2018 was all about one thing for the James Lick Track Team: “Prove We Belong.” After spending all of the BVAL era (since 1996) in the ‘C’ division, 2018 marked the Comets first ever season in the ‘B’ division of the BVAL. Two consecutive girls division titles made the move warranted. I wanted to move up, but I’d be lying if I said that I was positive it was the right move. The 2018 ST division finals proved that the Comets are ready for this next step. The team outperformed their rankings all meet, with the girls ending the meet in 2nd place, and the boys in 5th.
After Day 1, the Comets were in 2nd place on the girls side, while the boys were in 5th. That was though after only 4 girls finals and 5 boys finals.
Day 2 of finals began with the girls discus. This had been the Comets best event all year, and the three headed monster of Valeria Cortez, Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron showed why. The girls combined for a 1-2-3 finish, with Valeria taking the division title with a throw of 109-0. Mariah Santos threw a 7 foot PR of 86-3 for 6th place. This meant that in a single event, the Comets combined for 27 points! This is one better than the total discus points from last year in the ‘C’ division. This is the most points in a single event from a league/division championship meet in school history for the Comets (based on my admittedly incomplete records). This will be a hard total to ever top. The only event where any team outscored the Lady Comets discus throwers, was the boys triple jump, where Evergreen combined for 31 points.
The great start to the meet got things rolling for the Comets, but more good things followed soon after. In the girls 4×100, the team of Lisbeth Galdamez, Justine Austria, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem combined to run 53.85 and finished in 6th place. This is the fastest James Lick 4×100 team on records in the 2000s. The fact that the team was made up of 3 sophomores and a freshmen bodes very well for the future.
The boys 4×100 team of Geovanny Campos, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara had an equally strong performance. They ran 45.88 to take 5th place and book their ticket to BVAL finals next week. This is just the first time since 2002 that the Comets have run under 46 seconds for the 4×100. Like the girls, no member of the team is graduating.
The boys 1600 was next. Azael Zamora snatched 4 points for the team with a 5th place finish. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a seasons best 5:02.95 and Melvin Estrada finished his season in the event as well.
In the girls 100 hurdles, Valeria Cortez took home her 2nd division title in a row. After winning the ‘C’ division title in 2017, Valeria summoned up a strong run of 16.88, her 2nd best time ever to take home the victory. You don’t see too many athletes win titles in both the discus and the 100 hurdles. Valeria is in fact the first Comet to win two division titles in the same season since Ruth Lebeau in 2007. Hers wasn’t the only strong performance in the race however. Yesenia Martinez ran a PR of 18.43 and pulled off a 5th place finish in the process, meaning she will also compete at BVAL finals next week. Susie Peterson finished in 7th in 19.11, the 2nd best time of her career. The 16 points the Comets nabbed in the 100 hurdles was more than any other team.
The next Comet to compete was Natalie in the 100. She ran 13.73 for 7th place, the first Lady Comet to score at division finals in the 100 in years. Natalie also took 5th place in the gilrs triple jump, another BVAL qualification for the team. Kirsten Yutuc took 8th in a PR of 30-11. Lyndel was the 3rd jumper for the team, but she only managed a leap of 29 feet.
Salvador Lopez lead the Comets in boys long jump, going 17-8. Rodolf Ocampo also contested the event for the team. In the girls high jump, Yesenia and Lisbeth matched their PRS, doing 4-6 and 4-4 respectively. Yesenia managed 8th place with her performance adding another point to the team total. The final field event for the Comets was the boys Shot Put. Josh Garcia managed 5th place with a throw of 41-0. Daniel Medina ended his career at JL with a toss of 36-0. Josh Merin also competed for the team.
Arlet Miranda had to scratch the girls 800 due to injury concerns that are all too common for Arlet. On the boys side however, the team saw Erik Olsvold take 6th in 2:08.37 and Jerricho Habon ran a PR of 2:12.88. Erik has had a very strong end to the season. After injury took his 2017 XC season, Erik was not able to start running until March of this season. He made rapid improvement, and the 2:08 clocking is only 1 second off of his PR. Erik looks very much poised to rebound his senior year.
The girls 300 hurdles saw a PR for Kirsten. Kirsten took 3rd place in 51.80, just the 3rd girl in school history to run under 52 seconds for the event. Cody Huoch matched Kirsten with a 3rd place finish in the boys 300 hurdles. He ran 43.11, the 2nd best time of his career.
The girls 3200 was next. Belen Sanchez ended her season in fine fashion, running a massive 31 second PR of 13:15.40. She battled all the way in and managed 1 point for the team in 8th place. Ashley Preciado ran an 8 second PR of 13:41 as well. Jessica Cervantes contested the event for the 1st time, running 15:34.
The girls 4×400 team ended the meet battling their hearts off in a bid to make BVAL finals. The team had to settle for 6th place in a seasons best 4:34, but they put forward a great effort. With Arlet out due to injury, the team had few backup options. With all the pressure that stepping in for Arlet would entail, the Comets turned to none other than Valeria Cortez to run on the team. Valeria had never run the 400 before, but we knew going in that she was the kind of warrior we needed to give us a shot. Valeria ran with a ton of guts, managing a 71 second leg for the team, but the team finished .4 seconds behind Sobrato for the coveted 5th spot at BVAL finals.
The boys 4×400 ran their best race of the season by far as well. Sal, Cody, Lemon and Misael combined to run 3:40.74, the 2nd best James Lick 4×400 of this decade. They took 4th, meaning they will get the chance to try to run even faster at BVAL finals next week.
When all was said and done, the team scores were as follows:
James Lick 95
Oak Grove 32.5
James Lick 44
Oak Grove 37
It was a very successful meet for the team and a total of 17 Comets have earned themselves one more week of competition.
The team will take to BVAL Finals at Westmont on Thursday May 10th. The team will chase some final PRs, and will try to send as many athletes as possible to CCS Trials the following week.
Day 1 of the Santa Teresa division finals are in the books and the Comets are well on their way to finishing the season strong. As always, there were some good performances and some bad performances, but overall the Comets vastly over performed at day 1 of finals.
Most events were prelims, to qualify for the finals on Friday. The top 8 athletes in every event score points for their team. The top 5 athletes in every final qualify for BVAL championships.
The first event that was contested was the pole vault. This actually took place on Tuesday May 1st at Prospect High School. Mark Orpia and Rodolf Ocampo both cleared 8 feet to place 4t and respectively. The top 5 placings mean that both boys will head to BVAL Finals next week. They will be the first Comets to compete at BVAL finals in pole vault in school history.
The rest of “day 1” took place on Wednesday May 2nd at Evergreen High School. The day saw two early finals. In boys discus, Daniel Medina, Josh Garcia and Joshua Merin competed for the team. Daniel and Josh threw 98-1 and 94-5 in what will be their final HS competition. Josh Merin threw 79-8 in his debut in the event, a solid performance on a big first stage.
The girls 1600 was the first running event of the meet. Arlet Miranda ran a very competitive race, in 7th place with 400m left, she stormed to 5th place over the last lap. Belen Sanchez ran 6:01.67, a 3 second PR to end her season, and Ashley Preciado ran 6:09.84 to lop 6 seconds off of her PR as well. This is the first time (on record) in school history that the Comets have had 3 Lady comets under 6:10 for the mile in the same race.
Next up was the girls 100 hurdles. Valeria Cortez went into the race ranked #1 at 17.39. She won her heat and improved her seasons best time down to 17.29. No other Comets were expected to make the final based on ranking, but Yesenia and Martinez and Susie Peterson ran PRs of 18.79 and 18.85 to squeeze into Friday’s final as the 7th and 8th seeds.
Luis Escamilla ran aPR of 20.34 in the boys 110 hurdles. After a great start to the race for Cody Huoch, Cody clipped a hurdle badly and nearly fell. The bad stumble cost Cody his balance for the next few hurdles, and put him out of position to make the final for Friday, ending his season in the 110. Rodlf narrowly missed his PR, running 19.02.
Yeimili Adame lead the Comets in the girls 400m, running a PR of 1:06.96. This put her in 10th on the day, less than a second off of the final. Justine Austria and Aliana Santos were the other Comets in the race. On the boys side, Misael Herrera ran a PR by almost a full second. Misael clocked in at 55.61, and teammate Salvador Lopez ran a PR of 56.02. Neither boy was able to advance to the final on Friday however.
Susie, Lisbeth Galdamez, and Natalie Rem competed in the girls 100. All 3 girls ran the 2nd best time of their career, and Natalie’s time of 13.57 saw was good enough to send her to the final on Friday. Raven Alcantara lead the Comets on the boys side, running 11.89, the 2nd best time of his career. Raven had a great season, taking his PR from 12.60 to 11.79 and he narrowly missed making the final for Friday. Geovanny Campos and Chris Okoro also competed for the team.
Arlet punched her ticket to the 800m final for Friday, cruising to a 6th place finish. Mya Hammond ran a big PR of 2:59.03, beating her previous best of 3:05. Mariana Perez ran 3:13 for a small PR to end her season. Erik Olsvold showed that he is quickly rounding back to form in the 800. After his spectacular sophomore season, Erik was derailed by a knee injury in cross country and through most of track. Erik managed to run 2:10.43 in the 800 to advance to the final on Friday, ranked 8th. Jerricho Habon is on to the final as well, he was the final qualifier, snagging 12th place in 2:16. Hugo Marquez competed, but missed his PR.
Several field event results had come in by this point. Cody took 6th in the boys triple jump in 39-10. Raven managed a big PR of 37-9. Sal went 36-8 to end his season. The most remarkable PR on the day came in the girls long jump. Lyndel Ventura, in her 4th and final season, managed a PR that made her 4 years of hard work worthwhile. Lyndel ended freshmen year at 14-11 in long jump. She had gradually improved over the years to 15-3.5, her PR entering the meet Wednesday, putting her at 8th place in terms of rankings. Lyndel shattered her PR, leaping 16-7.25 to take 3rd place and book a trip to BVALS to boot. Lyndel moves to 4th on the schools all time list with this big jump. Teammate Natalie managed a PR of 15-1 as well, just missing out on a point in 9th place.
The Comets got their first ever division title in the ‘B’ division in the girls Shot Put. Alejandra Ceron threw 34-7.50 to take home the victory, a year after winning the ‘C’ division title in the same event. Charli Chircop took 3rd in 32-10 and Valeria took 4th in 32-7.
Kirsten Yutuc lead a trio of PRS in the girls 300 hurdles. Kirsten ran 52.30 and is ranked 3rd for the final on Friday. Yesenia ran a huge PR, stopping the clock at 54.72, compared to a previous best of 58.85. Susie ran a PR in the final 300 hurdles of her career, clocking 57.07. Cody qualified comfortably for the final on Friday with, running 43 seconds for the event. Jo-Jo Bradley and Luis both lowered their PRs, running 49.11 and 49.18 respectively.
Justine, Lisbeth and Aliana all contested the 200. Lisbeth came away with a PR by .30, ending her season with a PR of 30.32. On the boys side, Misael lead the Comets in a seasons best 24.79.
The final event on the day was also a final: The Boys 3200. Azael Zamora took the race out fast from the beginning, storming into the lead by the time two laps were completed. Azael kept cranking in a bid to run away from division leader Omar Pina. Azy took the 1st mile fast, going through in 4:49 just as he did when he ran his PR of 10:05. Omar went through in 4:59 and and then ran a 4:50 2nd mile to take the win 9:50. An Evergreen boy stormed past Azy as well in the home stretch, with Azy taking 3rd in a 10 second PR of 9:55.14. This makes Azy the fastest Comet 2 miler of this century so far, the first Comet to run under 10 minutes for the event since 2003. Inteus Castro-Lopez and Melvin Estrada ran 10:55 and 10:58, both only narrowly missed their PRS.
While most events are still yet to be scored, but the Comets are in a good place so far.
The girls are in 2nd place through the first 4 events and the boys are in 4th through the first 5 events. it will be difficult for the Comets to hang on to these positions, but the team has already clinched 5 different BVAL qualifiers.
The Comets will finish up division finals on Friday May 4th at Evergreen. If the team performs as they did today, big things are still to come!
The Santa Teresa Division (‘B’ division) finals of the BVAL are almost here. Division finals factor in the final standings for the league, and also determine which athletes will advance to BVAL Finals next week. In each division final, the top 8 places score points for their team. The top 4 athletes in each event in the ‘C’ division, top 5 in the ‘B’ division, and top 7 in the ‘A’ division all advance to BVAL finals which is the leagues CCS qualifying meet.
Heading into division finals, the Comets are looking for a middle of the pack finish, and would like to send as many athletes as possible to BVALs. Here is a meet preview of the best athletes in the division, and how the Comets stand in regards to the meet program.
The Comets figure to have someone score in most of the distance events. Azael Zamora is ranked 2nd in the 3200, and 4th in the 1600. He has his sights on the victory in the 3200. His current PR is 10:05, while the favorite, Omar Pina sits atop the division rankings at 9:51. Amy’s longtime rival from Prospect, Dylan Ellis,is close behind at 10:08. No other athlete in the division has run under 10:20 in the 2 mile this season, so the final (which is this Wednesday) figures to be a 3 man race. Inteus Lopez and Melvin Estrada sit at 11th and 12th in the rankings. Many of the 3200 runners in the division will have to run the 800m prelims earlier in the meet Wednesday, so Melvin and Inteus will look to steal a point or two for the team there.
Azy is ranked 4th in the 1600 at 4:33.64. Omar Pina of Lincoln is ranked 1st at 4:32.84. Obviously, this looks to be a highly competitive final on Friday. Sophomores Melvin Estrada and Mark Orpia will look to PR and gain valuable race experience, though they are not serious threats to score.
In the boys 800, Jerricho Habon and Erik Olsvold are ranked 9th and 10th. Hugo Marquez is ranked 15th. The top 12 athletes from the prelims on Wednesday will advance to the final on Friday. With many athletes doubling up on the 1600/800, Jerricho and Erik are very well positioned to score points for the team if they can make the final.
On the girls side, Arlet Miranda is ranked 5th in the 1600 and 4th in the 800. She has battled injuries all season, but has maintained solid fitness throughout, running a PR in the 1600 only 2 weeks ago at the Bearcat Invitational. Belen Sanchez and Ashley Preciado will be going after PRs in the competitive atmosphere that is division finals. Both ladies are running the 1600 on Wednesday and the 3200 on Friday. Freshmen Mya Hammond and Mariana Perez will join Arlet in the 800.
Valeria Cortez is ranked #1 in the division in the 100 hurdle after going undefeated in dual meets this season. Yemeni Martinez is ranked 9th, and with a great race in the prelims on Wednesday could make it through to the final on Friday. Susie Peterson, in her 4th year competing for the Comets, will look to end her career on a high note in the race as well.
Cody Huoch is ranked 5th in the 110 Hurdles. He will have to hold off some stiff competition to punch his ticket to BVALs. Rodolf Ocampo and Luis Escamilla will also compete for the team.
Kirsten Yutuc is ranked 4th in the girls 300 hurdles.She will be looking to make BVAls for the 2nd year in a row. Yesenia and Susie will chase PRs behind her. Cody is ranked 3rd in the 300 hurdles, behind Evan Sablan of Evergreen, last years BVAL champion, and a second Evergreen Cougar.
Jumps: Natalie Rem and Cody are both threats to make BVALs in the triple jump. Cody is ranked 6th at 40-3, only one inch off of 5th place. Natalie is ranked 4th at 33-1, with 1st place entered only 3 inches ahead, Natalie could fight for a very high place indeed. Salvador Lopez, Raven Alcantara and Rudolf make up the rest of the boys jumpers, while Lyndel Ventura and Kirsten make up the ladies side. Lyndel is currently ranked 8th in long jump at 15-3.5, and this figures to be the final meet of her career as well.
Jo-Jo Bradley and Josh Merin will contest the boys high jump. Yesenia and Lisbeth Galdamez will contest the girls high jump for the team. Both are long-shot threats to score.
Rodolf and Maro Orpia are the 4th and 5th ranked pole vaulters in the division. Only 5 vaulters are entered, so if both boys clear height, they will make BVAL championships.
Both Comet 4×100 teams are ranked 6th place heading into finals. The boys team is well poised to pull an upset however. If Jose Limon is at full health, the team could run a big time seasons best, and they are only .70 away from 3rd place.
The girls 4×400 team is ranked 6th, but within a second of 5th place. The boys team sits at a competitive 5th, with 3rd place less than 2 seconds away in what figures to be a competitive final event of the meet.
The team’s sprint group is much improved this season, with two girls under 14 seconds in the 100 and two boys under 12 seconds in the 100, heading into finals (all are sophomores or freshmen.) Natalie is ranked 7th in the 100 at 13.49. If she makes the 100m final, she will be the first lady Comet to make division finals in the 100 in this decade. Lisbeth and Susie will join her in the event. Natalie, Yeimili and Lisbeth will contest the 200 as well. Yeimili, Justine and Aliana Santos will be the teams 400 athletes.
In the boys 100, Raven is the highest ranked Comet at 11.79. 11.61 is the 8th place rank, so he would need a great race to crack the top 8. Geo Campos at 11.97 joins him in the event, as does Chris Okoro, looking for one last PR before graduation. Misael Herrera, and Geo will run the 200 for the team. Misael, and Salvador Lopez will run the 400. The boys are not ranked close to scoring position in the 200/400.
The last hurrah for the 3 headed monster is near. Charli Chircop, Valeria and Alejandra Ceron are ranked 1-2-3 in girls discus, with Charli leading the way at 118-1. Mariah Santos is the Comets lone 4th entry in an event, ranked 11th in the event. The girls are ranked 3rd, 4th and 7th in the Shot Put as well.
On the boys side, Josh Garcia, Daniel Medina and Jesus Venegas make up the teams throwers. Josh is ranked 5th in the Shot Put at 42-9. In Discus, all three boys will be looking to PR.
Based on the current rankings, the James Lick girls would finish 4th out of the 8 teams at division finals, and the boys would finish 6th. Currently, the Comets sit in 5th place on both sides with a 3-4 record. The girls are likely to clinch 5th place however, there is intrigue on the boys side.
Prospect, Piedmont and James Lick are all 3-4 on the boys side, meaning whichever team finishes the highest at division finals will clinch 4th place behind 7-0 Evergreen, 6-1 Pioneer and 5-2 Lincoln.
Which Comets Have a Chance at Division Titles?
Several Comets have legitimate shots at becoming the ‘B’ division champions in their respective event.
The most likely champ for the team is Charli Chircop/ Valeria Cortez. Charli hows thrown 118-0 and Valeria has thrown 112-0. No other girl is close to these two in the rankings. It is likely whichever Comet has the better day will emerge as the Comets 1st ever ‘B’ division champion.
2. Valera in the 100 hurdles. She hasn’t lost all season and is poised to become division champ if she maintains her composure. At 17.39, her next closest competitor is Nelly Romo at 17.85.
3. Azael Zamora in the 1600/3200. As already detailed, Azy is ranked very highly in both events. Azy is the boys teams only realistic shot at a division championship this season.
This is one of the most exciting weeks of the season!
Tomorrow, May 1st, Rodolf and Mark will compete in the pole vault at Prospect High School.
Wednesday May 2nd, all lane events, as well as the 800 will contest their trials at Evergreen High School. Finals in the boys 3200 and girls 1600 will take place. Finals in the boys discus, boys triple jump, girls long jump and girls high jump will also take place.
All other finals will take place on Friday May 4th.
The 2017 Track season was another step forward for the James Lick Comets. I am happy to announce that with the BVAL meetings having concluded, the James Lick track team will be officially be placed in the ‘B’ division for the 2018 season. The strength of the team’s past few seasons, especially the 2017 season, is what catapulted the team out of the WVAL.
The old local leagues of the BVAL, the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League) the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) merged together in 1996 to form the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League). The BVAL is a 24 team ‘power league’ with the 3 former leagues operating as an ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ division.
The BVAL formed at a point where James Lick was well past it’s heyday in most sports. The track team of James Lick for example, was placed in the ‘C’ division from the very beginning of the BVAL era (like most James Lick sports) and has remained there ever since. 20 seasons of the BVAL era have passed with James Lick in the ‘C’ division every single season. That is all set to change in the 2018 season.
James Lick will compete against the teams of the STAL, with Andrew Hill moving down to replace James Lick in the WVAL. The ‘B’ division was won by Pioneer on the boys side, and Evergreen on the girls side. Other teams in the STAL are: Prospect, Lincoln, Sobrato, Oak Grove, and Piedmont Hills. We will be fully focused on trying to prove we belong in the STAL division, by achieving a middle of the pack finish in our first year in the division.
Now a look back at the season that moved us up. With any luck, we will look back on the 2017 season as the last season James Lick was in the ‘C’ division for track and field.
We began conditioning as a team in January. At this early stage we had a large number of boys out, but the majority of our girls were participating in Winter sports. We had the goal all season of trying to win the WVAL on both the boys and girls side.
We came close, going a combined 13-1 for a girls title, narrowly missing the boys.
Here is a breakdown of scoring by event for the 2017 season:
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Both hurdle squads, the girls throws teams and boys throws teams were very dominant in the WVAL. They will look to lead the team next season as the team takes on the STAL.
The team’s top point scorers were:
Valeria Cortez: 130 points
Cody Huoch: 99 points
Arlet Miranda: 99 points
Erik Olsvold: 80 points
Lyndel Ventura: 75 points
Nathan Bernardo: 70 points
Azael Zamora: 65 points
Alejandra Ceron: 63 points
Jonathan Rodriguez: 61 points
Ace Medina: 53 points
As the team heads up a division, an encouraging note is that all 5 of the teams top point scorers are not seniors, as are 8 of the teams top 10. The team will need a good returning group of athletes in order to compete at the next level.
At the Willow Glen Invitational, many athletes competed for the team and things looked very promising. Jose Limon began the season with times of 11.97 and 24.40 for 100/200 both of which were top 5 finishes for the meet’s frosh/Soph division. This was a fantastic start to the year as no Comet had run under 12 seconds in 2016. Unfortunately, at the very first dual meet of the season, Jose aggravated his hamstring running the 4×100 and never fully recovered, effectively losing his very promising sophomore year.
One of the sprinter’s who stepped up the most in Jose’s absence was Misael Herrera, the team’s next best Sophomore sprinter. Misael opened the season at 12.80 for the 100 and 26.70 for the 200. Over the course of the season, he worked his way down to big PRS of 12.30 for the 100, 24.56 for the 200, and 56.48 for the 400. By the end of the season, Ace Medina would be the team leader in the 100/200 with PRS of 11.68 and 24.17, despite opening the season at 12.70. Cody Huoch would run 24.40 as well to give the team 4 boys under 25 seconds in the 200, a big improvement over the 1 athlete from 2016. The team scored points at WVAL finals in all 3 boys sprint events for the first time since I’ve been coaching.
In the girls sprint events, the team lost their #1, #2, and #3 sprinters from 2016, putting the team in a tough spot. Silvia Amaya emerged as the team’s top sprinter on the side. She opened the season at 15.20 at Willow Glen and worked her way down to 14.30 by seasons end, scoring points for the team in many dual meets along the way. Freshmen Yeimili Adame emerged mid-season as a potential standout athlete, demonstrating impressive range in the two meets she competed in before becoming academically ineligible. We hope she’ll return as a force next season.
This was the first season that the team’s jumpers were under the tutelage of coach Christopher Turner. In this one season, the future strength of the team’s jumpers was shown through massive improvement. Juan Gutierrez opened his season with jumps of 15-2 for the long jump and 31-1 for triple jump. He would end up with PRS of 17-8.50 and 36-3. Freshmen Jamie Vong had the most encouraging improvement, going from 31-0 at our first dual meet in triple jump, to 37-6 at WVAL finals. He also went from 14-4 in the long jump to 16-10. Hadji Yono-Cruz lead the team in long jump with a leap of 18-3. Cody Huoch lead the team with a triple jump of 39-4 at WVAL finals.
On the girls side, Lyndel Ventura finally broke the 15 foot barrier officially with help from coach Turner. She started the season at 13-3 and 25-2, and worked her way up to 15-3 and 28-10.50 by WVAL finals. Kirsten Yutuc joined the jumps crew late in the season, but in a very short amount of time went from 12-10 to 13-9 and from 27-7 to 29-10. I’m very excited about the future of these athletes under coach Turner, only bigger things are ahead.
The team also had a much improved season in the high jump. Elyse Elder achieved a PR of 4-8 to take 2nd at WVAL finals, the highest placing by a JL girl at WVAL finals ever. Jonathan Rodriguez went 5-6 and Ace went 5-8 to give the team two boys who scored pints at WVAL finals, after having none the year before.
The hurdles team also took a big step forward. Two boys ran 44 seconds for the 300 hurdles, and Cody Huoch won the team its first ever league title in the event at WVAL finals. Cody also ran the best 110 hurdles time in years for the Comets, clocking 17.16. Hadji also broke the 18 second barrier running 17.83. Jonathan and Gustavo Aguilera ran under 19 seconds to give the team 4 boys under that mark, compared to only two last year.
Valeria Cortez captured the WVAL title in the 100 hurdles with a PR of 16.75, good for #3 in school history. She also brought her 300 hurdles PR down significantly to 52.12. Susie Peterson did the same thing by running 58.99, and Kirsten Yutuc ran a strong freshmen time of 54.44 in the event, as well as running under 20 seconds for the 100 hurdles.
The girls distance team stared the season with some difficulties. Arlet Miranda opened her season at Willow Glen with two great performances, running 5:41 and 2:34, nearly PRs for both events. She suffered injuries the rest of the season which greatly impacted her training. She was eventually able to run a PR in the 800 however, qualifying for CCS by running 2:28.42 at BVAL championships. Belen Sanchez stepped up to be a contributor for the team. She began the year at 7:05 at our first dual meet, and worked her PR all the way down to 6:12 by the end of the season.
On the boys side, the team was lead by Erik Olsvold. Erik took his freshmen year PRs of 4:54 for the 1600 and 10:36 for the 3200 down to 4:37 and 10:20 despite missing time due to a few different issues. While he was able to capture the WVAL title in the 3200, to some extent this was a disappointing season that Erik will be looking to bounce back from in XC. Azael Zamora took his 1600m PR down to 4:40, even though he too struggled with injuries through most of the season.
The freshmen boys were a highlight of the distance team. Hugo Marquez, Melvin Estrada, Daniel Portillo, Nien Tran and Mark Orpia all finished a full year of distance training between XC and track with great results. Hugo’s ran the mile trial for us in August and ran 7:37. He ended track season with a PR of 5:21. Similarily Melvin started off at 6:50 (though he actually had summer training) and ended Track at 5:20. Daniel started off at 7:23 and worked his way down to 5:52.
Mark and Nien did not have as much training time as they both came out from Wrestling late, but they enjoyed big improvement as well. Mark worked his way down from 6;06 to 5:06 and Nien from 6:20 to 5:28. This young group of boys figures to be a strong FS team in XC.
The throws team was improved on the boys side, and exceptional on the girls side. 3 boys threw above 100 feet in discus on the same team for the first time under coach Vela. Alex Alonzo lead the group at 111-4, a 10 foot PR from 2016.
The girls side was the truly remarkable group for the team however. Alejandra Ceron improved her Shot Put PR from 31-9.50 to 35-8.75, a new school record. She also improved her Discus from 90-10 to 95-11. Valeria improved from 99-8.50 to 108-3 in discus, and from 31-1 in Shot Put to 33-4. Charli took her PRS up to a whole new level after missing her Sophomore season. She went from 29-10 to 32-5 in Shot Put, and from 79-0 to 109-4 for discus. With her throw of 109-4, she took the school record from Valeria and became made CCS finals. A fitting end of the season for a strong team.
The team ends this season with a lot to be proud of, and a big season ahead in 2018 with the ‘B’ division on the horizon.
A few notes looking ahead
For the first time this summer, James Lick athletes who join the East Side running/track club will compete in all comers meets in preparation for the 2018 track season. My club is open to anyone who wants to join of any age group, and the only fee is the USATF registration fee.
Some of the team’s athletes will begin preparation for their fall sports in a few weeks time as well. Coach Turner is the JV girls volleyball coach, and Coach Vela is the JV boys football coach (and I think Coach Steve may join him as a positions coach this year). I will begin cross country conditioning with the oh so lovable distance rascals in a few weeks, and am happy to say I will be joined by two new coaches this season who have served as volunteer coaches this past track season.
Lastly, I’m very happy to announce that I will be beginning my teaching career when the 2017/2018 school year begins (teaching world history). 90% of my students grades will be participation in cross country or track! (just kidding of course).
I’ll do a general recap of JL sports for the school year if there is an interest in one. This was the best year we’ve had as a school this decade in terms of championships/overall record. Please comment if you’d be interested in such a blog.
Charli Chircop became just the 25th member of James Lick High School to make section finals with her performance at CCS trials last week. Charli qualified for CCS finals after throwing a new PR and school record of 109-at CCS trials. She entered the final ranked 12th, and competed well to place 10th at 104-7.
This means all 4 girls who competed at CCS this year, placed better than their ranking in every competition, a very positive trend that the team will look to continue in future seasons. A 10th place finish at CCS finals is a very impressive performance for Charli as a junior. She missed all but one week of her Sophomore season due to a knee injury. Her PR entering the season was 79 feet. Coach Vela’s tremendous coaching saw her improve 30 feet from a borderline to BVAL qualifier, to a CCS finals qualifier.
The season ends for the team on a strong note, and with the school year now over for James Lick, it is time for many of the team’s athletes to take a well deserved rest.
A full recap of the team’s season, as well as news about my new “East Side Running/Track Club” will be coming soon.
The BVAL At CCS
The CCS meet is special because of the fact that the best athletes from all 8 CCS track leagues come together to compete. That means strong athletes from schools as far south as King City HS of the MTAL clash with team’s as far north as Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. As a result, some of the best athletes in the entire State compete for victories at CCS finals.
The most impressive CCS performance from a BVAL athlete might have been from Maya Cook of Branham. Maya was a double CCS champion, winning the 100/200 and helped the Branham team to a 2nd place performance in the 4×100. The Bruins came in 2nd overall on the girl’s side, scoring 38.50 points to Mountain View’s 42 points.
Right behind Branham was Silver Creek at 38 points for 3rd as a team. They were lead by standout athletes Jazlynn Shearer and Arianna Fisher. Jazlynn won the girls 100 hurdles in 14. 69, and took 2nd in the triple jump at 39-0. Arianna won the triple jump in a very impressive jump of 40-7.
Jorge Estrella of Andrew Hill really emerged this season as the top distance runner in the BVAL. In XC, He, Zack Walker of Willow Glen, and Julian Adam of Westmont were frequently battling it out for victories. Estrella narrowly missed winning the CCS title in the 1600, running 4:14.76 and leading with only 80 meters to go before being run down by Alex Scales of Bellarmine. Jason Gomez of Westmont also narrowly lost a victory to scales, coming in 2nd in the 800 in 1:52.37 to Scales’ 1:52.34. Santa Teresa placed 6th on the boys side to be the highest placing BVAL team (and the #2 public school) at CCS finals.
The meet was a high quality display of many high quality athletes. As I said earlier, a full JL season recap will follow this post soon.
It was a very hot day at Gilroy High School on Saturday May 20th for the CCS (Central Coast Section) semifinals competition. The CCS is made up of 8 different leagues in track, with roughly 150 member schools. These days, qualification works in the following format:
Each of the 8 leagues has their own league championship which serves as a qualifying meet. Each league advances a certain number of athletes to CCS trials, these numbers are based on the size of the league. The BVAL is the largest league at 24 schools, so the top 8 athletes from BVAL finals advance to CCS. The WCAL (West Catholic Athletic league, containing teams like Bellarmine and Valley Christian) gets 6 CCS qualifications. The same goes for the SCVAL (teams like Los Gatos and Palo Alto). The smaller leagues like the SCCAL (Santa Cruz Athletic League) only get two CCS qualifiers.
Altogether, 32 athletes compete at CCS trials in each event. It is possible for an event to have more than 32, in the rare case that an athlete achieved the CCS qualifying mark/time in their event without achieving the necessary place at their league finals, though this is very rare. Some league are stronger than others even with the adjustments for population, so some CCS qualifications are stronger than others. In any case, hundreds and in some cases thousands of athletes in the CCS alone contest each event every season, and being one of the final 32 athletes competing at CCS trials is a tremendous honor.
According to my records, over the many years of James Lick track, the Comets have had 120 different CCS competitions from 69 different athletes. Several of the Comets this year deserve distinction however.
The meet began with the Girl’s Shot Put. Alejandra Ceron and Valeria Cortez both competed, the 5th and 6th James Lick Shot Put competitions at the section meet (the 2nd and 3rd on the girls side). Alejandra threw 34-2 and Valeria threw 32-11. This is the first time that two James Lick Shot Put throwers made CCS in the same year. Alejandra placed 18th and Valeria placed 23rd, solid mid-pack placings for both girls. They entered the meet ranked 19th and 25th respectively, so both out performed their rank slightly. In the field events and distance events, the top 12 athletes advance to CCS Finals on May 26th, while in the lane events, the top 8 do the same.
Valeria went from the Shot Put to the 100 hurdles. She competed very well here, placing 19th in 16.93, running into a headwind. Valeria’s PR of 16.75 would likely not have been wind legal if the WVD meet had a wind gauge. This is her 2nd ever sub 17 second clocking, and the fact that she ran it into a headwind is a very encouraging end to her season. She qualified in the event after not coming close to CCS last year. She was ranked 25th entering the meet, so her 19th place performance exceeded expectations.
Arlet competed in the 800 next, and many distance runners were wilting in the cloudless 90+ degree heat. Arlet competed very well however, running 2:29.06 to place 25th overall. She was ranked last in her heat and 29th overall, but immediately put herself in the middle of the pack, and beat several girls from her heat. The last 100 meters saw her very close to a PR and school record, but she struggled over the final stretch, a very impressive end to her season in my book considering how much time was spent battling injury this season.
The Girls discus was the final event for the team on the day. It has been the team’s best event all season. The team scored 62/63 possible dual meet points in the girls discus this West Valley season. They swept the WVD finals with a 1-2-3 performance, and added a 7th place scoring as well. They placed 3rd, 4th and 8th at BVAL finals to send 4 girls to CCS in the same event for the first time in school history. Very few teams can boast 3 athletes in a single event at CCS trials. Essentially 3 of the top 32 athletes out of over 600 CCS athletes this year, go to James Lick.
Alejandra Ceron managed a small PR of 95-11, placing 26th. Another good performance considering she entered ranked 30th. Valeria Cortez was the team’s lone CCS qualifier last year, placing 22nd in the girls discus with a throw of 99-5. She improved upon that performance, throwing 105-4 for 18th place. Valeria is the first Comet athlete in school history on either side to compete in 3 different individual events at the sectional meet. She placed 18th in the girls discus, 19th in the 100 hurdles and 23rd in the Shot Put, an asset to any team, Valeria is quite clearly our strongest overall athlete for her versatility.
The performance of the day came from Charli Chircop however. Entered at 18th after a PR of 106-0 last week, Charli began her competition poorly with a throw out of sector. Her 2nd throw was better, though still not near her best, landing around 83 feet. Her 3rd throw was fantastic, a toss of 108-8 to take the school record from Valeria by 4 inches. She improved on the record with her 4th and final throw of 109-4. Charli would need every inch of this throw as girls continued to compete. When all was said and done, Charli sat in 12th place with her 109-4 toss, the final qualification spot for CCS finals was hers. 13th place had a best throw of 109-3.
Charli has improved her discus PR by nearly 30 feet this system, a testament to Coach Vela and how much he has grown as a coach over the past 4 seasons as well.
Charli will compete next Friday at Gilroy HS at CCS Finals, the first Comet since Ruth Lebeau in 2008 (Ruth advanced to the State Meet in the triple jump that year). Charli will be the 26th Comet to compete at CCS finals and only the 4th girl to do so.
Very proud of her season.
A recap of her performance at CCS finals will follow soon.
If you have an interest in reading a general recap of the meet, citing particularly impressive performances from other schools at CCS finals, please comment indicating this. I’d be happy to do so, just not sure how interested you readers are in the general quality of the meet.
The 2017 BVAL Finals were held at Westmont High School on Thursday May 11th. All 3 BVAL divisions sent athletes to the meet, with all 24 schools being represented. The top 8 athletes in each event advance to CCS trials on Saturday May 20th, an accomplishment which is always worth striving for.
In 2016, the lone CCS qualification for the team was Valeria Cortez throwing 99-8 in the girls discus to place 6th place. The girls discus was again one of the first events, and the event did not disappoint for the team. Valeria threw a new PR (and school record) of 108-3, placing 3rd overall. Charli Chircop placed 4th in 106-0 a PR by almost 3 feet as well. Alejandra Ceron took 8th place in 94-4, giving the team 3 CCS qualifiers in just the girls discus.
Much of the school’s track/xc history is unavailable, but the section meet qualifiers are available virtually every year dating back to 1952. This is the 2nd time in school history that the Comets have had 3 CCS qualifiers in the same event. In 1975 the lady Comet throwers accomplished the same feet, sending 3 discus throwers to the CCS regional meet. This was just after girls competition became commonplace, and it was much easier to qualify back in those early years. Kathy Shelby was the team’s best thrower that year at 89 feet, while Alejandra was the final CCS qualifier this year at 94 feet.
Elyse Elder ended her high jump career for the Comets, clearing 4-3. It was a disappointing performance for Elyse who was battling illness, but nonetheles a very solid career for her as a Comet. Lyndel Ventura jumped a solid 14-2 in the long jump, and Cody Huoch went 38-9.50 in the boys triple jump, his 2nd best ever performance in the event.
The running events started with the girls 4×100. Despite the injuries and grade issues the girls sprint team battled this season, the team ran a seasons best of 56.32 to end their year. This is especially impressive given the loss of top sprinter Silvia Amaya to injury just minutes before the meet began.
The boys 4×100 had a very disappointing race. A collision on the first leg handoff due to missed timing resulted in the Comets being put out of the race early. The team went on to run 48.24, but looked to lose over 2 seconds due to the poor handoff (Youtube video will up soon).
Erik Olsvold ended his season strong by running a PR of 4:37.19 for the 1600. Azael Zamora ran 4:44.06 as well.
Valeria became the first Comet since Ruth Lebeau to qualify for CCS in two events by placing 6th in the girls 100 hurdles, running 17.19. Cody missed qualifying in the boys 110 hurdles by 1 place, taking 9th in 17.43. Gustavo Aguilera ran 55.27 to end his season in the 400, a solid performance as well.
Arlet fought through her injury plagued season to run 2:28.42 in the 800 for a new PR and a CCS qualification in a gritty performance. Arlet is the first outright CCS qualifier in a girls distance event in school history. Nathan Bernardo ended his season with a small PR of 2:07.85.
Kirsten Yutuc managed a small PR of 54.44 to end her season on a strong note in the 300 hurdles. Cody ran 44.59 to place 10th, a better final hurdle may have put him in a CCS qualifying spot, but he had an outstanding season overall considering it was his first season of track.
Kirsten jumped a PR of 29-10 in the girls triple jump, giving her two PRs on the day. Alejandra and Valeria placed 5th and 6th in the girls Shot Put to qualify for CCS. Valeria did so with a PR of 33-4. Charli threw 31-7 for 9th place. With her 6th place throw in Shot Put, Valeria is the first James Lick track athlete ever to qualify for CCS in 3 different individual events. She is rapidly building a case as one of he best Track athletes in school history on the girls side, if not overall.
Azael had a rough race in the 3200, running 10:45, well off of his PR. The girls 4×400 team ran a seasons best of 4:43 to end their season. The boys race was a let-down for the team. The team was in a position to compete for a CCS trials performance, but Gustavo suffered a calf cramp on the 2nd lap. This forced him to run a 60 second leg, 5 seconds off of his 55.27 open 400 from earlier in the meet. 3:41 was the last time in, meaning the team would have been very close to making CCS.
The team emerged from BVAL finals with a total of 7 CCS qualifications from 4 different athletes. These ladies will compete next week at Gilroy High School for CCS trials, in pursuit of some final PRs.
Day 1 of the West Valley Division Finals took place on Wednesday March 3rd at Overfelt High School. It was a very hot meet, with the temperature sitting at 93 degrees for the majority of the meet. The hot weather made for good sprint times, but a tough day for distance times. Of the 15 events contested in the WVD, the girls saw 4 event finals completed, while the boys side had 3.
The meet began with the girls 100 hurdles. Unfortunate timing issues gave the meet an auspicious start. Both girls 100 hurdles heats had to be rerun due to timing issues. Susie Peterson looked to be running a huge PR in her heat, but was given no time and had to rerun the race at the end of the day. Valeria Cortez ran a PR of 17.07 despite having to run the race twice. She is ranked #1 for the final on Friday after running the fastest qualifying time. Susie made the final despite having to run the event after the 300 hurdles, running 20.08 to qualify. Kirsten Yutuc made the final as well to give the team 3 girls in the 100 hurdles final for the 2nd consecutive year.
Cody Huoch managed a huge PR in the boys 110 hurdles, running 17.16 to beat his PR of 17.71. Cody also heads to Friday ranked #1 in the WVD. Jonathan Rodriguez ran a PR of 18.70 to nab the 8th qualification. Luis Escamilla also competed, though he did not PR.
The next event was the girls 400. Justien Austria and Denisse Calixto competed for the team. Justine placed 10th, not far from a qualifying spot as a freshmen. Gustavo Aguilera ran 55.71 to qualify for the final on Friday, where he will be ranked 4th. Misael Herrera ran 56.96 to make the final and is ranked 7th. This is a massive improvement over the 12th place 58.88 performance from Misael a season ago. David Bejines competed for the team as well.
Silvia Amaya ran very close to her PR clocking 14.34 in the girls 100. Aliana Santos ran under 16 seconds for the 2nd time in her career as well. Ace Medina made the 100m final by running 11.80, the 2nd sub 12 second clocking of his career. He is ranked 6th for the final on Friday. Hadji Yono-Cruz ran 12.34, his 2nd best ever 100m time, and Adrian DeLaRosa ran a seasons best 12.56.
At this time, field events were coming in as well. After placing 4th in the girls high jump a year ago, Elyse Elder placed 2nd this year, clearing 4-7.25. This event was a final, making Elyse the team’s first BVAL championships qualifier of 2017. Kirsten Yutuc went 29-3.75 in the girls triple jump to place 4th, and qualify for BVAL champs as well. Lyndel Ventura went a seasons best 28-10.50 for 7th place. Yaliza Cortez just missed scoring after jumping a seasons best 27-8.50.
Hadji ended his James Lick long jump career at 18-1 in the boys long jump final. Juan Gutierrez managed a big PR of 17-8.50, his first time over 17 feet. Jamie Vong competed as well, jumping 16-7.
In the boys discus, Alex Alonzo came out with a PR of 111-5, his first time throwing above 100. He placed 5th, missing a BVAL champs qualification by 1 foot. Alex’s brother, Roger Alonzo, tossed the discus 101-8, placing 7th. The 6 points out of discus from two different scorers, represent a big improvement for the team from last season where no boy scored in discus at WVD finals.
The girls Shot Put had been one of the team’s most dominant events all season. Alejandra Ceron captured the team’s first WVD title of the season and her 2nd career division title after winning the discus a year ago. Her throw of 34-3 beat the 2nd place competitor by more than 2 feet. A slightly disappointing performance from the lady throwers saw Valeria Cortez and Charli Chircop placing 4th and 5th, both throwing a bit over 30 feet. Mariah Santos and Ruth Rodriguez also competed for the team.
Valeria, Kirsten and Susie all made the 300 hurdles final, sweeping their heat along the way. Susie ran a PR of 58.99 despite the hot weather, her first time under 59 seconds. The boys 300 hurdles saw Cody once again dominate the field, running a PR of 44.31 to head into the final on Friday ranked #1. A painful error lead to a disqualification for Gustavo, who’ll have to re-focus his efforts on the 400. Jonathan also edged into the 300 hurdles final, ranked 7th for the Friday.
Silvia ran a 200m PR of 30.71, and Aliana ran the 2nd best time of her career as well. Ace ran a 200m PR of 24.17 to make the 200m final, once again ranked 6th for Friday. Misael did not make the final, but he ran a massive PR of 24.56. Chris Okoro also competed for the team, running a PR of 26.63 in the event.
The girls 1600 began with temperatures still sitting at 88 degrees. Arlet Miranda placed 2nd overall in 5:56. Belen Sanchez stormed from 9th to 6th place over the 400 of the race, running 6:15. Daisy Nava ran 6:22 in 9th place. Belen and Daisy had their best performance of the season in the 1600 when factoring in the weather. Valerie Flores ended her season running 6:47, and Analilia Regla ran 6:59 as well.
The boys 3200 was a fairly grueling race given the conditions. Jesse Cruz of Overfelt, the fastest WVD boy in the 3200 last year, lead the majority of the race. With 250 meters to go, Erik Olsvold passed him. Jesse stayed close but Erik opened up a 3 second gap in the final 100 meters of the race to give the team their 2nd WVD title on the day. Erik’s PR of 10:20.70, gives him the team’s first division championship in any boys running event since Ricardo Flores won the 3200 in 2011. Azael Zamora placed 3rd in 10:33, locking down a BVAL qualification spot for himself as well. Nathan Bernardo and Inteus Castro-Lopez placed 6th and 7th for the team. This is the first time in school history that the boys have had 4 athletes score in the same event at WVD finals, in over 20 years of contesting the meet.
Last year the team had only one individual WVD championship, and the team has 2 already despite being less than 25% done with the meet.
After day 1, the team scores stand as follows.
Boys (3 of 15 events completed)
Independence 34 points
Overfelt 31 points
James Lick 27 points
Live Oak 10 points
Del Mar 6 points
Yerba Buena 5 points
Gunderson 4 points
San Jose 0 points
Girls (4 of 15 events completed)
James Lick 45 points
Yerba Buena 32 points
Live Oak 23 points
Overfelt 17 points
Del Mar 15 points
Independence 14 points
San Jose 6 points
Gunderson 0 points
The team will take to an even bigger day of finals Friday, and the weather is expected to be much more mild. The team is in pursuit of PRS as always, as well as WVD titles, BVAL qualifications, and points for the team.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a full WVD finals recap after the meet on Friday.
This year marked the first time that the James Lick boys team qualified for CCS as a team since the team of 2010 did so. The absence of Erik Olsvold, the team’s top runner at BVAL finals was a big blow to the boys team. Even so, the boys struggled as a whole, running an unfortunately poor race by their standards to finish the season.
Azael Zamora lead the boys team in 17:14, Nathan Bernardo was next in at 17:30. Again these were rough performances for the boys who have both run under 17 minutes at Crystal twice this season. Gustavo Parra ran 17:36, a small PR the only Comet boy to do so at CCS. Gustavo Aguilera and Inteus Castro-Lopez rounded out the top 5. Freshmen Mark Orpia competed as well, becoming the first freshmen boy from James Lick to compete at CCS since 2009.
The girls side of things was much different for the Comets. The team’s only competing athlete was Arlet Miranda, and she ran arguably the best race of her career. No lady Comet has ever made State in cross country, but Arlet came closer than any James Lick girl ever has. Her PR of 20:02 saw her missing State Qualification by 1 place and 7 seconds. It also moves her into #2 on the school’s all time list at Crystal Springs. Her 13th place overall finish was the best by a James Lick girl at CCS in school history.
While the 2016 season ended on quite a sour note for the boys team, it was a highly successful season for the team as a whole. In the BVAL era, (since 1996) James Lick has a total of 5 championships. 1996 in the B division, 1999 in the B division, 2009 in the C division, 2014 in the C division and 2016 in the B division.
James Lick continues to make strides towards being competitive across the CCS, and this year were able to ascend to the the top of the BVAL with a 2nd place finish on the boys side. The team will work hard at recruiting over the next few months for Track, and will try to add more distance runners to their team (especially on the girls side).
The entire team will now likely take a break through Thanksgiving before gearing up for Track season with conditioning beginning for all event disciplines in January.
I will do a more thorough season summary around Thanksgiving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
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).
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:
The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
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
The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
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
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.
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.