Charli Chircop became just the 25th member of James Lick High School to make section finals with her performance at CCS trials last week. Charli qualified for CCS finals after throwing a new PR and school record of 109-at CCS trials. She entered the final ranked 12th, and competed well to place 10th at 104-7.
This means all 4 girls who competed at CCS this year, placed better than their ranking in every competition, a very positive trend that the team will look to continue in future seasons. A 10th place finish at CCS finals is a very impressive performance for Charli as a junior. She missed all but one week of her Sophomore season due to a knee injury. Her PR entering the season was 79 feet. Coach Vela’s tremendous coaching saw her improve 30 feet from a borderline to BVAL qualifier, to a CCS finals qualifier.
The season ends for the team on a strong note, and with the school year now over for James Lick, it is time for many of the team’s athletes to take a well deserved rest.
A full recap of the team’s season, as well as news about my new “East Side Running/Track Club” will be coming soon.
The BVAL At CCS
The CCS meet is special because of the fact that the best athletes from all 8 CCS track leagues come together to compete. That means strong athletes from schools as far south as King City HS of the MTAL clash with team’s as far north as Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. As a result, some of the best athletes in the entire State compete for victories at CCS finals.
The most impressive CCS performance from a BVAL athlete might have been from Maya Cook of Branham. Maya was a double CCS champion, winning the 100/200 and helped the Branham team to a 2nd place performance in the 4×100. The Bruins came in 2nd overall on the girl’s side, scoring 38.50 points to Mountain View’s 42 points.
Right behind Branham was Silver Creek at 38 points for 3rd as a team. They were lead by standout athletes Jazlynn Shearer and Arianna Fisher. Jazlynn won the girls 100 hurdles in 14. 69, and took 2nd in the triple jump at 39-0. Arianna won the triple jump in a very impressive jump of 40-7.
Jorge Estrella of Andrew Hill really emerged this season as the top distance runner in the BVAL. In XC, He, Zack Walker of Willow Glen, and Julian Adam of Westmont were frequently battling it out for victories. Estrella narrowly missed winning the CCS title in the 1600, running 4:14.76 and leading with only 80 meters to go before being run down by Alex Scales of Bellarmine. Jason Gomez of Westmont also narrowly lost a victory to scales, coming in 2nd in the 800 in 1:52.37 to Scales’ 1:52.34. Santa Teresa placed 6th on the boys side to be the highest placing BVAL team (and the #2 public school) at CCS finals.
The meet was a high quality display of many high quality athletes. As I said earlier, a full JL season recap will follow this post soon.
It was a very hot day at Gilroy High School on Saturday May 20th for the CCS (Central Coast Section) semifinals competition. The CCS is made up of 8 different leagues in track, with roughly 150 member schools. These days, qualification works in the following format:
Each of the 8 leagues has their own league championship which serves as a qualifying meet. Each league advances a certain number of athletes to CCS trials, these numbers are based on the size of the league. The BVAL is the largest league at 24 schools, so the top 8 athletes from BVAL finals advance to CCS. The WCAL (West Catholic Athletic league, containing teams like Bellarmine and Valley Christian) gets 6 CCS qualifications. The same goes for the SCVAL (teams like Los Gatos and Palo Alto). The smaller leagues like the SCCAL (Santa Cruz Athletic League) only get two CCS qualifiers.
Altogether, 32 athletes compete at CCS trials in each event. It is possible for an event to have more than 32, in the rare case that an athlete achieved the CCS qualifying mark/time in their event without achieving the necessary place at their league finals, though this is very rare. Some league are stronger than others even with the adjustments for population, so some CCS qualifications are stronger than others. In any case, hundreds and in some cases thousands of athletes in the CCS alone contest each event every season, and being one of the final 32 athletes competing at CCS trials is a tremendous honor.
According to my records, over the many years of James Lick track, the Comets have had 120 different CCS competitions from 69 different athletes. Several of the Comets this year deserve distinction however.
The meet began with the Girl’s Shot Put. Alejandra Ceron and Valeria Cortez both competed, the 5th and 6th James Lick Shot Put competitions at the section meet (the 2nd and 3rd on the girls side). Alejandra threw 34-2 and Valeria threw 32-11. This is the first time that two James Lick Shot Put throwers made CCS in the same year. Alejandra placed 18th and Valeria placed 23rd, solid mid-pack placings for both girls. They entered the meet ranked 19th and 25th respectively, so both out performed their rank slightly. In the field events and distance events, the top 12 athletes advance to CCS Finals on May 26th, while in the lane events, the top 8 do the same.
Valeria went from the Shot Put to the 100 hurdles. She competed very well here, placing 19th in 16.93, running into a headwind. Valeria’s PR of 16.75 would likely not have been wind legal if the WVD meet had a wind gauge. This is her 2nd ever sub 17 second clocking, and the fact that she ran it into a headwind is a very encouraging end to her season. She qualified in the event after not coming close to CCS last year. She was ranked 25th entering the meet, so her 19th place performance exceeded expectations.
Arlet competed in the 800 next, and many distance runners were wilting in the cloudless 90+ degree heat. Arlet competed very well however, running 2:29.06 to place 25th overall. She was ranked last in her heat and 29th overall, but immediately put herself in the middle of the pack, and beat several girls from her heat. The last 100 meters saw her very close to a PR and school record, but she struggled over the final stretch, a very impressive end to her season in my book considering how much time was spent battling injury this season.
The Girls discus was the final event for the team on the day. It has been the team’s best event all season. The team scored 62/63 possible dual meet points in the girls discus this West Valley season. They swept the WVD finals with a 1-2-3 performance, and added a 7th place scoring as well. They placed 3rd, 4th and 8th at BVAL finals to send 4 girls to CCS in the same event for the first time in school history. Very few teams can boast 3 athletes in a single event at CCS trials. Essentially 3 of the top 32 athletes out of over 600 CCS athletes this year, go to James Lick.
Alejandra Ceron managed a small PR of 95-11, placing 26th. Another good performance considering she entered ranked 30th. Valeria Cortez was the team’s lone CCS qualifier last year, placing 22nd in the girls discus with a throw of 99-5. She improved upon that performance, throwing 105-4 for 18th place. Valeria is the first Comet athlete in school history on either side to compete in 3 different individual events at the sectional meet. She placed 18th in the girls discus, 19th in the 100 hurdles and 23rd in the Shot Put, an asset to any team, Valeria is quite clearly our strongest overall athlete for her versatility.
The performance of the day came from Charli Chircop however. Entered at 18th after a PR of 106-0 last week, Charli began her competition poorly with a throw out of sector. Her 2nd throw was better, though still not near her best, landing around 83 feet. Her 3rd throw was fantastic, a toss of 108-8 to take the school record from Valeria by 4 inches. She improved on the record with her 4th and final throw of 109-4. Charli would need every inch of this throw as girls continued to compete. When all was said and done, Charli sat in 12th place with her 109-4 toss, the final qualification spot for CCS finals was hers. 13th place had a best throw of 109-3.
Charli has improved her discus PR by nearly 30 feet this system, a testament to Coach Vela and how much he has grown as a coach over the past 4 seasons as well.
Charli will compete next Friday at Gilroy HS at CCS Finals, the first Comet since Ruth Lebeau in 2008 (Ruth advanced to the State Meet in the triple jump that year). Charli will be the 26th Comet to compete at CCS finals and only the 4th girl to do so.
Very proud of her season.
A recap of her performance at CCS finals will follow soon.
If you have an interest in reading a general recap of the meet, citing particularly impressive performances from other schools at CCS finals, please comment indicating this. I’d be happy to do so, just not sure how interested you readers are in the general quality of the meet.
In 2014, I came on alongside a few other JL coaches to become the head coach of the James Lick track team. Early into the season, I was introduced to coach Jonathan Vela, an alumni of Prospect HS and Fresno State, who had been working as a coach for the JV football team. He offered to work with the throwers on the team, and after speaking with him, I was very eager to have him join our staff. At the time, I was only a 20 year old coach, one of many coaches brought into to fill the coaching void at JL, utterly obsessed with building the program, and helping JL succeed as a school. I knew very little about what building the program would entail, but I knew for certain that it would require coaches who could build the right team culture, and train athletes to the best of their abilities.
For this reason, I was very excited to gain a coach in throws, the area I myself was least confident in coaching. In a short time watching Coach Vela’s results, I knew that we had a legitimate throws coach. I could not have known then, that we had just added a coach who would transform our throws program completely, (especially on the girls side). The CCS has over 150 member schools. Many of those schools have outstanding throws coaches, but only one has 3 different girls throwers who qualified for the CCS top 8 meet this year.
Valeria Cortez and Charli Chircop both qualified for the prestigious meet in the Discus, and Alejandra Ceron qualified in the Shot Put. The CCS Top 8 meet has been contested for decades, and these three are the first lady Comets on record to compete in throwing events at the meet.
Valeria and Charli both thew decent marks, though not close to their PRs. Valeria threw the disc 96-11, and Charli threw 94-1. The big result for the team came in the girls Shot Put. Alejandra had been the last girl admitted into the meet at 33-4, ranked 20th/20 girls. Her very first throw of the meet went for a massive PR of 35-8.75, establishing a school record and helping her to a 6th place finish. This makes her the first Comet to score at the Top 8 meet since Joe Amendt in 1988. In fact, Alejandra is the first female Comet to score at the Top 8 meet in school history. The accomplishment puts her in elite company, the only Comets ever to score at the CCS top 8 meet are Henry Barba, Joe Amendt, and now Alejandra Ceron. Henry and Joe both were double champions of the Top 8 meet, Henry in 100/200 and Joe in the 800/1600 but we’ll happily take the 6th place performance from Alejandra!
Alejandra’s mark is just the latest in a very impressive progression under the tutelage of coach Vela. The story of the girls track team is similar to the story of the girls XC team. Many of JL’s greatest achievements on the boys side came in the first 25 years of the school’s participation in track (1950-1975). This includes the school records in boys Shot Put and boys discus.
Dan Lloyd holds the Shot Put school record with a toss of 59-9 in 1972, a few years later a Comet named Webster threw 56-0.5, and Bill Pabst threw 51-0.5 in 1969. These 3 marks stand as the best Shot Put marks in school history by quite a margin. For reference, the CCS Top 8 meet was won this year with a toss of 51-0.25 by Mountain View’s Owen Mountford.
The top 2 discus marks in school history belong to James McGhee 159-9, and Bill Pabst 149-7, both achieved in 1969. (As always, these records are based on my research of results and communication with former JL coaches and athletes, if you have any more information about past teams, please feel free to contact me).
So while the best boys marks in school history were set in the 60s and 70s, girls were not even allowed to compete until the mid 70s. Even so, Kathy Shelby’s Shot Put school record of 34-0 was set in 1975. A few years later a Comet named Dwyer threw 89-5 in the discus to set a school record that stood until 2002. A Comet named Ward threw 96-6 that year, a standout mark in an era of overall weak teams for the Comets.
Before 2013, one Comet girl had thrown above 90 feet in discus, and one Comet girl had thrown over 32 feet in the Shot Put. In 2014, coach Vela helped Robert Rios to a massive improvement in the boys Shot Put, from 35-10 the year before, to a WVAL title in 40-3. The next year Robert threw 43-2 to win the WVAL title again, and move into 8th on the school’s all time Shot Put list.
While the boys are not throwing close to the marks of JL’s glory days in throws, the Comets of today under Vela are building up year by year, in pursuit of excellence. This is the first year that Coach Vela has had 3 boys over 100 feet in the discus for example. Given the team’s steady improvement, the team could be a force in years to come, the way that girls throwers already are.
In that 2015 season, we had two very talented freshmen join the team in Alejandra and Charli. They both showed great ability, throwing the Shot Put in the 23 foot range,and the discus in the high 50s, with essentially no prior training. By the end of that season, Alejandra threw 29-6 for Shot Put and 75-8 for Discus, while Charli threw 27-11 and 76-2. Alejandra qualified for BVAL championships as a freshmen. Charli lost most of her Sophomore year to injury, but did throw PRS of 29-1 and 79-4. Alejandra progressed to 31-9.5 in Shot Put which put her #2 on the all time list, and gave her and Coach Vela the firm goal of trying to break the school record of 34 feet. Alejandra also threw 90-10 in the girls discus to become the 2nd lady Comet to throw 90 feet in school history.
2016 saw the addition of Valeria Cortez, just to add to the riches of Vela’s dynamic duo. Valeria was as good in Shot Put as Alejandra and Charli were when they were freshmen, but better in discus. At her first HS meet she threw 25- 5 in the Shot Put and 65-10 in the discus. By the end of the season Valeria would beat both Alejandra and Charli’s freshmen marks, throwing 31-1 in the Shot Put (#5 all time at the time) and at BVAL Championships, threw a school record 99- 9.5 to make CCS trials.
The girls have reached even greater heights this season. Alejandra opened the season with a toss of 32-3 for a new PR. Charli opened her season by breaking the 80 foot barrier, and 90 foot barrier in discus with a throw of 95-11, followed by a cracking of the 30 foot barrier in the Shot Put. This years team is the first JL team ever to have 3 girls above 90 feet in discus, and 3 girls above 30 feet in the Shot Put.
A few weeks into the season, Valeria threw over 100 feet to extend her school record. The record was then taken by Charli when she threw 103-2, and then taken back by Valeria’s recent toss of 106-2. Charli and Valeria threw 32-7 and 32-5 in the Shot Put around the same time that Alejandra threw 33-4 to move ever closer to her coveted school record.
The top 8 meet would be the venue for the achievement, her mark of 35-8.75 a PR by over 2 feet. Alejandra is now ranked #2 across the entire BVAL, and should be a lock to make CCS Trials. She is also now ranked 8th in the CCS as a whole. A top 12 performance at CCS trials would advance her to CCS finals, which no Comet has qualified for since Ruth Lebeau in 2008. Valeria and Charli are currently ranked 3rd and 4th in the BVAL in the discus, putting them in an excellent position to make CCS trials as well.
The throws team is in great hands under Coach Vela and the fruits of the teams labor are paying off in this regard. With the girls 6-0 on the season, it’s been clear that James Lick is the best girls throws team in the WVAL, but it may be the very best girls throws team in the entire BVAL at this point.
The team’s three-headed monster in throws will lead the team against Del Mar next week, as the team will try to cinch it’s second consecutive undefeated season.
The team will then begin its championship season with WVAL finals. The girls will be pursuing a 1st place finish to hopefully clinch a 2nd West Valley Division championship in a row. The boys will be hard pressed to win their own title, (Independence will clinch the boys title with 2nd place at WVAL finals) but they will attempt to beat Del Mar and earn a 6-1 record, and then will try to place 1st at WVAL finals regardless of final standing.