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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comets Take Huge Step Forward at TKA Invitational

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The Distance girls, headed by Distance Captain Arlet Miranda (Center) 

The James Lick Comets took 38 athletes to the TKA Invitational on March 10th. It ended up being a tremendous day for the team, with 29 Personal best times and many more seasons bests.

The meet began with field events. The Frosh/Soph boys high jumpers acquitted themselves well Jonathan Bradley taking 4th place, clearing 5 feet for the first time. Salvador Lopez went over 4-10 in his first try at the event, and Josh Merin matched his PR of 406.

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Left to right: Salvador Lopez, Jonathan (JoJo) Bradley and Joshua Merin before the High Jump 

Natalie Rem and Kirsten Yutuc placed 3rd and 4th in the frosh/soph triple jump though neither girl PRd. David Bejines also tripled jumped for the team. The trio of Valeria Cortez, Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron combined for a 1-2-3 sweep of the varsity girls discus. This gives the Comets their 2nd consecutive Invitational victory in the girls discus. While Charli won the Willow Glen Invite in 107-3, Valeria took the win at TKA with a season;s best 105-0. Alejandra also threw a seasons best 94 feet in discus for 3rd. She would go on to win the Shot Put in a seasons best 32-1. Charli would throw 31-7 for 2nd and Valeria had to settle for 4th in a seasons best 30-1. The lady throwers from James Lick are poised to have a special season. Daniel Medina competed in boys throws for the team.

The TKA Invite was originally a distance carnival, and while it has now expanded to include some other events, it keeps the lively atmosphere that makes it exciting, with music playing during the breaks and during the distance events.

The meet began with the 4×100 relay. The Frosh/Soph team of Yesenia Martinez, Kirsten Yutuc, Chantrea Thach and Natalie Rem combined for a 4th place finish in 58 seconds, just off of medal position. The F/S boys team of Geovanny Campos, Salvador, Josh and Raven Alcantara took 7th in a tick over 50 seconds, a seasons best for James Lick’s F/S side.

The meet then moved into the 1600. Arlet Miranda started the day off strong with a seasons best 5:38.59. This is Arlet’s 2nd best time ever, missing her PR by only .13. This was a very rewarding result for Arlet. After her great freshmen track season and Sophomore XC season, Arlet had suffered through injuries and even iron deficiency, but she never stopped working hard. She now looks poised for her best track season yet. Yeimili Adame ran 6:14.86, a PR which moves her onto the school’s top 10 list in the event. Ashley Preciado ran 6:33, a 12 second PR and Mya Hammond ran a 7 second PR of 6:48. Mariana Perez and Emely Lopez both broke 7:30 for the first time, and Francine Estranero, Estefani Herrera and Erika Camacho also ran PRs.

The strong performances on the girls side were replicated by the boys. Melvin Estrada ran a new PR of 5:07, and is now knocking on the door of the HS distance runner’s biggest barrier. Jerricho Habon ran a PR of 5:22, his first time under 5:30. Hugo Marquez was just behind in a season’s best 5:23. Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 5:30 and Jose Ruiz ran a massive PR of 5:40, breaking the 6 minute barrier for the first time.

The meet then took a break from distance events to run the sprint events. Kirsten and Natalie went 1-2 in their heat and ran big PRs in the 100. Kirsten took her PR from 14.70 to 14.23 and Natalie jumped from 14.50 to 14.24. Yesenia ran 15.81, compared to her previous PR of 16.66, and Chantrea managed a small PR as well, running 16.60.

On the boys side, Geovanny continued to impress as a sprinter. In his first ever track meet earlier in the week, Geo took the win in the F/S 100 with a time of 12.76, a solid debut time for a Sophomore. He followed that up with a PR of 12.47 at TKA, showing real potential. Raven matched his PR of 12.60, and Salvador made his debut in the 100 running 13.38 despite a slip in the blocks. All 3 sophomores ran PRs in the 200 as well. Geo ran 25.73 (compared to a 26.70 on Thursday) Raven ran 26.07 (compared to 26.14 on Thursday) and Sal ran 26.37 (compared to 26.87 on Thursday). Misael Herrera and David Bejines competed for the team in the varsity sprint events. David ran a seasons best 12.92 in the 100, while Misael ran a seasons best 25.92 in the 200.

Susie Peterson ran a 200m PR of 33.51 and Kirsten ripped off a huge PR of 29.86. She is just the 4th girl since I’ve been coaching at James Lick to run under 30 seconds for the 200.

Yeimili followed up her strong 1600 with a strong 800. She ran 2:46.22, which lands her 9th on the school’s all time list in the event. Krystal Tran ran a PR of 3:21 in a later heat. Dakota Castro-Lopez ran an 800m PR of 2:34, while Jose ran 2:35 for his own PR.

Arlet ran 12:55 for the 3200, her first sub-13 clocking since her freshman year. Many Comet 2 milers Prd. Jenny and Ashley ran 14:46 and 14:49 respectively, and Daniel Portillo ran 12:24. Two Prs stood out in particular however.

In the frosh/soph race, Melvin ran a very impressive 10:52. Melvin’s ascent this track season has been spectacular.  He entered cross country as a freshmen unable to run under 7 minutes for 1 mile. With his sophomore track season only just beginning, he has shown he can now run 2 miles at under 5:30 pace per mile.

The single most impressive performance on the day however was Azael Zamora in the 3200. Azael was determined to attack the 10 minute barrier and did so with very little help. 800 Meters into the race, he was nearly 100 meters ahead of 2nd place. He lead from gun to tape and stopped the clock in a massive PR of 10:05.14. This moved him into 7th on the school’s all time list in the event.

Overall it was a fantastic day for the Comets. They will now head to Evergreen High School on Thursday 3/15 to face an exceptionally strong Cougar team. Evergreen looks to be the best overall team in the division. The Comets will look to improve their marks ahead of a tilt with Prospect on 3/22 that should be very competitive.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

Comet runners looking strong as meets approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

James Lick Cross Country 2016 Season Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Benny Reeves

Varsity Boys Win STAL Championship, Run Best Team Time At BVAL Finals in School History

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2016 STAL Championship Team Left to Right: Coach Benny Reeves, Gustavo Aguilera, Erik Olsvold, Nathan Bernardo, Inteus Castro-Lopez, Gustavo Parra, Azael Zamora 

 

 

On October 31st, all 24 teams of the BVAL took to the Crystal Springs cross country course for BVAL Finals. The meet determines the final standings for all 3 BVAL divisions, the WVAL (‘C’ division) STAL (‘B’ division) and the MHAL (‘A’ division).

The WVAL, STAL, and MHAL, were all their own individual leagues, but in 1996 they came under the governance of the 24 team ‘super league’ called the BVAL. This re-structing (which happened throughout the CCS during this era) occurred after the glory days of James Lick sports. With teams moving up and down in the BVAL based on strength of program, where a school has it’s teams places is a good indicator of how strong the school’s programs are.

The fact that the BVAL came into existence at the same time that James Lick was achieving the makeup that it has today, helps us to analyze James Lick teams over the past 20 years as part of the “modern era.”

Since the BVAL’s foundation (1996) , James Lick entered the 2016-2017 school year with a total of 16 championships across all sports. Only 3 of these 16 championships were in the STAL (‘B’ league of the BVAL) with the Wrestling team of 2004 being the last JL team to win a title in the B division. Just being placed in the B division is a victory for a James Lick sport these days. Since the BVAl era, James Lick has offered 16 sports, (considering Cross Country, Swimming, and Track as 1 sport each, since boys and girls teams score separately, but cannot move divisions independently). Only 8 of these 16 sports at James Lick  however have ever competed in any division other than the WVAL (‘C’ league of the BVAL). In addition, 2 of those 8 competed in the B division while there was no C division due to a shortage of BVAL teams offering the sport. This means only 6/16 JL sports in the BVAL era have ever been out of the lowest division of the BVAL.

While some teams commonly have most of their teams in the A and B divisions, James Lick currently only has 3, Cross Country, Boys Soccer, and Boys volleyball (though there is no ‘C’ division for boys volleyball). In 20 years now in the BVAL era, with at least 13 sports offered a year, James Lick has never had more than 4 teams in the same year be placed in the ‘B’ division or higher. As such, the cross country team continues to strive to represent the school as a legitimate ‘B’ league team.

BVAL finals in cross country is a great way to prove this strength of program, with all 24 teams in the same race, theoretically a perfectly formatted league would have the MHAL teams place 1-8, STAL place 9-16 and WVAL place 17-24. Any placing higher than 16th in a race legitimatizes the Comets standing and gives the team a sense of pride. As the 4th smallest school in the BVAl, and the 2nd poorest as measured by % of students who receive free/reduced lunch, overcoming this disadvantages to beat schools in a better place to succeed is something to be proud of.

 

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The team after the meet 

The day started well, with the team’s two reserve girls racing for the Comets. After running 29:24 at the Crystal Spring’s invite, Valerie Flores ran 27:09 to place 17th in the reserve race, a huge PR for Valerie. The 9:12 mile pace is by far the best of her career, ending with a very strong peak performance. Brittany Salazar had a similarly huge PR, after running 34:49 at the invitational, she ran 32:41 at league finals. Her 11:05 mile pace was also by far the best of her career. A very strong ending for the two seniors.

The JV girls race was next, as the first scoring race of the day, the team looked for a top 16 team performance. The JV girls is the easiest race to score highly in, as many programs struggle to field a full team. In any case, the Comet girls came in 12th in the BVAL a solid performance. Camila Hernandez lead the group with a very strong time of 24:34. Camila looks poised to have a big track season, and be a key member of the girls team in future seasons. The 8:20 mile pace at league finals was the best of her career. The same was true of Aliana Santos, running 9:01 pace for a time of 26:36. At the CS invite, Aliana ran 29:27, making her league finals PR another outstanding performance. Susie Peterson was next in, while her time of 28:14 was an off race compared to other races this season, it was a solid 30 second PR at Crystal Springs. Ashley Preciado also had the best race of her career, running 29:06 and breaking the 10 minute mile pace barrier for the very first time. Diana Romero ran 31:20 to seal off the team, and Ally Floreza battled through an ankle injury to finish her race and show a warrior spirit in the process.

The Frosh/Soph Boys were next, and they improved their league standing by placing 2nd amongst B division teams at league finals. While final team results are not yet up of FS, I believe that the team managed to finish 8th overall, beating several ‘A’ division teams. Similarly, I do not know the records of the other teams in the ‘B’ division, but this performance may have moved the FS team as high as 2nd place in the STAL.

Vincent Giglio lead the team with a strong PR of 18:22, placing 1st in the STAL to give the team the STAL F/S boys individual champion 2 years in a row. Mark Orpia gave the team a 2nd boy under 20 minutes, running 19:34. The 6:38 mile pace for Mark was the best of his career, though I think it was actually a bit of an off-race for him after he ran 6:40 mile pace at Montgomery Hill a few weeks back. Nien Tran ran 20:18 to manage a 6:53 pace, the first time Nien has run under 7 minute mile pace for an XC race. Rudy Peterson and Melvin Estrada completed the scoring team with times of 21:00 and 21:03, the first the fastest paces of both boys career for a course longer than 2.1 miles. Hugo Marquez was close behind at 21:16, the 7:13 pace being the best of his career as well. Jerricho Habon rounded out the team in 21:25, battling the hip injury that has troubled him throughout much of the season. The team’s 8th place finish saw them defeating 2 teams from the MHAL and running the best James Lick frosh/soph team time in the BVAL era. Their team time of 1:40:25 (100:25) beats the  FS team of 2010 (101:06) for a new BVAL Finals FS record. Our goal of breaking the 100 minute barrier was narrowly missed.

Next up were the varsity girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 20:12, running a very productive race in which she experimented with running a very hard 2nd mile in preparation for CCS. The Varsity girls team has struggled with finding time to train this season, but the pack of Maria Mendoza in 22:44, Milka Perez in 22:50 and Daisy Nava in 23:02 helped solidify the team’s placing. Denisse Calixto ran 24:28 the best race of her career to come through as the 5th girl. Belen Sanchez had a bit of an off-race running 25:03, though Analilia Regla ran 25:08, the best mile pace of her career as well. The teams time of 1:53:16 (113:16) is the 4th best team time in school history.

Skipping ahead to the reserve race, David Bejines lead the Comets with a strong reserve time of 20:14. Isaak Herrera came in next at 20:31 and Austin Swank was 3rd in 20:50, giving the team 3 athletes solidly under 21 minutes. Both David and Isaak ran under 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a near 3 mile course. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:42 and Esteban Garcia-Gomez ran 22:08 to seal off the top 5.  Kevin Bach ran 22:34 and Daniel Portillo was not far behind in 23:00 a big PR from the Crystal Springs invite. Jesse Friaz finished off the team’s day with a time of 24:26. All 8 reserve boys ran the best mile pace of their career for a new 3 mile course.

The Varsity boys team went in highly motivated, knowing that a good race would clinch  championship. In order to seal the victory, the team would have to hold off a very strong Pioneer team. Erik Olsvold lead the group, displaying his signature strong finish, Erik moved from 15th to 9th place in the last 200 meters of the race. His time of 16:22 is the best time by any James Lick boy in over 10 years, and puts him tied for 20th on the school’s al time list as only a Sophomore. Narrowly holding off Evan Franco of Branham who ran 16:24, Erik also ends the season as the STAL individual champion on the boys side, one year after being the FS champion. Erik’s remarkable improvement, from 18:14 a year ago, speaks to the immense work ethic of the varsity team. Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora both missed their PRS, but competed well running 16:47 and 16:59, giving the team 3 boys under 16 minutes in the same race at Crystal Springs for the first time in over a decade. All 3 boys finished in the top 20 overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a rough race, but showed his toughness, gritting out a time of 17:33 for a 22 second PR. Gustavo Aguilera also ran a 20 second PR of 17:39, with Gustavo Parra right behind in 17:40.

Pioneer ran a very strong race as well, and ended up placing 5th in the entire BVAL, beating half of the ‘A’ division teams. The Comets nonetheless were able to clinch their STAL championship, placing 2nd out of all 24 BVAL teams, only losing to Willow Glen, the ‘A’ league champs. The fact that the team was able to jump from a disappointing 13th place finish last year, to 2nd this year is truly remarkable. Their team time of 1:25:20 (85:20) is the best James Lick time at BVAL Finals in school history.

When Nathan and Gustavo A were freshmen, they ran 20:36 and 22:34 at BVAL finals.  Nathan was the 7th boy on a varsity team where the #1 runner ran 18:29. That James Lick team placed 20th at BVAL Finals. The work ethic of Nathan and Gustavo, taking minutes  off of their starting times, has helped foster a culture of hard work that has inspired their teammate around them, and drawn in athletes like Inteus and Gustavo P. In their 4 year careers, they saw the varsity boys team move from 20th in the BVAL to 2nd, and from a team time of 97:09 at league finals, to the 85:20 of today.

In the now 38 years of school history (on record) at the Crystal Springs cross country course, the team of 2016 ranks 11th in team time, showing that in 4 short years, the Comets were able to take a team from its 2nd slowest time, back to the times of James Lick’s heyday. It is up to the returning and future members of the team, to keep James Lick where it belongs an to keep driving the team upwards towards greater success. While the varsity and Frosh/Soph boys teams could have committed in the MHAL this year, the girls team has a ways to go before they are able to do the same.

Willow Glen has won 12 of the last 13 BVAL finals meets, and there is no sham in losing to the highly formidable team. The varsity boys team of 2016 showed that the Comets are still capable of competing with the best however, and every year we will try to reach greater and greater heights. The varsity boys, and fellow CCS qualifier Arlet Miranda now look ahead to CCS Finals on November 12th, where they will compete against fellow D3 runners from the CCS. To better understand CCS qualification you can read here:

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/what-the-comets-overcome-when-they-make-ccs/

 

The team will unfortunately be without top runner Erik Olsvold at CCS, making a top 3 finish, and a better team time difficult, but the Comets will do their best to try to get a State Qualifier for the first time in 2005.

Thank you for reading as always,

-Benny Reeves

 

What The Comets Overcome When They “Make CCS”

 

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The team running up the North Rim Trail in the rain 

I think it is important to understand our leagues and their structures, and to at least think about issues in education that spill into athletics, so if you take the time to read this whole ugly mess, thank you very sincerely.

This blog will be interesting to you if you want to better understand the BVAL, the CCS, how qualification works, and how the different CCS leagues stack up against each other. I will also include a lot of sociological analysis of the different leagues, and breakdown in my opinion, why certain leagues are strong and detail exactly what the Comets need to overcome to succeed, and compete against more advantaged schools and leagues.

Often times when talking about goals, we discuss “making CCS.” For our newer athletes, and for casual readers, the significance of this goal is unclear. This blog will serve as an explanation of what the CCS is, how it works, and how competitive it is.

All high schools in California operate under National and State rules. Our state governing body is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). Here is an explanation of the highest level of competition an athlete can advance to in high school cross country.

  1. The Footlocker/Nike National Meets. There are two national meets these days, athletes may qualify for both/either and choose between them. The best athletes in the country are split between these two national meets. Generally speaking, Footlocker is the individual race, and Nike is the team race, but there is overlap. It is a strange system to say the least, having two separate same day national championships meet.
  2. To qualify for the National meets, athletes compete at their Regional Meet. There are four regions, West, Midwest, Northeast and South. We of course find ourselves in the Western Region with 11 other States.
  3. Only the very best athletes from the State Meet proceed to the regional meet. The State meet brings together competitors from each of the CIF’s 5 cross country divisions. In Cross Country, every team has a CIF (State) division based on population. Therefore, nowadays there is a CCS and State champion in each division, so 5 boys champs and 5 girls champs, both for teams and individuals.
  4. The CCS is one of 10 sections in California. The CCS (Central Coast Section) covers schools from San Francisco to King City, roughly 150 total schools. Division 1 schools are the largest schools, with over 2,000  students, whereas Division 5 schools have less than 500 students. We are currently a division 3 school, though we are on the smaller end of D3. For division 3, the top 3 teams at CCS advance to the State Meet, as well as the top 5 individuals who are not on those 3 teams, provided these 5 individuals were in the top 14 overall. If you place 15th or lower in CCS D3 finals, your only chance to make State is as a team.

Only 8 Comet Athletes have ever made it to the State Meet (all boys). The State Meet was founded in 1987, and Joe Amendt was the first athlete to run at State for the Comets that very same year. No Comet has made State since 2005 when Erick Herrera qualified (James Lick was a D4 school that year).

James Lick has one CCS Cross Country team championship. The team of 1971 won the small schools race, the first year that CCS had divisions (just large schools and small schools). A few years later the CCS would move into 3 different divisions, and gradually grew into it’s 5 division format of today. Other sports have various numbers of divisions. In short, in cross country both CCS Finals and CIF (State) Finals both have 5 champions for each gender, one for each division.

In terms of the 10 State Sections, the CCS is among the upper middle of the pack in competitive success. The SS (Southern Section) is by far the best section, though it should be considering it consists of over 500 schools, while The SDS (San Diego Section) is the 2nd largest at roughly 200 schools. The CCS, SJS (Sac-Joaquin Section) NCS (North Coast Section) and CS (Central Section) are all very comparable in size, ranging from 140-170 schools. As logic dictates, there is a direct correlation between the size of a section and it’s competitive success. The Oakland and San Francisco Sections are the two smallest sections in the CIF, both comprising less than 20 schools. As a result they are virtually always the two weakest sections competitively by far.

Originally, James Lick was a member of the NCS. By the 1960s however, the CCS was formed, largely composed of schools in the Santa Clara Valley area. As the CCS grew, and more and more schools popped up under its jurisdiction, it moved to structure things more formally. The CCS now has a total of 3 Conferences (which don’t actually mean anything) and 3 ‘Power Leagues’ within each conference.

The strongest conference of the CCS in cross country and track is the Central Conference. The 3 leagues here in the Central Conference (Morgan Hill to Palo Alto) are:

  1. WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
  2. SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) a 14 team public school league made up of schools from West-Side San Jose to Palo Alto, including Los Gatos and Saratoga. They use 2 divisions or smaller leagues, the ECAL (El Camino League, their ‘A’ division) and the DAL (De Anza League, their ‘B’ division).
  3. BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) 24 teams including Campbell, Central, South, and East Side San Jose, as well as Morgan Hill. It is the largest league in the CCS, and is the only one to use a 3 division format, MHAL/STAL/WVAL as discussed in other blogs.

The other 6 leagues include:

  1. The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
  2. WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
  3. PSAL (15 team Private School Athletic League, mainly small private or charter schools). These leagues make up the Norther Conference of the CCS.

The Southern Conference includes

  1. The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
  2. The MBL (15 team Monterey Bay league). The MBL uses two smaller leagues, the “Gabilan” as an ‘A’ division and “Pacific” as a ‘B’ division
  3. The MTAL (16 team Mission Trails Athletic League). This league is geographical with an Mission Trails Division division and a Coastal division, but has most of it’s strong teams in the Mission Trails Division.

In Track and Field for 2016, it was clear that the 3 strongest leagues were the SCVAL, WCAL, and the BVAL. While the BVAL lags far behind the far richer schools of the SCVAL and WCAL, it is considerably stronger than any of the other CCS leagues in regards to competitive times and marks, in large part because it has more schools than the other leagues. Just for comparison, the 10th fastest boy in the 100m dash in the WCAL and SCVAL ran under 11.30. The 10th fastest boy in the BVAL ran under 11.45. In no other league was the 10th fastest boy under 11.65.

In cross country things are a bit more spread out. The SCCAL (Santa Cruz County Athletic League) has some extremely strong runners. In particular, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, produce top tier CCS runners every year. The Aptos’ girls team is the reigning D3 State Champion, and under coach Dan Gruber (arguably the best coach in the CCS) they may well win State again. CCS is essentially already locked up.

There are also strong runners in other leagues, King City in the MTAL  has produced some outstanding runners over the past few seasons, though the WCAL and SCVAL are dominant overall. I often compare the BVAL, and James Lick specifically, against the SCVAL. The SCVAL being a public school league right next to us, but a highly competitive one at that, makes for interesting comparisons.

James Lick last season placed 13th in the BVAL on the boys side and 14th on the girls side. Considering we were the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, and the 2nd poorest (based on percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch) this was a solid accomplishment, placing solidly in the middle of the 24 team league despite disadvantage. The majority of the school’s sports have losing records in the ‘C’ division by comparison.

In the SCVAL however, the teams would have finished 13th/14. Despite only being a 14 team public school league, the SCVAL is extremely strong, putting many other public school leagues to shame.

For example, in 2016 Kaylah Grant of Live Oak won the BVAL Championship meet in the 1600m run, in  a very strong time of 5:11. 6th Place in the BVAL was 5:19, also a very high quality time. 6th Place in the SCVAL however was 5:08, faster than the BVAL winning time of Kaylah Grant.

Here is an article that my dad  wrote for the Mercury News about the strength of the SCVAL in cross country.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2015/09/23/high-school-cross-country-scval-teams-continue-to-excel/

As discussed in the article, the SCVAL has several advantages, one is large schools. The smallest school in the SCVAL, Saratoga, outnumbers James Lick by several hundred, and is the only D3 school in the SCVAL.

The SCVAL also has the benefit of a highly motivated student body in a good area to train. Many parks, such as Fremont Older and Rancho San Antonio are in close proximity to the SCVAL schools, and their highly driven students are very determined to stand out to colleges and take both academics and athletics seriously. Monta Vista, a top SCVAL school, ranked 11th in the entire State in academic rankings done by “U.S. News Best High School Rankings,” in 2015.

Lastly the SCVAL has the benefit of extremely capable and intelligent coaches. Gunn High School in Palo Alto’s current head coach is Patti Sue Plumer, Stanford Alumni and former American record holder in the 5000m run. Patti Sue has already coached several runners to huge success, last year Gillian Meeks of Gunn won the State Meet for division 2 in XC, and yet, the case could be made that she is not even the best coach in the SCVAL.

This area also has a number of very strong middle school programs. Students getting a head start on training can be very helpful. The primary feeder schools of James Lick are George and Shepherd, and this is the first time in the past decade that they both even had a cross country team in the same season, (no runners form either school advanced to the County meet however, the middle school equivalent of CCS). Evan Franco of Branham won the first three  STAL meets of the 2016 season despite being a freshmen. Last year at Price Middle School, he ran 4:41 for the 1600m as an 8th grader. A middle school which develops athletes like Evan, helps schools that they feed like Branham to a large degree. Erik Olsvold, our top sophomore won STAL #4 in a fantastic time of 15:27, finally defeating Evan. The difference is Erik came in un-trained from Joseph George, running only 6:19 for the 1,600 as an 8th grader. Evan was able to run 16:13 in his very first STAL meet. As a freshman, Erik ran 18:14 and that was after a summer of training. The SCVAL schools have many schools like Price, sending already experienced athletes to high school, ready to be a factor from day one.

The last big factor contributing to SCVAL success is their financial status, despite being a public school league. It makes sense that private schools have a huge advantage in this regard. Bellarmine has its own private buses, enabling the team to run in awesome locations whenever they want, whereas the only bus we get all season is for our league finals meet. This advantage is also significant at wealthy public schools such as those in the SCVAL.

In my dad’s original article,he mentioned the fact that having financial flexibility affords one greater ability to succeed. This acknowledgement was ultimately deleted by the Mercury News.

It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge the systemic issues that affect academic and athletic success in our schools, but the simple reality is that they are present. I would make the case that this issue colors all others.

A student who is fortunate enough to not have to worry about money at home can afford to train and get enough sleep every night, without needing to work a job. Standing around for several hour shifts is not ideal for a distance runner’s recovery, nor is getting home late and having to do homework until 3 AM when they should be sleeping.

A recurring issue in James Lick athletics is students not being eligible to compete due to failure to “make grades.” Some of these students simply did not work hard enough or take agency of their education. Some of these students had no interest in taking their schooling seriously. Many however,  had family issues which are not conducive to achievement, or need to work long hours to simply help make ends meet. The student who works until 9 PM, gets home at 10 PM, does homework until 1PM wakes up at 6PM and has to skip breakfast to walk to school for ‘0’ period on time, is necessarily going to have a hard time succeeding in school compared to someone who has less responsibility. Provided this student makes grades, they are then at disadvantage because of their tiring lifestyle and inadequate rest/nourishment. If this student fails to make grades, they will be lumped in as “another statistic”  or a “screwup” just the same as the students who are genuinely unengaged or disinterested in school. It is also wrong in my opinion to label students who are “failing” as failures. Many students who are unengaged in school are uninterested due to a lack of guidance or inability to cope with difficult situations. This is true of students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Some schools in our league have the luxury of a training room, with an athletic trainer and facilities designed to help athletes grow stronger and recover from injuries. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this, but I suspect virtually every school in the SCVAL has this advantage. Comparatively I’m not sure if we even have a school nurse.

Through academic struggles, James Lick has received labels such as “at risk” and in my 4 years coaching, I’ve heard young Comet athletes relay this type of  message from 8th graders more times than I can count:  “they said James Lick sucks, so they didn’t want to come here.” Through economic flexibility, a parent can spend time helping their student excel in pursuits such as cross country. The number of (expensive) running/track clubs on the West Side reflect this. Many parents at James Lick do not have the time to be invested in their students academic or athletic success. Using Maria Mendoza as an example, Maria qualified for CCS last year with a strong Crystal Springs time of 20:35. I’ve had to send letters home convincing her parents to let her continue running, because her family needs her to work two jobs to help make ends meet. Despite her status as a CCS qualifier in XC and a BVAL qualifier in Track, her family has never seen her compete. Not because they don’t care, but simply because they don’t have time with their own busy work schedules to make time for what they see as a luxury, but what could be for students like Maria, an outlet for success.

A student whose family is struggling is unlikely to have the ability to eat the healthy diet that a runner should ideally eat. It is far cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy a big mac, than it is to head to the store, buy meat, rice, vegetables, pasta etc. and prepare them each day.

When comparing the BVAL and SCVAL, a total of 38 schools, in the 2014/2015 school year, James Lick tied for 2nd most students that qualify for free and reduced lunch as a percentage of total students. At James Lick 78% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.Only 9/38 schools had more than 50% of students in this category, all 9 were BVAL schools. 8/9 were East Side schools.

15 schools had less than 20% of their students in this category, 9/14 total SCVAL schools are in this group however. There are only 4 schools in the SCVAL where more than 30% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These 4 schools finished 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th last year at SCVAL’s finals (again out of 14 teams) on the boys side. On the girls side they finished 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. On the girls side Saratoga finished in 14th, though one of the wealthiest schools in the SCVAL by a measure of free and reduced lunch percentile, they have 400 less students than any other SCVAL school.

A great way of comparing the schools and leagues of the CCS is through the “league finals combined results” provided by former Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Using a course conversion formula, he combines every ‘league finals’ meet from the CCS. Course conversions are done to equalize times to Crystal Springs. Course conversions are never fully accurate, but they give one a rough idea of where everyone stands.

Last year under the format, with 115 total boys teams combined, 5 of the top 10 schools in the CCS at league finals were from the WCAL. Bellarmine in 1st, and St. Francis in 2nd. 4 of the top 10 were from the SCVAL. The lone exception was top BVAL school Willow Glen, a perennial powerhouse under coach Santa Maria. The 2nd BVAL school was Lincoln at 31st. James Lick came in at 60th,  solidly in the middle of the pack.

Contrary to the perception of some, struggles in communities like the East Side are not born out of a lack of work ethic, rather, they are the product of a system which is not entirely receptive to upward mobility. The majority of funding for public schools in California comes from property taxes of the surrounding area. A poor area necessarily produces less money in property taxes, and less funding for schools as a result.So while many students at James Lick struggle with the hardships that relative poverty create at home, they also receive less funding at school to help them rise above their circumstances. The case could be made that the students who need more school programs and strong school funding the most, receive the least of it. A poorer school cannot pay teachers and coaches as much as a wealthier school could.

I made less as a varsity head coach my first year at James Lick than a colleague of mine did as a JV assistant coach at Cupertino High School in the SCVAL. Teachers and coaches who accumulate a good reputation, are more likely to coach at the already successful SCVAL schools, where they can count on the already strong programs to provide them with a plethora of motivated student-athletes.

Students are asked to work hard and earn a better life for themselves. It is very possible to achieve success with enough hard work in our current education system, but the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity at attending a top college for example is inaccurate . The notion that our education system is a meritocracy is at best a false claim. I would call it a farce.

Schools like James Lick which have gained negative reputations, see a high percentage of potentially high-achieving students flee to other local schools or private schools as a an alternative. This phenomenon only drives school performance down further. Teacher turnover is a nationwide issue, and one that plagues poor schools to a far greater degree. When schools like James Lick perform poorly, they are subject to intervention, which only makes teachers desire to transfer greater. If teachers do not stay long enough to establish a rapport at a school to effectively teach students, students will not be educated as well as they could be. If students who are already struggling at home, do not have teachers who can teach them as well as students at richer schools, is it in any way surprising that rich schools would perform better academically than poor schools? That’s only one contributing factor. If top colleges heavily weigh AP (advanced placement)  participation, and schools like James Lick cannot offer even close to the same number of AP classes as a school like Los Gatos, is it fair to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed?  A Comet who wants to go to Stanford University does not have to work as hard as a typical student at Palo Alto high school, they have to work significantly harder (not even taking the potential of legacy enrollments into account.)

There are plenty of Comet success stories over the past few decades. Students who despite difficult living stations, worked hard, earned scholarships and achieved immense success in post high school life. Shawn Herrera, CEO of Mazda technologies is a good example of this type of former JLXC athlete. So is Paloma Contreras, currently attending Santa Clara University on a full academic scholarship (she could also run track for them if she chose).

It is very possible for a JLXC athlete to succeed in this system, but this system is not made for JLXC athletes. The fact that Paloma “made it” should be an inspiration to her fellow Comets who are striving to do the same. It should not however be an indictment of those who don’t “make it.”

Just this year, we had a strong JLXC athlete transfer to Piedmont Hills High School because their parents felt that Piedmont was simply a better school. No blame can be placed on a parent trying to do what is best for their child, and in this parent’s mind, what was best for their child  wasn’t James Lick.

The reality is James Lick is not nearly as disadvantaged as some schools across the country. I myself was fortunate enough not to have to worry about having food on the table every day, and I was always allowed the unconditional support of my parents. These were huge factors on the moderate amount of XC success I achieved. We have many high achieving students on the team, cross country tends to produce mentally strong athletes after all. I have no doubt that students like Nathan Bernardo, and Azael Zamora (both have very high GPAs) will go on to college and be successful in whatever they pursue. I’m worried about athletes like Maria who have to fight so hard just to make it in our current system.

In a few days the James Lick Comets will run at BVAL Finals, and will work to run as fast as they can, earn PRs, and high places.

Come what may however, it bears remembering that when the Comets toe the line and tear up hills at league finals, they will carry more than simply the pain of cross country with them.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

STAL 5/ Mt. Sac Invitational Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two James Lick Team Records Fall at STAL #4

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Varsity Boys Huddling Before The Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

JLXC Course History: Crystal Springs

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Crystal Springs Center Meet 2 2014. Daniela Camacho is slightly off center in the front pack. The rest of the Comet girls are on the far left.

 

 

The most significant and historic Cross Country course in the bay area is without a doubt Crystal Springs in Belmont. Unlike other courses, the Crystal Spring’s course was specifically designed as a cross country course. The Course was founded in it’s 2.95 mile format in 1971, and shortly afterwards became a key course for the entire CCS. In 1973 James Lick ran it for the first time at the Crystal Springs Center meet. It served as the CCS regional meet course for region 3 which James Lick found itself in,beginning in 1975 so the Comets ran the course for the first tim in it’s very first year of existence. Athletes would have to run fast enough to qualify for CCS at their regional meets, making the regional meet a key point in the season, BVAL finals and other league finals have taken the place of regional meets and act as the modern day qualifying meet for CCS.

The Crystal Springs center meets are weekday meets run throughout the season at Crystal Springs for athletes to prepare for the big regional meet. The Crystal Springs invite, held on the 2nd Saturday of October, would follow a few years later.  In 1973 CCS was held at Crystal Springs for the first time. CCS would be held at Crystal Springs every year from 1972-2000 with the exception of 1974 when it was at Helyer park. In the 2000s, the CCS committee began the process of alternating the CCS location between Crystal Springs in odd years, and Toro Park in even years. By this time however, the Comets were running Crystal Springs at BVAL finals every year, as well as the Crystal Springs invite or center meet.

The rich history of Crystal Springs make sit the team’s most impressive all time/ team list. The Comets have run at Crystal Springs virtually every year since 1971, now over 40 years of course history! Many years Crystal Springs was run 2-3 times by the Comets, and the full results from almost every race at Crystal Springs dating back to these early years are available online (wish that was the case for every course…) The Crystal Springs course status as a league finals/ CCS playoffs course, make it the number one course in the bay area for time comparisons and rankings.

The Course is made up entirely of dirt trails and is very undulating, with the first 2 miles being downhill overall, with small hills dispersed throughout the course. The final mile (.95 technically) is hilly, with athletes running up towards the finish line form the 2 mile mark. Despite it being a hilly course, its net downhill construction makes it a relatively fast course. In recent years it has become clear that a Varsity athlete should run 45-60 seconds slower at Crystal Springs, than they would for the shorter BVAL league meet courses (Montgomery and Alum Rock).

The Comets of today have a wealth of great times to shoot for, and new great times to achieve when they take to the Crystal Springs course for BVAL Finals and CCS Finals this year.

The Comets began running quality times on the course in 1973 when the began racing it. top runner on that team, Alvarado, ran 16:06, a time which despite it’s standing at 5:27 mile pace, is only the 17th best time for the Comets in school history at Crystal Springs. This team also ran the 3rd best team  time in school, a phenomenal 1:22:25, an average of 16:29 a runner. This was all done at the Crystal Spring’s center meet.

A few years later, more strong additions would be made. The team of 1975 ran a strong team of 1:24:35, which stands at number 10 on the Comet list. They were lead by Joe Salazar however, who became the first Comet to run under 16 minutes on the course, running the school record of 15:21, 5:12 mile pace. Peter Munoz would break 16 a few years later, running 15:57 for a team that ran the 8th best team time in school history, 1:23:44. The team of 1977 ran the #2 team time in school history, 1:21:51 (81:51) at the Crystal Springs center meet.

The boys teams of the mid-late 1970s were very strong, but they were just a precursor to the teams of 1980 and 1981, likely the best boys teams in JLXC history. The team of 1980 ran a very strong 1:23:20 (83:20) for #6 on the school’s all time team list. This gave the team a 10th place finish at CCS finals. Rich Diaz lead the team with a 16:03 clocking, tied for 12th in school history, though many of the team’s runners would return for the 1981 season.

1981 in terms of competition, was probably JLXCs best season altogether.  Both the boys and girls won the MHAL, the only time in school history that the boys and girls have won a league championship in the same season, and the only MHAL title in school history for the girls (one of only 2 total championships for the girls, the most recent coming in 2014). The girl’s team of 1981 ran whats stands as the school team time record by a large margin. Their time of 1:46:41 at the Crystal Springs invite in 1981 has never been seriously threatened, as the only time in school history the team ran under 1:50 (or 110:00 mins). The team’s top runners, Kim Willoughby in 20:10, Angie Silva in 20:27 and Betsy Whyer in 21:19 currently stand as #2, #4 and #9 respectively on the team’s all time list. The team of 81 was the only girls team in school history to have two girls run under 21 minutes at Crystal Springs in the same season.

The boys team of 1981 was equally impressive. Their team time of 1:20:46 (80:46) still stands as the team record. The team placed 4th as a team at CCS, though this team time nowadays would likely win CCS in division 3 in most seasons. Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina ran 15:37 and 15:49 this season, 4th and 7th on the school’s all time list. Jim Saldivar also ran 16:16 for 19th place on the list. The team’s average of 16:09 a boy is outstanding. The 5th boy in CCS finals for the Comets that year ran 16:31, while the 7th ran 16:45. This outstanding team stands as the competitive apex of JLXC history, and the team that current Comet team’s look up to while striving to better themselves.

Greg Machado was a freshmen on the team of 1981, running 16:37 as the 6th boy, a few years later he would lead the team with a 15:33 #3 in school history. Unfortunately results from Crystal Springs are incomplete from 1982-1984 with no team times available in these years.

The teams of the late 1980s showed a lot of the strength of he early 80s teams as well. The team of 1986 ran 1:22:32 and the team of 1987 ran 1:22:25, 5th and 6th on the combined team list for the Comets. Joe Amendt tied Joe Salazar’s 15:21, giving two Comets a 5:12 mile pace at the top of the Crystal Springs list. Jim Strachan ran 16:06 for #14 on the school’s list in 1986 and Lanoura Goulart in  1988 ran 21:38 for #12 on the girl’s list.

The team experienced a bit of a dry spell during the very late 80’s and early 90’s. Even so, boy’s teams in this dry spell like the team of 1989 ran high quality team times like 1:27:08 (87:08) that the team of today is trying to return to. 1992 saw Armando Avilez run 16:06 to add his name to the school’s all time list, while Lorena Socarzano did the same on girl’s side running 21:32.

In 1996, Alberto Meza ran 15:53, #9 on the all time list, and was followed a few years later by Will Crane who ran 15:45. Crane is #5 on the school’s all time list, and the most recent Comet to break the 16 minute barrier at Crystal Springs. Emil Kayer ran 21:06 on the girl’s side during the same year, #8 on the school’s all time list.  The 90’s and early 2000s had quality runners, but the depth of James Lick throughout 70’s and 80’s was fading as the school achieved it’s “at risk” status. On the boy’s all time team’s list 9/10 times were run in the 70’s and 80’s. The one exception is the 1:24:03 (84:03) of the team of 2000, 9th on the school’s list.

Only two additions to the boy’s all time list have been made since the year 2000, Ivan Navarro’s 16:09 in 2000, and Jose Gutierrez’ 16:00 in 2003. From 2006-2015 no Comet even ran under 17 minutes for Crystal Springs. The team times also weakened as a byproduct.

From 1973- 1989 the Comets ran under 90 minutes (on the boys side) as a team every year on record. Most years they ran under 87 minutes. The team failed to break 90 minutes for the first time in 1991, then again in 1995. In the early 2000s, the team constantly ran in the 85-87 minute time range, very respectable though unspectacular team times. A team time in this range is essentially a guarantee of a CCS spot, more than most sports at the school can claim right now.

Following the 2003 season however, the team fell fast. From a time of 86:14 (1:26:14) in 2003,the team did not break the 90 minute barrier again for 11 straight seasons.Finally in 2015, we were able to break the 90 minute barrier again, running 89:07 as a team at BVAL finals. This season, the Comets had it’s first runners break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs since 2005, Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora ran 16:45 and 16:48 at the Crystal Sprinsg invite to accomplish the feet, and the big meets are still ahead with the chance to run faster. This is why we are excited about the team of today, and feel we are moving in the right direction to restore JLXC to it’s former position of competitive success, without sacrificing team culture.

While the boys teams of the mid2000s-2010s were among the weakest in school history, the girl’s teams (which traditionally were never strong competitively) have seen rising success.

Kayla Matsuda ran the school record of 19:39 at Crystal Springs in 2008. On the girls’ all time team list, #1 belongs to the team of 1981, but all 9 other positions have been set since the 2000s. The 10th position is currently held by the team of 2005, at 2:00:16 (120:16) though this year’s team should kook them off, making all 10 positions sub 2 hour clockings.

The #2, #3 and #4 team times at Crystal Springs have been set the past 3 seasons. 1:50:00 in 2014, 1:50:27 in 2015, and 1:55:07 in 2013. The fact that 1:55:07 in 2013 is the 4th best team time in school history, shows that the team’s of the last few seasons are making the school’s history on the girl’s side stronger each passing season. The team will need to break into the 1:40s to be truly competitive throughout the CCS however. Christina Avalos ran 20:38 in 2022 for #7 on the school’s all time list. Daniela Camacho ran 20:33 in 2014 to put herself # 5 on the school’s all time list. In 2015 Maria Mendoza ran 20:35 for #6 and this year Arlet Miranda has already run 20:18 for #3.

With the Crystal Springs Invite just having past, and BVAL Finals at Crystal Springs just 3 weeks away, this is a chance to reflect on the team’s storied history on the course. The JLXC team of 2016 will work hard to try to improve it further, and know that Comets before them have set a high bar for success.

STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill will take place on Thursday October 13th, with STAL #5 a week later. The team is in it’s final phase of training now, readying themselves to run at their best at BVAL Finals (though Arlet and the varsity boys will work to peek for CCS 12 days later).

 

Thank you for reading, there is a chart of Crystal Springs by year below.

-Benny Reeves

 

Below is a list of James Lick’s best times at Crystal Springs each year, taking the best team time in a season, and listing what its runners ran to achieve it.

Year R 1 R 2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 Team Time Pace Average Race

2016

2015

17:02 17:55 17:58 18:00 18:13 (18:40) (18:06) 1:29:07 6:03 17:49 BVAL Finals

2014

17:18 17:49 18:35 18:47 18:53 (19:30) (20:51) 1:31:22 6:12 18:16 BVAL Finals

2013

18:32 19:30 19:32 19:42 19:54 (20:36) 1:37:09 6:35 19:26 BVAL Finals

2012

17:50 17:56 18:09 18:16 18:24 (18:52) 1:30:34 6:08 18:07 Crystal Springs Invite

2011

17:31 18:09 18:09 18:26 18:29 (20:13) 1:30:44 6:09 18:09 Crystal Springs Invite

2010

17:30 18:14 18:20 18:38 19:02 (19:03) (19:17) 1:31:45 6:13 18:21 BVAL Finals

2009

17:46 18:17 18:45 18:56 19:00 (19:15) (20:11) 1:32:44 6:17 18:33 BVAL Finals

2008

17:19 18:44 19:14 19:29 20:02 (10:13) (21:10) 1:34:48 6:26 18:58 BVAL Finals

2007

18:49 19:14 19:27 19:43 (20:07) 1:37:20 6:36 19:28 CCS Finals

2006

17:55 18:50 19:16 19:37 19:41 1:35:19 6:28 19:04 BVAL Finals

2005

16:34 17:39 18:20 19:19 19:32 1:31:24 6:12 18:17 CCS Finals

2004

17:03 17:09 17:36 19:05 19:43 (21:11) 1:30:36 6:09 18:07 BVAL Finals

2003

16:17 17:06 17:19 17:38 17:54 (18:24) (18:52) 1:26:14 5:51 17:15 BVAL Finals

2002

16:50 16:57 17:08 17:19 17:23 (17:57) (17:59) 1:25:47 5:48 17:07 BVAL Finals

2001

16:50 16:56 17:02 17:07 17:11 (17:46) (20:15) 1:25:06 5:46 17:01 CCS Finals

2000

16:09 16:29 17:03 17:08 17:14 (18:06) (18:15) 1:24:03 5:42 16:48 CCS Finals

1999

16:38 16:41 17:05 17:30 17:37 (17:46) (17:56) 1:25:31 17:06 CCS Finals

1998

15:45 17:20 17:45 18:19 18:28 (18:32) (20:08) 1:27:37 17:31 BVAL Finals

1997

16:41 16:45 18:03 18:20 18:31 (18:39) (19:47) 1:28:20 17:40 CCS Finals

1996

15:53 16:55 17:39 17:41 17:43 (18:18) (19:46) 1:25:51 17:10 CCS Finals

1995

16:28 17:22 18:29 20:49 21:15 (21:18) 1:34:23 18:53 CCS Finals

1994

16:03 16:48 17:07 18:13 18:34 (19:04) (20:05) 1:26:45 17:21 CCS Finals

1993

16:32 17:07 17:15 18:03 18:29 (19:55) (20:06) 1:27:26 17:29 CCS Finals

1992

16:06 16:33 16:44 17:30 17:42 (17:57) (18:10) 1:24:35 16:53 CCS Finals

1991

17:26 17:46 18:16 18:21 18:33 (19:13) (19:17) 1:30:22 18:04 CCS Regional Meet

1990

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

1989

16:46 16:47 17:23 17:30 17:44 (17:55) (18:14) 1:26:10 17:14 CCS Regional Meet

1988

17:11 17:15 17:42 17:49 17:56 (18:25) (20:52) 1:27:53 17:35 Crystal Springs Center Meet

1987

15:41 16:27 16:38 16:45 16:54 (17:15) (17:59) 1:22:25 16:29 CCS Regional Meet

1986

15:21 16:06 16:33 17:14 17:18 (17:38) (18:26) 1:22:32 16:30 CCS Finals

1985

16:22 17:20 17:22 17:24 17:48 (18:13) (18:17) 1:26:16 17:15 Crystal Springs Center Meet

1984

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

1983

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

1982

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

1981

15:37 15:53 16:20 16:26 16:31 (16:37) (16:45) 1:20:46 16:09 CCS Finals

1980

16:03 16:07 16:29 16:58 17:43 (18:55) 1:23:20 16:40 CCS Finals

1979

16:32 16:38 16:38 16:46 16:49 (16:51) (17:41) 1:23:23 16:41 CCS Finals

1978

15:57 16:10 16:25 16:57 17:06 (17:20) 1:23:44 CCS Finals

1977

15:52 16:12 16:29 16:35 16:43 1:21:51 Crystal Springs Center Meet

1976

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

1975

15:30 16:45 16:52 17:05 18:20 (19:28) (19:29) 1:24:32 Crystal Springs Center Meet

1974

1973

16:06 16:22 16:26 16:50 17:02 (17:42) 1:22:25 9 Crystal Springs Center Meet

1972

1971

 

 

Comets Have Historic Day at STAL #3

The Comets took to Montgomery Hill for their 3rd league meet of the season on Wednesday October 5th. This matchup was highly anticipated, as the first Montgomery meet of the season, as a matchup with STAL powerhouse Pioneer high school.

For a course history of Montgomery Hill, read here first: 

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/jlxc-history-montgomery-hill-time-trial-recap/Th

Montgomery Hill is now the signature course of the BVAL and the Comets began racing on the course during the final years of the James Lick boy’s last great era. As such, the course holds immense significance for the ability to compare within the BVAL. After two weeks of hard work, the Comets were ready to show the benefits of their training.

The day got off to a bizarre start. Due to a mix-up, the Frosh/Soph boys were pointed in the wrong direction on the course in two separate areas. Every Frosh/Soph Boy ran the middle school course of 2.06 miles, instead of the high school 2.74 mile version. As every boy ran this version of the course, the places were allowed to stand as legitimate. Pioneer is the team to go through on the boys side in the STAL. Not only are they the 2014 and 2015 Varsity boys STAL champs, but their reserve and Frosh/Soph teams have already showed tremendous depth. At STAL 2, Pioneer had their top 5 Frosh/Soph boys in the top 11 overall, while the Comets #1 Frosh/Soph Boy was Mark in 22nd place.

The team was not able to defeat the Mustangs, but they did give them a much more difficult fight than anticipated. Pioneer boys took places 1-4 overall, but Comet runners Vincent Giglio, Mark Orpia, and Nien Tran came in 5th, 7th and 11th. Rudy Peterson and Jerricho Habon rounded out the team’s scoring 5. Melvin Estrada and Hugo Marquez rounded out the team overall.

The Varsity girl’s had no trouble going the correct way, and Arlet Miranda lead the group in 19:16, a huge PR and the 2nd best James Lick girls time in school history to finish 5th overall. After missing time to work on her grades, Maria Mendoza ran 21:50, a strong improvement on the 22:52 she ran at STAL 1. Daisy Nava ran a 20 second PR of 22:38 to be the team’s 3rd girl, though the absence of Milka Perez hurt the team overall. Denisse Calixto and Belen Sanchez rounded out the scoring in 24: 14 and 24:55 respectively, with Analilia Regla finishing in 25:05 a PR by more than 1:30. The team ran a team time of 112:53 (1:52:53) better than the 113:53 that they opened last season’s first Montgomery meet with. While the team is trending in the right direction, they too were unable to defeat the Pioneer Mustangs.

 

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Varsity Girls Left to Right: Arlet Miranda, Maria Mendoza, Belen Sanchez, Analilia Regla, Daisy Nava, Denisse Calixto

The Varsity Boys were next up on the ledger, but before detailing their race it’s important to contextualize this team’s drive.

No team has come to represent the rebirth of JLXCTF more than this group of athletes. I began coaching 4 years ago, and the varsity team of 2013 had very little running experience. While there were dedicated athletes like Karan Singh, Nathan Bernardo and Gustavo Aguilera, the team was a long way from being competitive within the BVAL, let alone the STAL specifically. Our best team that season at Montgomery hill was 94: 56 (1:34:56). A far cry from the school record of 81:48 (1:21:48) ran in 2003 by a team that went 7-0 in the MHAL (‘A’ division). Nathan ran 19:17 as a freshmen at Montgomery Hill, while Gustavo Aguilera ran 27:00. While their times were not even particularly impressive frosh/soph times, both boys showed an indomitable spirit and desire to improve themselves, that would help lay the foundation for the team culture we have now.

We were moved down to the WVAL after this season, in part because our rapidly improving girl’s team was listed as 0-7 on the league standings sheet, while their correct record should have been listed at 4-3. I remember Nathan asking after this if we could get back into the STAL if we ran fast enough, and more so, if we might potentially win a league championship one day. Myself, then fellow JLXC coach, John Quasarano,and the students on the team felt that we deserved to remain in the STAL. We set out with the goal of proving this, and I as a first year coach, was very determined to try to “outcoach” other coaches, and help my athletes develop at a faster rate than the athletes are larger, more financially advantaged schools.

In setting out to coach the best I could, I began to compile the all time list available on this site. Having a father who ran at James Lick, and having run at James Lick myself, lead me to understand the great tradition of JLXC. In compiling these lists however, I began to truly understand the depth and power of James Lick’s tradition in general, and our goal’s began to shift. We wanted a team that was inclusive of all athletes regardless of ability level. A place where anyone who wanted to run XC/Track, would be able to do so with the unmitigated support of their coaches and teammates. The positive attitude of athletes like Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores, Mario Perez, and Oscar Sanchez helped ensure this was the case.

From a competitive standpoint, we wanted to eventually restore James Lick’s status as a powerhouse not just within the WVAL, not just within the BVAL,  but within the CCS. The reality is James Lick is not the same school that it was during much of it’s athletic glory days. The population is lower, the demographics have shifted, and the wallet’s are thinner. We are consistently one of the smallest school’s in the BVAL, currently 4th smallest, and the smallest of any team in the STAL for Cross country. We are consistently one of the poorest schools in the BVAL. Educational data from 2013/2014 showed that 80% of James Lick’s students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Only Overfelt had  a greater percentage of students from “low income” households. In comparison, STAL schools from the south side, Leigh, Branham and Pioneer have only 7%, 14% and 26% of students qualifying for the same program.

While this is not a direct factor on athletic or academic success, the ability to live comfortably affords one the ability to focus on tasks such as school and sports with greater rigor. This is exemplified by athletes like Maria Mendoza, who qualified for CCS last year as a junior, but is struggling to find time to practice between the fact that she is busy applying for college, taking care of school work, and working two jobs to help support her family.

James Lick’s rate of sending students to college is among the lowest in Santa Clara Country. Ultimately our goal in attempting to restore the program’s competitive success, was to demonstrate that Comets, and east-siders everywhere are capable of success regardless of the limitations set upon them. The idea was, if a small poor school from the East Side, could compete with the large rich schools of the West side, and do so with a class and sportsmanship that defied people’s assumptions about what the “kids from the hood” were like, we could in our small way, raise our school/community consciousness and work towards our fellow east siders achieving more than they thought they could. The Comets understand their status as societal and athletic underdogs, and the team is using this as chip on their shoulder, rather than as another reason to be discouraged.

These goals, however idealistic, were a long way from coming to fruition. 94:56 is a long way from 81:48. In the 2013 season when we ran our 94:56, we had only one boy run under 19 minutes. While Nathan’s 19:17 was a promising freshmen time, there was little indication that team would be competitive outside of the WVAL any time soon. There were 3 runners who ran under 16 minutes at Montgomery from the STAL when the Comets ran 94:56,and all 3 had been running under 16 since their freshmen year. For the team to begin to approach it’s long term goals, athletes like Nathan would have to wok very hard to move the program forward each year. The 2014 WVAL Championship by the girls had the team moving back to the STAL for the 2015 season, a year removed from when the Varsity boys were only a 94 minute team. While Nathan and Gustavo remained from freshmen year, they’d been joined by fellow distance runners along the way, all buying into the cause that we have been toiling towards for the last four years.

In those four years, the team has come along way towards their goals, and it showed in the matchup with Pioneer. Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 15:52, tied for the 2nd best time in school history on the course, placing second overall, narrowly holding off Pioneer’s fastest runner. Erik Olsvold was close behind at 15:57, becoming just the 4th Comet in school history to break the 16 minute barrier at Montgomery Hill, just seconds after Nathan became the 3rd. Azael Zamora placed 7th overall in 16:26, an off race by his standards. Inteus Castro-Lopez, 16:40, Gustavo Aguilera, 16:53 and Gustavo Parra, 16:57 came in 9th, 11th and 12th respectively to round out the team. The Comets had all 6 of their runners in before Pioneer had their 3rd. The dominant team showing yielded a team time of exactly 81:48, tying the school record in the highly symbolic victory over a strong Pioneer team. The Varsity boys move to 5-0 with this victory, and take another step towards winning the STAL championship. This would be only the 8th James Lick league championship in any sport since the year 2000, and the first championship not to come from the ‘C’ league.

The girls JV race, as well as the reserve races followed up the Varsity Boys with some strong performances as well. Camilla Hernandez continues to flash strong potential, running 25:19 on her first try on the course, a very promising young time. Heck, that’s faster than Gustavo A’s first try as a freshmen and he ran 16:53 today! Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos were not far behind, running solid JV times. Valerie Flores narowly dipped under the 30 minuter barrier for the course, running 29:53. Diana Romero ran 30:28 a huge PR from her 31:51 a year ago. Ashley Preciado also continues to develop, running 30:59 better than her previous league race best of 33:04 just 2 weeks ago. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the girl’s race with league race bests as well, running 32:42 and 34:15 respectively.

The reserve boys have been a source of strength for the team in the past decade, and are beginning to round  into form as well. David Bejines placed 3rd overall in 19:32, a minute faster than his 20:33 STAL previous best. Isaak Herrera and Austin Swank ran 20:49 and 20:50, very strong times for the first Montgomery meet of the season. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:52 a league race best by more than 2 minutes. Daniel Portillo ran a league race best as well, finishing in 23:39 while Kevin Bach finished in 23:45 to finish the Comets day.

With 3 league races in the books, the Comets will finish up the STAL season with meets at Montgomery Hill both of the next two Thursdays, and will head to Crystal Springs this Saturday for their final invitational of the season. Crystal Springs will allow the team to compare themselves against many of the best teams in the CCS.

Thank you for reading, especially if you hung in there while I got all sociological.

-Benny Reeves