The 2019 edition of the James Lick Alumni Race took place on Friday August 30th in Alum Rock Park. With the team’s first league meet of the just days away, the Alumni Race was critical for coach Raul and myself to determine who would run on which squad for the team.
We were fortunate to have a myriad of esteemed alumni in attendance, and several made a big impression on the race itself. The 2.25 mile course is shorter than the Comets league races, but it provides a good indicator of a runners potential nonetheless.
The first Comet to cross the line was Mark Orpia in a strong time of 13:22. Over the past 15 years of alumni races, only 2 Comets have run faster on the alumni course, Azael Zamora, and Nathan Bernardo, two of the spearheads of the 2016 league championship team. Mark’s time was a 1:10 second PR and puts him in a very strong place to start the season. He should already be able to attack his PR at Montgomery Hill despite the earliness of the season.
The next finisher was Joe Amendt, the legendary Comet from the class of 88. Joe finished in 13:43, nearly 30 seconds better than his 14:10 clocking from a year ago. He passed Nien Tran on the downhills, where Nien typically struggles. Nien nonetheless finished in a PR of 13:55, a PR by 1:20. Branon Cruz was next in 14:01, a 40 second PR for him as well, giving the Comets a much stronger 1-2-3 punch where the top runners were Erik Olsvold at 13:50, Jerricho Habon at 14:06, and Melvin Estrada at 14:34.
Azael Zamora and Erik Olsvold ran together, finishing in 15:04, and Omar Fimbres impressed running 15:10. Jerricho had a very rough race, but is normally close to Brandon and Nien. As Such, the real question mark on the boys squad is around the 5th boy, and Omar’s performance helped to ease some of those concerns. Geovanny Campos ran 15:39, and Melvin Estrada ran 16:08 to round out the varsity group.
Alumni Don Mora was the next runner in, stopping the clock at 16:44, a big improvement over his 18:01 from last year. Josh Merin and Rodolf Ocampo came in together at 17:04 and 17:08, both big PRS. Hugo Marquez followed close behind in a 30 second PR of 17:22 to give the reserve team a solid trio.
Jessica Cervantes ran a strong time of 17:36, demonstrating hwo rapidly she has become the team’s heir apparent to recent graduate Arlet Miranda. Jessica isn’t quite at the elite ‘B’ division level of Arlet and her preceder, Daniela Camacho (they both ran in the low 16s at Alumni) but her mid 17 clocking makes her just the 4th girl this decade to break 18 for the course. The girls team has a a lot to feel good about, more on that later.
Ronaldo Castillo was the top freshmen of the day, running 17:48, a promising time on the course. For reference, Nien is working towards his 3rd consecutive CCS appearance in XC, and as a freshmen, he ran 17:34 at the alumni race, very comparable to the time Ronaldo managed.
Luis Escamilla as another reserve boy finished in a solid 18:26, followed by #2 Lady Comet Mya Hammond. The fact that Mya ran faster than Belen Sanchez and Yeimili Adame did in 2018 is very encouraging. It was a massive PR as a year ago Mya only managed a time of 21:11. She would not be the last lady Comet to really stand out.
Abraham Benitez, and Navbir Kahlon, newcomers to the team came in together at 18:49 and 18:50. Freshmen Daisy Flores and Justin Nguyen came in together at 18:55 as well. Daisy looks to be the next in a strong line of a good Comet family. Daisy’ brother, Ricardo Flores, was a friend and teammate of mine on the 2009 WV (‘C’) division championship. Ricardo and I battled for status as the #1 runner on the team senior year, and he ended his HS career with a strong PR of 4:41 in the 1600. Daisy looks to have the genes for running, along with the work ethic, and she’s established herself as a runner to watch going forward. Her cousin, Brianna Flores, was a member of the 2014 WV division championship team. We’ll have to make sure that Daisy isn’t the only runner in her family without a league title.
Not far back was Omar Sanchez in 19:04. Omar has improved dramatically over the course of the summer and along with Carlos Nava in 19:20, (brother of Daisy Nava, scoring member of the 2016 and 2017 WV division championship track teams) gives the team 4 dedicated freshmen to work with going forward.
This insurgency of youth was badly needed. Of our top 10 boys at the alumni race, only 1 was not a senior (Omar Fimbres, junior). Our goal is to try to have these boys ready to be quality ‘B’ division varsity boys by next season.
Just before Carlos finished, Emely Lopez came across as girl #4 in a great performance, running 19:18. This is faster than key runner Ashley Preciado managed last year when she ran 19:27. Alumni John Acosta came in right with Carlos Nava in 19:20, with freshmen Alexa Rodriguez, and Senior Yesenia Martinez finishing in 19:34, and 19:40 respectively. Ashley had an off day but still ran 19:52, and Lizbeth Espana, a standout in track now trying XC for the first time, ran 19:53. Estefani Herrera just missed the barrier running 20:01.
The 20 minute barrier is significant as it has always signified a standard for the varsity girls. In my 6 years of coaching, we have never been worse than the 16th best team at BVAL finals, we’ve always been at least middle of the pack. Last year we managed 12th, a top half finish and in 2014 we were 8th. In all those years, the highest total of girls we’ve had who could run under 20 minutes at the alumni race was 5. That was last year, when Arlet, Yeimili, Belen, Ashley and Yesenia did so. That group went on to place 12th at BVAL’s WITHOUT Yeimili, our then #2 runner.
Despite Yeimili’s absence today, the team had 8 girls under 20, and Estefani missed by less than 1 second. Our JV girls team has been a BVAL powerhouse the past few years, but this year is going to be special in that regard because of the sheer depth on the team. We will be aiming for a top 5 finish at BVALS on the JV girls side.
Huu Thai was the next Comet in at 20:02, just beating out alumni Andres Rosas. Ruth Rodriguez and Mariana Perez ran PRS of 20:14 and 20:18. Erika Camacho took a step forward from her time trial result, running 21:12. Melanny Sanchez and Kaylena Gil finished in 21:59 and 22:46 respectively, adding even more depth to the JV girls. Jason Garcia finished in 23:06. Deisy Carlos ran 24:43. Emily DeLaRosa and Francia Castro ran 30:22 and 30:25 and alumni Nancy Reed finished the race with a clocking of 33:07.
The Comets have a lot to feel good about, and the season is here! The team will take on Prospect and Independence in their first league meet of the season on Wednesday September 4th at Montgomery Hill. Then, they will head to Golden Gate Park for the Lowell Invitational on Saturday September 7th.
The season is here and exciting times are ahead!
Thanks for reading!