have placed him 3rd at the 2017 MHAL which was won in 4:18. Lick’s Joe Salazar placed 3rd in 1976 with a 4:30.1 (converted to 4:28.8 for 1600). Azael Zamora, our top distance runner today is at 4:35.20 with a month left in the season, so he isn’t totally put to shame by strong milers like Joe Salazar.

While distance is as competitive (maybe even a bit more competitive) as ever, many of the speed based events are lacking. The relay is the most glaring example, showing a lack of depth of top-notch sprinters compared to the ‘70s. The jumps are the next most extreme example.

The 2017 MHAL boys long jump was won with a jump of 21-0 by freshmen Jared Vasquez. While that is a great mark, especially for a freshmen, it would not have placed him in the top 5 at the 1976 MHAL finals.

Hunter Beck of Branham won the MHAL 300 hurdles, and ran just under 40 seconds to do so. Going under 40 in the event is an impressive feet, no other athlete did so at MHAL finals 2017. The entire top 5 of the 1976 MHAL finals ran under 40. The event was won by Andre Philips of Silver Creek in 36.4. This was only a few years after the CCS made the switch from the 180 low hurdles to the 330 yard intermediate hurdles (basically identical to the modern 300 hurdles). Andre Phillips would go on to win the gold medal at the Olympics in the 400 hurdles in 1988.

The depth of the BVAL in throws is also way down compared to earlier years. Bill Pabst was unable to make CCS in the discus throw with his career best heave of 149-7 in 1969. 133-3 was good enough to make CCS last year.

I do not draw this comparison to criticize or demean our current crop of athletes. Looking at the past strength of the CCS forces us to consider ways to reignite the strength of our track programs here in the Blossom Valley. That is certainly what I am trying to do at James Lick, a school that fell further than most from the great times of the ‘70s.

Most of James Lick’s top athletes showed up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Pete Moreno went 50 feet in the triple jump. Henry Barba ran 10.69 in the 100, a school record which still stands. Randy Pangelina and Joe Amendt both won CCS titles in the 800, Randy running 1:52 and Joe running 1:50. These are the marks that I intend for James Lick athletes of today to aspire to. We are a long way off in most areas, but emulating the Comets of the past will only help our current athletes.

By the 1980s, the depth of James Lick track was beginning to wane. More and more schools began to populate San Jose, and take from James Lick’s attendance. The most significant of these was the foundation of Independence HS in 1976. Independence quickly grew into a power in the CCS, let alone the MHAL.

There was one especially large change during the ‘70s that would alter the CCS forever, the inclusion of girls sports. With the inclusion of girls sports officially happening after many of James Lick’s greatest teams, you have to wonder how many lady Comets missed their chance. And even with girls finally having the opportunity to compete on the same level as boys, it would take time for them to receive the same emphasis.  

Even so, some of our schools records on the girls side are from this era as well. Joan Jacobs running 12.26 for the 100, and Christine Smallwood running 25.1 are the most impressive Comet marks from the ‘70s. The girls all time list is much weaker than the boys one, and one of the joys of coaching the team right now is that the team is dramatically altering that list. For example, Kathy Shelby threw the shot put 34-0 in 1975. That remained the school record for over 40 years until Alejandra Ceron threw 35-8.5 last year.  

San Jose as a whole would dramatically shift over the next few decades. The rows of orchards became houses, and the blossom valley became silicon valley. Some things never change. Students still take every chance they get to swing by Peters Bakery before school for a slice of Burnt Almond cake. James Lick distance runners run right past the country club on their way to Alum Rock Park. James Lick’s sporting success in recent years however, is a far cry from what it once was.

The BVAL formed with its 3 division ‘power league’ structure in 1996. Since then, most James Lick sports have never been out of the WVAL (‘C’ division). In the late 90s and early 2000s, James Lick track was at its lowest point. They did win a title in track in 2000, and a few titles were won by other sports over the years, but overall JL suffered. From 2007-2013 the team did not win a single dual meet, despite being in the lowly WVAL. The girls team hadn’t managed a winning record in a single season from 1996 on. The WVAL in those years was far weaker than it has been lately. In many dual meets, all it would have taken were enough athletes  to fill up events to grab a win. The team hovered between 8-12 athletes (combined between boys and girls) during these years, and the program would have been cut if not for the intervention of soccer coach Ray Iniguez, (now our athletic director).

James Lick Track Now

In 2014 I was brought on to coach the team. While it is not standard practice to hire 20 year olds to head track programs, few 20 year olds are as obsessive as I was. More importantly, I had a very dedicated freshmen class, whose talent as athletes was fair, and whose caliber as people was exceptional. Nathan Bernardo, Gustavo Aguilera and Maria Mendoza to name a few. They would transform as athletes over the next few years. Nathan went from a 6:00 mile to a 4:47. Gustavo went from a 54 second 300 hurdles time to a 44. Maria went from 58 in the 300 hurdles to 51 seconds, setting a new school record until a teammate broke it.

Besides working hard themselves, they brought more athletes to the team. The team size grew from 12 in 2013, to 23 in 2014 where we grabbed our first wins. We went 1-6 on boys and 1-6 on girls. Those wins were important to our morale, we broke our losing streak and knew we were heading the right direction.

In 2015 came the big jump, our team size doubled to 45 athletes and we went a combined 10-4. 6-1 on girls and 4-3 on boys. The first winning season on record for the girls in school history.

For the first time in a long time, James Lick started to vaguely resemble its past. Davion Thomas ran 23.19 for the 200 and 11.44 for the 100. These times do not approach the school records of Henry Barba, or even the consistent low 11s of James Lick’s heyday, but James Lick had a sprinter at CCS. Karan Singh ran 4:39 for the 1600, becoming the first Comet to run under 4:40 in over a decade.

While we are still in the infancy of recapturing James Lick’s glory on the boys side, I am confident in saying that the girls team as a whole has never been better.

We won the WVAL in 2016 and 2017, propelling us to our first ‘B’ division season this year. The boys narrowly missed the WVAL title, losing to Independence by 5 points in our dual meet.

Now we sit in the ‘B’ division. We are moving upwards, but we are not yet near where we want to be. We are currently a combined 1-7 in the ‘B’ division, but mark my words, we will greatly improve on that record before the season is over (don’t rule out 7-7).

We are not the only James Lick sport showing an upwards trajectory. The girls volleyball team, and girls basketball team both won the WVAL this school year. Both teams made incredible improvements to earn their titles. The volleyball team went from 3-11 to 13-1, and the girls basketball team went from 2-11 to 10-0 (the WVAL is only 6 teams in basketball this season).

As a school, we are committed to improving the school, and I will encourage my team to use the past as a measuring stick.

If you’ve sorted through this convoluted mess, thank you sincerely. I appreciate your interest.

 

The 2nd half of the season kicks off this week. The Comets will be hosting Piedmont Hills, and then heading up to the Bearcat Invite in San Mateo.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves