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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

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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”

 

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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 Takes Step Forward at Penultimate League Meet

photo

The Comets participated in their 3rd league meet of the season on Thursday October 15th. It was the 2nd league meet of the year which was held at Montgomery Hill, and even though it was only a week after the initial Montgomery meet, the race yielded many PRs for the team.

The Frosh/Soph Boys team, which has been missing many of it’s members, nonetheless had 3 PRS for the 3 boys that run. Erik Olsvold and Jesus Deloya crossed the line in 18:38 and 18:40, strong Frosh/Soph times. Austin Swank was the last racer for the team and ran 21:08, a 0:57 second PR.

The Varsity Girls were the team that took the biggest leap forward of the day. Maria Mendoza lead the group in 20:31, nearly a full minute PR and the 4th best time in school history for the course. Andrea Ortiz and Elizabeth Guevara were next in 22:03 and 22:14. Jennifer Custodio and Gabriela Aguilar finished off the scoring in 22:30 and 22:40. Daisy Nava fought though a rough day to run 23:59. This gives the team a combined team time of 1:49:58, a substantial improvement from the 1:53:53 of the previous week. The team will look to take their time down another minute or two at the final league meet next Thursday, and remain hopeful that Arlet Miranda will return to help the team at league finals, though  return to racing by next week seems unlikely.

The Varsity Boys had a mixed day, but nonetheless, beat Prospect to move to 5-1 on the season. This was the first time JL had defeated Prospect in an XC or Track dual meet in years. Nathan Bernardo had an off day but still ran 16:26 just 2 seconds off his PR. Hector Ramirez, recovered from a minor hamstring injury ran 16:42 for 9th place overall, over a minute PR. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:12 as the 3rd boy, an off day for him as well. Inteus Castro-Lopez battled sickness to run a solid 17:35 as the 4th boy, and Azael Zamora ran a small PR as the 5th: 17:41. Jesse Chircop and Gustavo Parra finished in 17:43 and 17:54 to complete the team. This gave the comets a team time of 1:25:38, the best team time since 2004. A better team time than the 2009, and 2010 teams managed at Montgomery (both teams were successful in making CCS). The team is aiming for a myriad of PRS to lead the team to a team tim ender 1:24:00 in their final league race next week.

The Reserve Boys were again lead by Guillermo Villalobos in a solid PR of 18:42. Miguel Chavez and Ryan Puzon ran 20:10 and 20:15 respectively, while Kelvin Arenas was the 4th boy in 20:45. This gives the team 4 reserve boys under 21 compared to only 1 last week. Ivan Morales completed the team in 23:19, and will look for a better time next week.

The JV and reserve girls had a very strong showing. Julia Cruz was 3rd place overall in 23:10. Evilly Garcia ran 25:22 as the 2nd girl, and Carla Manzanares made her official debut in a strong 25:28. Analilia Regla and Jocelyn Aguirre wrapped up the scoring in 26:18 and 26:20. This was a full minute PR for Analilia. The JV team was completed by Christine Young and Susie Peterson in 27:23 and 27:34. Alonico Urango ran 27:41 to lead the reserve girls, and Elizabeth Perez ran 30:00 exactly as the 2nd. She will naturally look to break 30 minutes for the first time next week. Diana Romero finished the comets day in 31:51, nearly a 2 minute PR for the course.

The Team is looking to make a statement in their final league meet of the season against Independence. Anyone interested in watching the team can see them compete on Thursday 10/22 at 3:30 at Montgomery Hill.

As always the schools ALL TIME lists can be viewed under “Cross Country History”  ^

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/cross-country-history/

Results and Youtube Video ca be found Under Links ^

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/links/

Breakthroughs for Multiple Comets at Crystal Springs Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WVAL Finals Day 1 Summary

Elyse Elder triple jumping
Elyse Elder triple jumping

Day one of WVAL Finals featured all prelims for lane events, as well as finals in two distance events and 5 field events between both genders.Only the top 8 athletes in each event move on to finals on friday, since the top 8 athletes in each event score points at league finals. The top 4 athletes in each event not only score, but qualify for BVAL championships next week. The meet started with great performances in the  sprint hurdles. Andrea qualified for finals with a PR of 18.73, despite not being ranked in the top 8. Maria also PRd running 18.45 to advance herself. Susie Peterson ended her season with a PR of 20.39. Last year Maria ran 20.53 to qualify for finals, showing how much stronger the league is this year that Susie did not get in.

Hadji Yono-Cruz ran 19.32 for a strong PR and qualafied for finals on friday despite being ranked 10th. Sadly Hadji has a previous commitment and will have to miss the meet. Jon Rodriguez ended his season with a PR of 20.30. Gustavo Aguilera had a poor race by his standards and did not advance either.

Paloma Contreras showed why she is ranked #1 with a win in her heat of the 400 in PR fashion, 1:03.34. Cierra Gutierrez made finals with a 3 second pr of 1:07.59. Gabby Aguilar did not advance but ran a 2 second pr of 1:09.39. The boys performed strongly as well. Cesar Azevedo was ranked 9th, but is now ranked 5th after PRing to 55.36 to make finals. Gustavo Parra did not advance, but ran a solid PR of 57.38.

The girl’s did not have anyone compete in the 100. In the boy’s 100 however Davion Thomas advanced to finals with an official PR of .13, 11.78. He is ranked 5th for friday and has a good chance of making BVAl champs. Stanley Nguyen ended his season with a solid PR of 12.28. Ralph Sanchez battled injury but ran his race bravely regardless.

Meanwhile the jumpers were hard at work. Lyndel Ventura placed 3rd in triple jump with a leap of 29’10.25″ She clinches a spot at BVAL champs as a freshman in the process. Crystal Nguyen had a solid PR of 28’4.25″ to place 6th. Elyse Elder jumped inches from her pr. She did however manage to score a point in the high jump by clearing 4’3. Davion struggled in long jump,scratching all 3 attempts in an event he was expected to score highly in. Hadji jumped 16’11 to end his season.

No event was a more impressive showing for the team than the girl’s 300 hurdles. Andrea Ortiz came in ranked 7th and is ranked 2nd for fiday after winning her heat in a PR shattering 50.20.  She takes the school record from teammate Maria Mendoza in the process. Maria remains ranked 3rd after winning her own heat in 51.80 to PR as well. The boy 300 hurdlers had a rough day, with Jon narrowly missing advancing, placing 9th in 49.01. Jesse Chircop looked poised to PR but came to a complete stop at the last hurdle,an issue he will work to fix for next season.

The 200s saw Gabby end her season with another PR of 31.09. Andrea also PR’d running 29.22 despite having just finished the 300 hurdles. Davion managed to again advance to finals as the #5 rank. He broke 24 for the first time for the event, clocking 23.99. Cesar also ran a PR in the event, running 25.94.

The throwers showed their mettle again with Pablo Segovia throwing a PR in Disc to score 8th in 98’8.5. Alex Alonzo ended his season with a PR of 78’8.5 as well. Isaac and RObert also competed. The girl’s shot was outstanding for the team. Alejandra Ceron threw 29’6.5″ A PR by 2 feet to place 3rd and qualify for BVAL champs. Charli Chircop placed 6th with a solid throw in 27’10. These freshmen girls will be a big factor in the league for years to come.

The meet came to a close with 2 heats of the girls 1600 as finals, and ythe boys 3200 final. Brianna Flores ended her 4 year career by winning the 1st heat in 6:13.65, an 11 second PR. Daniela Camacho placed 3rd in the fast jeat to qualify for BVAl champs in 5:29.55. A strong performance for both girls.

The boys 3200 had Karan Singh running 10:23.00 to move onto the school’s top 10 list in the event and place 3rd. Nathan Bernardo scored a point at 10:45, an 18 second PR. Hector Ramirez had a 7 second pr of 11:01, placing 12th, showing the league’s depth in the event. Guillermo Villalobos ended his season with a solid 11:30.

The Comets had a great day 1 overall and are looking ahead to Friday’s finals to far exceed last year’s combined point total of 63 points between the boys and girls. Stay tuned for finals results.