The James Lick Comets competed in BVAL Finals on Monday October 29th. The race was held, as it always is, at the 2.95 miles long Crystal Springs course. The team went in to the race with several of their key runners missing, but nonetheless managed to qualify two full teams to CCS Finals for the first time 2008. There were other highlights as well, particularly on the JV girls side.
The meet is always exciting as the final meet for most of the team. I love the fact that all 3 divisions race together, which provides extra incentive to show your best form. The top half of teams (top 12 if all 24 teams compete) advance their varsity squads to CCS finals.
The first race of the day was the reserve girls race, and it saw the first PR of the day for the Comets. Araceli Mejia ran a massive PR of 29:05, smashing her previous best of 30:22 set last year. Francine Estranero also competed in the race for the team.
The JV girls race was next, and the JV girls have been a strength for the team all season. The girls headed into the race 7-0, with aspirations of placing highly within the BVAL. With two varsity girls being absent, Mariana Perez, the team’s top JV girl was called up to varsity. Even without her, the JV girls managed to impress. Mya Hammond spearheaded the group with a time of 25:04, a PR by more than one minute. Estefani Herrera was close behind, running 25:16 to lop 40 seconds of of her PR as well. Erika Camacho and Ruth Rodriguez were next in 26:09 and 26:16. Emely Lope was the all important 5th girl in with a PR of 26:41. Jhesselyn Santos ran a big PR of 27:51 to round out the team. The JV girls ended up being the 5th fastest JV girls team in the entire BVAL, beating half of the teams in the ‘A’ division.
The next race up was the frosh/soph boys. Omar Fimbres lead the group wth a time of 19:15, a PR by over 40 seconds. Jay Austria and Jo-Jo Bradley were the 2nd and 3rd boys in. Alberto Trejo ran 22:34, a 43 second PR. Jordan Laguna ran 23:55 to round out the group. The frosh/soph boys placed 13th as a team, a solid end to the season for a team that struggled all season.
Next up was the varsity girls race. The team was without team # 2 Yeimili Adame, and the normal team #6 in Jenny Villagomez. The team was limited without these two, but still managed their highest team placing since 2014. Arlet Miranda lead the team with a 20:25 clocking, her best time on the course since 2014. Belen Sanchez and Jessica Cervantes were the 2nd and 3rd runners in 22:54 and 22:58. Both girls broke the 23 minute barrier for the first time. Ashley Preciado was next in a PR of 23:35. Yesenia Martinez was the 5th girl in 24:58. Mariana Perez finished in 26:26 to round out the team. The team ran a team time of 1:54:20, a time good for 12th place in the BVAL. If the team had Yeimili Adame, and she ran her PR from the center meet of 22:12 (not a stretch since every other girl ran faster than they did at the center meet) the team would have placed 8th. The team advances to CCS for the first time since 2014 and will compete in the division 4 race. The girls hope to rebound with all of their team members at full strength.
The varsity boys race followed. Mark Orpia lead the team in a PR of 17:35. Erik Olsvold was not far behind in 17:54. Jerricho Habon, Melvin Estrada and Jared Resendiz made up a closely packed 3-4-5, running PRs of 18:26, 18:27 and 18:35 respectively. Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 18:53 as the 6th boy, and Nien Tran rounded out the team in 19:16. The varsity boys team managed 10th place on the day, just their 2nd top 10 BVAL finals performance in the past decade. The team will advance to CCS alongside the girls.
The final race on the day was the reserve boys. Geo Campos lead the reserve team in a time of 19:55. Gustavo Madrigal went out on by far the best race of his career, running 20:17 for the course. The 6:53 pace was the 2nd best race pace of his career. Daniel Portillo, Rodolf Ocampo and Hugo Marquez formed the team’s 3-4-5. Adrian DeLaRosa and Alexis Sarellano both achieved PRs, as did Rafael Yanez and Kevin Santacruz. Josue Gomez, Huu Thai, and Vincent Giglio also competed for the team. The reserve boys were the 7th fastest team in the BVAL.
Despite being the 2nd smallest school in the 24 team BVAL, James Lick’s lowest team placing on the day was 13th in the frosh/soph boys race. A strong end to the season in terms of competition.
The team will compete again on Saturday November 10th at CCS Finals, once again at Crystal Springs.
The James Lick Comets started their league season with ‘B’ division race #1 on Thursday September 20th. This season, all 4 league meets will be at Montgomery Hill, so this meet marked the first of many times the Comets will contest the hilly course this season.
All 8 teams in the ST (Santa Teresa) division were present, but the Comets were scoring against Prospect and Independence specifically. The frosh/soph boys kicked off the action on what became a 90 degree day. It wasn’t a great showing for the young Comets. Jo-Jo Bradley ran 19:33 a strong early season time to lead the group in 11th place. The next Comet in would be Omar Fimbres in 21:16. Jonathan Cortez, Jay Austria and Alberto Trejo rounded out the scoring team. Jordan Laguna and Josue Gomez all competed for the team as well. The team struggled as a whole, and fell to 0-2 to start the season. They will look to bounce back next week.
The Varsity Girls had a much better showing in their race. Arlet Miranda spearheaded the group, running 19:56 for 3rd place overall. Yeimili Adame was the 2nd Comet in, finishing 12th in 22:15. Belen Sanchez, Ashley Preciado and Jenny Villagomez rounded out the scoring team, coming in 19th, 20th and 22nd respectively. Ashley’s time of 23:34 was a huge PR, and Jenny took more than 30 seconds off of her PR by running 23:43 as well. Ruth Rodriguez rounded out the group by running 26:07 for her first time on the course. The girls defeated Prospect and Independence handily to begin the season 2-0. The girls have their sights on achieving the best record the girls team has ever gotten in the ‘B’ division. The team of 2013 went 4-3, for the only winning ‘B’ division season on record for the Lady Comets.
The varsity boys very nearly matched the girls results. They scored a win against Independence, but lost to Prospect in a very tight race, 27-28. Besides the close score, the race itself was very competitive. Jonathan Yuen from Prospect was the first runner in the dual across in 17:12. Mark Orpia for our Comets was not far back in 17:22, just holding off Prospect’s #2 runner at 17:27. Melvin Estrada ran a big PR of 18:03 to just hold of Prospect’s #3 who ran 18:06. Erik Olsvold and Jerricho Habon came in at 18:13 and 18:19, as James Lick’s 3rd and 4th runner. The victor was decided with Prospect’s #4 running 18:36.2, Brandon Cruz of James Lick ran 18:36.5 and Prospect’s 5th boy ran 18:37, before Nien Tran finished as James Lick’s 6th boy in 18:47. The Comets lost this dual by one point, and basically any one of the boys could have made the difference by beating 1 more Panther athlete. It was a great team effort nonetheless. Jared Resendiz rounded out the team in 19:03 Melvin, Jerricho, Brandon and Nien all ran PRs, and the varsity boys depth is much better than last year’s ST #1 when only 3 Comets ran under 19 minutes.
The reserve boys were next. While technically a non-scoring race, the reserve team showed they were in the middle of the pack as far as the division was concerned. Geovanny Campos was the first Comet in at 19:23. A very strong showing for his first time on the course. He finished 4th out of 98 reserve boys, in what ended up being a very close race, with 1st place finishing in 19:22. Daniel Portillo was next in 19:50, a 20 second PR that landed Daniel in 8th place. It was Daniel’s first time breaking the 20 minute barrier at Montgomery Hill, and gave the Comets a total of 10 athletes (9 boys) on the day under 20 minutes. Gustavo Madrigal was next in 20:57, just his first time on the course. Rodolf Ocampo managed a 10 second PR in 22:07. Josh Merin ran 24:11 in his debut on the course. Huu Thai clocked in at at 27:45. Rafael Yanez and Kevin Santacruz rounded out the day for the boys team.
The JV girls proved to be the Comet’s strongest team on the day. The team was spearheaded by an outstanding performance by sophomore Jessica Cervantes in her first ever league meet. Jessica won the JV/reserve race, placing 1st out of 50 girls by more than 1 minute. Her time of 23:31 would have seen her place in the top half of the varsity race just ahead of Belen and Ashley who ran 23:33 and 23:34. Jessica’s improvement has been rapid. She didn’t join until the last week of August and ran 22:50 (10:09 pace) at the Alumni race for 2.25 miles. She was our 12th fastest girl at that time. Less than a month later, she climbed to our #3 on the day, and ran 8:35 pace, the fastest pace of her career on by far the toughest course she has run so far and on a 90 degree day! Jessica will be running varsity from here on out.
Jessica was not the only Lady Comet to give a great performance in the race. Between the 28 JV girls, and 22 reserve girls, Erika Camacho placed 3rd in 25:45 (previous PR 30:16). Mariana Perez was 5th in 26:39 (previous PR 28:40). Estefani Herrera and Giulissa Correa finished 10th and 13th overall in 27:29 and 27:45 respectively. (Estefani’s previous PR was 31:44). Emely Lopez and Mya Hammond rounded out the JV squad for the Comets.
Many of the team’s reserve girls were contesting the course for the first time. Jhesselyn Santos lead the group in 30:23. Francine Estranero ran 30:54. Angelina Guevara and Ellie Castro came in together at 32:12 and 32:13. Araceli Mejia and Adriana Marcelino stopped the clock at 33:58 and 34:56 respectively. Mia Hammond was right behind Adriana in 34:57.
The JV girls won handily, and look to be the best JV girls team in the division after race 1. To start the season:
F/S Boys: 0-2
JV Girls: 2-0
Varsity Boys: 1-1
Varsity Girls: 2-0
Reserve Boys (unofficial) : 1-1
Reserve Girls (unofficial): 2-0
The team will look for big improvements next week now that the first race is down and the team is used to the course. The team will face Branham on Thursday September 27th. This will be a tough matchup, as Branham is 2-0 on both varsity sides. The team will then send it’s varsity teams to the Stanford Invitational on Saturday September 29th.
This is a long post where I essentially try to divide up James Lick’s XC history into eras. If you’re into that sort of thing, read on at your own peril.
It is never easy to compare across eras in sports. Many American sports have radically changed over time. Pitchers used to pitch 16 inning complete games, football teams hardly employed the passing game, Steph Curry could not have dominated in the days before the 3-point line.
One of the beauties of Cross Country and track is the relative lack of change over the years. Dirt and cinder tracks have evolved into rubber/synthetic tracks. Shoes have gotten better. Beliefs around training have changed and participation in the sport has only grown. Some events and courses have changed, but there is a lot of history around the Bay Area when it comes to Cross Country.
The ultimate example is the Crystal Springs 2.95 miles long cross country course. James Lick first raced there in 1973, and then every year since 1975 for a grand total of 44 years of history. This is enhanced by the fact that Crystal Springs has always hosted significant races. It is the site of BVAL Finals every year nowadays, and it has been the host site of CCS Finals more years than any other course (and it will be host again this year).
Remarkably, James Lick is approaching it’s 70th year of existence, the school has plenty of years to compare. This will be my attempt to compare James Lick’s various eras of XC. It is of course subjective, and damaged the difficulty finding complete information on James Lick’s older teams.
The Early Years/ NCS Era Years: 1950-1965 League Championships: 3 Highest Section Finish: 4th- 1956 Team Section qualifications: 3 (16 possible)
James Lick was founded in 1950, the school predates the CCS. It was the first public school in East Side San Jose, and the first member of the East Side Union High School District. San Jose was a different city at by many measures. Today, San Jose ranks as the 10th biggest city in the country by population, with over 1 million residents. I can’t find data from 1950, but by 1960, San Jose was only the 57th biggest city in the country, with 200,000 people.
James Lick had a bigger school enrollment in the early years, seeing as it was the only school on the Eastside, there was no other school to compete with for students. Despite James Lick being a new school, it found success in cross country quickly.
James Lick was initially placed in the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) and by 1954 they were the league championships on the 1.95 miles long, Stanford Golf Course. The Comets defeated runner up Santa Clara by almost 5 minutes. Keith Antes is listed as the winner of the race. Before the CCS was formed, Antes would become James Lick’s cross country coach.
The team managed to repeat as champs in 1955 and 1956, one of two different “three-peats” in James Lick’s cross country history. The fastest Comet in 1955 at SCVAL finals was Carlos Saldivar, who would go on to coach with Keith Antes for many years and then head the team himself when Antes retired.
After their 3-league championships, James Lick experienced a down-period where they did not qualify for NCS (North Coast Section) finals for several years. The end of their time in the NCS was fairly unremarkable. The 50s and early 60s saw the foundation of several other East Side Schools, including Overfelt, Mt. Pleasant, and Andrew Hill.
The Mt. Hamilton League and the CCS (Central Coast Section) were formed within a few years of one another, and by the time they were formed, the Comets had 3 titles to their name.
The level of competition in the bay area would see a big spike in the 60s and 70s.
2. The Early CCS Era Years: 1965-1976 League Championships: 0 Highest Section Finish: 1 (1 championship) Team Section qualification: 4 Var 3FS (12 possible)
The MHAL formed in the mid 1960s and became competitive very quickly. James Lick was consistently competitive from the get go. The Comets were first represented at CCS finals by Mick Coyle in 1966. He ran on a shorter version of the current Crystal Springs course. By 1970 the Comets had their first team qualify for CCS.
In the mid 1960s, the MHAL began using Alum Rock Park as it’s primary course. The 2.25 mile course was only slightly different than the course we use for our alumni race.
1970 was significant for a few reasons. It marked the first time that the CCS added divisions to CCS finals. They created a small schools division and a large schools division. The James Lick team of 1970 won the small schools division, claiming the only CCS championship in school history in any sport. Jim Sena claimed the individual CCS title in 12:39 for a 2.5 mile course (at least that’s what it’s listed at) in Golden Gate Park. Teammate Luis Sanchez was 2nd in 12:49.
Everything lined up for the team of 1970. A year later, the team failed to qualify for CCS. The teams of the early 80s ran more impressive times, but the team of 1970 achieved what no other James Lick team ever has.
In the mid 70s, James Lick began making regular trips to Crystal Springs for Center meets, invitationals, and eventually CCS. While James Lick was a bigger school in the 70s, the Crystal Springs course is exactly the same as it was then, making comparisons easy. The team of 1973 team ran a combined team time of 82:25, which still stands as the 3rd best Crystal Springs time in school history. Both the team of 1973 and the team of 1970 ran 61 minutes as a team at MHAL finals for an impressive average of 12:12 per runner at Alum Rock Park. This makes it a tough call to name the best James Lick team to this point.
In 1975 at CCS finals, Joe Salazar ran 15:21 at Crystal Springs, a time which no Comet has beaten to this day. To this point, we’ve only discussed boys teams because girls competition did not start until the mid 1970s.
3. The Golden Era Years: 1976-1989 League Championships: 7
Highest CCS Finish: 4 1981 CCS Team Qualifications: 6
In 1978 James Lick won it’s 4th league title, and the first one in the MHAL. By this time, the Comets also had girls competing. The greatest teams in James Lick history are the teams of 1980 and 1981 in my opinion. The Comet boys won the MHAL in both seasons, and the girls won the MHAL title in 1981 as well. This is the only time that both the boys and girls teams have been champions in the same year. The 3 titles in a 2 year span is also a James Lick best.
The girls team ran a record of 1:46:41, at Crystal Springs. This is still the only James Lick girls team to combine to finish the course under 1 hour and 50 minutes (something we’re trying to change this year). The boys team of 1981 also ran what stands as our school team record time. Headed by Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina, the team clocked in at 80:46, an average of 16:09 per boy. In some years this is good enough to win CCS, bad luck and tough competition stopped the Comets from claiming that prize. The teams of 80 and 81 also won the Artichoke Invitational two years in a row.
While the girls achieved great success early in the decade, they would struggle to consistently field competitive teams, an issue that would continue well into the 2000s.
The success I’ve already described is a enough to explain why I call this the golden era of James Lick Cross Country. The fact that the Comets would achieve their 2nd ever “three-peat” from 1985-1987 further proves the case. James Lick has achieved 15 league/league-division championships in it’s long history. Nearly half come from this 14 year span.
As I’ve said, Crystal Springs is the course with the most complete history (44 years) for the Comets. The team of 1981 was the fastest Comet team ever on the course. The team of 1977 was 2nd, the team of 1987 was 4th, the team of 86 was 5th. In fact over the last 44 years, 8 of the fastest 10 James Lick teams at Crystal Springs ran in this golden era of James Lick cross country.
4. Transition Era/ Early BVAL Era Years: 1990-2001 League/ Division Championships: 2
CCS Team Qualifications: 11 Highest CCS Finish: 5th – 1992
This era marks the transition into the BVAL era, where the MHAL becomes a division of the larger BVAL. There were several changes during this time period. The CCS arrived at its modern format, a 5 division final with only varsity races. Qualification became easier as a result. At this point, James Lick’s academic reputation had fallen considerably, and its athletics suffered from a general decline of enrollment. The 3 division format of the BVAL ( that we still use today). Montgomery Hill and Toro Park were introduced as major courses, and finally, Coach Saldivar would retire shortly after this era ended.
While James Lick was in decline during this period by many measures, it still achieved considerable XC success. With the changes to CCS qualifications (with League finals taking the place of the CCS regional meets) the Comet boys made CCS as a team every single year from 1992 to 2001. In 1993, the lady Comets qualified for CCS as a team for the first time and they did so again in 2001.
The team captured two division titles, one in 1996 and another in 1999. Both times the Comets won the ST division (‘B’) division title. An impressive feet considering most James Lick sports had been relegated to the ‘C’ division by this time. The team also had 5 of their 7 State Meet qualifiers during this period. This is largely because of the fact that the State meet wasn’t held until 1987, when Joe Amendt became the team’s first ever qualifier.
5. BVAL/Modern Era Years: 2002- Present League/Division Championships: 3
CCS Team Qualifications: 13 Highest CCS Finish: 6th- 2014
Finally we arrive at the modern era. The beginning of this era saw James Lick finish it’s decline. In 2003, though the school was struggling, the varsity boys were the 3rd best team in the entire BVAL. By 2007, the team time at Crystal Springs was 97:40. This is the slowest varsity boys team time on record for any James Lick team that ran at Crystal Springs. While the girls team was pretty strong, mainly because of the presence of Kayla Matsuda, they were not strong enough to win the WV division (‘C’ division). This was the low point in James Lick’s XC trajectory.
In 2009, the team rebounded to win the WV division on the boys side, the 12th title in school history. In 2014, the team won just their 2nd ever girls championship, and in 2016, the boys won the ST division, just the 1st ‘B’ division title for the school in any sport since 2004.
In years to come, I may create a new dividing line around these past few years, because of a new notable changes. First and foremost, this is the greatest era of success the James Lick girls have ever achieved. While the #1 girls team time in school history is still the team of 1981, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th are the past 5 seasons. The 2014 team placed 6th at CCS, the highest finish for a Comet girls team at CCS in school history.
This era could easily be called the Montgomery Hill era, as Montgomery Hill became the primary race course of the BVAL in 2001. We still had races at Alum Rock Park over the 2.85 mile course most seasons, but as of 2018, sadly there will be no more races at Alum Rock Park.
We will continue to run the alumni race on the old 2.25 mile course, but unfortunately, there might never be an official race in Alum Rock Park again. This might make 2018 and on the “post Alum Rock Park era.” Time will tell if there’s enough to distinguish it from past years.
It’s difficult to know what we as a school could do now if we didn’t have to fight so many schools for student enrollment. It’s tough to say what runners of the past might have done with modern technology. In any case, James Lick cross country has achieved some level of success in every era, and the Comets of today are dedicated to making sure that continues.
A season preview and/or Time trial recap will come soon. The first day of school is only 9 days away!
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 James Lick cross country team continued their recent (now 15 years in a row) tradition of taking a yearly trip down to Los Angeles to reward the most dedicated upper class men on the team. With the Mt. Sac course under construction, the team became the first CCS school ever to attend the Riverside Invitational. The Riverside course is going to be the home of the SS (Southern Section) finals. The SS is the strongest of the 10 California sections, with over 500 schools, it provides huge competition for a CCS school. Nonetheless, the Comets acquitted themselves well at the invite.
The Varsity boys race went first. The course was very flat, and we went in hoping for some big times. The weather had different ideas however, with sweltering heat by race time. Azael Zamora lead the team, running 16:25 for the 3 mile course. The 5:29 pace was the best of his career for a 3 mile course. He placed 10th overall in the “medium schools” division. Inteus Castro-Lopez had one of the best meets of his career, running 17:19 (5:46 pace). Jose Limon had undoubtedly the best race of his career. He ran 18:33, 6:11 pace, the best of his career by over 10 seconds. Cody Huoch and Jesus Deloya rounded out the scoring team running 21:00 and 21:01, not strong races by their standards. Austin Swank ran 21:32 to end the team’s day.
In the varsity girls race, Arlet Miranda continued her recent resurgence. Arlet ran 21:10 for 7:03 pace, her best pace of the season so far. Belen Sanchez ran 23:33, the 7:51 pace being the best of her career for a 3 mile race. Jenny Villagomez Analilia Regla and Ashley Preciado rounded out the team in 25:13, 25:40 and 25:41. It was the best career pace for a 3 mile course for both Ashley and Analilia.
Aliana Santos and Elizabeth Perez ran for the team in the JV race. Both girls earned medals against a small field, a nice reward for their years of dedication.
All 13 of our athletes were chosen because of their consistent dedication at practice, and their good example. I’m proud that we provide a trip for our athletes that no BVAL school can rival.
The team will run a mile time trial early next week before gearing up for BVAL Finals on 10/30. League finals is just a week away.
As a school, one of James Lick’s primary goals is to increase the number of Comets who graduate from James Lick and attend college. I’m proud of the fact that every senior member of the cross country/track team in the 4 years I’ve been coaching has either gone on to college or taken a career pat immediately. This past year for example, 3 different Comets graduated and joined the military.
One of the greatest sources of pride for our program however, is seeing XC/track athletes graduate from Lick, and then move on to compete as runners in college. We allow anyone who wants to join the team to join, and we do not make cuts. It goes without saying that this policy is not present in college programs. Only the top cut of HS runners will compete in college at any level, and a far smaller percentage will do so at a university.
This is the first year since I’ve been coaching that we have James Lick alumni actively competing in cross country at the university level. Two years ago, Daniela Camacho and Karan Singh both joined the De Anza team, and were key members of the squad with both sides making the community college State championships. Karan was my first runner to go run the mile under 5 minutes, ending senior year with a solid time of 4:39. Daniela I’ve discussed in blog posts at length. She still holds school records in all 3 distance events,running a 5:27 1600 in her heyday and was a 3 time CCS qualafier in cross country.
Daniela helped De Anza win the 2016 Coast Conference championship in track and field. Last year she was joined on the track team by Andrea Ortiz. Andrea set the James Lick school record in the 300 hurdles, running 50.19. Andrea and Daniela both scored points to help De Anza win the 2017 coast conference track title as well.
Hector Ramirez is currently training with San Francisco State University though he is not racing yet. Hector was a quality member of the James Lick team, captaining the 6-1 2016 team. His most impressive PR in High School was his 17:36 5k at the Stanford Invitational.
Finally, we have Daisy Nava from our most recent graduating class. Daisy was more successful in track than in cross country. She was a BVAL qualifier in the 800m and a key member of the cross country squad for her 2 years in the sport. She is now running for UC Merced.
She had her first ever college meet in Golden Gate Park and got off to a great start by running 7:46 pace for 6k. This matches her best HS pace ever for a longer distance than she;s ever raced. Daniela was in the same race. After her two years at De Anza, Daniela transferred to Notre Dame De Namur and is a member of their scoring team.
These Comet alumni were great members of the team for us, and they continue to make us proud in college.
The Comet team of 2017 will run the Watermelon Run/ Alumni Race on Friday September 9th in preparation for STAL 3 at Montgomery Hill on October 4th.
The first race of the season for the Comets got underway on Thursday October 7th in Alum Rock Park. The team entered the season as reigning STAL (‘B’) division champions on the Varsity Boys side. 2016 Was a tremendous year for the team, with the team setting school records for combined team time at Montgomery Hill and at BVAL finals where the Comets placed 2nd overall, beating out every BVAL team except for the ‘A’ division champs, Willow Glen.
This years team looks to be headed for a much different season in what looks to be a rebuilding year for the team. 46 Athletes ran at STAL 1, the most athletes to run in a single race for James Lick since 2011. Of those 46 athletes, 30 were either freshmen or sophomores. Our team is very young this year, but very dedicated as well, which points to some strong seasons down the road for the team.
The Frosh/Soph boys got the meet started for the team on a day where all JL teams were facing Prospect and Independence. The Frosh/Soph boys came away 1-1 defeating Prospect but losing to Indy. Melvin Estrada lead the team in 19:28, a 2 minute PR. Last season the Comets best FS boy only managed to ru 20:46 at the first race. Nien Tran and Daniel Portillo both ran sizable PRS of 20:16 (21:17 last year) and 20:22 (24:03 last year), and talented freshmen Jonathan Cortez was close behind in 20:26. Jerricho Habon sealed off the top 5 with a time of 21:03. Freshmen Omar Fimbres ran 21:27 for a solid opening race, and Kevin Bach rounded out the team in 22:48.
Arlet Miranda has been dealing with the flu, but pushed through it to lead the Varsity Girls in 21:52. Nowhere near her best but good enough to be a competitive time. Belen Sanchez was the next Comet in at 23:59, a 40 second PR. Freshmen Xochitl Godinez was the 3rd girl in at 25:32, a solid debut. Next was freshmen Jana Kikhia in 27:12, followed by Analilia Regla in 27:31. Sophomore Jennifer Villagomez and freshmen Mya Hammond rounded out the team in 28:17 and 28:47. More than half of the varsity girls team were running their first ever cross country race.
The Varsity boys team was unable to score a victory a year after going undefeated. They did see the best time by a Comet on the Alum Rock course in over a decade however. Azael Zamora placed 4th in 15:41, (the winner ran 15:34). This places him 5th on the school’s all time list for the course. Sophomore Mark Orpia ran 18:16, smashing his PR of 20:45 from last season,though we feel he could have done even better. Inteus Castro-Lopez has a very rough race by his standards, running 18:28. Jesus Deloya was the 4th boy in 19:24 and Jose Limon rounded out the team’s scoring in 19:46 for his first ever XC meet. Hugo Marquez ran 19:51 to take apart his previous PR of 21:44 as well.
The JV and reserve girls teams showed great signs of future success as well. The first JV girl across the line was Ashley Preciado in 27:32. Every other girl in the race for the team was running her first XC race. Justine Austria and Emma Veronica came across the line together in 28:07 and 28:08. Kirsten Yutuc and Mariana Perez finished in 29:14 and 29:36, with Emely Lopez and Erika Camacho rounding out the group in 29:46 and 30:15. Aliana Santos, Francien Estranero, Susie Peterson, Anahi Santos and Maria Sanchez competed for the team on the reserve side as well.
The Reserve boys was the largest group for the team and had some of the best performances as well. Freshmen Jonathan Bradley ran 20:52 to earn a spot on the Frosh/Soph team for next week. The majority of the boys in the race were running their first ever XC race, and overall the team competed well.
The team is young which makes the 0-2 start of the varsity teams a little bit easier to take. If you’ve read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’ve been saying for months that I felt we just needed a group of young dedicated girls (similar to the young group of boys we have) to really turn the team around. The group of freshmen/sophomore girls we have now are not otherworldly talents (most of the freshmen ran over 9 minutes at our August time trial) but their dedication is leading to rapid improvement. Our hope is that we can build this group into high quality varsity runners with a few seasons of work. Both STAL 1, and the Lowell invite showed the potential is there.
The Lowell invitational in Golden Gate Park is a great experience for the team. The flat/fast courses are a great confidence builder for the team going forward. With this being the team’s 3rd time attending the meet, a number of team records fell.
Starting with the freshmen boys race, Jonathan Cortez had a great performance, running 14:09 to shatter the team record of the 2.13 mile course. Last year Jerricho Habon ran 14:28 for the course. Jonathan ran 6:39 mile pace for the course, a very encouraging fact. Omar also had a great race running 14:56 for 7:01 pace. His August time trial saw him run barely faster than that for one mile at 6:55.
Jana Kikiha was one of the team’s top freshmen at the mile time trial when she ran 9:14. At the Lowell invite however, she ran 18:35 which comes out to 8:43 mile race, a stellar improvement. Mya Hammond had a similariliy impressive performance. After running 9:39 for the mile time trial a month ago, she ran 9:11 pace for the 2.13 mile Lowell Invite course. Francine Estranero ran 10:13 pace for the course, approaching her PR of 9:59 for a single mile as well.
The Sophomore race saw the record of Jonathan Cortez fall just hours after it was set. Melvin Estrada ran 14:05 for a 29 second PR. Hugo Marquez was next in 14:24, a nearly 2 minute PR. Nien Tran ran 14:52 for a 25 second PR. and Daniel Portillo ran 15:23 for a 90 second PR as well. Brandon Cruz rounded out the team in 16:43. Despite the PRs across the board by the Sophomore boys, we actually feel this was an underperformance by the team, and one we hope they will bounce back from next week.
The non-Varsity race had only 2 Comet boys, Gustavo Madrigal and Adrian DeLaRosa. Both ran very impressive races. Gustavo ran 21:58 for the 2.93 mile course and Adrian ran 22:26. They ran 7:30 pace and 7:40 pace respectively, after both ran well over 8:00 pace on Thursday for STAL 1.
The Varsity girls team as a whole took a big step forward as well. On Thursday only two girls managed to run under 9:00 pace, Belen and Arlet. At the Lowell invite, 5 girls managed the feat, with two others close behind. Arlet lead the team in 21:23, still awaiting her breakout race. Belen had one of the best races of her career, running 23:09 for 7:54 pace, her first time under 8:00 pace. Ashley Preciado was the next girl in at 25:26. Ashley’s improvement has been remarkable. Last year she managed only one race under 10:00 pace, and with the Lowell invite she ran a new lifetime best XC pace of 8:41. Right behind Ashley was Justine Austria in 25:28 and not far behind her was Analilia Regla in 25:42. Kirsten Yutuc ran 26:46 and Aliana Santos ran a PR of 26:57 to finish the girl’s day. While the 2.93 course at Lowell is easier than Alum Rock’s it is also over 100 meters longer. The fact that many of our varsity girls ran 2 minutes faster at the Lowell invite shows we are ready for a much better showing next Thursday.
The final race of the day was the Varsity Boys. The team was looking to bounce back from Thursday’s disappointing performance. Azael lead the team in 15:50, beating his own course record (set last year) by 33 seconds. After a poor race Thursday, Inteus bounced back in a big way running 16:47 for a 30 second PR. This equates to 5:43 pace, by far the best of his career to this point. He wasn’t the only one either. Mark Orpia ran 17:42 for 6:02 pace, a huge performance for him as well. Jose Limon ran 18:40 for 6:22 pace. These 4 boys now look poised to go get their first win next Thursday when the team takes on Branham.
The first week of racing is done and the team is headed in the right direction. The youth of the team makes for a very exciting season in terms of progression. Next Thursday the team will take on Branham in Alum Rock Park before heading to Toro Park in Salinas next Saturday for the Earlybird Invitational.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Comet news!
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.
One of James Lick’s best traditions, the Ryan/Oyama Award ceremony was held on Tuesday May 16th in the James Lick gym. The Ryan award is given every year to the male Comet athlete who best exemplifies what being a scholar athlete is all about. The award is named Thomas P. Ryan, the first principal and Superintendent of James Lick High School. Past winners include James Lick greats such as CCS champion Joe Amendt, and Superbowl/Heisman winning quarterback Jim Plunkett.
The Oyama award is the female equivalent of the award. It is much younger, with many Ryan awards having been given out before girls had High School sports competition. Joyce Oyama was a James Lick teacher who created an unofficial league for Lady Comets to compete in before official girls competition began in the mid 70s.
The past two Oyama award recipients have also been the past two girls Track MVPs, Paloma Contreras (2015 WVD 400m champion) and Andrea Ortiz (300 hurdles school record holder).
The ceremony honored the fact that James Lick won 3 titles as a school this year. The boys cross country team won the STAL (‘B’ division), while the Badminton team and girls track team won the WVAL (‘C’ division). This is the first school-year that James Lick has won 3 sports league titles in the entire BVAL era (since 1996).
Several Comet athletes got special honors. Mariah Santos, the team’s top freshmen thrower won the school’s freshmen of the year award on the girls side.
Misael Herrera won the school’s Sophomore of the year award after winning freshmen of the year last year. Misael worked hard in Track, taking his 400m and 200m times both down by over a second. Misael was also a starting running back/ wide receiver for the school’s JV football team (under Coach Vela, our highly esteemed throws coach).
After winning Sophomore of the year a year ago, Valeria Cortez did not win the honor, a testament to the excellent Sophomore year of winner Marquise Nelson. Marquise was a star for the school’s Volleyball, Basketball and Softball teams. The softball team especially had a strong season, narrowly missing winning a 4th title for the school on the year with a loss to Independence in the final game of the season. That’s two titles those 76ers cost us this year as a school! (I’d like to note for the record that Independence has over 3,000 students in their school to draw from while we had barely over 1,200 this year. Just saying.)
The junior of the year award went to Inteus Castro-Lopez on the boys side. Inteus was a huge part of our 2016 XC championship, typically finishing as our 4th runner but placing in the top 10 of STAL races overall. His strong season in Track saw him score a personal best, 30 points for the team, a big improvement on the 6 points he scored as a Sophomore.
Senior of the year on the boys side went to Jonathan Rodriguez. Jonathan was an excellent member of the track team for 3 years and was the starting quarterback for the Varsity football team the past 2 seasons. He also played for the school’s basketball team. Jonathan will be attending San Jose State next year.
Daisy Nava was the 2nd runner up for the Oyama award, after a senior year where she was the captain of the WVAL champion track team. Daisy had a tough year competitively, having to balance a job as well as her school work and captaincy. She nonetheless acquitted herself well and will be attending UC Merced next year.
Nathan Bernardo won the Ryan award, in what I would call a very deserved victory. Natan has exemplified the kind of person we hope to produce as a program. He was not only a quality athlete for us, but a selfless leader who always put the needs of his teammates above his own needs. People like Nathan are rare, and the success of the program from here is in large part thanks to his outstanding leadership. Nathan will be attending UC Irvine next year.
Another school year is coming to a close and our seniors are getting ready to move on to new adventures.
4 Comets will compete at CCS trials this Saturday at Gilory HS.
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.