As has become tradition over the past few seasons, the James Lick track team began their season with competition at the Willow Glen Invitational. Another tradition continued as for the 4th consecutive year, athletes had to compete through some amount of rain and wet conditions at the invite. The morning rain yielded to fair conditions in the afternoon, and when the dust settled, 34 Comets opened their seasons.
The conditions and early season status of the meet kept the competition numbers lower than normal, and it also weakened the marks/times achieved across the board. Nonetheless, overall the team competed very well, placing highly in a number of areas.
The meet began with the 4×100. The varsity team of Geo Campos, Salvador Lopez, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara clocked in at 47.71 to place 4th overall and win their heat. While the time isn’t extremely fast, not many fast times were produced in the 4×100 in general, and the team competed well against some consistently good teams. This 47 second opening time is also the fastest season opening 4×100 time the team ahs achieved since I’ve been coaching. For reference, last year at Willow Glen the team ran 49.25 and by the end of the season ran 45.50. With that in mind, the 47.71 in the rain is very encouraging.
The next event on the track was the 1600. The Comets sent a large group of frosh/soph girls to compete, fresh off their JV undefeated season in cross country. Erika Camacho lead the group in 6:50, a PR by 12 seconds, her first time cracking the 7 minute barrier (always a big moment). Ruth Rodriguez ran a 12 second PR as well, clocking in at 7:07. Newcomer Lizbeth Espana ran a very solid 1600 debut of 7:09 just behind Ruth. Estefani Herrera, Mariana Perez, Emely Lopez and Francine Estranero also competed but are still working themselves into shape.
Ashley Preciado made her season debut running 6:56. While this is not near her PR of 6:09, it actually is 2 seconds ahead of her time from last year. The varsity boys 1600 saw two strong early season performances. Mark Orpia ran a 1 second PR of 5:05.62 and Brandon Cruz ran a 6 second PR of 5:08.81. Both boys are way ahead of where they were a year ago and are poised to break the 5 minute barrier very soon.
Around this time the rain broke, allowing for better conditions for the hurdles. Valeria Cortez and Yesenia Martinez both competed, though not with great results. On the boys side, both Rodolf Ocampo and Mark (fresh off of his mile PR) ran under 19 seconds for the first time in the 110 hurdles.
Several Comets competed in field events during this time as well. Josh Merin cleared 5-0 in high jump for the first time in an official meet. A year ago at this time, Josh only managed to go 4-6. Sal cleared 5-4, much better than the 4-10 he managed a year ago. Both boys medaled in the shallow high jump field. Raven lead the team in the triple jump, with a leap of 36-9.5 Sal was next in 35-9.5 and Jamie Vong went 35-6. For reference, last season Raven and Sal opened the season at 33 feet each, so they are well ahead of where they were a year ago.
The 100m dash saw several strong showings from Comets as well. Raven won his heat in a time of 12.02 matching his seasons best. The next heat, Geo ran 12.13 a seasons best and the 2nd best time of his career. Sal won his heat in a big PR of 12.41 (Sal rarely runs the 100 but had never run under 13 before). Rodolf also netted a sizable PR, stopping the clock at 12.54 ( his first time under 13 as well). Josh Merin ran 12.64, a PR by nearly 2 tenths of a second. Adrian DeLaRosa ran a seasons debut of 13.04 and Angel Guerrero ran 13.06 for a small PR. The Comet Sprint corps are looking much better than they did at this time last year. Last year only two Comets ran under 13 seconds at the WG invite, compared to a full 5 this year with two more under 13.1.
On the girls side, Jenny Fimbres made her debut running a solid 15.67. Krissy Aguja ran 17.50 for her first time at the event. Emily De Dios made her debut running 17.22. Marquise Nelson made her debut for the team and ran 16.12. Valeria lead the lady sprinters in 15.07. Marquise is the school’s star basketball and volleyball player, and we are excited to see what she can do in track (she played softball before this year).
The 800m was next and with it, the large group of frosh/soph girls took to the track again. Mya Hammond ran 3:05, 3 seconds better than her clocking here a year ago. Erika was not far behind, running a 3 second PR of 3:08. Lizbeth just missed her PR running 3:15 and Ruth ran 3:16 in her debut in the event. Mariana Perez and Estefani Herrera came in at 3:25 and 3:26 (both girls are about 10 seconds better than they were at this time a year ago). Emely Lopez stopped the clock at 3:28 and Francine at 3:34.
Ashley Preciado ran 3:05 for the 800, 5 seconds ahead of what she ran last year at this time. Arlet Miranda took 3rd place overall, the highest finish of the day for any Comet in a running event. She ran 2:33.76, her fastest ever season debut in the 800 and she did it as a negative split.
On the boys side, Jerricho Habon ran 2:13.10 to lead the Comets. He missed his PR by only .2, but last year he did not run 2:13 until mid April. Mark managed his 3rd PR on the day, running 2:16 to lop a second off his personal best. Melvin Estrada and Brandon ran 2:26 and 2:27 respectively. Hugo Marquez rounded out the team in 2:43.
More field events continued during this time. Rodolf managed a new PR in the pole vault, going 9-6. This is the best mark by any Comet since we re-established pole vault last year. Mark matched his PR of 9-0 as well. In the long jump, Jamie Vong managed a massive PR of 18-0. This was a PR by over a foot and he was one of only 5 boys to jump 18 feet on the chilly day. Raven, Josh, Geo and Angel also competed in the long jump.
In the girls high jump, Yesenia cleared 4-4, much better than last year when she did not make a height. Marquise went 4-0 on her first go at the event. In the throwing events, Adriana Marcelino threw 18-6 in Shot Put and 58-10 in Discus. The discus throw is 6 feet better than her willow glen mark from last year. Marquise had an impressive debut in the shot put throwing 26-9.5, placing 8th overall. Valeria placed 4th with a throw of 30 feet even.
The highlight of the field events was Valeria throwing 108-11 in girls discus. This is by far the best she’s ever thrown to start the season, and the mark was good to make her the meet champion in girls discus.
The final two events with Comets competing were the 300 hurdles and the 200. Arlet ran a PR of 55.82 in the 300 hurdles. Yesenia ran 1:03.28, slightly better than last year even though her block gave out and she slipped at the beginning of the race. On the boys side, Rodolf managed a 4th PR on the day by running 48.47 for the 300 hurdles. Luis also competed in the event.
The long day finally ended with the 200. Jenny and Emily made their debuts running 34.28 and 36.87 respectively. Natalie Rem opened her season with a 30.93 clocking. On the boys side, Geo lead the group in 25.99. Misael was not far behind in 26.23, faster than his 26.5 season opener from last year. Jerricho ran 26.13 taking a big chunk off of his PR. He is much faster than he was at this time a year ago when he ran 27.20 for the 200.
It was a successful first meet for the Comets. The team netted 20 PRS, The team finished in 7th place on the varsity boys side and 8th place on the varsity girls side out of the 31 teams in attendance. Not bad considering we still don’t have a track to practice on.
Some of the Comets may head to Westmont HS on Saturday March 9th for the K-bell invitational depending on training and weather this week. Either way the Comets will open their league season on March 14th against Live Oak HS. This is scheduled as a home meet, but will likely be at Live Oak as construction on our track is still ongoing.
When Charli Chircop hurled the discus 100-10 at CCS Finals, she signaled the end of not only her career, but of the 2018 track season (as far as James Lick is concerned). The 2018 season ending was very significant for me personally. It signified the end of my 5th year coaching, and also the end of my first year as a teacher. This blog will be a reflection on my first 5 years as a coach, and the growth of the cross country and track programs over the past 5 seasons.
The team has improved a lot over the past 5 seasons, that is especially demonstrated in track. If this years team faced the team of 2014 in a dual meet, assuming everyone matched their seasons bests, this would be the result:
Boys 2018: 116 Girls 2018: 102
Boys 2014: 19 Girls 2014: 25
I began coaching in fall of 2013. Alex Ponik, one of my coaches at James Lick, was stepping down as head coach. He offered me a position as an assistant coach, a job I was happy to accept. The day before school began for James Lick however, I was informed that our intended head coach would be unable to coach after all. As a result, I was forced to take the helm along with John Quasarano at the last moment.
That first year was tough. As a 20-year old, I lacked confidence in my own authority as a coach. Our top runner and team captain was Armando Aguilar. Armando and I were teammates just a few years before when I myself was team captain. We were also a very inexperienced team on the boys side. 5 of our 7 varsity boys had never run cross country before 2013. Only Armando had been a member of the varsity team before. This combined with our placement in the ‘B’ division, saw us finish with a 1-6 record on the varsity boys side. Honestly, we were lucky to even win 1 meet.
The huge bright side of that season was the varsity girls team. We pulled off a 4-3 season, the first winning season for the Lady Comet since 2009. Of the 24 BVAL teams, we finished in 15th place on the girls side at BVAL Finals. Our Combined team time was 117:28 (or 1:57:28). It was the first time the team had run under 2 hours at Crystal Springs in several years, giving us good hope for the future.
The boys however finished 20th. Our team was 97:09 (1:37:09). This was partly due to the fact that Armando was unable to finish the race, but in any case, a 20th place finish was not where we wanted to be. Seeing our BVAL places, and our inexperienced coaching staff, the BVAL moved us down to the ‘C’ division for the 2014 season.
That was my lowest moment as a coach so far, largely because I believed that we did not belong in the ‘C’ division. We were a young coaching staff and a young team, but I was very confident we could turn things around.
Track was a different season. I joined the track coaching staff along with Ricardo Flores, Juan Trejo and Ray Iniguez. At the time, James Lick track had not won a single dual meet in over 5 years. The Comets had not had a winning season since 2000, and the girls had not had one on record in school history (definitely not since 1996 when the BVAL began keeping records).
The setup that first year saw me in charge of the girls track team, while the other 3 coaches handled the boys team. We managed to eek out our first wins in years, which gave us cause to dream bigger for the future.
On a personal level, 2014 was my most important year as a coach. My goal has always been to help my athletes improve by as much as possible, and hope that wins and success will follow from great improvement. 2014 was when I first gained confidence in my ability to foster improvement in my athletes, thanks to the hard work of a few key athletes.
Daniela Camacho had run 5:49 for the 1600 as a freshmen, though she slowed down to 6:02 as a sophomore, (not an uncommon phenomenon among girl distance runners). That year as a junior, we managed to reverse that trend and Daniela ended the season at 5:43 for the 1600. She lowered her PR to 5:27 the next season, a mark which currently stands as our school record (though Arlet Miranda ran 5:31 this season so here’s hoping she will beat it next year).
Destiny Lopez was maybe the most important athlete towards helping me believe in my own training methods. Destiny had run track since freshmen year, and her PRs were 6:51 in the 1600 and 15:47 in the 3200. 2014 was her senior year, my only year coaching her. It was a trough process, but at division finals, she ran massive PRs, 6:31 for the 1600 and 14:11 for the 3200.
Our track team had 23 athletes in 2014 and we had our first wins in years. Most important to me personally, I felt that just like the James Lick teams of old, we could work hard and improve substantially in pursuit of bigger victories. Our goal for XC 2014 was simple, prove that it was a mistake to send us down to the ‘C’ division.
Our girls thrived in that goal. The team went 7-0 and won the division handily. At BVAL Finals, after placing 15th in 1:57:28 the year before, we finished in 8th place in 1:50:00. The 1:50:00 mark is the 2nd best team time in school history. The team of 1981 is the only team to have run faster, incidentally the only other girls championship team in school history. The boys team improved significantly as well, moving up from 20th place to 15th place, and running 6 minutes faster as a team.
The 2014 team will always be special to me because it was my first division championship as a coach. The more rapid improvement was in track and field. In 2015, we had our first winning season in over a decade. By 2016, a girls division title. In 2017 a 2nd girls title, followed by our move up the ‘B’ division. The success in track and field is in no small part thanks to the excellent coaches I’ve had the chance to work with. From Coach Vela who was by my side in track from the beginning, to coach Nichols, and Turner, and recently coach Raul Lopez. Every coach we’ve had in track has played a pivotal role in improving the team.
The most impressive team of my coaching career however was the 2016 XC team, my only boys title to date, and my only ‘B’ division championship team so far.
That team showed what the culmination of years of hard work could lead to. Team captain Nathan Bernardo did an exceptional job leading that team. Truth to be told, I had to miss many practices throughout the season but Nathan never let the team waver. He lead practice when I could not. All of the teams hard work paid off with the boys going 7-0 and placing 2nd at BVAL finals, only losing to the ‘A’ division champions Willow Glen.
Our team time of 1:25:19 was a respectable mark for James Lick in any era. While it is nowhere near the school record of 1:20:46, it was the 12th best team time in school history, and the best ever JL time at BVAL Finals.
After 5 years, I feel pretty good about where the program is at. We are solidly in the ‘B’ division in both cross country and track, and we have a very young team on both sides. Long term, coach Raul Lopez and myself will be looking to help take the program to the next level, eventually being a member of the ‘A’ division.
I’m proud that we’ve been able to outperform many schools that are larger than us, and better funded. We are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL with a tick over 1100 students. The schools that are still consistently better than us have a few things in common. Some are outside of our control, such as larger enrollment and greater funds to draw from.
The most difficult discrepancy to overcome for us in my opinion is the lack of experience many of our athletes have. Our primary feeder schools are Joseph George and Shepard Middle School . Neither school had a track team this year. They often do not have cross country and when they do, it is not a substantial program. Willow Glen is consistently the best cross country team in the BVAL. This is in large part due to the amazing work of Coach Victor Santamaria, but every year, Willow Glen Middle School churns out multiple boys in the low 5 minute range in the 1600 and sometimes even some sub 5 minute boys.
The same is true of many of the schools we struggle to beat. Many of the top athletes in the area have been training for a long time. Our athletes have a lot of catching up to do. Azael Zamora just graduated with HS personal bests of 4:33 in the 1600 and 9:55 in the 3200. He did not join cross country until his sophomore year, and to that point he had never broken 6 minutes for the mile.
Long term, we are aiming to help ensure that some of our alumni will take on coaching positions at some our local middle schools to help athletics not just at James Lick, but throughout the east side as a whole.
I also hope to have more alumni join my coaching staff. Coach turnover has been an issue for us, and having a more consistent solidified coaching staff will help us improve.
We are not at the same level of James Lick’s greatest teams, but restoring the greatness of James Lick in XC and track has been my goal since I started coaching. We are not nearly there, but we are a lot closer than we were 5 years ago. I want to thank every Comet that has been apart of it, and everyone who actually reads my rambling with interest/support.
Best marks/times under me can all be found under the history section of the blog ^
The 2018 XC team will begin conditioning on June 18th at 9:30 A.M.
The 2016 season started with some big goals for the James Lick Comets. The team set competitive goals of winning the STAL on the boys side, and improving on a 2-5 record from 2015 on the girls side. The team was hoping to also place within the Top 5 teams at BVAL finals on the boys side, and the top 12 on the girls side. The team also set the time goals of running 86:30 (1:26:30) on the boys side at BVAL finals and 112:30 (1:52:30) on the girls side. The team wanted to do this while representing and performing well in the non-varsity races as well.
From the first days of summer training in early June, the likely group of varsity boys showed how much they wanted to achieve their goals. Based on the PRS of the team’s top 5 returners, Nathan Bernardo 17:02, Inteus Castro-Lopez 17:55, Gustavo Aguilera 18:00, Azael Zamora 18:13 and Erik Olsvold 18:14, the team would run team time of 89:24. While Track season showed dramatic development, especially from Azael and Erik, the team would have to improve quite a bit to hit their ambitious goal. 2015 marked the first seasons since 2003 that the team had run under 90 minutes at Crystal Springs, and a time in the mid 80s would show the team was back to being a tough local team consistent with the teams of James Lick’s glory years.
As these boys worked hard in the early days of summer, more and more freshmen boys joined the team. Athletes like Jerricho Habon, Melvin Estrada, Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo followed the lead of their veteran leaders working their way into good shape. These boys are very admirable for the fact that they lacked natural running ability, but worked hard all season to better themselves and turn themselves into strong Frosh/Soph runners. The Frosh/Soph team was made especially strong with the addition of more freshmen boys: Mark Orpia and Nien Tran once school started, along with sophomore Rudy Peterson. The team became so rich in young boy runners, that by the final league meets of the year, the team consistently had 3-4 potential Frosh/Soph boys run reserve who would have been scoring members of half of the other Frosh/Soph teams in the league.
The depth of hard working athletes that the boys team saw, the fruition of 4 years of hard program building lead by team captain Nathan, never developed to the same degree on the girls side. After a breakout track season, Arlet Miranda was a weapon at the front of the team all season, but top returners Maria Mendoza and Daisy Nava both worked various jobs throughout the season in addition to taking numerous AP classes, cutting into their practice time and curtailing their improvements despite their best efforts. This coupled with the fact that 3 of the girls teams top 6 returners, did not in fact return for the 2016 season. The team did gain Milka Perez, who was a team star in the 2014 season, fresh off a 2015 season that she missed due to a torn ACL. Her addition and gradual improvement is a bright spot for the team going forward. While the boys team experienced a large group of incoming freshmen with future varsity potential, the girls team did not receive the sam boom. They gained several hard working freshmen like Ally Floreza and Ashley Preciado, and one clear future varsity runner in Camila Hernandez. The hard work of Analilai Regla, Denisse Calixto, and Belen Sanchez saw them help out as varsity runners despite being well behind the speed of a ‘B’ division varsity runner when the season started.
In the early part of the season, the team struggled with inconsistency but showed they had the potential to achieve their goals. The Alumni Race was a strong performance for the team, Azael lead the team with a time of 12:57, the first JL athlete to break 13 for the course in many years. The boys team in general ran well, and had the privilege of meeting JLXC all time greats Joe Amendt and Greg Machado.
Despite a great performance at the Alumni Race, the team did not perform as well at STAL 1 and STAL 2, their only two Alum Rock Park meets of the year. Erik, Azael and Nathan did move into 7th, 9th and 11th on the 2.85 mile course JL all time list, but the team was unable to achieve their league race goal of having 5 boys under 17 minutes. In any case, the Varsity Boys emerged from STAL 2 4-0, with a win over Prospect, one of two STAL teams to beat them at BVAL finals in 2015.
The team did have some success at their first 2 invitationals, setting school records at both the Lowell Invitational and the Delasalle Invitational. In both cases, Azael lead the team, finishing narrowly ahead of Nathan both times. This was only the 2nd time the comets have run at the Lowell Invitational and the 8th time they have competed at DLS. In any case, both team time records were set by huge margins. The teams consistency issues continued at these invites, while Azael and Nathan performed exceptionally well, Inteus struggled as did Gustavo A. Gustavo P however, began to show huge progress, running 18:31 at the DLS invitational for a new PR by over 1 minute. The Lowell invitational was significant for the team however as they defeated both Santa Teresa and Evergreen, two of the top teams in the MHAL (‘A’ division). The team began the 2015 season looking like a solid ‘A’ league team only to finish 13th at BVALs and the team was determined to not repeat that type of placing.
The team worked very hard over a 2 week hiatus, showing improvement at the 2016 edition of the watermelon run. Nathan became the first Comet athlete to run under 18 minutes for the 3.03 mile version of North Rim, a course which should take longer to run than any other course we race on. The team was very much motivated for a big performance at STAL 3, where they would take on 2 time defending champion Pioneer, at Montgomery hill. The team put it all together at this race, Nathan lead the group as a captain should, running a PR of 15:52 to become the first Comet under 16 at Montgomery Hill since 2003, and only the 3rd ever to do so. The Comets managed to have 6 athletes under 17 minutes at STAL 3, with Gustavo Parra as the 6th boy in, beating the #3 runner from every other school. Even Jesus Deloya as the teams 7th boy ran 18:22 beating the 5th boy on 4 of the teams in league.
In coming weeks more PRS were set, with the team’s top 4 all achieving PRS under 16:20. Erik Olsvold would go on to run 15:27, the 2nd best James Lick time ever at Montgomery and the best by a Sophomore by far.
The boys extended their record to 7-0 with strong times achieved at the Crystal Springs Invite and Mt. Sac invite as well. Nathan lead the team at Mt. Sac as the first Comet under 17 minutes for the course in a decade.
The team ramped up their focus once more BVAL finals knowing that a good performance would see them achieve their goals. They did all that and more, running a team time of 85:19, and finishing 2nd in the BVAL overall. They were spearheaded by Erik once again, in a time of 16:22. Erik’s times as a freshmen were quite good, his track season was more impressive and this cross country season more impressive still. Erik has truly broken out as a force within the BVAL. Nathan and Azael both run under 17 minutes as well. Inteus had a slightly off race by his standards, but the team saw all 6 competing boys run 17:40 or faster.
The team competed 2 weeks later at CCS without Erik (who cannot compete on Saturdays due to religious commitments) and while their performance was poor at CCS compared to BVAL Finals, the season was overall a huge victory for the varsity boys. The 2016 season saw many milestones for the team, including team course records at Golden Gate Park, Newhall Park, and most significantly Montgomery Hill.
Just as they set out to do, the 2016 JLXC boys team ended the season as STAL champions. This is the 15th cross country league/division championship in school history. It is the 13th league title for the boys, the 5th JLXC title in the BVAL era (1996 and on) and the first ‘B’ division championship for JLXC in the BVAL era, (the first since 1999). This victory is significant for the school as a whole. Since the BVAL went to its power league structure, (1996) James Lick has only won 17 league/division championships counting this one. This is only the 4th ‘B’ league championship, and the first since Wrestling in 2004.
These varsity boys will now take a break and look ahead to track, where they hope to continue their winning ways.
The Varsity Girls struggled with numbers and finding the time to train as described earlier, but managed to repeat their placings of 2015. The team went 2-5 and placed 14th at BVAL Finals. They also defeated every team in the WVAL (‘C’) league one again, indicating that the time would have won 3 straight championships had we elected to stay down in the WVAL after our 2014 championship. We as a program would much rather move up and push ourselves with greater competition than simply strive for as many titles as possible.
Arlet ran a myriad of good times as the teams leading girl runner. She broke the 20 minute barrier at Alum Rock park and Montgomery hill. Over the course of the season she set school records at Golden Gate Park and at Half Moon Bay HS. She moved up to #2 on virtually every other all time course list, behind only Kayla Matusda. As only a sophomore, Arlet’s future is very bright. At CCS finals she ran 20:02, missing making the State meet by only 7 seconds, the closest any Lady Comet has ever come to qualifying for the State cross country meet.
Arlet helped lead the team to their middle of the pack finish at BVAL finals. Despite the season being slightly disappointing overall for the girls, the team still competed well and had several bright spots. At STAL 5, the girls ran a team time of 109:29, the 2nd best team time at Montgomery Hill in school history. Maria, Daisy and Milka were all quality varsity girls despite difficulties in other areas. Denisse and Analilia stepped up from 2015 and embodied true Comet spirit to become varsity girls. At BVAL final Denisse and Analilia ran 24:26 and 25:08, compared to times of 25:25 and 26:57 in 2015. Belen Sanchez showed great dedication in the 2nd half of the season and looks to be a potential star going forward as well.
The JV and reserve girls suffered from the same lack of numbers that hit the varsity girls, but they nonetheless had a large group of hard working athletes. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, the team’s top JV runner. Camila began her season at Alum Rock park, running 27:25 for a 9:37 mile pace. She worked her way all the way down to 24:34 at Crystal Springs, running 8:20 mile pace. Susie Peterson had her best season so far, and teammate Aliana Santos had a very quality JV season as well. Fellow hard working athletes like Ashley Preciado, Diana Romero, and Ally Floreza also helped the JV team to a 3-4 placing in the STAL and a 12th place finish at BVAL Finals.
The Frosh/Soph boys had an exceptional season much like their varsity counterparts. The team started slow, with the top boys at STAL 1 being Melvin Estrada in 20:43 and Mark ropier in 20:46. The FS team time at STAL 1 was 105:35, (1:45:35). By STAL #4 however, the team would run almost 10 minutes faster, recording a team time of 96:12 (1:36:12), a new school Frosh/Soph team record at Montgomery hill.They were aided by Vincent Giglio running 17:49, a new FS race record for the Comets at Montgomery Hill. After starting the season in the high 20s, Mark worked his way all the way down to 18:15 at STAL 5. Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon also ran under 20 minutes, with Rudy Peterson running exactly 20 seconds for his PR. This group of boys, along with Melvin and Hugo Marquez, went on to run a team time of 1:40:17 (100:17) at league finals, the best Frosh/Soph team time of the BVAL era. This hard working group of athletes makes the upcoming track season even more excitement.
It’s very easy to focus on the scoring teams, and to especially hone in on the fastest varsity athletes. This sport truly is about improvement, and the fact that an athlete is willing to put themselves through miles and miles of effort in the cause of bettering themselves is a fact wort admiring regardless of the athletes competitive level. Valerie Flores exemplified this, starting the season with times consistently in the 29-30 minute range before working her way all the way down to 27:09 at league finals. Brittany Salazar also ran huge improvement throughout the season as the only other reserve girl on the team.
The reserve boys were the team’s biggest group and several athletes had seasons to remember. David Bejines lead the team all season, running quality reserve times of 20:14 at Crystal Springs and 19:23 at Montgomery hill. Isaak Herrera had a breakout season, running under 20 minutes at Montgomery hill as well,a dramatic improvement from a year ago when such courses took him over 23 minutes. Austin Swank, Esteban Garcia-Gomez, Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo consistently helped fill out the team along with Jesse Friaz. Kevin and Daniel in particular, as freshmen runners, made great strides over the course of the season.
The 2016 XC season has come to a close for the Comets. All that stands left is the team banquet in December. Many athletes have moved on to Winter Sports, while many more take a break to focus on school. Beginning in December several of the teams athletes will come together to begin training, and on January 1st 2017, the preparation for Track 2017 will begin in earnest. JLXCTF will look to continue the momentum from a very successful XC season into an equally strong track season.
Thank you for reading and a happy Thanksgiving to you all.
On October 31st, all 24 teams of the BVAL took to the Crystal Springs cross country course for BVAL Finals. The meet determines the final standings for all 3 BVAL divisions, the WVAL (‘C’ division) STAL (‘B’ division) and the MHAL (‘A’ division).
The WVAL, STAL, and MHAL, were all their own individual leagues, but in 1996 they came under the governance of the 24 team ‘super league’ called the BVAL. This re-structing (which happened throughout the CCS during this era) occurred after the glory days of James Lick sports. With teams moving up and down in the BVAL based on strength of program, where a school has it’s teams places is a good indicator of how strong the school’s programs are.
The fact that the BVAL came into existence at the same time that James Lick was achieving the makeup that it has today, helps us to analyze James Lick teams over the past 20 years as part of the “modern era.”
Since the BVAL’s foundation (1996) , James Lick entered the 2016-2017 school year with a total of 16 championships across all sports. Only 3 of these 16 championships were in the STAL (‘B’ league of the BVAL) with the Wrestling team of 2004 being the last JL team to win a title in the B division. Just being placed in the B division is a victory for a James Lick sport these days. Since the BVAl era, James Lick has offered 16 sports, (considering Cross Country, Swimming, and Track as 1 sport each, since boys and girls teams score separately, but cannot move divisions independently). Only 8 of these 16 sports at James Lick however have ever competed in any division other than the WVAL (‘C’ league of the BVAL). In addition, 2 of those 8 competed in the B division while there was no C division due to a shortage of BVAL teams offering the sport. This means only 6/16 JL sports in the BVAL era have ever been out of the lowest division of the BVAL.
While some teams commonly have most of their teams in the A and B divisions, James Lick currently only has 3, Cross Country, Boys Soccer, and Boys volleyball (though there is no ‘C’ division for boys volleyball). In 20 years now in the BVAL era, with at least 13 sports offered a year, James Lick has never had more than 4 teams in the same year be placed in the ‘B’ division or higher. As such, the cross country team continues to strive to represent the school as a legitimate ‘B’ league team.
BVAL finals in cross country is a great way to prove this strength of program, with all 24 teams in the same race, theoretically a perfectly formatted league would have the MHAL teams place 1-8, STAL place 9-16 and WVAL place 17-24. Any placing higher than 16th in a race legitimatizes the Comets standing and gives the team a sense of pride. As the 4th smallest school in the BVAl, and the 2nd poorest as measured by % of students who receive free/reduced lunch, overcoming this disadvantages to beat schools in a better place to succeed is something to be proud of.
The day started well, with the team’s two reserve girls racing for the Comets. After running 29:24 at the Crystal Spring’s invite, Valerie Flores ran 27:09 to place 17th in the reserve race, a huge PR for Valerie. The 9:12 mile pace is by far the best of her career, ending with a very strong peak performance. Brittany Salazar had a similarly huge PR, after running 34:49 at the invitational, she ran 32:41 at league finals. Her 11:05 mile pace was also by far the best of her career. A very strong ending for the two seniors.
The JV girls race was next, as the first scoring race of the day, the team looked for a top 16 team performance. The JV girls is the easiest race to score highly in, as many programs struggle to field a full team. In any case, the Comet girls came in 12th in the BVAL a solid performance. Camila Hernandez lead the group with a very strong time of 24:34. Camila looks poised to have a big track season, and be a key member of the girls team in future seasons. The 8:20 mile pace at league finals was the best of her career. The same was true of Aliana Santos, running 9:01 pace for a time of 26:36. At the CS invite, Aliana ran 29:27, making her league finals PR another outstanding performance. Susie Peterson was next in, while her time of 28:14 was an off race compared to other races this season, it was a solid 30 second PR at Crystal Springs. Ashley Preciado also had the best race of her career, running 29:06 and breaking the 10 minute mile pace barrier for the very first time. Diana Romero ran 31:20 to seal off the team, and Ally Floreza battled through an ankle injury to finish her race and show a warrior spirit in the process.
The Frosh/Soph Boys were next, and they improved their league standing by placing 2nd amongst B division teams at league finals. While final team results are not yet up of FS, I believe that the team managed to finish 8th overall, beating several ‘A’ division teams. Similarly, I do not know the records of the other teams in the ‘B’ division, but this performance may have moved the FS team as high as 2nd place in the STAL.
Vincent Giglio lead the team with a strong PR of 18:22, placing 1st in the STAL to give the team the STAL F/S boys individual champion 2 years in a row. Mark Orpia gave the team a 2nd boy under 20 minutes, running 19:34. The 6:38 mile pace for Mark was the best of his career, though I think it was actually a bit of an off-race for him after he ran 6:40 mile pace at Montgomery Hill a few weeks back. Nien Tran ran 20:18 to manage a 6:53 pace, the first time Nien has run under 7 minute mile pace for an XC race. Rudy Peterson and Melvin Estrada completed the scoring team with times of 21:00 and 21:03, the first the fastest paces of both boys career for a course longer than 2.1 miles. Hugo Marquez was close behind at 21:16, the 7:13 pace being the best of his career as well. Jerricho Habon rounded out the team in 21:25, battling the hip injury that has troubled him throughout much of the season. The team’s 8th place finish saw them defeating 2 teams from the MHAL and running the best James Lick frosh/soph team time in the BVAL era. Their team time of 1:40:25 (100:25) beats the FS team of 2010 (101:06) for a new BVAL Finals FS record. Our goal of breaking the 100 minute barrier was narrowly missed.
Next up were the varsity girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 20:12, running a very productive race in which she experimented with running a very hard 2nd mile in preparation for CCS. The Varsity girls team has struggled with finding time to train this season, but the pack of Maria Mendoza in 22:44, Milka Perez in 22:50 and Daisy Nava in 23:02 helped solidify the team’s placing. Denisse Calixto ran 24:28 the best race of her career to come through as the 5th girl. Belen Sanchez had a bit of an off-race running 25:03, though Analilia Regla ran 25:08, the best mile pace of her career as well. The teams time of 1:53:16 (113:16) is the 4th best team time in school history.
Skipping ahead to the reserve race, David Bejines lead the Comets with a strong reserve time of 20:14. Isaak Herrera came in next at 20:31 and Austin Swank was 3rd in 20:50, giving the team 3 athletes solidly under 21 minutes. Both David and Isaak ran under 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a near 3 mile course. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:42 and Esteban Garcia-Gomez ran 22:08 to seal off the top 5. Kevin Bach ran 22:34 and Daniel Portillo was not far behind in 23:00 a big PR from the Crystal Springs invite. Jesse Friaz finished off the team’s day with a time of 24:26. All 8 reserve boys ran the best mile pace of their career for a new 3 mile course.
The Varsity boys team went in highly motivated, knowing that a good race would clinch championship. In order to seal the victory, the team would have to hold off a very strong Pioneer team. Erik Olsvold lead the group, displaying his signature strong finish, Erik moved from 15th to 9th place in the last 200 meters of the race. His time of 16:22 is the best time by any James Lick boy in over 10 years, and puts him tied for 20th on the school’s al time list as only a Sophomore. Narrowly holding off Evan Franco of Branham who ran 16:24, Erik also ends the season as the STAL individual champion on the boys side, one year after being the FS champion. Erik’s remarkable improvement, from 18:14 a year ago, speaks to the immense work ethic of the varsity team. Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora both missed their PRS, but competed well running 16:47 and 16:59, giving the team 3 boys under 16 minutes in the same race at Crystal Springs for the first time in over a decade. All 3 boys finished in the top 20 overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a rough race, but showed his toughness, gritting out a time of 17:33 for a 22 second PR. Gustavo Aguilera also ran a 20 second PR of 17:39, with Gustavo Parra right behind in 17:40.
Pioneer ran a very strong race as well, and ended up placing 5th in the entire BVAL, beating half of the ‘A’ division teams. The Comets nonetheless were able to clinch their STAL championship, placing 2nd out of all 24 BVAL teams, only losing to Willow Glen, the ‘A’ league champs. The fact that the team was able to jump from a disappointing 13th place finish last year, to 2nd this year is truly remarkable. Their team time of 1:25:20 (85:20) is the best James Lick time at BVAL Finals in school history.
When Nathan and Gustavo A were freshmen, they ran 20:36 and 22:34 at BVAL finals. Nathan was the 7th boy on a varsity team where the #1 runner ran 18:29. That James Lick team placed 20th at BVAL Finals. The work ethic of Nathan and Gustavo, taking minutes off of their starting times, has helped foster a culture of hard work that has inspired their teammate around them, and drawn in athletes like Inteus and Gustavo P. In their 4 year careers, they saw the varsity boys team move from 20th in the BVAL to 2nd, and from a team time of 97:09 at league finals, to the 85:20 of today.
In the now 38 years of school history (on record) at the Crystal Springs cross country course, the team of 2016 ranks 11th in team time, showing that in 4 short years, the Comets were able to take a team from its 2nd slowest time, back to the times of James Lick’s heyday. It is up to the returning and future members of the team, to keep James Lick where it belongs an to keep driving the team upwards towards greater success. While the varsity and Frosh/Soph boys teams could have committed in the MHAL this year, the girls team has a ways to go before they are able to do the same.
Willow Glen has won 12 of the last 13 BVAL finals meets, and there is no sham in losing to the highly formidable team. The varsity boys team of 2016 showed that the Comets are still capable of competing with the best however, and every year we will try to reach greater and greater heights. The varsity boys, and fellow CCS qualifier Arlet Miranda now look ahead to CCS Finals on November 12th, where they will compete against fellow D3 runners from the CCS. To better understand CCS qualification you can read here:
The team will unfortunately be without top runner Erik Olsvold at CCS, making a top 3 finish, and a better team time difficult, but the Comets will do their best to try to get a State Qualifier for the first time in 2005.
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.
On Thursday October 13th, the James Lick Comets faced off against the Oak Grove Eagles in STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill. The meet was a very successful one, in which two different team records fell, 20 PRs were set, and the team scored wins in every division.
The Frosh/Soph boys kicked off the action with a fantastic start. Vincent Giglio won the race in a huge PR of 17:54, finally rounding into form. Vincent’s time not only won the race, but is the best Frosh/Soph time for a James Lick runner at Montgomery Hill ever. Freshmen Mark Orpia had by far the best race of his young career, placing 6th in 18:35. Both Vincent and Mark nearly ran the best mile pace of the season, despite the fact that Montgomery Hill is a very slow course pace-wise. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon ran 19:24 and 19:37 respectively, giving the FS team 4 Comets under 20 minutes at STAL 4, compared to 0 at STAL 1 and 2. Projected 5th runner Melvin Estrada was absent, but Rudy Peterson sealed off the scoring team with a 20:42 clocking. Hugo Marquez was close behind in 20:51, and Manuel Villalobos ran 21:08 for a 44 second PR as the 7th boy.
After seeming like a typical Frosh/Soph team for much of the season, the team busted out at STAL 4. Their team time of 96:12 (1:36:12) establishes a new Frosh/Soph school record at Montgomery Hill, beating the 98:49 of the team of 2010 handily. This young group continues to look very promising. Only the reserve boys of 2010, a very strong group, ran a faster Non-Varsity team time than this group of Frosh/Soph Boys. They move to 3-3 on the season with the win over Oak Grove.
Next up were the Varsity Girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 19:13 to lead the group in 5th place overall. Maria Mendoza struggled with knee pain, but ran a solid 21:54 to be the 2nd girl. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez finished in the middle of the pack, coming in together at 22:19, a 20 second PR for Daisy. The 5th girl continues to be a weakness for the team, as Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the group in 24:26 and 24:55. The 24:55 time by Analilia was her first time breaking 25 minutes for the course. The win over the Eagles netted the Varsity Girls their first win of the season, putting them at 1-5 on the season.
After tying the school record time of 81:48 as a group a week ago, the Varsity Boys were determined to make the top team time their own. Erik Olsvold won the race overall in a huge 30 second PR of 15:27. Erik is the first individual Varsity winner in a BVAL league race for James Lick since Carlos Montes in 2009. His time moves him firmly into #2 on the school’s all time list. Erik will be on religious retreat next week when the team has their final Montgomery meet, but as a Sophomore, the school record of 15:05 is firmly in sight. Nathan Bernardo had an off race by his standards, but ran a good time of 16:05 to place 6th overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez and Azael Zamora came in next with PRS of 16:17 and 16:22 respectively, giving the team 4 runners in the top 8 overall. Gustavo Parra ran 16:50 as the 5th boy, to give the team a combined time of 81:01 (1:21:01) smashing the old school record. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:22, and Jesus Deloya established a new PR of 18:22 to finish the varsity boys day. The team moves to 6-0 and with a win against Independence next week, will end the regular season undefeated.
The Reserve Boys race was next and David Bejines once again lead the group, though he missed his PR narrowly, running 19:37. Austin Swank ran a 20 second PR of 20:10, not far behind to place 11th out 98 reserve runners. Isaak Herrera ran a small PR of 20:42 to finish 16th. Kevin Bach ran a huge PR of 22:04, and Daniel Portillo just missed his own PR, running 23:34, 8 seconds off. Though technically non-scoring, the reserve boys are 4-2 against the other reserve teams so far.
The JV and reserve girls finished up the team day. Camila Hernandez continues to impress, breaking 25 minutes for the first time with a 24:42 clocking. Susie Peterson ran a PR of 26:08 as did Aliana Santos who ran 26:54. A PR for Ashley Preciado followed in 30:42, and Diana Romero rounded out the group in 31:55. The JV girls took the win over an incomplete Eagles team, moving to 3-3 on the season. Valerie Flores knocked down a PR in 28:36 as did Brittany Salazar, running 31:51 to break 32 for the first time.
The Comets have one league meet next, and will record their final PRs, and records for the season at STAL 5 on October 20th. The next day, a select group of highly dedicated Comets will take the trip down to Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac invitational.
Ideally, the Crystal Springs Invite is one of the biggest invitationals of the season for the Comets, a chance to compete against many of the top schools in the CCS on a historic and significant course. Every member of the team can stand to benefit from running at Crystal Springs, as BVAL Finals in 3 weeks will be held there. Due to SATS, homecoming week, and other such commitments, only a small group of Comet runners made the trip up for the invite this year, but the invite still yielded some impressive results for the team.
The day began with the JV boys race, the only race in which the Comets fielded a full team.David Bejines nearly broke 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a (basically) 3 mile course, running 20:42 for the 2.95 mile crystal springs. Freshmen Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon followed in 20:58 and 21:00, strong times indicating both boys should have a chance at breaking 20 minutes for Montgomery Hill next week. The 7:06 pace was the best of Nien’s XC career, and the best pace of Jerricho’s career on any course longer than 2.3 miles. Austin Swank ran a solid 21:24 to be the next boy in, and Hugo Marquez was the 5th boy in 22:21. The 7:35 mile pace for Hugo was also the best of his career for a course close to 3 miles. Melvin Estrada ran a solid 22:31, but other races suggest he can already go faster. Daniel Portillo rounded out the team in 23:45, following his teammates lead with a career best pace for a 3 mile or similar race.
4 of the team’s Varsity girls competed in the highly competitive Varsity Girls Championship race next. Arlet Miranda lead the group in 20:18, the 3rd fastest time in school history. Her performance earned her a medal in the very competitive race. Maria Mendoza ran 22:52, a solid time though well off of her strong times form last year when she had more time to train. Daisy Nava cam in next, a bit off of her initial Crystal Springs time from last year, though Denisse Calixto ran a solid PR to finish in 25:21. The final 3 Comet girls to run ran later in the JV girls race. Valerie Flores and Aliana Santos kicked in together at 29:25 and 29:56. Brittany Salazar finished in 34:49.
The team took only two varsity boys to the race, but they performed exceedingly well. Nathan Bernardo ran a 17 second PR of 16:45 to become the first Comet since 2005 to break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs. Azael Zamora was right behind him at 16:48. The pair worked together throughout the race, running a 5:25 1st mile, a 5:43 second mile, followed by a 5:37/5:40 for the final .95 miles, which are slightly uphill. The presence of only two boys made it so that the team could not compare team times directly to other teams however, Nathan and Azael finished 6th and 7th amongst BVAL runners with 16/24 total schools represented. Nathan and Azael ran very well compared to many of the team’s target schools, setting the team up well for future meets at full strength.
I believe a reasonable translation for Montgomery Hill to Crystal Springs comparison is to add 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on a runners proficiency on either given course. For example, Nathan ran 16:45 at Crystal Springs just days after running 15:52 at Montgomery. Azael had an off race at Montgomery, running 16:26, then ran 16:48 today at Crystal Springs. Arlet and Mara ran 19:16 and 21:50 at Montgomery Hill, then 20:18 and 22:52 today. These are anecdotal comparisons, but they illustrate the conversion as relatively accurate. Athletes significantly stronger at Crystal Springs can keep the gap to about 40 seconds, but 1 minute is a fair time to add for conversion purposes.
Using this conversion to add Inteus (16:40 at Montgomery this week) Gustavo A (16:53) and Gustavo P (16:56) would give the team a 1-5 of: 16:45, 16:48, 17:40, 17:53, 17:56. This is with the omision of Erik Olsvold who ran 15:57 at Montgomery, since he is unlikely to be able to run at CCS this year. Even with the omission of Erik, this team’s hypothetical time would have been 87:02. The top 3 teams in CCS division 3 go to State. At the last ranking, the Comets were 6th with Mills, St. Ignatius, Riordan, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Aptos ranked ahead of James Lick in that order. At the Crystal Springs invite Riordan was the top D3 school at 86:23, with SHC at 87:26 and St. Ignatius at 89:10. It’s no mean feet to take on private schools like these, but the Comets are showing a capability of at least putting up a strong fight at CCS.
The Comets will take to Montgomery Hill again on Thursday October 13th for STAL #4 against Oak Grove.
The Comets participated in their 3rd league meet of the season on Thursday October 15th. It was the 2nd league meet of the year which was held at Montgomery Hill, and even though it was only a week after the initial Montgomery meet, the race yielded many PRs for the team.
The Frosh/Soph Boys team, which has been missing many of it’s members, nonetheless had 3 PRS for the 3 boys that run. Erik Olsvold and Jesus Deloya crossed the line in 18:38 and 18:40, strong Frosh/Soph times. Austin Swank was the last racer for the team and ran 21:08, a 0:57 second PR.
The Varsity Girls were the team that took the biggest leap forward of the day. Maria Mendoza lead the group in 20:31, nearly a full minute PR and the 4th best time in school history for the course. Andrea Ortiz and Elizabeth Guevara were next in 22:03 and 22:14. Jennifer Custodio and Gabriela Aguilar finished off the scoring in 22:30 and 22:40. Daisy Nava fought though a rough day to run 23:59. This gives the team a combined team time of 1:49:58, a substantial improvement from the 1:53:53 of the previous week. The team will look to take their time down another minute or two at the final league meet next Thursday, and remain hopeful that Arlet Miranda will return to help the team at league finals, though return to racing by next week seems unlikely.
The Varsity Boys had a mixed day, but nonetheless, beat Prospect to move to 5-1 on the season. This was the first time JL had defeated Prospect in an XC or Track dual meet in years. Nathan Bernardo had an off day but still ran 16:26 just 2 seconds off his PR. Hector Ramirez, recovered from a minor hamstring injury ran 16:42 for 9th place overall, over a minute PR. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:12 as the 3rd boy, an off day for him as well. Inteus Castro-Lopez battled sickness to run a solid 17:35 as the 4th boy, and Azael Zamora ran a small PR as the 5th: 17:41. Jesse Chircop and Gustavo Parra finished in 17:43 and 17:54 to complete the team. This gave the comets a team time of 1:25:38, the best team time since 2004. A better team time than the 2009, and 2010 teams managed at Montgomery (both teams were successful in making CCS). The team is aiming for a myriad of PRS to lead the team to a team tim ender 1:24:00 in their final league race next week.
The Reserve Boys were again lead by Guillermo Villalobos in a solid PR of 18:42. Miguel Chavez and Ryan Puzon ran 20:10 and 20:15 respectively, while Kelvin Arenas was the 4th boy in 20:45. This gives the team 4 reserve boys under 21 compared to only 1 last week. Ivan Morales completed the team in 23:19, and will look for a better time next week.
The JV and reserve girls had a very strong showing. Julia Cruz was 3rd place overall in 23:10. Evilly Garcia ran 25:22 as the 2nd girl, and Carla Manzanares made her official debut in a strong 25:28. Analilia Regla and Jocelyn Aguirre wrapped up the scoring in 26:18 and 26:20. This was a full minute PR for Analilia. The JV team was completed by Christine Young and Susie Peterson in 27:23 and 27:34. Alonico Urango ran 27:41 to lead the reserve girls, and Elizabeth Perez ran 30:00 exactly as the 2nd. She will naturally look to break 30 minutes for the first time next week. Diana Romero finished the comets day in 31:51, nearly a 2 minute PR for the course.
The Team is looking to make a statement in their final league meet of the season against Independence. Anyone interested in watching the team can see them compete on Thursday 10/22 at 3:30 at Montgomery Hill.
As always the schools ALL TIME lists can be viewed under “Cross Country History” ^