Comets Prove They Belong At Their First Ever ‘B’ division finals: Lady Comets Finish in 2nd

2018 was all about one thing for the James Lick Track Team: “Prove We Belong.” After spending all of the BVAL era (since 1996) in the ‘C’ division, 2018 marked the Comets first ever season in the ‘B’ division of the BVAL. Two consecutive girls division titles made the move warranted. I wanted to move up, but I’d be lying if I said that I was positive it was the right move. The 2018 ST division finals proved that the Comets are ready for this next step. The team outperformed their rankings all meet, with the girls ending the meet in 2nd place, and the boys in 5th.

After Day 1, the Comets were in 2nd place on the girls side, while the boys were in 5th. That was though after only 4 girls finals and 5 boys finals.

Day 2 of finals began with the girls discus. This had been the Comets best event all year, and the three headed monster of Valeria Cortez, Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron showed why. The girls combined for a 1-2-3 finish, with Valeria taking the division title with a throw of 109-0. Mariah Santos threw a 7 foot PR of 86-3 for 6th place. This meant that in a single event, the Comets combined for 27 points! This is one better than the total  discus points from last year in the ‘C’ division. This is the most points in a single event from a league/division championship meet in school history for the Comets (based on my admittedly incomplete records). This will be a hard total to ever top. The only event where any team outscored the Lady Comets discus throwers, was the boys triple jump, where Evergreen combined for 31 points.

IMG_4556
Valeria Cortez hurling the discus in warmups

The great start to the meet got things rolling for the Comets, but more good things followed soon after. In the girls 4×100, the team of Lisbeth Galdamez, Justine Austria, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem combined to run 53.85 and finished in 6th place. This is the fastest James Lick 4×100 team on records in the 2000s. The fact that the team was made up of 3 sophomores and a freshmen bodes very well for the future.

The boys 4×100 team of Geovanny Campos, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara had an equally strong performance. They ran 45.88 to take 5th place and book their ticket to BVAL finals next week. This is just the first time since 2002 that the Comets have run under 46 seconds for the 4×100. Like the girls, no member of the team is graduating.

The boys 1600 was next. Azael Zamora snatched 4 points for the team with a 5th place finish. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a seasons best 5:02.95 and Melvin Estrada finished his season in the event as well.

In the girls 100 hurdles, Valeria Cortez took home her 2nd division title in a row. After winning the ‘C’ division title in 2017, Valeria summoned up a strong run of 16.88, her 2nd best time ever to take home the victory. You don’t see too many athletes win titles in both the discus and the 100 hurdles. Valeria is in fact the first Comet to win two division titles in the same season since Ruth Lebeau in 2007. Hers wasn’t the only strong performance in the race however. Yesenia Martinez ran a PR of 18.43 and pulled off a 5th place finish in the process, meaning she will also compete at BVAL finals next week. Susie Peterson finished in 7th in 19.11, the 2nd best time of her career. The 16 points the Comets nabbed in the 100 hurdles was more than any other team.

The next Comet to compete was Natalie in the 100. She ran 13.73 for 7th place, the first Lady Comet to score at division finals in the 100 in years. Natalie also took 5th place in the gilrs triple jump, another BVAL qualification for the team. Kirsten Yutuc took 8th in a PR of 30-11. Lyndel was the 3rd jumper for the team, but she only managed a leap of 29 feet.

Salvador Lopez lead the Comets in boys long jump, going 17-8. Rodolf Ocampo also contested the event for the team. In the girls high jump, Yesenia and Lisbeth matched their PRS, doing 4-6 and 4-4 respectively. Yesenia managed 8th place with her performance adding another point to the team total.  The final field event for the Comets was the boys Shot Put. Josh Garcia managed 5th place with a throw of 41-0. Daniel Medina ended his career at JL with a toss of 36-0. Josh Merin also competed for the team.

IMG_4604.JPG
Yesenia Martinez clearing the bar at 4-4 

Arlet Miranda had to scratch the girls 800 due to injury concerns that are all too common for Arlet. On the boys side however, the team saw Erik Olsvold take 6th in 2:08.37 and Jerricho Habon ran a PR of 2:12.88. Erik has had a very strong end to the season. After injury took his 2017 XC season, Erik was not able to start running until March of this season. He made rapid improvement, and the 2:08 clocking is only 1 second off of his PR. Erik looks very much poised to rebound his senior year.

The girls 300 hurdles saw a PR for Kirsten. Kirsten took 3rd place in 51.80, just the 3rd girl in school history to run under 52 seconds for the event. Cody Huoch matched Kirsten with a 3rd place finish in the boys 300 hurdles. He ran 43.11, the 2nd best time of his career.

The girls 3200 was next. Belen Sanchez ended her season in fine fashion, running a massive 31 second PR of 13:15.40. She battled all the way in and managed 1 point for the team in 8th place. Ashley Preciado ran an 8 second PR of 13:41 as well. Jessica Cervantes contested the event for the 1st time, running 15:34.

The girls 4×400 team ended the meet battling their hearts off in a bid to make BVAL finals. The team had to settle for 6th place in a seasons best 4:34, but they put forward a great effort. With Arlet out due to injury, the team had few backup options. With all the pressure that stepping in for Arlet would entail, the Comets turned to none other than Valeria Cortez to run on the team. Valeria had never run the 400 before, but we knew going in that she was the kind of warrior we needed to give us a shot. Valeria ran with a  ton of guts, managing a 71 second leg for the team, but the team finished .4 seconds behind Sobrato for the coveted 5th spot at BVAL finals.

The boys 4×400 ran their best race of the season by far as well. Sal, Cody, Lemon and Misael combined to run 3:40.74, the 2nd best James Lick 4×400 of this decade. They took 4th, meaning they will get the chance to try to run even faster at BVAL finals next week.

When all was said and done, the team scores were as follows:

Girls: 

  1. Evergreen 141.5
  2. James Lick 95
  3. Lincoln 87
  4. Prospect 83
  5. Piedmont 67
  6. Pioneer 47
  7. Sobrato 42
  8. Oak Grove 32.5

Boys: 

  1. Evergreen 254
  2. Pioneer 113
  3. Piedmont 70
  4. Lincoln 59
  5. James Lick 44
  6. Oak Grove 37
  7. Prospect 28
  8. Sobrato  7

It was a very successful meet for the team and a total of 17 Comets have earned themselves one more week of competition.

The team will take to BVAL Finals at Westmont on Thursday May 10th. The team will chase some final PRs, and will try to send as many athletes as possible to CCS Trials the following week.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Who Is The Best Athlete in James Lick Track History?

A very good question my athletes sometimes ask is :who is the GOAT (Greatest of all time) of James Lick Track?

With over 60 years of history on the boys side, and over 40 years on the girls side, any school with James Lick’s history can expect to produce a number of top notch athletes. James Lick’s track history may not be as rich depth-wise as fellow East side schools like Mt. Pleasant and Independence (both have multiple CCS team titles), but the Comets have produced several athletes whose marks are on par with the best High School athletes in the State (if not the country) even today.

Marks/Times vs titles.  

A big debate in the world of Track is what matters more: World records or gold medals? Time/marks or wins?

At the high school level, I would argue that striving for the best possible marks/times is a much higher calling than winning championships. There is a lot to be said for going out and competing against the athletes before you, and it makes sense to go for wins and titles whenever possible. With High School sports however, there is variation in the strength of various event groups from year to year. Exceptional athletes can fail to place highly because it is simply a deep year in their event group. Similarly, an athlete can claim titles in an event in part because of the relative weakness of an event in a given year.

One of the top athletes in James Lick history for example is Pete Moreno, a jumper in the mid 70s. Moreno is one of only 4 athletes in the entire history of the CCS (50 years) to go over 50 feet in the Triple Jump. Despite having the 3rd best Triple jump mark in CCS history, Moreno won only one league championship, and never won a CCS title. At MHAL Finals his junior year, Moreno had an off meet going only 43 feet, and coming in 4th. He would go 48 feet at CCS Finals, Comparatively, in 1954 the Comet jumper Lawrence went 42-7 to win a SCVAL title.

In short, I weigh marks/times far more heavily than titles and qualifications when considering who the best athletes are, because the later two are totally dependent on the competition of the given year and area. Times and marks however, (especially when Fully Automatic Timing is present) can be compared across era.

It should be noted that a 4:35 mile time in 1955 is more impressive than a 4:35 mile now, as shoes, track surfaces, and knowledge about training have all improved greatly over time.

My Top 5 

This will necessarily be opinion, but given the full body of work that I’ve been able to find on James Lick Track’s history, this is my top 5 list of James Lick’s best ever track athletes.

5. Ruth Lebeau: Class of 2008   Triple Jump: 37-5.50  Long jump: 17-5.50

I put Ruth as the number 5 track athlete in school history, and the #1 girl in school history as well. It’s hard to make a case against the #1 girl status. Ruth is the only lady Comet to ever compete at the State Meet. Her 2nd place finish at CCS in the Triple Jump in 2008 is the only top 5 finish at CCS Finals on the girls side as well. Her Triple Jump PR of 37-5.50 is the only James Lick girls mark on the CCS top 100 list (60th place). She is one of only 6 Comet athletes of either gender to make the CCS top 100 list in general.

Ruth holds school records in all 3 jump events, with marks of 17-5 in the long jump and   4-10 in the high jump to go along with her outstanding triple jump mark. She won 4 WVAL titles in her career, 2 in the long jump and 2 in the triple. Again, Ruth suffers from having a very tough class to compete against that prevented her from winning bigger titles. In 2008, her second place finish at CCS Finals saw her lose to only Mt. Pleasant’s Vashti Thomas, the CCS record holder in the event. Because of Vashti’s presence, Ruth was never able to win a BVAL championship either, despite her outstanding prowess as jumper.

Ruth is only the 4th fastest Comet ever in the 200 and 400, and 6th fastest in the 100 completing a very impressive resume.

4. Randy Pangelina: Class of 1982 800m: 1:53.94   1600: 4:22

Randy Pangelina is one of just 3 Comets to win a CCS Championship, accomplishing the feet in 1982 with an outstanding time of 1:53.94. Randy would likely still stand as the best middle distance runner the school has ever seen, if not for the proscenia of Joe Amendt a few years later. During his tenure at James Lick, Randy  set school records in both the 800 and 1600, and his 800m PR still stands at #67 on the CCS all time list. Any also holds the distinction of being the Comets first ever CCS champion, and the 2nd sectional champion in school history (Russ Ray won the NCS 880 yard run in 1957). His CCS title and membership on the CCS top 100 list put him at #4 on my ranking of best Comet athletes.

3. Henry Barba: Class of 1985  100:10.69     200: 21.57 

This is probably the most difficult call on the list. Barba personally won 3 of the Comets 6 CCS titles. He won his first CCS title in 1984 in the 100, became the  only James Lick athlete ever to win 2 CCS titles in the same year winning the 100/200 double in 1985. Barba is the school record holder in both the 100 and 200, with times of  10.69 and 21.57 respectively. Both of these times are still on the CCS Top 100 list, with his highest rank being 57th all time in the 100.

Barba won 4 league championships as well, wining the double at MHAL finals in both 1984 and 1985, the only Comet in school history to repeat as a double champion. His 4 league titles ties him with John Aguiar and Ruth Lebeau for the 2nd most league titles in school history behind Joe Amendt.

2. Pete Moreno: Class of 1976  Triple Jump: 50-1   Long Jump: 22-2

It’s difficult in my opinion to determine who should be ranked higher between Barba and Moreno. Pete Moreno holds claim to the 3rd best triple jump mark in CCS history. He is therefore the James Lick athlete with the highest ranking time/mark in CCS history. Moreno also holds one of the Comets best ever marks in the Long Jump at 22-2 (best I’ve found for him). His 3rd place finish at the State Meet in 1976 is the highest placing a Comet has ever achieved in the State Meet, with an outstanding mark of 50-0.75.

Moreno was jumping at an extremely competitive time in terms of jumps within the CCS. Despite his remarkable achievement of going over 50 feet on his best day, Moreno was unable to capture a CCS title due to the remarkable strength of the CCS in jumps at the time. Both as a junior and senior, Moreno placed 3rd at CCS finals with a best jump of 48-4 in 1975. That CCS mark would have won the CCS title any of the last 3 years, but again, only netted Moreno a 3rd place finish.

Moreno’s triple jump prowess puts him very high on the list, and the strength of his ability puts him just above Barba despite Barba’s better competitive success. Both athletes however are a step below the #1 athlete on my list.

 

1. Joe Amendt: Class of 1988  800: 1:50.75  1600: 4:18.49 

Joe Amendt ran 1:50.75 for the 800m run in High School, which still stands as the 4th best 800m time in the history of the CCS. He is also one of only two Comet athletes to ever repeat as a CCS champion, winning the 800m CCS championship in 1987 and 1988 with times of 1:53 both years. He is also the only Comet on record to make it all the way to CCS Finals in each of his 4 High School seasons. He placed 4th at the State meet in 1988 for the 2nd highest placing at the State meet in school history. He’s one of only two Comet athletes to make the podium (top 8) at the State Meet.

Joe also has the most league titles of any Comet athlete, winning 5 MHAL titles, the 800 all 4 years and the 1600 as a senior to complete a distance double. In addition to his outstanding 800m school record, Joe also holds the school record in the 1600 with a  converted time of 4:18. I also haven’t found any Comet athlete with a faster 400 than his 49.74 (converted) giving him the schools top 400m time on record as well. (If you know of a faster Comet time please pass it on to me).

Given his standing as the 4th fastest 800m runner in CCS history, his back to back CCS titles, his 5 league titles including 4 in a row in the 800, and his multiple school records, I think  Joe Amendt deserves the status of  the greatest Comet Track athlete of all time.

The Comets of today will continue to use the example of these great athletes as a point of inspiration, and strive to emulate their excellence.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

img_1238
2016 STAL Championship Team Left to Right: Coach Benny Reeves, Gustavo Aguilera, Erik Olsvold, Nathan Bernardo, Inteus Castro-Lopez, Gustavo Parra, Azael Zamora 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IMG_1276.JPG
The team after the meet 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thank you for reading as always,

-Benny Reeves

 

What The Comets Overcome When They “Make CCS”

 

img_1051
The team running up the North Rim Trail in the rain 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other 6 leagues include:

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

The Southern Conference includes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

JLXC Course History: Half Moon Bay High School

The Half Moon Bay High School Cross Country Course, site of the famous and historic Artichoke Invitational, is one of the Comet’s  most raced courses. The 17 team Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) uses the course for some of its league meets, and many schools trek to it yearly for the Artichoke Invitational in the cool and scenic city. The Comets will do so on Saturday October 1st, so now is a good time to look back over the school’s history on the course.

James Lick first ran the Artichoke Invitational in 1979, and ran it every year through 1989. Those 10 years provided a strong foundation of the team’s all time lists for the course. After a hiatus, James Lick returned to the Artichoke Invitational in 1997, and has run the invite every year since. 2016 Will be the 29th time the Comets race the course, and the all time list for the course is very strong given all the years of history on it.

The Half Moon Bay HS course was 2.25 miles for most of it’s history. Construction on the baseball field which neighbors the starting line in 2006 made it so there was no invite that year, and in 2007 the invite returned with it’s current 2.33 mile course. The course is very similar to it’s original format, the only difference being that runners now run up a small hill to go around the baseball field before heading to the track, compared to early years where runners would run straight across the field to the track. The course is mostly flat, save for the famous “Cougar Hill” a short but steep excursion a little more than half way through the race.

Rather than have 2 separate all time lists, times from before 2007 have been converted to the 2.33 mile format. This has been done with the use of the XC stats course converter,basically taking the pace of runners form the shorter course, and calculating what that pace would achieve for the longer course, with a few seconds added to account for the small added hill.

Overall, the course is a great chance for athletes to go out and run fast paces on a fun short course with a great atmosphere. The fact that we now take the team to the beach following the meet has strangely down wonders for our meet attendance…

Here is a history of James Lick Cross Country at the Artichoke Invitational, collectively the team’s favorite invitational.

1979 was the first year the Comets ran the course, and it saw some of the earliest quality times on the course. Paul Simmons ran what equates to a converted 12:56 for the course, and teammate Jose Ruiz ran 13:12. The Team also won the small schools team title that year, with a  team time of 1:04:35 (64:35) for the course. The Artichoke invite has always divided the meet into a small schools section and a large schools section, giving smaller schools like ours the chance to compete against fellow small schools directly.

1980 was perhaps the best year competitively in JLXC history. The team ran what stands as the team course record that year of 1:02:55 (62:55) to win the meet for the 2nd year in a row. That year the team had what stands as the #2 time in school history, Frank Munoz ran 11:44 which converts to 12:14 (and 5:15 mile pace) for the all time list. Ben Trujillo ran 12:36(c) and Gilbert Zaragosa ran 12:47 (c) for 8th and 11th on the school’s all time list. Adam Flores nailed down the 20th place on the school’s list as well by running 13:13 (c).

1981 saw the additions of strong times from Randy Pangelina, 12:22 (c) Rich Diaz 12:46 (c) and Jim Saldivar, 12:49 (c). Their team time of 1:02:57 (62:57) is the #2 team time in school history and gave the team their 3rd straight team title at the Artichoke Invitational, and no Comet team since has won the team title at the invite. The James Lick boys teams of the late 70s and earlier 80s were some of the school’s best, seeing MHAL league titles in 1978, 1980 and 1981.

1981 was also a good season for the girls team. The girl’s team would win their first ever league title in the season, their only MHAL title in school history and only the second championship in JLXC history on the girl’s side. Kim Willoughby ran a converted 16:02 that season, which stands as the #3 all time performance for the school to this point. her teammate, Silva, also ran 16:32 (c) for the #4 time on the course for JLXC. While the girls team has never had the competitive strength of their male counterparts, the early 80s and recent years have yielded quality times. Thanks to the abundance of years run at the Artichoke Invitational, the girls all time list for the course is one of the few in which all 20 members ran under 8 minute mile pace for the course.

As the 80’s rolled on, so did good times on both lists. 1982 saw Lisa Murphy run 17:54 (c) for #16 on the school’s all time list. 1984 saw Michelle Ruiz run 17:23 (c) which stands at the teams 7th best ever time. Greg Machado also ran the boys #7 time in this year, clocking in at 12:33 (c)

1986 saw Joe Amendt run 12:18 (c) for #3 all time, and teammate jim Strachan run 12:26 (c) for #6 all time in school history. The team clocked in with a combined team time of 1:05:41 (65:41) as well, for #4 in team history. in 1988 Lanoura Goulart ran 17:51 (c) for #14 on the girl’s list, and the year before the #20 entry of 18:06 (c) was made by Heather Haney.

Following the hiatus of the early 90s, where JLXC experienced a few down years as a team, the team came on strong with some quality times in the 90’s. in 1998, Will Crane ran what stands as the school record. His 11:43 converts to 12:13 (c) which I will use as the course record for the team at a blazing 5:14 mile pace.

The strongest team of the 2000s was the team of 2000, managing a team time of 1:05:39 (85:49) for the #5 combined team time in school history. The team was lead by Eric Santos at 12:22 (c). Teammates Ivan Navarro and Brent Nichols would run their PRS in 2001, with times of 12:50 (c) and 13:13 (c). In 2002 Jose Gutierrez ran 12:42 (c) and a few years later Erick Herrera ran 13:04 (c). No addition to the boys list would be made for a full decade, until Nathan Bernardo ran 13:12 in 2015.

The girl’s list by comparison saw many of it’s best times in the mid-current 2000s. Christina Avalos: 17:32 (c) Elizabeth Topete 17:33 (c) Joanna Rabano 17:34 (c) and Anita Castillo 17:43 (c) filled out the 9-12 all time performances during the early 2000s. The team of 2003 ran a team of 1:29:40 (89:40) for what stands as the #2 team time in school history, one of only 3 times that the team averaged under 18 for their top 5 girls. Kayla Matusda ran a then course record of 15:45 (c) in 2005, the only one of the 10 team course records she set during her career to have fallen since her graduation. Teammate Elsie Carillo, currently the XC coach at Shepherd middle school, ran 17:51 in 2007 for #15 on the school’s all time list as well.

2009 saw the 16:42 of Ana Tapia, but the 2014 season, where the girls won the WVAL, the second championship in school history in the girls side, yielded dramatic improvement to the list. Daniela Camacho set a new school record, running 15:38 for the course. Paloma Contreras at 17:25, Evalilia Garcia at 17:47 and Julie Cruz at 17:54 all added their names to the list this season as well. Maria Mendoza ran 17:55 to finish that teams combined time of 1:26:39 (86:39) a school record by 3 minutes. A year later, Maria would improve her time to 16:42, moving her to #6 all time and helping her team run 1:29:43 (89:43) for the 3rd best team time in school history.

What does this all mean for this year’s team? 

The class of 2004 was a key turning point in JLXC history. While the program began gradually weakening in the late 80’s and 90’s, it still produced very competitive season through most of the late 90’s and early 2000s.The team of 2003 was very strong, lead by Jose Gutierrez, the team went 7-0 in the MHAL (A league of the BVAL) but failed to win the league championship, because they lost to two teams at BVAL finals. James Lick in it’s heyday would consistently run in the mid 80 minute range as a team at Crystal Springs (83 minutes to 87 minutes with 85 being very typical) and during the 80s, the team would consistently run in the mid 60 minuet range for Artichoke (after converting time to their current format). The team of 2003 ran a team time of 67:27, slightly better than the #10 team time of 1987 at 67:39.

A time in this range would represent the team truly having returned to the form it showed consistently throughout much of it’s history. The team would also likely have to run this time without aid of Erik Olsvold, one of the team’s top runners. If  the Comets taking to the course this Saturday can combine to add their names to the top team times list, they ill be well poised to restore James Lick’s status as a leading school in distance running at bigger courses like Crystal Springs. The team is in a good place to see several additions, as Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo are likely to be the team’s first athletes under 13 minutes for the course since 2002.

On the girl’s side, the team will look to run a solid team time, with the goal being another sub 90 minute clocking. Arlet Miranda will go after the school record for the course, and runners like Daisy Nava and Milka Perez should have a good chance to add their names to the school’s all time list.

The Artichoke Invitational is just days away, and the Comets will have the benefit of 2 hard weeks of training in their legs since their last meet. Look for the invitational to be a great indicator of the team’s status and fitness. Recap will be up soon after the race, (either Saturday evening or Sunday morning).

Thank you for reading.

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comets have fun day at annual Watermelon Run

img_0872
The team running along “service road” in Alum Rock Park

 

The Comets participated in the JLXC annual Watermelon run on Friday 9/23. This event has been a team tradition for over a decade now. Athletes contest the North Rim Timed course, the 3.03 mile version of North Rim, which starts and ends at the park entrance. This is our standard time trial course, and It  has proved useful as a means of tracking improvement, and doing course conversions for different athletes.

Athletes earn watermelon slices for participating in the run, and the winner of the run (calculated by time that day, improvement from original time trial, dedication, leadership etc) gets the biggest piece.

The run itself yielded many of the best North Rim timed performances we’ve seen in the 7 years of the courses use. The North Rim timed course, due to it’s hilly nature yields the teams slowest times on any course each season. In Short, whatever an athlete can do for North Rim Timed, they should be able to run faster on any other course we race, and multiple minutes faster on the shorter league race courses.

Nathan Bernardo finished the run first in 17:42, a terrific time, becoming the first athlete to break 18 minutes for the course. This was a poignant moment for Nathan, whose first ever timed run for the team was North Rim Timed during his freshmen year, where he ran 24:27. We have never done the Watermelon run so early in the season, meaning that athletes should still improve considerably from here, but Nathan’s time indicates that he is already in shape to run under 16 minutes at Montgomery Hill. Teammates Azael Zamora and Erik Olsvold were not far behind, running strong times of 18:08 and 18:19 for the #2 and #3 best times on the course all time.

After a few off races, Inteus Castro-Lopez redoubled his focus on training this week, and was looking to run a low 19 while staying relaxed the entire run. He did so with a time of 19:02, 40 seconds better than last year’s Watermelon run in a season where he went on to run 17:00 exactly at Montgomery Hill. Gustavo Parra continues to progress rapidly in his senior year, running 19:10, the first time he’s broken 20 for the course, nearly breaking 19 in the process.

Jesus Deloya ran a small PR of 21:30, and Arlet Miranda ran a big PR of 21:47 to be the first girl in. The freshmen boys began to stream in afterwards. Jerricho Ventura and Mark Orpia came in at 23:33 and 23:36, with Nien Tran at 22:46 close behind. This indicates that all 3 boys should be able to run in the low 20 minute range at Montgomery Hill (Mark has already run in the 20s for STAL 1 and 2). Austin Swank and Isaak Herrera ran big PRS of 23:18 and 23:35 to lead the reserve boys. Melvin Estrada had an off race, but nonetheless ran a nearly 2 minute PR of 24:13, with Hugo Marquez at 24:14 right behind him. Kevin Bach came in with a huge PR of 24:37 as well. With Melvin already having run in the low 20s for STAL 1, and with Vincent Giglio likely being added to the team, the 2-2 Frosh/Soph Boys will be looking to end their season very strong, and should have the goal of getting 5 boys under 20 by STAL #5.

Manuel Villalobos was next in 24:55, a good reserve time. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez streamed in at 26:24 and 26:25, good PRS for the two, though I think they could have run faster. Denisse Calixto ran a solid 27:38, continuing to progress as a varsity girl, and Analilia Regla ran a solid PR of 28:40 despite feeling sick.

Susie Peterson, Aliana Santos and Ashley Preciado clocked in with times of 35:33, 35:55 and 37:03 respectively. Finally, the biggest PRS on the day came from Joseph Allen and Jocelyn Rios. Joseph ran a time of 52:08 at North Rim Timed a month ago, and at the Watermelon run he worked his way down to 42:24. Jocelyn’s improvement was even more colossal, from 55:58 at North Rim timed to 42:29 at the watermelon run.

The Varsity boys at the top, and the reserve runners at the bottom both showed the indomitable spirit that XC runners need, and earned remarkable improvement over the course of the season.

The team has another week of training before heading up to Half Moon Bay for the historic Artichoke Invitational. Artichoke Course History will be up soon to give context to the race. Artichoke is the team’s 2nd or 3rd best all time course list, as the team has been running the invitational nearly every year since the early 1970s. The team will use the race as a final buildup to STAL #3 at Montgomery Hill, in a highly anticipated matchup with Pioneer.

Overall, the team ran very well at the Watermelon Run despite the difficulty of running all out without another team to race. The team is in a good place, particularly on the boys side, and will look to prove that again at the Artichoke Invitational.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Comets Rolling After Lowell Invitational

img_3863
The Freshmen Boys Left to Right: Hugo Marquez, Jerricho Haobn, Nien Tran, Melvin Estrada and Daniel Portillo

 

The James Lick Comets took to the Lowell Invitational in Golden Gate Park this Saturday for only the 2nd time in school history. The event went so well however, that it may become a yearly one for the Comets. The Lowell Course is clearly a fast one, with the  2.13 mile FS Course, and 2.93 mile JV/Varsity Course both being overall very flat. The 61 degree weather at race time, also made for great distance running conditions. Overall the Comets capitalized on these factors, running very encouraging times, though the lack of JL history at Lowell makes contextualizing these results a bit tricky.

A relatively small group attended the meet, with the Comets only forming two full racing teams. The first race of the day saw one, where 5 Comet Boys ran the Freshmen race. Jerricho Habon and Melvin Estrada lead the group, finishing in 14:28 and 14:33. Both runners broke the 7 minute mile pace barrier for an XC course for the first time. Both boys worked hard all summer as incoming freshmen, and neither had broken 8 minutes for a single mile before this season. Nien Tran was the next Comet in at 15:17. Nien’s pace of 7:11, was also by far the fastest pace of his young XC career. Hugo Marquez clocked in at 16:08, 7:35 pace and Daniel Portillo finished the Comets race with a  16:53, also breaking the 8 minute mile pace barrier for the first time. With this being the Comets second year ever at Lowell, Jerrichio’s time establishes a new 2.13 mile course record for the team.

The next race for the team was the JV Boys, shortly followed by the JV girls. Isaak Herrera continues to build on a strong start to his season, running  time of 20:37 for the 2.93 mile course. Isaak had never run under 7:30 pace for an XC race before, but at Lowell he nearly broke 7:00 pace. Alfonso Farias’ time of 23:09, meant that every boy on the team ran under 8:00 mile pace for the day.

The JV girls race also saw improvements for the team. Aliana Santos built on a solid XC debut on Thursday, with a 27: 42 showing at the Lowell Invite. Aliana’s kick was something to behold (see video) where she passed over 20 girls in the final 500 meters of the race. Elizabeth Perez broke 30 minutes for the first time on a course longer than 2.5 miles. Her time of 29:43, was nearly the best XC pace of her career. Ally Floreza ran 33:21, all 3 girls ran faster for the Lowell invite than they did on the shorter Alum Rock Course on Thursday.

The Varsity Girls saw some very strong performances as well. Following her breakout run of 7:03 mile pace on Thursday, our goal for Arlet was to break the 7 minute mile pace barrier for he first time. Arlet’s time of 19:27 had her shattering that goal, with a mile pace of 6:38, and the establishment of her very first JLXC Course record (and hopefully not the last). Maria Mendoza rebounded from an off race on Thursday, running 21:19 and 7:16 pace compared to an 8:01 pace on Thursday. Her race, along with the strong time of Denisse Calixto (1:30 faster than she ran on Thursday) is a good sign for a girls team that started their STAL season 0-2. Denisse ran 24:16, her pace of 8:16 being the fastest of her career to this point.

The final race of the day, and the most anticipated with it being the team’s best group this year, was the Varsity Boys. Religious commitments prevent rising star Erik Olsvold from competing on Saturdays, but the team was eager to prove they could excel without the team’s #2 runner from Thursday (as they will likely need to do at CCS the year). The team has been hoping to not only win the STAL, but to break into the top 8 overall at BVAL Finals and beat some MHAL (‘A’ Division) teams in the process. No JL team since 2004 has finished in the top 10 at BVAL finals. The fact that the team had two MHAL teams in their race at Lowell was very motivating for them. Comparing themselves against two MHAL teams in the same race is a great way to asses their fitness against tough competition.  Evergreen (last year’s 6th team at BVAL Finals, and the #1 Frosh/Soph team) and Santa Teresa (last year’s #9 team at BVAL finals) both toed the line with the Comets. The sustained success of these two programs, both being in the MHAL for over 8 years in a row now, combined with student bodies which more than double James Lick’s in number, make the Comets a clear underdog against the two teams. It should also be noted that with MHAL #1 taking place last Thursday, both Evergreen and Santa Teresa’s Varsity boys teams showed their strength, starting off undefeated in the ‘A’ division.

At the Lowell Invitational however, the Comets defeated them both. The team will need to work extremely hard to stay up with these top teams, and will try to take them on at BVAL Finals where it counts. While Invitationals are more about experience and times than they are competition, this was a huge confidence building victory for the team. The team was spearheaded by the 1-2 punch of Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo, running 16:22 and 16:23 respectively despite running very different races. Azael ran a very fast first mile and may have exerted himself too much, he had to fight to hold off Evergreen’s best boy who ran 16:23. Nathan on the other hand, was well behind Evergreen’s best boy and Santa Teresa’s best boy (who ran 16:27), with only 200 meters to go, but managed to run them both down, finishing just behind Azael in the placings. Both boys ran under 5:40 pace for the first time in their XC careers.

Inteus Casto-Lopez was the team’s 3rd boy in 17:19, running under 6 minute pace for the first time this year and the second time in his career. This was a solid rebound from his 17:55 on Thursday. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:34, breaking the 6 minute mile pace barrier for the first time in his XC career. Gustavo Parra nearly did the same as the team’s 5th boy, running 17:45 for 6:03 pace. Jesus Deloya rounded out the group with a time of 18:34 for 6:19 pace, the first time Jesus has broken 6:30 pace for any XC course. Their team time of 1:25:27 (85:27) is in line with the Comets goal of running in the Mid 80s as a team for 3 mile/near 3 mile courses this season.

Overall the race was a fantastic day for the team. Some of the paces/times the team achieved at Lowell were almost too good to believe. The Comets will look to build on their performance at Lowell, and the athletes who managed to run faster times at Lowell than they did for STAL 1, will look ahead to next Thursday’s matchup with Prospect to end their Alum Rock racing season strong.

Things are looking bright for the Comets.

Thank you for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Comets Open Season With First League Meet

img_0773
The Varsity Girls on the Starting Line 

 

STAL # 1 took place on September 8th, with the Comets facing off against Branham and Leigh. The temperature at the start of the first race was 82 degrees (Fahrenheit) making it a bit warm for very fast times, but not too bad compared with some of the practice temperatures this season.

The Frosh/Soph Boys kicked off the action on the 2.85 mile course. Melvin Estrada and Mark Orpia came up big, running 20:43 and 20:46 to lead the team. With Jerricho Habon 3rd in 21:14, it became clear that the team’s strength would come from having  tightly-nit pack. Jerricho was the team’s expected number one runner, but a fall earlier in the week resulted in a bruised hip, and he ended up running a much slower pace than he did at last weeks Alumni Race.  Lone sophomore, Rudy Peterson and Hugo Marquez sealed off the team’s top 5, with times of 21:23 and 21:46, giving the team it’s whole top 5 within about a minute of each other. Kevin Bach and Nien Tran ran 22:29 and 22:39 to rap the race up for the Comets. Melvin, Hugo and Mark all ran significantly faster mile paces at STAL 1, than they did at the Alumni Race, showing that they are progressing rapidly. The Frosh/Soph Boys beat Leigh solidly, by a score of 26-33. They were narrowly defeated by Branham, with a  final score of 27-28, giving the a 1-1 start to the season.

The Varsity girls were the next team up. Arlet Miranda opened her season with a very strong 20:08, a huge improvement from her 21:55 to open last season. This time makes her #3 in school history and placed her 6th overall in the extremely competitive (on the girls side) STAL division. Maria Mendoza was second for the team in 22:51. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez came in together in 23:29 and 23:34, both runers finishing in the middle of the pack. Denisse Calixto was the 5th girl at 25:36 and Analillia Regla was 6th in 25:47. Both girls ran huge PRS, but the lack of depth to support the 5th girl role on the varsity team was evident. The Comets fell to both Branham and Leigh on the Varsity Girls side.

The Varsity boys team was another story however. Based on time trials and the Alumni Race, as a whole several of the boys underperformed somewhat severely, but the team nonetheless won the meet comfortably against both Branham and Leigh. In fact, the boys would have beaten any team in the STAL, despite the fact that several boys had bad races. Azael Zamora lead the group in 16:17 in what was a solid performance and a Huge PR for him. Erik Olsvold was just behind him in the same time, the two boys were 2nd and 3rd overall. Azael and Erik ran 17:55 and 18:14 to start last season, showing their remarkable development of the past year. Nathan Bernardo had an off race, failing to improve on his time from last season, but still placing 5th overall in a very strong 16:34. Gustavo Aguilera crossed the line in 17:44, and Inteus Castro-Lopez was 5th in 17:55. All things considered, this was probably the worst Cross Country race of Inteus’ career, but he was 16th overall as the 5th boy nonetheless. By the time Inteus finished as the 5th boy, only one other team (Pioneer) had 3 boys in. Gustavo Parra was the 6th boy in 18:10 and Jesus Deloya the 7th in 19:15, both boys improving on last years season opening times. The Varsity boys start 2-0 overall. Their teaam time of 84:46 (1:24:46) is the second best team time in school history, and 2 minutes faster than last season already.

The Reserve boys were the next team up. David Bejines lead the group in 20:38, a strong reserve time. Isaak Herrera ran a huge Pr to finish in 21:29. Austin Swank rounded out the team’s captains in 21:55. Daniel Portillo 24:15, Alfonso Farias 24:18, and Manuel Villalobos in 24:32 were next. Jesse Friaz rounded out the group in 25:57, giving the team 7 Reserve boys. While reserve boys is ethnically “non scoring” They beat Branham and lost to Leigh giving them a record of 1-1 though the league will not officially score them.

The JV/ reserve girls was the final race race of the day. Susie Peterson lead the group in 27:08, a 3 minute PR to start the season. Ariana Santos ran a solid 28:05 in her XC debut. Valerie Flores lead the reserve girls in 28:49. Diana Romero and Elizabeth Perez ran 31:19 and 32:57 respectively. Freshmen Ashley Preciado was the 5th JV girl in 33:25. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the Comets day with times of 34:51 and 35:36. The JV girls fell to Branham but beat Leigh, opening the season 1-1.

Overall it was a good day for the Comets. The team competed well, especially on the boys side, and went home with a lot of PRs. The Comets who had an off-race will look to rebound Saturday in Golden Gate Park, and then the team will prepare for one more meet at Alum Rock Park on Thursday 9/15.

JLXC History:Alum Rock Short Course

photo
The Team with several Alumni after last years addition of the Alumni Race

 

 

With the Alumni Race just days away, now is a good time to examine the history of JLXC at Alum Rock Park.

Alum Rock Park has long been the training grounds of the James Lick Comets. Being located only 2 miles away from the park, it is only natural that the team has trained there for decades, and the races held there are a sort of home field advantage for the Comets and other Eastside teams.

The long tradition of racing in Alum Rock Park stretches back to even before the MHAL (the league which is now a division of the BVAL) was formed with James Lick as one of it’s founding members. With the MHAL Finals beginning in 1965, Alum Rock Park’s 2.25 mile course took on new significance, playing host to the MHAL finals every year on record form 1966-1989. In the 1990s, the MHAL altered their race course to it’s current 2.85 mile format. The popularity of the park as a race course declined as Alum Rock suffered road damage, and the league began to turn to alternative race courses. By the early 2000s, Alum Rock was not being used at all for races anymore. In 2008 however, races were brought back to the 2.85 mile race course, and it has been used for BVAL league meets off and on ever since.

The 2.25 mile course, beginning in the deepest parking lot of Alum Rock, took runners through a fast first mile on the slight downhill stretch of the Penitencia Creek trail leading to the North Rim trail. Runners then scaled the famous North Rim hill, before continuing on the undulating North rim trail, eventually making their way to a speedy downhill descent to the finish line in the starting parking lot. The North Rim Hill at 485 meters, is the single longest hill any Comet will encounter in a race this season.

The course we now use for the Alumni race is slightly different, beginning and ending near the youth science institute. Despite the slightly altered course beginning and ending points, the Alumni Course is essentially the same as the traditional North Rim “short course.” I estimate that runners of today would run about 5-10 seconds faster for the old race course which was used for so many years, than they do on our alumni course. This small potential time difference aside, the Alumni race is a great way for the runners of today to compare themselves to the runners of the past, as we continue working to build the program back to its glory days and beyond.

A few considerations should be taken into account before we go over times:

  1. The runners of the 60s, 70s, and 80s used the course for the annual Alum Rock Invitational, as well as the MHAL finals and occasionally for the CCS Regional meet as well. As such, runners of the past had the opportunity to run the course in late October and mid November, the point in the year where a typical HS XC athlete needs to be at peak racing fitness. By comparison, the runners of the past decade or so, since the short course was brought back (in slightly altered format) for the alumni race, do the course only once, in early September, before races have even begun. As a result the team’s current athletes do not run their best times on the Alum Rock short course, usually running faster paces for the longer course because of its status as an actual league meet course.
  2.  The Alumni Race is more of a time trial than an actual race, due to the fact that the team is not competing against any other schools. Without a high level of competition (occasional outstanding alumni not withstanding) the athletes of today are not pushed as thoroughly as the athletes of the past were at the AR invitational  and at MHAL finals.

Even so however, the times of the James Lick Comets on the Alum Rock short course over the years are extremely impressive, and continue to serve as a reminder to our current athletes that there is work to be done to restore the team to the level of past seasons.

The sheer number of JL runners to race the course at big meets from 66-89, combined with the high caliber of the program during those years, makes the JLXC All time boys list for the Alum Rock short course the schools 3rd most impressive list in my opinion, (Behind only Crystal Springs and Half Moon Bay HS).  The girls list is not as strong however, since JL only began fielding girls XC in the late 70s, and the best ever era for JL girls XC is currently in full force.

Some of the fast early times on the AR short course, were run in the earliest days of the MHAL. In 1966, Junior Mick Coyle took home the win in the Alum Rock invitational, running a strong time of 12:32. Coyle’s time currently stands as the 20th best time in school history for the course (on record).

It would be several years before a Comet broke the elusive 12 minute barrier for the course. The 1970 team saw Luis Sanchez and Jim Sena run 11:42 and 11:46 respectively. This 1-2 punch helped lead the team to the only XC CCS championship in school history, with James Lick winning the small schools division at CCS Finals. The team of 1970 was exceptional, Nathan Bernardo and Hector Ramirez ran 13:25 and 13:27 to lead our team at the Alumni race last season. The 6th boy on the 1970 team ran 13:23. Even if one grants Nathan 10 seconds for the slightly altered course, he wouldn’t nip the team’s 5th boy (Bob Amaro) at 13:07.  Amaro went on to have an outstanding running career at James Lick. As a senior in 1972, Amaro broke 12 for the course himself, with a  time of 11:49. He would also go on to run 1:55 for the 880 run, which converted still stands as the 3rd best 800m in school history.

The two top times in school history were run in 1975, when Joe Salazar set the long standing school record of 11:20 for the course, more than 20 seconds better than the 11:41 of teammate Sierras. Salazar also holds the school 2 mile record (also the 3200m record converted) and all things considered, is probably the best XC runner ins school history. The one man with a good argument against Salazar is Joe Amendt, who in 1987 would become the 10th and final Comet (according to my records) to break 12 for the AR short course, running 11:47. The two Joe’s share the school record of 15:21 at Crystal Springs. While I’d give Salazar the slight edge as JL’s best ever XC runner, Amendt’s supreme track pedigree makes him James Lick’s greatest ever distance runner all around.

Any very strong list of JL times could not be complete without the teams of the 1980s. The decade saw Frank Munoz, 11:42 in81, Ben Trujillo, 11:48in 80, and Greg Machado, 11:53 in 84 break the barrier. Randy Pangelina also narrowly missed, running 12:01 in 1981. Of all of the school’s all time lists, this one poses the greatest challenge to alter for the runners of today, not only because of it’s strength, but because of the timing of the run.

The only records of the Alumni course since 1990 are from former coaches, David Porter and Alex Ponik, and from my soon to be 4 years of experience. With roughly 11 years on record (2006-present) No Comet boy has run sub 13 for the Course yet, though the times of Nathan and Hector were by far the best of the past decade.

The team will need to have extremely strong early season form to take another step towards the times laid down by the great Comet runners who came before them.

JLXC Boys ALL TIME LIST:

Alum Rock Short Course 2.25 Miles

Place Name Time Pace Date Race Place Grade
1 Joe Salazar 11:20 5:02 1975 MHAL Finals 1st 12
2 Sierras 11:41 5:11 1975 MHAL Finals 6th 11
3 Luis Sanchez 11:42 5:12 1970 MHAl Finals 4th 11
4 Frank Munoz 11:42 5:12 1980 MHAL Finals 2nd 12
5 Jim Sena 11:46 5:13 1970 MHAL Finals 6th 12
6 Joe Amendt 11:47 5:14 1987 MHAL Finals 1st 12
7 Ben Trujillo 11:48 5:14 1980 MHAL Finals 3rd 12
8 Bob Amaro 11:49 5:15 1972 MHAL Finals 10th 12
9 Greg Machado 11:53 5:16 1984 Alum Rock Invitational 5th 12
10 Adolfo Alvarado 11:54 5:17 1973 MHAl Finals 4th 12
11 Randy Pangelina 12:01 5:20 09/26/1981 Alum Rock Invitational 8th 11
12 Diaz 12:06 5:22 1981 MHAL Finals 7th
13 Alvarez 12:07 5:23 1987 MHAL Finals 3rd
14 Gil Zaragosa 12:16 5:27 1980 Alum Rock Invitational 20th
15 Tim Mezzapelle 12:16 5:27 11/08/1973 MHAL Finals 14th 12
16 Luis Borunda 12:21 5:29 11/08/1973 MHAL Finals 18th 10
17 John Acosta 12:28 5:32 1987 MHAL Finals 8th 12
18 Jose Gonzales 12:29 5:32 11/08/1973 MHAL Finals 20th 12
19 Esparza 12:30 5:33 1969 MHAL Finals 1st 10
20 Mick Coyle 12:32 5:34 1966 Alum Rock Invitational 1st 11

 

A theme of our current JLXCTF program is that the boys are trying to restore a winning tradition, while the girls are building one, and raising its strength year by year. While not a single addition has been made to the boys list since the courses removal from official racing (Those boys teams were tough man) the girls list only has 4 times that weren’t set in the past 10 years.

The Early 80s was one of the few bright spots in the competitive JLXC girls history. Kim Willoughby’s time of 15:25 in 1980 stood as the school record for over 20 years. Michelle Ruiz in 1983 with a time of 17:38, and Chaves in 1980 with a time of 18:05 add respectable but not particularly impressive times to the list.

At the 2008 Alumni Race, Kayla Matsuda ran 15:24 to establish the current school record for the course. As it stands now, Kayla is undoubtedly the best XC runner in school history, holding the course record on every course she competed on. In 2014, Daniela Camacho ran 16:03, the team’s #3 all time clocking. 2014 also saw Paloma Contreras run 17:29. Those two would help the team to the WVAL championship, the second XC championship in JLXC girls history.

The remainder of the girls list is mostly solid athletes of the past few years filling in the spots, and it is exciting for the current team to be able to alter and strengthen this all time list every year. Arlet Miranda will look to improve on her 17:35 run as a freshmen.

JLXC Girls ALL TIME LIST:

Alum Rock Short Course: 2.25 Miles

Place Name Time Pace Date Race Place Grade
1 Kayla Matsuda 15:24 6:51 2008 JL Alumni Race 1st 12
2 Kim Willoughby 15:25 6:51 1980 MHAL Finals 6th 11
3 Daniela Camacho 16:03 7:08 9/5/14 JL Alumni Race 1st 12
4 Paloma Contreras 17:29 7:46 09/05/2014 JL Alumni Race 2nd 12
5 Arlet Miranda 17:35 7:49 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 1st 9
6 Michelle Ruiz 17:38 7:50 1983 MHAL Finals 11
7 Chaves 18:05 8:02 1980 Alum Rock Invite 12
8 Elsie Carrillo 18:12 8:05 2008 JL Alumni Race 2nd 12
9 Maria Mendoza 18:26 8:11 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 2nd 11
10 Ana Tapia 18:48 8:21 09/11/2009 JL Alumni Race 3rd 12
11 Genny Poet 19:03 8:28 1980 Alum Rock Invite 12
12 Raquel Rodriguez 19:08 8:30 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 3rd 9
13 Elizabeth Guevara 19:12 8:31 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 4th 12
14 Gabriela Aguilar 19:30 8:40 09/06/2013 JL Alumni Race 3rd 10
15 Daisy Nava 19:43 8:45 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 5th 11
16 Andrea Ortiz 19:43 8:45 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 7th 12
17 Brianna Flores 20:17 9:01 09/05/2014 JL Alumni Race 12
18 Karen Ruiz 20:34 9:08 09/06/2013 JL Alumni Race 12
19 Destiny Lopez 20:37 9:09 09/06/2013 JL Alumni Race 12
20 Jocelyn Aguirre 20:55 9:17 09/04/2015 JL Alumni Race 8th 10

It’s only a few days until the Alumni Race and the team will use the Alumni in attendance as inspiration. Taking place only 6 days before the official first race of the season (STAL #1 9/8 at Alum Rock Park), the Alumni Race will be the team’s final barometer of readiness for the 2016 XC season!

The team will be actively chasing goals of a STAL championship on the boys side, a winning record on the girls side, and more importantly, the maintenance of a team culture which has drawn plaudits from around the league for its welcoming and sportsman-like nature.

As always, full JL All time lists, as well as All Time team lists, and the best times since I’ve been coaching can be found here:  https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/cross-country-history/

Alumni race recap coming soon.

Thanks for reading as always,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

JLXC 2016 Season Fast Approaching

Captains.jpg
Team captains: Maria Mendoza, Daisy Nava and Nathan Bernardo leading the team warmup.

 

The 2016 Cross Country season is fast approaching and the Comets have big goals for this season! The school year is underway, and more and more athletes are joining every day. The team is gradually taking form, with North Rim time trials and a Montgomery hill scrimmage meet to come soon. As I look ahead at my 4th year as head coach, I’m exceptionally proud of the fact that the team has maintained a culture of support for one another, and inclusion of all athletes regardless of ability level. This positive, team first mentality has drawn praise and attention from other teams and coaches, and has helped the team maintain a high attendance rate, despite the fact that varsity XC teams only require 5 athletes. The team has done a fantastic job of being inclusive and supportive of every individual athlete, while also striving for competitive success.

The history of JLXC is a powerful history of high quality competitive teams. Much like track, ( a more detailed explanation here  https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/a-brief-history-of-james-lick-track/)  James Lick’s XC success experienced a gradual decline in the late 80s and 90s, and a steep decline in the early 2000s. The team now however, is very committed to restoring JLXC to it’s status as an East Side powerhouse of distance running.

Last year’s season saw the team move up to the STAL (Santa Teresa) or B’ division of the BVAL. According to the latest data, James Lick is currently the 5th smallest school out of the BVALs 24 teams, so being placed above the C’ division is a small victory on it’s own. The team worked hard to beat many bigger schools, placing 13th on the boys side and 14th on the girls side at BVAL finals where all 24 teams race. The boys were a heartbreaking 5 points away from making it to CCS Finals, making this years team even more dead set on a top 12 placing (the top 50% of teams from the BVAL go to CCS finals). The boys team ran a combined team time (the times of your top 5 runners added up) of 89:07, or 1:29:07. This was the first time since 2003 that any JL team ran under the 90 minute barrier at the historic Crystal Springs course. This was a huge step forward for the team, and the boys are aiming to go several minutes faster as a team this year.

The core group of boys, senior Nathan,  juniors Azael Zamora, Inteus Castro-Lopez and Sophomore Erik Olsvold spearhead a varsity boys team that looks ready to take the leap. These boys in particular have acquitted themselves with immense dedication over the past few months, both during Track season and during summer training.  Following a 2nd place finish in last year’s Santa Teresa division, this season the boys are actively pursuing a championship. Gustavo Aguilera, Gustavo Parra, Jesus Deloya and Vincent Giglio will likely compete to sort out the rest of the varsity team, and add the depth required to be a truly strong cross country team.

The girls team is working hard towards emulating the current strength of the boys team. The boys team has put a strong program in place, with young runners joining constantly, ready to replace their former teammates each season. 4 freshmen boys have already logged 100 miles in training this season, and 5 more freshmen are well on their way. The girls team is trying to recruit a similar number of freshmen girls out to run, to secure the future sucsess of the girls XC team. Last year’s team ran 1:50:27, the 3rd fastest time in school history at Crystal Springs last year at league finals. This was despite the fact that only 2/7 varsity girls had experience running high school Cross Country before. Last year the top 3 teams in the BVAL all resided in the STAL, as such, the girls will be aiming for a sub 1:50:00 performance at league finals, a winning season in the B division, and a CCS berth if they can pull enough strong girls together.

Following her breakout track season, Sophomore Arlet Miranda will likely lead the team, and put her name all over the school’s “all time” lists. Seniors Maria Mendoza, and Daisy Nava (Daisy coming off of a very big track season) give the team a solid 2-3 punch. Junior Milka Perez, a star runner as a freshmen, has worked her way back from an ACL injury suffered in soccer season and is motivated to help add depth to the team. The team will look to find other varsity members from the likes of Julia Cruz, Evalilia Garcia and others.

Cross Country is all about progress. Each runner is training with the goal of improving themselves as much as they possibly can. One way we’ll be looking to measure team success is by comparing the times and placings of this years team, against the past teams of the modern (BVAL) era. Since 1996, James Lick has been a member of the BVAL, a 24 team power league with three 8-team divisions operating as A, B, and C, divisions based on strength of program. Cross country has been one of the few James Lick sports to have spent a majority of the past 20 years out of the C division, despite being one of the smallest and poorest schools in the BVAL. James Lick’s glory days in XC for the boys side were before the BVAL era, and the boys team of today will need to exceed the performances of the BVAL era to restore the program to it’s peak.

Last year’s team managed to become the first team since 2003 to break the90 minute barrier at Crystal Springs, despite having only one boy on the team who could run under 5 minutes for the mile. This year’s team boasts 5 athletes who have run under 5 minutes for the mile, and these athletes are setting an example for the large number of freshmen and sophomore athletes on the team.

The Alumni race is only 2 weeks away, and following that, the team will begin competing in official meets. The Comets are hard at work, exciting races and fast times lie ahead!

Stay tuned for more JLXC news.