Big PRs at Earlybird Invitational for James Lick Runners

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

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

Left to right: Jhesselyn Santos, Angelina Guevara, Ruth Rodriguez 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves




Comets compete at Toro Park in Earlybird Invitational

Coach Raul Lopez, Inteus Castro-Lopez, Azael Zamora and myself after the Earlybird Invitational.

The Comets took to Toro Park in Salinas for the Earlybird invitational on Saturday September 16th. This is typically one of the most competitive invitationals, especially with all races in Toro Park in 2016 being cancelled due to fire damage. Toro Park and Crystal Springs are now the alternating hosts of the CCS finals XC meet. This year CCS will be held at Toro Park, making a run over the course a kind of CCS preview meet, and very important to CCS caliber runners.

The meet began with the freshmen girls race. Xochitl Godinez lead the team in a solid time of 24:58. Matching her 8:19 mile pace from Alum Rock a few days ago, despite Toro Park being a slower course (in terms of pace and total time). Jana Kikhia likewise had a very impressive race by her standards. Jana ran 26:16, not only a better pace than her league race time, but a better time as well! Jana’s pace of 8:45 nearly equals her performance of 8:43 pace on the 2.13 mile Golden Gate Park course. We have a long layover till our next league race course on October 4th. We have high hopes for these two freshmen girls. My personal hope is that they will both run under 8 minute pace for Crystal Springs come league finals.

Mariana Perez ran 29:10, going under 10 minute pace for the first time in her career. Francine Estranero rounded out the freshmen girls in 32:04, a better pace than she managed at the league race as well.

Jonathan Cortez once again lead the freshmen boys with the best race of his young career. He ran 20:22 for his first full 3 mile course. Again, I think a runner of Jonathan;s caliber should be able to run about 1:20 faster for a STAL league race than they can run at Toro Park. This indicates to me Jonathan can aim for under 19 minutes at Montgomery Hill in a  few weeks, compared to the 19:50 he ran at Alum Rock this week. Jose Ruiz had a solid race as well, running 23:27 for his first 3 mile. Jose is making a case to be moved up to Frosh/Soph for STAL 3.

The Sophomore races displayed more of the team’s young runners. Ashley Preciado lead the group running 27:02. Justine Austria was not far behind in 27:21 and Kirsten Yutuc came across in 28:48. The Varsity girls started this season at STAL 1 with 2 girls under 25 minutes and only 3 girls under 27 minutes. I’m hopeful that by the next league race, the Comets will have 3 girls under 23 minutes and another 2 under 25 minutes. Our young girls may not be the most talented group, but they are determined to outwork other teams in the pursuit of success.

Mark Orpia ran a very strong 18:38 to lead the sophomore boys. This shows Mark should have a good chance at running under 17 minutes at STAL 3. Hugo Marquez ran 20:14 and Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon ran 21:19 and 21:22, adding depth to the team. Brandon Cruz came across the line in 24:19, and Luis Ecamilla ran a very well paced race running 24:54. Luis only a few weeks ago was struggling to run 9 minute mile pace and he is now rapidly approaching the 8 minute pace barrier.

The junior girls race had the team’s top 2 runners. Arlet Miranda’s season so far has been a struggle but we are hopeful that she will be able to turn it around with hard work over the next few weeks. She ran 23:46 for the course. Belen Sanchez ran 24:47 a solid time, especially after missing Thursday with knee pain.

Jose Limon ran 19:50 to be the fastest Comet on the day to that point. Despite Lemon’s background as a sprinter, he has quickly grasped the nuance of pacing in cross country.

The senior girls race saw Analilia Regla lead the team in 27:39, a solid performance as she works her way back to full health. Aliana Santos also had a solid performance, running 28:29.

The most anticipated race on the day for the team was the senior boys race. Azael Zamora has his mind set on qualifying for the State meet and he produced a performance which shows him to be threat to do just that. Azael ran the best race of his career, running 16:37 for a massive 2:20 second PR from his Sophomore year. Azael placed in the top 40 overall out of more than 1,000 runners on the day, and his time narrowly missed the school record of 16:33 set by Jose Gutierrez in 2002. Evan Franco of Branham (1st place at STAL 1 and STAL 2) and Dylan Ellis of Prospect (2nd place at STAL 1 and STAL 2) ran 16:55 and 17:02 respectively. This should give Azael newfound confidence to compete for the win next league race. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a strong day as well running 17:59 for a nearly 40 second PR. Cody Huoch ended the team’s day with the best performance of his career running 21:31 for the course.

Overall it was a very strong day for the team. The team will now look ahead to the rescheduled Alumni Race/Watermelon Run on September 29th. This will decide who will run on what team for STAL 3 on October 4th.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves


Breakthroughs for Multiple Comets at Crystal Springs Invitational

Hector Ramirez and Nathan Bernardo on the starting line
Hector Ramirez and Nathan Bernardo on the starting line

21 members of the James Lick Cross Country team headed to Crystal Springs last Saturday to run the most storied course in CCS history. Crystal Springs in the course the team will run at league finals in a few weeks so it was critical for the new members of the team to learn the course. The day yielded many PRs and season best performances for the team.

The day was kicked off by the JV boys. They ran a team time of 1:42:56, the 2nd best JV team time at Crystal Springs of the past decade. Guillermo Villalobos lead the group in a strong time of 19:17. Guillermo only returned from injury a week ago and in that time has gone from being 2:08 seconds back from the team’s 5th fastest runner, to now being only 0:27 seconds back of the team’s 5th fastest runner. Guillermo may work his way onto the varsity team in the 3 weeks before league finals. Jesus Deloya had a solid race as well, running 19:47 a 0:50 second pr for the course. Ismael Avilla made his debut for the team and was next across the line in 21:19. He was followed closely by teammates Austin Swank and Kelvin Arenas in 21:20 and 21:21.

The next group up was the Varsity girls, who despite the absence of the 3 of their 7 original variety members, put up one of the best team times in school history: 1:56:11. Maria Mendoza lead the group in 21:26, the best race of her high school career and the 8th fastest time in school history. Jennifer Custodio was the next girl in, also having the best race of her career in 23:07. This was the first time Jenny has broken 8 minute mile pace. Andrea Ortiz was next in 23:43, an off race for her but a solid time. Daisy Nava came across 4th in 23:50, her most impressive race over a long distance all season. Julia Cruz ran a PR of 24:05 as the 5th girl, and Raquel Rodriguez battled a knee injury to finish in a respectable 25:06.

The girls team will need to take big steps forward to be fast enough to reach their goal of making CCS this year. The team time of 1:56:11 is solid, but the team will likely need a time in the lower 1:50s to make it. With two Montgomery hill races left, the team will look to run a combined team time in the range of 1:47-1:48 at Montgomery to show they are capable of a 1:52 team time at Crystal Springs. While Montgomery is a notoriously difficult course, it’s shorter distance of 2.73 miles, usually means times at Crystal springs (2.95 miles) are 45 seconds to a minute slower. Maria, Jennifer, Daisy, and Julia however ran either very close to their seasons best at Montgomery, or ran solidly faster at Crystal Springs. This shows the team as a whole is ready to far surpass the 1:53:30 team time they ran at their first Montgomery Hill meet of the season. The breakthroughs of runners like Jenny, Maria and Daisy, along with the imminent return of Arlet Miranda by league finals give the team hope towards achieving their goals.

The Varsity boys had a solid performance overall, and are continuing to succeed in their pursuit of moving the program forward. No James Lick team since 2003 had run a team time faster than 90 minutes at Crystal Springs. This  team managed to change that, with a combined team time of 1:29:53. This encouraging performance helps the comets look ahead to their league finals goal, 1:27:30, with optimism. This has beens the teams goal, (with the hope that such a time would net them not only  CCS berth, but a top 10 placing at league finals) since early june, and the team is well on their way to achieving it.  Nathan Bernardo lead the group with a time of 17:03, a 46 second pr. Hector Ramirez was still dealing with the hamstring tightness which curtailed his performance at the first Montgomery hill meet of the season, but nonetheless ran a strong time of 17:40, a full 1:13 pr. Inters Castro-Lopez ran 17:58, giving the team 3 runners under 18 on the course for the first time since 2003. Gustavo Aguilera ran 18:20, and Gustavo Parra 18:50 to complete the team. Azalea Zamora and Jesse Chircop were the 6 and 7 at 18:53 and 19:15 respectively.

In order to achieve what they desire, a team time under 88 minutes, the team will need to run  combined 2 minute faster between now and league finals. Nathan will strive to get the team an additional 15 seconds of cushion, with his goal being breaking 17 minutes at league finals. A fully healthy Hector, should able to perform 30 seconds better for a low 17. Inteus will look to dig another 15-20 second out by finals for a mid 17, while Gustavo Aguilera will try to match that time. The key to the team is their 5th runner. Either Azael, Gustavo P, Jesse, or perhaps even Guillermo will need to find a way to run at the least, a low 18 at finals to help the team towards their goal.  A Team time over the next 2 weeks at Montgomery hill in the range of 83 minutes would indicate the team is capable of their league finals goal.

The final group to run was a 3 member contingent of JV girls. Analilia Regla ran a solid 27:32 to lead the group. Christine Young followed in a he PR, 27:46. Christine’s previous best was over 30 minutes. Elizabeth Perez narrowly missed breaking 30 minutes, running 30:09, a nearly 2 minute PR for her as well.

With only 3 weeks left in the regular season, the Comets are in top gear working towards peeking at league finals and giving the school something to be proud of.

Improvements Abound at Stanford Invitational

Improvements Abound at Stanford Invitational
Improvements Abound at Stanford Invitational


The Comets took to the highly competitive Stanford Invitational on Saturday, September 26th to compete against some of the best runners in the State. Only Varsity teams compete at the prestigious invite. The team was looking to use the fast 5k race over the flat Stanford Golf Course,as a means of preparing themselves for fast paced races down the road. The end result was nearly every Comet runner, running the fastest mile pace of their career for a Cross Country race of any distance.

The Boys Varsity team once again demonstrated their dramatic improvement, running over 6 minutes faster as a team than they did last year at the same meet. The best performance was from team captain Hector Ramirez who ran 17:35. Hector had only ever once run under 6 minute mile pace for an official Cross Country race, and that was at his first league meet of the season where he clocked 5:59 pace. At Stanford however, Hector ran 5:40 pace for 5k distance. He was closely followed by Nathan Bernardo who ran 17:39, 5:42 mile pace. Inteus Castro-Lopez was the 3rd boy in, at 18:11, with a mile pace of 5:52. This gives the Comets 3 boys much faster than last year’s best runner at Stanford, when Karan Singh lead the team in 18:33. Gustavo Aguilera and Azael Zamora completed the team’s scorers, in 18:45 and 18:58 respectively. Gustavo Parra took a big step forward in his recovery, running 19:05, for a mile pace of 6:09. He had never before run under 6:30 pace. Jesse Chircop finished the team’s day by running 19:20 as the 7th man. This is after last year’s 3rd best runner was Hector in 19:19.

On the girl’s side, Arlet Miranda lead the group in 23:37 treating the race as a tempo run, she nonetheless earned the 5th spot in the school’s all time list for the Stanford invite. Andrea Ortiz was next in 24:23, running under 24 minutes for 3 miles for the first time en route. Raquel Rodriguez ran 24:50, 8:01 pace after never having run under 8:30 pace before. Daisy Nava finished the teams day in a solid 25:12, 8:08 pace, compared to her previous best pace of 8:17.

The team looks ahead to the Watermelon run next week, and the Artichoke Invitational in Half Moon Bay next Saturday where even faster paces are sure to come.

Comets Open Season at Earlybird Invitational


20 members of the James Lick Cross Country Team took to Toro Park in Salinas California to compete in the Earlybird Invitational. It was a strong showing for the team, with both teams placing in the top 30 teams at the massive meet.

The Meet was kicked off by Freshmen Arlet Miranda in the freshmen girls place. Arlen ran a solid 23:04, as she works her way back from injury showing she is ready to run strong at next weeks league meet. The boys side saw a standout performance from Vincent Giglio. Vincent ran 18:49, becoming the first freshmen in JL history to break 19 at the earlybird invitational in over ten years of attending the meet.

The sophomore race had Analilia Regla running 27:51, Susie Peterson running 28:18 and Diana Romero and Elizabeth Perez coming in together at 33:19. This was the XC debut for both Analilia and Diana with both runners competing hard.

The sophomore boys race further illustrated the strength of the comets youth. Inters Castro-Lopez ran 18:37, Azael Zamora ran 18:57, Jesus Deloya finished in 19:31 and Austin Swank crossed the line in 21:51. Austin has made tremendous strides since he started running XC. As a freshmen he failed to break 22 minutes for a league race course. With this Toro Park time, he is poised to try to break 20 minutes for a league race this season.

Juniors Daisy Nava, 25:18, Julia Cruz, 26:47 and Jennifer Custodio, 26:52 were next. Daisy is improving fast from her 30:03 NR time trial barely a month ago. Julia and Jennifer both add depth to the team from the JV side with their performances.

Nathan Bernardo ran 17:53 in the juniors race, becoming the first JL runner to run under 18 at earlybird since 2006 when Reyes Morones ran 17:44. Teammate Gustavo Aguilera ran 19:09 more than a 40 second PR in what was a very rough day for him. Gustavo Parra had a similar performance, running 19:55 for a PR as he continues to get himself in shape following an injury which had him miss 6 weeks of training.

Maria Mendoza ran in place of teammate Elizabeth Guevara in the senior race, clocking a good time of 22:56. Andrea Ortiz ran 24:49, the fastest pace of her young XC career despite the relatively challenging nature of the Toro Park course.

Senior and Team Captain Hector Ramirez ran 18:12, compared to the 19:28 time he ran as a junior. Jesse Chircop ended the team’s day with a very strong 19:04, the fastest time he’s ever run for any course 2.7 miles or longer.

Many of the Comets, particularly on the boys side felt that they underperformed, but even so, this team ran the best JL team time at Toro Park since 2004 (1:32:38). The girls ran a solid 2:02:57. Both teams are in a position to be competitive this year in the STAL and will put themselves to the test next Thursday in Alum Rock Park