2018 was all about one thing for the James Lick Track Team: “Prove We Belong.” After spending all of the BVAL era (since 1996) in the ‘C’ division, 2018 marked the Comets first ever season in the ‘B’ division of the BVAL. Two consecutive girls division titles made the move warranted. I wanted to move up, but I’d be lying if I said that I was positive it was the right move. The 2018 ST division finals proved that the Comets are ready for this next step. The team outperformed their rankings all meet, with the girls ending the meet in 2nd place, and the boys in 5th.
After Day 1, the Comets were in 2nd place on the girls side, while the boys were in 5th. That was though after only 4 girls finals and 5 boys finals.
Day 2 of finals began with the girls discus. This had been the Comets best event all year, and the three headed monster of Valeria Cortez, Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron showed why. The girls combined for a 1-2-3 finish, with Valeria taking the division title with a throw of 109-0. Mariah Santos threw a 7 foot PR of 86-3 for 6th place. This meant that in a single event, the Comets combined for 27 points! This is one better than the total discus points from last year in the ‘C’ division. This is the most points in a single event from a league/division championship meet in school history for the Comets (based on my admittedly incomplete records). This will be a hard total to ever top. The only event where any team outscored the Lady Comets discus throwers, was the boys triple jump, where Evergreen combined for 31 points.
The great start to the meet got things rolling for the Comets, but more good things followed soon after. In the girls 4×100, the team of Lisbeth Galdamez, Justine Austria, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem combined to run 53.85 and finished in 6th place. This is the fastest James Lick 4×100 team on records in the 2000s. The fact that the team was made up of 3 sophomores and a freshmen bodes very well for the future.
The boys 4×100 team of Geovanny Campos, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara had an equally strong performance. They ran 45.88 to take 5th place and book their ticket to BVAL finals next week. This is just the first time since 2002 that the Comets have run under 46 seconds for the 4×100. Like the girls, no member of the team is graduating.
The boys 1600 was next. Azael Zamora snatched 4 points for the team with a 5th place finish. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a seasons best 5:02.95 and Melvin Estrada finished his season in the event as well.
In the girls 100 hurdles, Valeria Cortez took home her 2nd division title in a row. After winning the ‘C’ division title in 2017, Valeria summoned up a strong run of 16.88, her 2nd best time ever to take home the victory. You don’t see too many athletes win titles in both the discus and the 100 hurdles. Valeria is in fact the first Comet to win two division titles in the same season since Ruth Lebeau in 2007. Hers wasn’t the only strong performance in the race however. Yesenia Martinez ran a PR of 18.43 and pulled off a 5th place finish in the process, meaning she will also compete at BVAL finals next week. Susie Peterson finished in 7th in 19.11, the 2nd best time of her career. The 16 points the Comets nabbed in the 100 hurdles was more than any other team.
The next Comet to compete was Natalie in the 100. She ran 13.73 for 7th place, the first Lady Comet to score at division finals in the 100 in years. Natalie also took 5th place in the gilrs triple jump, another BVAL qualification for the team. Kirsten Yutuc took 8th in a PR of 30-11. Lyndel was the 3rd jumper for the team, but she only managed a leap of 29 feet.
Salvador Lopez lead the Comets in boys long jump, going 17-8. Rodolf Ocampo also contested the event for the team. In the girls high jump, Yesenia and Lisbeth matched their PRS, doing 4-6 and 4-4 respectively. Yesenia managed 8th place with her performance adding another point to the team total. The final field event for the Comets was the boys Shot Put. Josh Garcia managed 5th place with a throw of 41-0. Daniel Medina ended his career at JL with a toss of 36-0. Josh Merin also competed for the team.
Arlet Miranda had to scratch the girls 800 due to injury concerns that are all too common for Arlet. On the boys side however, the team saw Erik Olsvold take 6th in 2:08.37 and Jerricho Habon ran a PR of 2:12.88. Erik has had a very strong end to the season. After injury took his 2017 XC season, Erik was not able to start running until March of this season. He made rapid improvement, and the 2:08 clocking is only 1 second off of his PR. Erik looks very much poised to rebound his senior year.
The girls 300 hurdles saw a PR for Kirsten. Kirsten took 3rd place in 51.80, just the 3rd girl in school history to run under 52 seconds for the event. Cody Huoch matched Kirsten with a 3rd place finish in the boys 300 hurdles. He ran 43.11, the 2nd best time of his career.
The girls 3200 was next. Belen Sanchez ended her season in fine fashion, running a massive 31 second PR of 13:15.40. She battled all the way in and managed 1 point for the team in 8th place. Ashley Preciado ran an 8 second PR of 13:41 as well. Jessica Cervantes contested the event for the 1st time, running 15:34.
The girls 4×400 team ended the meet battling their hearts off in a bid to make BVAL finals. The team had to settle for 6th place in a seasons best 4:34, but they put forward a great effort. With Arlet out due to injury, the team had few backup options. With all the pressure that stepping in for Arlet would entail, the Comets turned to none other than Valeria Cortez to run on the team. Valeria had never run the 400 before, but we knew going in that she was the kind of warrior we needed to give us a shot. Valeria ran with a ton of guts, managing a 71 second leg for the team, but the team finished .4 seconds behind Sobrato for the coveted 5th spot at BVAL finals.
The boys 4×400 ran their best race of the season by far as well. Sal, Cody, Lemon and Misael combined to run 3:40.74, the 2nd best James Lick 4×400 of this decade. They took 4th, meaning they will get the chance to try to run even faster at BVAL finals next week.
When all was said and done, the team scores were as follows:
James Lick 95
Oak Grove 32.5
James Lick 44
Oak Grove 37
It was a very successful meet for the team and a total of 17 Comets have earned themselves one more week of competition.
The team will take to BVAL Finals at Westmont on Thursday May 10th. The team will chase some final PRs, and will try to send as many athletes as possible to CCS Trials the following week.
The James Lick Track team kicked off their 2018 season with the Willow Glen Invitational. The 2018 version of the invite saw the most James Lick Comets attend in school history. 43 different Comet athletes tested their early season form, and the team looks ready to tackle their season after an all around strong showing.
The meet began with field events. Cody Huoch went 36-10.50 in the triple jump to place 7th overall in the meet. Cody went nearly a foot farther than he did at last years Willow Glen Invite.
The 1600 was a huge success for the team overall. The 4 frsoh/soph girls who competed took huge chunks of time off of their PRS. Jenny Villagomez ran 6:50 (previous best 7:14) Ashley Preciado ran 6:55 (Previous best 7:14) Mya Hammond ran 6:56 (previous best 7:35) and Estefani Herrera ran 7:40 (previous best 9:18). Mya has had a stellar freshmen year, running a sub 7 mile to start track season despite not being able to run under 10 minutes for the mile in the beginning of XC season.
The Frosh/Soph boys were lead by Melvin Estrada who ran 5:25 for the 1600, Considerably better than the 5:39 he opened last season at. Hugo Marquez ran 5:31 compared to a 5:51 clocking from a year ago. Mark Orpia ran 5:32 compared to a 5:50 season opener from last year. Jerricho Habon narrowly missed his PR running 5:38. Daniel Portillo (5:48) Brandon Cruz (5:51) Joseph Benitez (5:57) and Dakota Castro-Lopez (6:00) all managed PRs.
Arlet Miranda opened her season at 5:53, a very solid opening time as she continues to build up after a tough XC season. Belen Sanchez opened her season with a 6:42 clocking, compared to a 7:06 from her 2017 season opener. Analilia Regla ran 7:22 to start her season. Azael Zamora opened his season with a strong time of 4:44, better than his season opener from a year ago. Inteus Castro-Lopez ended the teams day in the 1600 y running 5:14.
The 100 hurdles saw the debut of freshmen Natalie Rem. She placed 3rd in the frosh/soph division with a time of 19.55. This is the best debut time for a James Lick lady hurdler in years. It is faster debut time than Valeria Cortez managed, and Valeria managed to make CCS as only a sophomore, so this speaks volumes of Natalie’s long term potential. Yesenia Martinez made it through her race in 22.36, a solid debut for the new hurdler. Valeria ran 18.99 and Susie Peterson ran 19.84 in the varsity division. Susie is well ahead of where she was at last year at this same time. Cody Huoch ran 18.17 to open his season in the 110 hurdles. Luis Escamilla ran 13.19 in his first try over the 65m hurdles.
The Comets had only one athlete running the 400m in sophomore Justine Austria. She ran 1:12.75, only a second off of her PR already. Natalie and Kirsten ran 14.50 and 14.86 in the 100m dash despite strong headwinds. The duo also medaled in the triple jump, placing 2nd and 4th. Natalie’s debut jump of 30-5.50 puts her #2 on the schools all time tripe jump list already. Kirsten’s jump of 29-0 puts her within a foot of her PR already. Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos ran low 16s and Yesenia Martinez clocked a mid 16 second 100 in her debut in the event.
Cody Huoch lead the boys in the 100 with a time of 12.41. Raven Alcantara ran 12.92 compared to a 13.17 opener from last year. Jonathan Bradley and Josua Merin made their debuts in the 100, running in the mid-high 13s as did Austin Swank. Isaak Herrera rounded our the 100 runners in 14.56.
Jenny, Mya and Ashley ran 3:05, 3:08 and 3:10 in their first try at the 800m. Mya won her heat with an exciting final sprint. Estefani Herrera ran 3:35 for her first go at the event. Jerricho, Mevlin and Hugo ran 2:23, 2:25 and 2:31 for the 800. Jerricho’s 2:23 shows great potential as it was his first try at the event. Brandon ran a PR of 2:37 and Dakota ran a 2:39 for his first try at the event. Daniel PRd yet again with a time of 2:41. Arlet ran a 2:37 in the varsity 800 and Azael and Inteus ran 2:13 and 2:26. Both boys greatly prefer the 3200.
Kirsten and Yesenia ran 56 and 1:03 respectively in the 300 hurdles. Kirsten narrowly missed medaling, placing 5th in the event. Luis and Jonathan both ran 53 seconds in the boys event.
Jesus Venegas and Daniel Medina both represented James Lick strongly in boys throws, but the girls throwers once again proved to be dominant. Alejandra Ceron placed 3rd in the Shot Put with a seasons best 31-1. Charli Chrciop and Valeria threw 30-2 and 29-5 for 4th and 5th. Charli won the meet in the girls discus with a toss of 107-3 only 2 feet off of her PR. Charli is James Lick’s first ever Willow Glen Invite individual champion. Valeria placed 2nd with a throw of 100-6. Both girls are well ahead of where they were at a year ago.
The final event for the team on the day was the 200. Justine ran a low 32, just narrowly missing her PR. Lyndel Ventura and Aliana Santos ran 33.99 and 34.88 respectively. Lyndel also opened her season in the long jump with a 13-6. Jose Limon lead the boys in 25.52 in the poor conditions. Misael Herrera ran 26.54, David Bejines ran 26.91 with Adrian DeLaRosa and Austin Swank running 28.10 and 28.88 to end the boys day.
Overall it was a very strong day for the Comets. Most of the team is well ahead of where they were at one year ago, and the team notched 17 PRs.
The team will now look ahead to their first ever B division dual meet this Thursday 3/8. We will be hosting reigning boys division champs Pioneer, in a big early season test. The team will then head to the TKA Invitational on March 10th.
The James Lick Track Team hosted the final dual meet of the WVAL season on Wednesday, April 26th . The meet saw the team entering with a record of 5-1 on the boys side, and 6-0 on the girls side. It marked the final dual meet of the careers of the teams seniors, and was especially significant for Gustavo Aguilera and Nathan Bernardo, the only athletes on the team to have competed all 4 years in track. These two have special significance for me as these two (along with Juan Gutierrez who returned to track this year) were the only boys on the team who were on the team when I began coaching. They embody the turn-around of James Lick track more than anyone.
The meet began with the Del Mar girls winning the 4×100. The James Lick boys won the 4×100 in 46.71, just .03 off their season best despite poor handoffs on several legs. The team of Hadji Yono-Cruz, Cody Huoch, Misael Herrera and Ace Medina accomplished their 3rd victory of the season in the event.
Arlet Miranda won the girls 1600 in 6:00 her fastest dual meet time of the season. Belen Sanchez and Daisy Nava came in 3rd and 4th both in 6:22. Denisse Calixto competed on the home track for the final time but did not score for the team. The boys got their 7th 1600m victory of the season, with Erik Olsvold winning the event in 4:48.18. Nathan placed 3rd in 4:55.06. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a PR of 5:01.59. Julian Delreal ran a PR of 5:42 and Osman Lopez ran his final race on the home track as well.
Despite typical headwinds, Valeria Cortez won the 100 hurdles in a small PR of 17.40. Kirsten Yutuc ran a PR of 19.87, and Susie Peterson finished in 19.90 to complete the sweep for the team. Cody Huoch and Jonathan Rodriguez finished 2nd and 3rd in the 110 Hurdles.
Justine Austria ran a strong race for the team to place 3rd in the 400, running 1:11.75. The boys event was a thrilling race, won by Gustavo Aguilera in a PR of 55.36. David Bejines ran a PR of 59.33 and Osiris Zamudio ran a PR of 1:03.42.
Silvia Amaya took 2nd for the team in the 100 in 14.69, a fairly strong time into the wind. Ace Medina and Cody Huoch went 1-2 in the boys 100, the best performance by the Comets in the event all season. Ace ran 12.09, a strong time considering the wind.
The 800m order was the same as in the 1600, with Arlet winning the event in 2:42, and Belen 3rd in 2:53, with Daisy just behind her. Nathan Bernardo won the boys event in 2:13 with Erik close behind in 2:14.
The girls 300 hurdles was another sweep for the Comets, with Valeria, Kirsten and Susie once again combining to accomplish the feat. Gustavo won the boys version of the event, and Jonathan took 3rd. Silvia placed 3rd for the team in the 200 and Aliana Santos placed 3rd, though the winds were very extreme at this point, hampering times. Ace won the boys 200, capturing the sprint double victory. He ran 24.60, narrowly missing his PR despite the wind. Misael Herrera placed 3rd in the 200.
Arlet won the girls 3200 to win the distance triple, while Valerie Flores scored her first points for the team by placing 2nd. Azael Zamora won the boys 3200 in a strong time of 10:46, while Inteus ran a PR to finish 2nd in 10:51. Mark Orpia ran a huge PR of 11:34 to go under 12 minutes for the first time, as did Melvin Estrada who ran 11:58. Hugo Marquez also ran a big PR of 12:02, narrowly missing the 12 minute barrier. Daniel Portillo ran a small PR of 13:02 to end the Comets day.
The Dons won both 4x400s, though the boys ran a seasons best 3:46.33 to finish 2nd.
The field events saw a number of strong performances for the team. In the girls long jump, Lyndel Ventura went a seasons best 14-6. Kirsten jumped a PR of 13-9.5 to finish 2nd and Elyse Elder went 13-5 for 3rd. Hadji placed 2nd in the boys long jump in 17-7. Kirsten got her first win in the triple jump with a PR of 29-4. Lyndel went 28-1 for 2nd, and Yaliza Cortez placed 3rd for the team in 26-6. Cody won the boys version of the event in a PR of 37-10 and Hadji placed 2nd in 36-6.25. Juan jumped a PR 36-3.
In her final home meet, Elyse went 4-8, a PR putting her within 2 inches of the school record. On the boys side, Ace got a new PR of 5-8 to finish 2nd. Jonathan placed 3rd in 5-4.
After her outstanding new PR of 35-8.75 at the Top 8 meet, Alejandra Ceron backed up her throw by tossing the Shot 35-0 and 34-7 to win the event. Valeria threw a new PR of 33-2. Mariah Santos threw a PR of 24-4 as did Ruth Rodriguez who threw 21-2. Audrey Nguy had a massive PR of 21-10, giving the team 3 freshmen girls above 21 feet to end the season. In the discus, Charli Chircop won the event with a throw of 101-0. Valeria was 2nd in 100-9 and Alejandra 3rd in 88-5. Ruth managed her 2nd PR of the day throwing 54- 9, as did Kiely Leal who threw 52-4.
Josh Garcia won the boys Shot Put in 37-8. Daniel Medina was 2nd, and Roger Alonzo was 3rd in a new PR of 34-4. Roger also got his first ever event win by taking the boys discus in 102-11. Alex Alonzo was 2nd in 101-0 in his final dual meet, and Daniel was 3rd in 99-11.
The team ends their regular season at this point, though a large number of Comets will advance to West Valley Division Finals next week at Overfelt. All 8 teams in the West Valley division will compete in the meet, with the top 8 in each event scoring points.
The Comets have the goal of finishing in 1st place on both sides of the meet. Dual Meets are weighed more heavily than Finals, but a 1st place finish would mean alot to the team regardless. The top 4 athletes will advance to BVAL Championships the following week.
The team will begin WV finals on Wednesday May 3rd and will hope to get PRS, BVAL qualifiers, points, and individual titles out of the meet (as well as a team title on the girls side).
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.
On October 31st, all 24 teams of the BVAL took to the Crystal Springs cross country course for BVAL Finals. The meet determines the final standings for all 3 BVAL divisions, the WVAL (‘C’ division) STAL (‘B’ division) and the MHAL (‘A’ division).
The WVAL, STAL, and MHAL, were all their own individual leagues, but in 1996 they came under the governance of the 24 team ‘super league’ called the BVAL. This re-structing (which happened throughout the CCS during this era) occurred after the glory days of James Lick sports. With teams moving up and down in the BVAL based on strength of program, where a school has it’s teams places is a good indicator of how strong the school’s programs are.
The fact that the BVAL came into existence at the same time that James Lick was achieving the makeup that it has today, helps us to analyze James Lick teams over the past 20 years as part of the “modern era.”
Since the BVAL’s foundation (1996) , James Lick entered the 2016-2017 school year with a total of 16 championships across all sports. Only 3 of these 16 championships were in the STAL (‘B’ league of the BVAL) with the Wrestling team of 2004 being the last JL team to win a title in the B division. Just being placed in the B division is a victory for a James Lick sport these days. Since the BVAl era, James Lick has offered 16 sports, (considering Cross Country, Swimming, and Track as 1 sport each, since boys and girls teams score separately, but cannot move divisions independently). Only 8 of these 16 sports at James Lick however have ever competed in any division other than the WVAL (‘C’ league of the BVAL). In addition, 2 of those 8 competed in the B division while there was no C division due to a shortage of BVAL teams offering the sport. This means only 6/16 JL sports in the BVAL era have ever been out of the lowest division of the BVAL.
While some teams commonly have most of their teams in the A and B divisions, James Lick currently only has 3, Cross Country, Boys Soccer, and Boys volleyball (though there is no ‘C’ division for boys volleyball). In 20 years now in the BVAL era, with at least 13 sports offered a year, James Lick has never had more than 4 teams in the same year be placed in the ‘B’ division or higher. As such, the cross country team continues to strive to represent the school as a legitimate ‘B’ league team.
BVAL finals in cross country is a great way to prove this strength of program, with all 24 teams in the same race, theoretically a perfectly formatted league would have the MHAL teams place 1-8, STAL place 9-16 and WVAL place 17-24. Any placing higher than 16th in a race legitimatizes the Comets standing and gives the team a sense of pride. As the 4th smallest school in the BVAl, and the 2nd poorest as measured by % of students who receive free/reduced lunch, overcoming this disadvantages to beat schools in a better place to succeed is something to be proud of.
The day started well, with the team’s two reserve girls racing for the Comets. After running 29:24 at the Crystal Spring’s invite, Valerie Flores ran 27:09 to place 17th in the reserve race, a huge PR for Valerie. The 9:12 mile pace is by far the best of her career, ending with a very strong peak performance. Brittany Salazar had a similarly huge PR, after running 34:49 at the invitational, she ran 32:41 at league finals. Her 11:05 mile pace was also by far the best of her career. A very strong ending for the two seniors.
The JV girls race was next, as the first scoring race of the day, the team looked for a top 16 team performance. The JV girls is the easiest race to score highly in, as many programs struggle to field a full team. In any case, the Comet girls came in 12th in the BVAL a solid performance. Camila Hernandez lead the group with a very strong time of 24:34. Camila looks poised to have a big track season, and be a key member of the girls team in future seasons. The 8:20 mile pace at league finals was the best of her career. The same was true of Aliana Santos, running 9:01 pace for a time of 26:36. At the CS invite, Aliana ran 29:27, making her league finals PR another outstanding performance. Susie Peterson was next in, while her time of 28:14 was an off race compared to other races this season, it was a solid 30 second PR at Crystal Springs. Ashley Preciado also had the best race of her career, running 29:06 and breaking the 10 minute mile pace barrier for the very first time. Diana Romero ran 31:20 to seal off the team, and Ally Floreza battled through an ankle injury to finish her race and show a warrior spirit in the process.
The Frosh/Soph Boys were next, and they improved their league standing by placing 2nd amongst B division teams at league finals. While final team results are not yet up of FS, I believe that the team managed to finish 8th overall, beating several ‘A’ division teams. Similarly, I do not know the records of the other teams in the ‘B’ division, but this performance may have moved the FS team as high as 2nd place in the STAL.
Vincent Giglio lead the team with a strong PR of 18:22, placing 1st in the STAL to give the team the STAL F/S boys individual champion 2 years in a row. Mark Orpia gave the team a 2nd boy under 20 minutes, running 19:34. The 6:38 mile pace for Mark was the best of his career, though I think it was actually a bit of an off-race for him after he ran 6:40 mile pace at Montgomery Hill a few weeks back. Nien Tran ran 20:18 to manage a 6:53 pace, the first time Nien has run under 7 minute mile pace for an XC race. Rudy Peterson and Melvin Estrada completed the scoring team with times of 21:00 and 21:03, the first the fastest paces of both boys career for a course longer than 2.1 miles. Hugo Marquez was close behind at 21:16, the 7:13 pace being the best of his career as well. Jerricho Habon rounded out the team in 21:25, battling the hip injury that has troubled him throughout much of the season. The team’s 8th place finish saw them defeating 2 teams from the MHAL and running the best James Lick frosh/soph team time in the BVAL era. Their team time of 1:40:25 (100:25) beats the FS team of 2010 (101:06) for a new BVAL Finals FS record. Our goal of breaking the 100 minute barrier was narrowly missed.
Next up were the varsity girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 20:12, running a very productive race in which she experimented with running a very hard 2nd mile in preparation for CCS. The Varsity girls team has struggled with finding time to train this season, but the pack of Maria Mendoza in 22:44, Milka Perez in 22:50 and Daisy Nava in 23:02 helped solidify the team’s placing. Denisse Calixto ran 24:28 the best race of her career to come through as the 5th girl. Belen Sanchez had a bit of an off-race running 25:03, though Analilia Regla ran 25:08, the best mile pace of her career as well. The teams time of 1:53:16 (113:16) is the 4th best team time in school history.
Skipping ahead to the reserve race, David Bejines lead the Comets with a strong reserve time of 20:14. Isaak Herrera came in next at 20:31 and Austin Swank was 3rd in 20:50, giving the team 3 athletes solidly under 21 minutes. Both David and Isaak ran under 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a near 3 mile course. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:42 and Esteban Garcia-Gomez ran 22:08 to seal off the top 5. Kevin Bach ran 22:34 and Daniel Portillo was not far behind in 23:00 a big PR from the Crystal Springs invite. Jesse Friaz finished off the team’s day with a time of 24:26. All 8 reserve boys ran the best mile pace of their career for a new 3 mile course.
The Varsity boys team went in highly motivated, knowing that a good race would clinch championship. In order to seal the victory, the team would have to hold off a very strong Pioneer team. Erik Olsvold lead the group, displaying his signature strong finish, Erik moved from 15th to 9th place in the last 200 meters of the race. His time of 16:22 is the best time by any James Lick boy in over 10 years, and puts him tied for 20th on the school’s al time list as only a Sophomore. Narrowly holding off Evan Franco of Branham who ran 16:24, Erik also ends the season as the STAL individual champion on the boys side, one year after being the FS champion. Erik’s remarkable improvement, from 18:14 a year ago, speaks to the immense work ethic of the varsity team. Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora both missed their PRS, but competed well running 16:47 and 16:59, giving the team 3 boys under 16 minutes in the same race at Crystal Springs for the first time in over a decade. All 3 boys finished in the top 20 overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a rough race, but showed his toughness, gritting out a time of 17:33 for a 22 second PR. Gustavo Aguilera also ran a 20 second PR of 17:39, with Gustavo Parra right behind in 17:40.
Pioneer ran a very strong race as well, and ended up placing 5th in the entire BVAL, beating half of the ‘A’ division teams. The Comets nonetheless were able to clinch their STAL championship, placing 2nd out of all 24 BVAL teams, only losing to Willow Glen, the ‘A’ league champs. The fact that the team was able to jump from a disappointing 13th place finish last year, to 2nd this year is truly remarkable. Their team time of 1:25:20 (85:20) is the best James Lick time at BVAL Finals in school history.
When Nathan and Gustavo A were freshmen, they ran 20:36 and 22:34 at BVAL finals. Nathan was the 7th boy on a varsity team where the #1 runner ran 18:29. That James Lick team placed 20th at BVAL Finals. The work ethic of Nathan and Gustavo, taking minutes off of their starting times, has helped foster a culture of hard work that has inspired their teammate around them, and drawn in athletes like Inteus and Gustavo P. In their 4 year careers, they saw the varsity boys team move from 20th in the BVAL to 2nd, and from a team time of 97:09 at league finals, to the 85:20 of today.
In the now 38 years of school history (on record) at the Crystal Springs cross country course, the team of 2016 ranks 11th in team time, showing that in 4 short years, the Comets were able to take a team from its 2nd slowest time, back to the times of James Lick’s heyday. It is up to the returning and future members of the team, to keep James Lick where it belongs an to keep driving the team upwards towards greater success. While the varsity and Frosh/Soph boys teams could have committed in the MHAL this year, the girls team has a ways to go before they are able to do the same.
Willow Glen has won 12 of the last 13 BVAL finals meets, and there is no sham in losing to the highly formidable team. The varsity boys team of 2016 showed that the Comets are still capable of competing with the best however, and every year we will try to reach greater and greater heights. The varsity boys, and fellow CCS qualifier Arlet Miranda now look ahead to CCS Finals on November 12th, where they will compete against fellow D3 runners from the CCS. To better understand CCS qualification you can read here:
The team will unfortunately be without top runner Erik Olsvold at CCS, making a top 3 finish, and a better team time difficult, but the Comets will do their best to try to get a State Qualifier for the first time in 2005.
I think it is important to understand our leagues and their structures, and to at least think about issues in education that spill into athletics, so if you take the time to read this whole ugly mess, thank you very sincerely.
This blog will be interesting to you if you want to better understand the BVAL, the CCS, how qualification works, and how the different CCS leagues stack up against each other. I will also include a lot of sociological analysis of the different leagues, and breakdown in my opinion, why certain leagues are strong and detail exactly what the Comets need to overcome to succeed, and compete against more advantaged schools and leagues.
Often times when talking about goals, we discuss “making CCS.” For our newer athletes, and for casual readers, the significance of this goal is unclear. This blog will serve as an explanation of what the CCS is, how it works, and how competitive it is.
All high schools in California operate under National and State rules. Our state governing body is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). Here is an explanation of the highest level of competition an athlete can advance to in high school cross country.
The Footlocker/Nike National Meets. There are two national meets these days, athletes may qualify for both/either and choose between them. The best athletes in the country are split between these two national meets. Generally speaking, Footlocker is the individual race, and Nike is the team race, but there is overlap. It is a strange system to say the least, having two separate same day national championships meet.
To qualify for the National meets, athletes compete at their Regional Meet. There are four regions, West, Midwest, Northeast and South. We of course find ourselves in the Western Region with 11 other States.
Only the very best athletes from the State Meet proceed to the regional meet. The State meet brings together competitors from each of the CIF’s 5 cross country divisions. In Cross Country, every team has a CIF (State) division based on population. Therefore, nowadays there is a CCS and State champion in each division, so 5 boys champs and 5 girls champs, both for teams and individuals.
The CCS is one of 10 sections in California. The CCS (Central Coast Section) covers schools from San Francisco to King City, roughly 150 total schools. Division 1 schools are the largest schools, with over 2,000 students, whereas Division 5 schools have less than 500 students. We are currently a division 3 school, though we are on the smaller end of D3. For division 3, the top 3 teams at CCS advance to the State Meet, as well as the top 5 individuals who are not on those 3 teams, provided these 5 individuals were in the top 14 overall. If you place 15th or lower in CCS D3 finals, your only chance to make State is as a team.
Only 8 Comet Athletes have ever made it to the State Meet (all boys). The State Meet was founded in 1987, and Joe Amendt was the first athlete to run at State for the Comets that very same year. No Comet has made State since 2005 when Erick Herrera qualified (James Lick was a D4 school that year).
James Lick has one CCS Cross Country team championship. The team of 1971 won the small schools race, the first year that CCS had divisions (just large schools and small schools). A few years later the CCS would move into 3 different divisions, and gradually grew into it’s 5 division format of today. Other sports have various numbers of divisions. In short, in cross country both CCS Finals and CIF (State) Finals both have 5 champions for each gender, one for each division.
In terms of the 10 State Sections, the CCS is among the upper middle of the pack in competitive success. The SS (Southern Section) is by far the best section, though it should be considering it consists of over 500 schools, while The SDS (San Diego Section) is the 2nd largest at roughly 200 schools. The CCS, SJS (Sac-Joaquin Section) NCS (North Coast Section) and CS (Central Section) are all very comparable in size, ranging from 140-170 schools. As logic dictates, there is a direct correlation between the size of a section and it’s competitive success. The Oakland and San Francisco Sections are the two smallest sections in the CIF, both comprising less than 20 schools. As a result they are virtually always the two weakest sections competitively by far.
Originally, James Lick was a member of the NCS. By the 1960s however, the CCS was formed, largely composed of schools in the Santa Clara Valley area. As the CCS grew, and more and more schools popped up under its jurisdiction, it moved to structure things more formally. The CCS now has a total of 3 Conferences (which don’t actually mean anything) and 3 ‘Power Leagues’ within each conference.
The strongest conference of the CCS in cross country and track is the Central Conference. The 3 leagues here in the Central Conference (Morgan Hill to Palo Alto) are:
WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) a 14 team public school league made up of schools from West-Side San Jose to Palo Alto, including Los Gatos and Saratoga. They use 2 divisions or smaller leagues, the ECAL (El Camino League, their ‘A’ division) and the DAL (De Anza League, their ‘B’ division).
BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) 24 teams including Campbell, Central, South, and East Side San Jose, as well as Morgan Hill. It is the largest league in the CCS, and is the only one to use a 3 division format, MHAL/STAL/WVAL as discussed in other blogs.
The other 6 leagues include:
The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
PSAL (15 team Private School Athletic League, mainly small private or charter schools). These leagues make up the Norther Conference of the CCS.
The Southern Conference includes
The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
The MBL (15 team Monterey Bay league). The MBL uses two smaller leagues, the “Gabilan” as an ‘A’ division and “Pacific” as a ‘B’ division
The MTAL (16 team Mission Trails Athletic League). This league is geographical with an Mission Trails Division division and a Coastal division, but has most of it’s strong teams in the Mission Trails Division.
In Track and Field for 2016, it was clear that the 3 strongest leagues were the SCVAL, WCAL, and the BVAL. While the BVAL lags far behind the far richer schools of the SCVAL and WCAL, it is considerably stronger than any of the other CCS leagues in regards to competitive times and marks, in large part because it has more schools than the other leagues. Just for comparison, the 10th fastest boy in the 100m dash in the WCAL and SCVAL ran under 11.30. The 10th fastest boy in the BVAL ran under 11.45. In no other league was the 10th fastest boy under 11.65.
In cross country things are a bit more spread out. The SCCAL (Santa Cruz County Athletic League) has some extremely strong runners. In particular, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, produce top tier CCS runners every year. The Aptos’ girls team is the reigning D3 State Champion, and under coach Dan Gruber (arguably the best coach in the CCS) they may well win State again. CCS is essentially already locked up.
There are also strong runners in other leagues, King City in the MTAL has produced some outstanding runners over the past few seasons, though the WCAL and SCVAL are dominant overall. I often compare the BVAL, and James Lick specifically, against the SCVAL. The SCVAL being a public school league right next to us, but a highly competitive one at that, makes for interesting comparisons.
James Lick last season placed 13th in the BVAL on the boys side and 14th on the girls side. Considering we were the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, and the 2nd poorest (based on percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch) this was a solid accomplishment, placing solidly in the middle of the 24 team league despite disadvantage. The majority of the school’s sports have losing records in the ‘C’ division by comparison.
In the SCVAL however, the teams would have finished 13th/14. Despite only being a 14 team public school league, the SCVAL is extremely strong, putting many other public school leagues to shame.
For example, in 2016 Kaylah Grant of Live Oak won the BVAL Championship meet in the 1600m run, in a very strong time of 5:11. 6th Place in the BVAL was 5:19, also a very high quality time. 6th Place in the SCVAL however was 5:08, faster than the BVAL winning time of Kaylah Grant.
Here is an article that my dad wrote for the Mercury News about the strength of the SCVAL in cross country.
As discussed in the article, the SCVAL has several advantages, one is large schools. The smallest school in the SCVAL, Saratoga, outnumbers James Lick by several hundred, and is the only D3 school in the SCVAL.
The SCVAL also has the benefit of a highly motivated student body in a good area to train. Many parks, such as Fremont Older and Rancho San Antonio are in close proximity to the SCVAL schools, and their highly driven students are very determined to stand out to colleges and take both academics and athletics seriously. Monta Vista, a top SCVAL school, ranked 11th in the entire State in academic rankings done by “U.S. News Best High School Rankings,” in 2015.
Lastly the SCVAL has the benefit of extremely capable and intelligent coaches. Gunn High School in Palo Alto’s current head coach is Patti Sue Plumer, Stanford Alumni and former American record holder in the 5000m run. Patti Sue has already coached several runners to huge success, last year Gillian Meeks of Gunn won the State Meet for division 2 in XC, and yet, the case could be made that she is not even the best coach in the SCVAL.
This area also has a number of very strong middle school programs. Students getting a head start on training can be very helpful. The primary feeder schools of James Lick are George and Shepherd, and this is the first time in the past decade that they both even had a cross country team in the same season, (no runners form either school advanced to the County meet however, the middle school equivalent of CCS). Evan Franco of Branham won the first three STAL meets of the 2016 season despite being a freshmen. Last year at Price Middle School, he ran 4:41 for the 1600m as an 8th grader. A middle school which develops athletes like Evan, helps schools that they feed like Branham to a large degree. Erik Olsvold, our top sophomore won STAL #4 in a fantastic time of 15:27, finally defeating Evan. The difference is Erik came in un-trained from Joseph George, running only 6:19 for the 1,600 as an 8th grader. Evan was able to run 16:13 in his very first STAL meet. As a freshman, Erik ran 18:14 and that was after a summer of training. The SCVAL schools have many schools like Price, sending already experienced athletes to high school, ready to be a factor from day one.
The last big factor contributing to SCVAL success is their financial status, despite being a public school league. It makes sense that private schools have a huge advantage in this regard. Bellarmine has its own private buses, enabling the team to run in awesome locations whenever they want, whereas the only bus we get all season is for our league finals meet. This advantage is also significant at wealthy public schools such as those in the SCVAL.
In my dad’s original article,he mentioned the fact that having financial flexibility affords one greater ability to succeed. This acknowledgement was ultimately deleted by the Mercury News.
It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge the systemic issues that affect academic and athletic success in our schools, but the simple reality is that they are present. I would make the case that this issue colors all others.
A student who is fortunate enough to not have to worry about money at home can afford to train and get enough sleep every night, without needing to work a job. Standing around for several hour shifts is not ideal for a distance runner’s recovery, nor is getting home late and having to do homework until 3 AM when they should be sleeping.
A recurring issue in James Lick athletics is students not being eligible to compete due to failure to “make grades.” Some of these students simply did not work hard enough or take agency of their education. Some of these students had no interest in taking their schooling seriously. Many however, had family issues which are not conducive to achievement, or need to work long hours to simply help make ends meet. The student who works until 9 PM, gets home at 10 PM, does homework until 1PM wakes up at 6PM and has to skip breakfast to walk to school for ‘0’ period on time, is necessarily going to have a hard time succeeding in school compared to someone who has less responsibility. Provided this student makes grades, they are then at disadvantage because of their tiring lifestyle and inadequate rest/nourishment. If this student fails to make grades, they will be lumped in as “another statistic” or a “screwup” just the same as the students who are genuinely unengaged or disinterested in school. It is also wrong in my opinion to label students who are “failing” as failures. Many students who are unengaged in school are uninterested due to a lack of guidance or inability to cope with difficult situations. This is true of students of all socio-economic backgrounds.
Some schools in our league have the luxury of a training room, with an athletic trainer and facilities designed to help athletes grow stronger and recover from injuries. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this, but I suspect virtually every school in the SCVAL has this advantage. Comparatively I’m not sure if we even have a school nurse.
Through academic struggles, James Lick has received labels such as “at risk” and in my 4 years coaching, I’ve heard young Comet athletes relay this type of message from 8th graders more times than I can count: “they said James Lick sucks, so they didn’t want to come here.” Through economic flexibility, a parent can spend time helping their student excel in pursuits such as cross country. The number of (expensive) running/track clubs on the West Side reflect this. Many parents at James Lick do not have the time to be invested in their students academic or athletic success. Using Maria Mendoza as an example, Maria qualified for CCS last year with a strong Crystal Springs time of 20:35. I’ve had to send letters home convincing her parents to let her continue running, because her family needs her to work two jobs to help make ends meet. Despite her status as a CCS qualifier in XC and a BVAL qualifier in Track, her family has never seen her compete. Not because they don’t care, but simply because they don’t have time with their own busy work schedules to make time for what they see as a luxury, but what could be for students like Maria, an outlet for success.
A student whose family is struggling is unlikely to have the ability to eat the healthy diet that a runner should ideally eat. It is far cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy a big mac, than it is to head to the store, buy meat, rice, vegetables, pasta etc. and prepare them each day.
When comparing the BVAL and SCVAL, a total of 38 schools, in the 2014/2015 school year, James Lick tied for 2nd most students that qualify for free and reduced lunch as a percentage of total students. At James Lick 78% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.Only 9/38 schools had more than 50% of students in this category, all 9 were BVAL schools. 8/9 were East Side schools.
15 schools had less than 20% of their students in this category, 9/14 total SCVAL schools are in this group however. There are only 4 schools in the SCVAL where more than 30% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These 4 schools finished 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th last year at SCVAL’s finals (again out of 14 teams) on the boys side. On the girls side they finished 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. On the girls side Saratoga finished in 14th, though one of the wealthiest schools in the SCVAL by a measure of free and reduced lunch percentile, they have 400 less students than any other SCVAL school.
A great way of comparing the schools and leagues of the CCS is through the “league finals combined results” provided by former Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Using a course conversion formula, he combines every ‘league finals’ meet from the CCS. Course conversions are done to equalize times to Crystal Springs. Course conversions are never fully accurate, but they give one a rough idea of where everyone stands.
Last year under the format, with 115 total boys teams combined, 5 of the top 10 schools in the CCS at league finals were from the WCAL. Bellarmine in 1st, and St. Francis in 2nd. 4 of the top 10 were from the SCVAL. The lone exception was top BVAL school Willow Glen, a perennial powerhouse under coach Santa Maria. The 2nd BVAL school was Lincoln at 31st. James Lick came in at 60th, solidly in the middle of the pack.
Contrary to the perception of some, struggles in communities like the East Side are not born out of a lack of work ethic, rather, they are the product of a system which is not entirely receptive to upward mobility. The majority of funding for public schools in California comes from property taxes of the surrounding area. A poor area necessarily produces less money in property taxes, and less funding for schools as a result.So while many students at James Lick struggle with the hardships that relative poverty create at home, they also receive less funding at school to help them rise above their circumstances. The case could be made that the students who need more school programs and strong school funding the most, receive the least of it. A poorer school cannot pay teachers and coaches as much as a wealthier school could.
I made less as a varsity head coach my first year at James Lick than a colleague of mine did as a JV assistant coach at Cupertino High School in the SCVAL. Teachers and coaches who accumulate a good reputation, are more likely to coach at the already successful SCVAL schools, where they can count on the already strong programs to provide them with a plethora of motivated student-athletes.
Students are asked to work hard and earn a better life for themselves. It is very possible to achieve success with enough hard work in our current education system, but the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity at attending a top college for example is inaccurate . The notion that our education system is a meritocracy is at best a false claim. I would call it a farce.
Schools like James Lick which have gained negative reputations, see a high percentage of potentially high-achieving students flee to other local schools or private schools as a an alternative. This phenomenon only drives school performance down further. Teacher turnover is a nationwide issue, and one that plagues poor schools to a far greater degree. When schools like James Lick perform poorly, they are subject to intervention, which only makes teachers desire to transfer greater. If teachers do not stay long enough to establish a rapport at a school to effectively teach students, students will not be educated as well as they could be. If students who are already struggling at home, do not have teachers who can teach them as well as students at richer schools, is it in any way surprising that rich schools would perform better academically than poor schools? That’s only one contributing factor. If top colleges heavily weigh AP (advanced placement) participation, and schools like James Lick cannot offer even close to the same number of AP classes as a school like Los Gatos, is it fair to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed? A Comet who wants to go to Stanford University does not have to work as hard as a typical student at Palo Alto high school, they have to work significantly harder (not even taking the potential of legacy enrollments into account.)
There are plenty of Comet success stories over the past few decades. Students who despite difficult living stations, worked hard, earned scholarships and achieved immense success in post high school life. Shawn Herrera, CEO of Mazda technologies is a good example of this type of former JLXC athlete. So is Paloma Contreras, currently attending Santa Clara University on a full academic scholarship (she could also run track for them if she chose).
It is very possible for a JLXC athlete to succeed in this system, but this system is not made for JLXC athletes. The fact that Paloma “made it” should be an inspiration to her fellow Comets who are striving to do the same. It should not however be an indictment of those who don’t “make it.”
Just this year, we had a strong JLXC athlete transfer to Piedmont Hills High School because their parents felt that Piedmont was simply a better school. No blame can be placed on a parent trying to do what is best for their child, and in this parent’s mind, what was best for their child wasn’t James Lick.
The reality is James Lick is not nearly as disadvantaged as some schools across the country. I myself was fortunate enough not to have to worry about having food on the table every day, and I was always allowed the unconditional support of my parents. These were huge factors on the moderate amount of XC success I achieved. We have many high achieving students on the team, cross country tends to produce mentally strong athletes after all. I have no doubt that students like Nathan Bernardo, and Azael Zamora (both have very high GPAs) will go on to college and be successful in whatever they pursue. I’m worried about athletes like Maria who have to fight so hard just to make it in our current system.
In a few days the James Lick Comets will run at BVAL Finals, and will work to run as fast as they can, earn PRs, and high places.
Come what may however, it bears remembering that when the Comets toe the line and tear up hills at league finals, they will carry more than simply the pain of cross country with them.
This blog will detail the Comets final two meets of the regular season. All that remains now is league finals on Monday October 31st, where all 3 divisions of the BVAL will compete together.
On Thursday October 20th, the Comets had STAL # 5, their final meet of the year at Montgomery Hill. The fact that the meet was run with higher temperatures than any of the other Montgomery meets this year hurt the ability for athletes to run huge PRs, but the team competed well nonetheless.
Vincent Giglio and Mark Orpia started the team’s day off very strong, with a 1-2 overall finish in the Frosh/Soph Boys race. Vincent’s time of 17:49 was a small PR and Mark’s time of 18:15 was a 20 second PR. Mark’s time as a freshmen is better than the freshmen PRS of top runners such as Nathan Bernardo and Erik Olsvold, making his future very bright indeed. Rudy Peterson ran a sizable PR of 20:00 to be the 3rd boy in for the Comets. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon had off days, running 20:02 and 20:09 after both boys ran under 20 minutes a week ago. Hugo Marquez ran a PR of 20:32 and Melvin Estrada ran a solid 21:16 to be the 7th boy. The Frosh/Soph Boys defeated Independence and finish their season 4-3. They head into league finals 4th in the STAL, but a win over Branham at league finals would likely have them finish in 3rd place in the division. The Frosh/Soph Boys group has rallied strongly over the second half of the season. After having no boys under 20 minutes and only 2 boys under 21 minutes at STAL 1 and 2, the team ended with 4 boys under 20 and a 5th at 20:00, and a 6th boy solidly under 21 minutes. The Frosh/Soph boys represent the depth the boys are building and the likely strength of the program for years to come.
The Varsity girls also defeated Independence, giving them a 2-5 record for the season. This means the girls will likely finish 6th place in the STAL as a team, a respectable showing considering the lack of depth on the girls side. For the girls to be as successful as the boys have been, recruiting more athletes and eliminating athlete turnover need to be focal points going forward. Despite the lower finish on the girls side, it needs to be acknowledged that the girls cross country team is the only James Lick girls team in any sport that is not in the WVAL (c division). Last year the team beat every team from the WVAL by several minutes and is likely to do the same this year. Arlet Miranda lead the team at STAL 5, though she missed her PR running 19:23. Maria Mendoza ran 21:51 and Milka Perez ran a small seasons best of 22:12 to be the 3rd girl in. Daisy Nava ran 22:26, missing her PR by a few seconds. The big breakthrough for the team was Belen Sanchez finishing in 23:37. This huge PR helped close the gap between the team’s 4th and 5th runner, and gave the team a team time of 1:49:29 (109:29) the 2nd best team in school history, only to the team of 2014. Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the team’s scoring.
Despite the absence of Erik Olsvold, the varsity boys were victorious again,finishing their season 7-0 with the win over Independence. Nathan Bernardo lead the group though he had an off race running 16:08. Azael Zamora ran a small PR of 16:13 as did Gustavo Parra who ran 16:45. Gustavo Aguilera, Inteus Castro-Lopez and Jesus Deloya helped finish off the team, though none of them had good races. With their 7-0 record, the Varsity Boys had the chance to get the team their first XC boys championship since 2009 and the school’s first non ‘C’ league championship since the turn of the century. The boys XC team of 1999 won the STAL (and were 1st at BVAL finals overall) to be the last James Lick team in any sport to win a championship in anything higher than the WVAL. The varsity boys team of 2016 will need to finish 1st among STAL schools at BVAL finals to clinch their title.
The JV girls were missing members and unable to field a full team in STAL 5. As a result, they finish 3-4 on the season, though several athletes showed big improvement throughout the season. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, who ran a PR of 24:06 to place 8th in the JV race overall. Camila’s time is promising for a freshmen girl, and she could be a factor on the varsity side as soon as this track season if she maintains her current level of dedication. Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos both competed as well, and though they missed their PRS, he duo has given the team a solid base all season long. Both girls started the STAL season in the 28 minute range, and have worked their way down to the 26’s. Valerie Flores and Brittany Salazar competed on the reserve side and ended the lady Comets day.
The Reserve boys had one of their best showings of the season, with two boys breaking the 20 minute barrier in the same race. David Bejines lead the group in 19:27, a small PR. Isaak Herrera ran a huge PR of 19:31 to place 5th overall. Isaak has improved by leaps and bounds each season, from a league meet best of 28:22 as a freshmen, to 19:31 as a junior. Only last year he was running in the 22 minute range. The drastic improvement of athletes like Isaak is what has us excited about the number of freshmen boys running under 21 minutes this season. Austin Swank ran 20:16 a narrow miss on a PR. Manuel Villalobos, Daniel Portillo and Jesse Friaz rounded out the Comets day at STAL 5.
The next day, a group of 7 boys and 7 girls headed down to Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac Invitational. This trip has been a James Lick tradition since the year 2000, and the team was looking to run fast times in preparation for league finals. The team’s schedule necessitated that they would compete against Division 1 schools (2500 or more students) despite James Lick’s status as a Division 3 school with only 1240 students.
The girls raced first, and battled heat and fatigue to run a solid result. Arlet Miranda ran 20:36 for the 2nd best time in school history. Maria Mendoza was the next girl in for the Comets at 23:08. Milka Perez ran 23:51, and Daisy Nava ran a sizable PR of 24:02. Denisse Calixto ran 25:46 to be the 5th girl and Analilia Regla ran 26:16 to finish off the girls team.The team time of 1:57:23 was the 5th best team time in school history. The team also defeated 3 of the 20 division 3 schools in the race.
On the boys side, Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 16:54. Nathan’s time places him 4th on the school’s all time list at Mt. Sac. Azael Zamora ran 17:16 to move onto 8th on the school’s all time list, and Inteus Castro-Lopez moved into 14th with a time of 17:25. Gustavo Parra was the 4th boy in 17:48, a huge PR for 18th on the school’s all time list. Gustavo Aguilera was the teams 5th boy in a very poor race for him of 18:27. Jesus Deloya and Austin Swank also competed at Mt. Sac for the first time, running 19:44 and 21:40 respectively.
Considering the long drive, short night sleep etc, the Comets competed well, though based on the team’s times I’d say the team underperformed considerably at Mt. Sac. Even so, the team placed well on the boys side finishing 9th/20 D1 schools. Their team time of 1:27:50 (87:50) is 4th in school history, and the first sub 90 minute clocking at mt. sac since 2003. The team raced in the same race as fellow BVAL school: Evergreen, a team which recently finished the MHAL (A’ division) season with a 6-1 record. The Comets beat the Cougars by nearly 5 minutes. It should be acknowledged that Evergreen was missing several members of the their varsity team, but their consistent #1 runner was in attendance, and the Comets and 3 boys in before a single Evergreen boy.
The team is now busy at work for league finals, only one week away as I write this now. BVAL finals is the biggest day of the season for most of the team. The top 12 varsity teams at BVAL finals will advance to CCS (assuming that all 24 teams run a full team). After the top 12 teams are determined, the runners from these 12 teams are omitted, and the remaining top 9 individuals advance to CCS as well.
“At Large” marks are given in the CCS as well. These are times that guarantee a spot at CCS if achieved at league finals, regardless of place. These marks exist so that worthy runners are not excluded from CCS in the case of an extremely competitive league. Generally, it is easier to make it to CCS via place than it is to hit the at large marks. In any case, the CCS at large marks for Crystal Springs for a division 3 school are:
86:31 as a team, and 17:34 as an individual on the boys side. In short, any individual varsity boy who runs 17:35 or faster at BVAL finals will go to CCS regardless of place. The same goes for any team who runs a team time of 86:31. On the girls side, the team standard is 106:41 and the individual standard is 21:36.
This week is all about getting the team primed and ready for league finals. We are looking for every athlete, from boys varsity to girls reserve to end the season with a strong performance. Most athletes are training to peak for league finals, though the Varsity Boys and Arlet are training to peak at CCS. Today the team will run a mile time trial to track the team’s progress from the beginning of the season.
The season is nearly over and it is go time for the team as a whole. Be ready Comets.
The most significant and historic Cross Country course in the bay area is without a doubt Crystal Springs in Belmont. Unlike other courses, the Crystal Spring’s course was specifically designed as a cross country course. The Course was founded in it’s 2.95 mile format in 1971, and shortly afterwards became a key course for the entire CCS. In 1973 James Lick ran it for the first time at the Crystal Springs Center meet. It served as the CCS regional meet course for region 3 which James Lick found itself in,beginning in 1975 so the Comets ran the course for the first tim in it’s very first year of existence. Athletes would have to run fast enough to qualify for CCS at their regional meets, making the regional meet a key point in the season, BVAL finals and other league finals have taken the place of regional meets and act as the modern day qualifying meet for CCS.
The Crystal Springs center meets are weekday meets run throughout the season at Crystal Springs for athletes to prepare for the big regional meet. The Crystal Springs invite, held on the 2nd Saturday of October, would follow a few years later. In 1973 CCS was held at Crystal Springs for the first time. CCS would be held at Crystal Springs every year from 1972-2000 with the exception of 1974 when it was at Helyer park. In the 2000s, the CCS committee began the process of alternating the CCS location between Crystal Springs in odd years, and Toro Park in even years. By this time however, the Comets were running Crystal Springs at BVAL finals every year, as well as the Crystal Springs invite or center meet.
The rich history of Crystal Springs make sit the team’s most impressive all time/ team list. The Comets have run at Crystal Springs virtually every year since 1971, now over 40 years of course history! Many years Crystal Springs was run 2-3 times by the Comets, and the full results from almost every race at Crystal Springs dating back to these early years are available online (wish that was the case for every course…) The Crystal Springs course status as a league finals/ CCS playoffs course, make it the number one course in the bay area for time comparisons and rankings.
The Course is made up entirely of dirt trails and is very undulating, with the first 2 miles being downhill overall, with small hills dispersed throughout the course. The final mile (.95 technically) is hilly, with athletes running up towards the finish line form the 2 mile mark. Despite it being a hilly course, its net downhill construction makes it a relatively fast course. In recent years it has become clear that a Varsity athlete should run 45-60 seconds slower at Crystal Springs, than they would for the shorter BVAL league meet courses (Montgomery and Alum Rock).
The Comets of today have a wealth of great times to shoot for, and new great times to achieve when they take to the Crystal Springs course for BVAL Finals and CCS Finals this year.
The Comets began running quality times on the course in 1973 when the began racing it. top runner on that team, Alvarado, ran 16:06, a time which despite it’s standing at 5:27 mile pace, is only the 17th best time for the Comets in school history at Crystal Springs. This team also ran the 3rd best team time in school, a phenomenal 1:22:25, an average of 16:29 a runner. This was all done at the Crystal Spring’s center meet.
A few years later, more strong additions would be made. The team of 1975 ran a strong team of 1:24:35, which stands at number 10 on the Comet list. They were lead by Joe Salazar however, who became the first Comet to run under 16 minutes on the course, running the school record of 15:21, 5:12 mile pace. Peter Munoz would break 16 a few years later, running 15:57 for a team that ran the 8th best team time in school history, 1:23:44. The team of 1977 ran the #2 team time in school history, 1:21:51 (81:51) at the Crystal Springs center meet.
The boys teams of the mid-late 1970s were very strong, but they were just a precursor to the teams of 1980 and 1981, likely the best boys teams in JLXC history. The team of 1980 ran a very strong 1:23:20 (83:20) for #6 on the school’s all time team list. This gave the team a 10th place finish at CCS finals. Rich Diaz lead the team with a 16:03 clocking, tied for 12th in school history, though many of the team’s runners would return for the 1981 season.
1981 in terms of competition, was probably JLXCs best season altogether. Both the boys and girls won the MHAL, the only time in school history that the boys and girls have won a league championship in the same season, and the only MHAL title in school history for the girls (one of only 2 total championships for the girls, the most recent coming in 2014). The girl’s team of 1981 ran whats stands as the school team time record by a large margin. Their time of 1:46:41 at the Crystal Springs invite in 1981 has never been seriously threatened, as the only time in school history the team ran under 1:50 (or 110:00 mins). The team’s top runners, Kim Willoughby in 20:10, Angie Silva in 20:27 and Betsy Whyer in 21:19 currently stand as #2, #4 and #9 respectively on the team’s all time list. The team of 81 was the only girls team in school history to have two girls run under 21 minutes at Crystal Springs in the same season.
The boys team of 1981 was equally impressive. Their team time of 1:20:46 (80:46) still stands as the team record. The team placed 4th as a team at CCS, though this team time nowadays would likely win CCS in division 3 in most seasons. Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina ran 15:37 and 15:49 this season, 4th and 7th on the school’s all time list. Jim Saldivar also ran 16:16 for 19th place on the list. The team’s average of 16:09 a boy is outstanding. The 5th boy in CCS finals for the Comets that year ran 16:31, while the 7th ran 16:45. This outstanding team stands as the competitive apex of JLXC history, and the team that current Comet team’s look up to while striving to better themselves.
Greg Machado was a freshmen on the team of 1981, running 16:37 as the 6th boy, a few years later he would lead the team with a 15:33 #3 in school history. Unfortunately results from Crystal Springs are incomplete from 1982-1984 with no team times available in these years.
The teams of the late 1980s showed a lot of the strength of he early 80s teams as well. The team of 1986 ran 1:22:32 and the team of 1987 ran 1:22:25, 5th and 6th on the combined team list for the Comets. Joe Amendt tied Joe Salazar’s 15:21, giving two Comets a 5:12 mile pace at the top of the Crystal Springs list. Jim Strachan ran 16:06 for #14 on the school’s list in 1986 and Lanoura Goulart in 1988 ran 21:38 for #12 on the girl’s list.
The team experienced a bit of a dry spell during the very late 80’s and early 90’s. Even so, boy’s teams in this dry spell like the team of 1989 ran high quality team times like 1:27:08 (87:08) that the team of today is trying to return to. 1992 saw Armando Avilez run 16:06 to add his name to the school’s all time list, while Lorena Socarzano did the same on girl’s side running 21:32.
In 1996, Alberto Meza ran 15:53, #9 on the all time list, and was followed a few years later by Will Crane who ran 15:45. Crane is #5 on the school’s all time list, and the most recent Comet to break the 16 minute barrier at Crystal Springs. Emil Kayer ran 21:06 on the girl’s side during the same year, #8 on the school’s all time list. The 90’s and early 2000s had quality runners, but the depth of James Lick throughout 70’s and 80’s was fading as the school achieved it’s “at risk” status. On the boy’s all time team’s list 9/10 times were run in the 70’s and 80’s. The one exception is the 1:24:03 (84:03) of the team of 2000, 9th on the school’s list.
Only two additions to the boy’s all time list have been made since the year 2000, Ivan Navarro’s 16:09 in 2000, and Jose Gutierrez’ 16:00 in 2003. From 2006-2015 no Comet even ran under 17 minutes for Crystal Springs. The team times also weakened as a byproduct.
From 1973- 1989 the Comets ran under 90 minutes (on the boys side) as a team every year on record. Most years they ran under 87 minutes. The team failed to break 90 minutes for the first time in 1991, then again in 1995. In the early 2000s, the team constantly ran in the 85-87 minute time range, very respectable though unspectacular team times. A team time in this range is essentially a guarantee of a CCS spot, more than most sports at the school can claim right now.
Following the 2003 season however, the team fell fast. From a time of 86:14 (1:26:14) in 2003,the team did not break the 90 minute barrier again for 11 straight seasons.Finally in 2015, we were able to break the 90 minute barrier again, running 89:07 as a team at BVAL finals. This season, the Comets had it’s first runners break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs since 2005, Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora ran 16:45 and 16:48 at the Crystal Sprinsg invite to accomplish the feet, and the big meets are still ahead with the chance to run faster. This is why we are excited about the team of today, and feel we are moving in the right direction to restore JLXC to it’s former position of competitive success, without sacrificing team culture.
While the boys teams of the mid2000s-2010s were among the weakest in school history, the girl’s teams (which traditionally were never strong competitively) have seen rising success.
Kayla Matsuda ran the school record of 19:39 at Crystal Springs in 2008. On the girls’ all time team list, #1 belongs to the team of 1981, but all 9 other positions have been set since the 2000s. The 10th position is currently held by the team of 2005, at 2:00:16 (120:16) though this year’s team should kook them off, making all 10 positions sub 2 hour clockings.
The #2, #3 and #4 team times at Crystal Springs have been set the past 3 seasons. 1:50:00 in 2014, 1:50:27 in 2015, and 1:55:07 in 2013. The fact that 1:55:07 in 2013 is the 4th best team time in school history, shows that the team’s of the last few seasons are making the school’s history on the girl’s side stronger each passing season. The team will need to break into the 1:40s to be truly competitive throughout the CCS however. Christina Avalos ran 20:38 in 2022 for #7 on the school’s all time list. Daniela Camacho ran 20:33 in 2014 to put herself # 5 on the school’s all time list. In 2015 Maria Mendoza ran 20:35 for #6 and this year Arlet Miranda has already run 20:18 for #3.
With the Crystal Springs Invite just having past, and BVAL Finals at Crystal Springs just 3 weeks away, this is a chance to reflect on the team’s storied history on the course. The JLXC team of 2016 will work hard to try to improve it further, and know that Comets before them have set a high bar for success.
STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill will take place on Thursday October 13th, with STAL #5 a week later. The team is in it’s final phase of training now, readying themselves to run at their best at BVAL Finals (though Arlet and the varsity boys will work to peek for CCS 12 days later).
Thank you for reading, there is a chart of Crystal Springs by year below.
Below is a list of James Lick’s best times at Crystal Springs each year, taking the best team time in a season, and listing what its runners ran to achieve it.
Ideally, the Crystal Springs Invite is one of the biggest invitationals of the season for the Comets, a chance to compete against many of the top schools in the CCS on a historic and significant course. Every member of the team can stand to benefit from running at Crystal Springs, as BVAL Finals in 3 weeks will be held there. Due to SATS, homecoming week, and other such commitments, only a small group of Comet runners made the trip up for the invite this year, but the invite still yielded some impressive results for the team.
The day began with the JV boys race, the only race in which the Comets fielded a full team.David Bejines nearly broke 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a (basically) 3 mile course, running 20:42 for the 2.95 mile crystal springs. Freshmen Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon followed in 20:58 and 21:00, strong times indicating both boys should have a chance at breaking 20 minutes for Montgomery Hill next week. The 7:06 pace was the best of Nien’s XC career, and the best pace of Jerricho’s career on any course longer than 2.3 miles. Austin Swank ran a solid 21:24 to be the next boy in, and Hugo Marquez was the 5th boy in 22:21. The 7:35 mile pace for Hugo was also the best of his career for a course close to 3 miles. Melvin Estrada ran a solid 22:31, but other races suggest he can already go faster. Daniel Portillo rounded out the team in 23:45, following his teammates lead with a career best pace for a 3 mile or similar race.
4 of the team’s Varsity girls competed in the highly competitive Varsity Girls Championship race next. Arlet Miranda lead the group in 20:18, the 3rd fastest time in school history. Her performance earned her a medal in the very competitive race. Maria Mendoza ran 22:52, a solid time though well off of her strong times form last year when she had more time to train. Daisy Nava cam in next, a bit off of her initial Crystal Springs time from last year, though Denisse Calixto ran a solid PR to finish in 25:21. The final 3 Comet girls to run ran later in the JV girls race. Valerie Flores and Aliana Santos kicked in together at 29:25 and 29:56. Brittany Salazar finished in 34:49.
The team took only two varsity boys to the race, but they performed exceedingly well. Nathan Bernardo ran a 17 second PR of 16:45 to become the first Comet since 2005 to break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs. Azael Zamora was right behind him at 16:48. The pair worked together throughout the race, running a 5:25 1st mile, a 5:43 second mile, followed by a 5:37/5:40 for the final .95 miles, which are slightly uphill. The presence of only two boys made it so that the team could not compare team times directly to other teams however, Nathan and Azael finished 6th and 7th amongst BVAL runners with 16/24 total schools represented. Nathan and Azael ran very well compared to many of the team’s target schools, setting the team up well for future meets at full strength.
I believe a reasonable translation for Montgomery Hill to Crystal Springs comparison is to add 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on a runners proficiency on either given course. For example, Nathan ran 16:45 at Crystal Springs just days after running 15:52 at Montgomery. Azael had an off race at Montgomery, running 16:26, then ran 16:48 today at Crystal Springs. Arlet and Mara ran 19:16 and 21:50 at Montgomery Hill, then 20:18 and 22:52 today. These are anecdotal comparisons, but they illustrate the conversion as relatively accurate. Athletes significantly stronger at Crystal Springs can keep the gap to about 40 seconds, but 1 minute is a fair time to add for conversion purposes.
Using this conversion to add Inteus (16:40 at Montgomery this week) Gustavo A (16:53) and Gustavo P (16:56) would give the team a 1-5 of: 16:45, 16:48, 17:40, 17:53, 17:56. This is with the omision of Erik Olsvold who ran 15:57 at Montgomery, since he is unlikely to be able to run at CCS this year. Even with the omission of Erik, this team’s hypothetical time would have been 87:02. The top 3 teams in CCS division 3 go to State. At the last ranking, the Comets were 6th with Mills, St. Ignatius, Riordan, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Aptos ranked ahead of James Lick in that order. At the Crystal Springs invite Riordan was the top D3 school at 86:23, with SHC at 87:26 and St. Ignatius at 89:10. It’s no mean feet to take on private schools like these, but the Comets are showing a capability of at least putting up a strong fight at CCS.
The Comets will take to Montgomery Hill again on Thursday October 13th for STAL #4 against Oak Grove.
The Comets took to Montgomery Hill for their 3rd league meet of the season on Wednesday October 5th. This matchup was highly anticipated, as the first Montgomery meet of the season, as a matchup with STAL powerhouse Pioneer high school.
For a course history of Montgomery Hill, read here first:
Montgomery Hill is now the signature course of the BVAL and the Comets began racing on the course during the final years of the James Lick boy’s last great era. As such, the course holds immense significance for the ability to compare within the BVAL. After two weeks of hard work, the Comets were ready to show the benefits of their training.
The day got off to a bizarre start. Due to a mix-up, the Frosh/Soph boys were pointed in the wrong direction on the course in two separate areas. Every Frosh/Soph Boy ran the middle school course of 2.06 miles, instead of the high school 2.74 mile version. As every boy ran this version of the course, the places were allowed to stand as legitimate. Pioneer is the team to go through on the boys side in the STAL. Not only are they the 2014 and 2015 Varsity boys STAL champs, but their reserve and Frosh/Soph teams have already showed tremendous depth. At STAL 2, Pioneer had their top 5 Frosh/Soph boys in the top 11 overall, while the Comets #1 Frosh/Soph Boy was Mark in 22nd place.
The team was not able to defeat the Mustangs, but they did give them a much more difficult fight than anticipated. Pioneer boys took places 1-4 overall, but Comet runners Vincent Giglio, Mark Orpia, and Nien Tran came in 5th, 7th and 11th. Rudy Peterson and Jerricho Habon rounded out the team’s scoring 5. Melvin Estrada and Hugo Marquez rounded out the team overall.
The Varsity girl’s had no trouble going the correct way, and Arlet Miranda lead the group in 19:16, a huge PR and the 2nd best James Lick girls time in school history to finish 5th overall. After missing time to work on her grades, Maria Mendoza ran 21:50, a strong improvement on the 22:52 she ran at STAL 1. Daisy Nava ran a 20 second PR of 22:38 to be the team’s 3rd girl, though the absence of Milka Perez hurt the team overall. Denisse Calixto and Belen Sanchez rounded out the scoring in 24: 14 and 24:55 respectively, with Analilia Regla finishing in 25:05 a PR by more than 1:30. The team ran a team time of 112:53 (1:52:53) better than the 113:53 that they opened last season’s first Montgomery meet with. While the team is trending in the right direction, they too were unable to defeat the Pioneer Mustangs.
The Varsity Boys were next up on the ledger, but before detailing their race it’s important to contextualize this team’s drive.
No team has come to represent the rebirth of JLXCTF more than this group of athletes. I began coaching 4 years ago, and the varsity team of 2013 had very little running experience. While there were dedicated athletes like Karan Singh, Nathan Bernardo and Gustavo Aguilera, the team was a long way from being competitive within the BVAL, let alone the STAL specifically. Our best team that season at Montgomery hill was 94: 56 (1:34:56). A far cry from the school record of 81:48 (1:21:48) ran in 2003 by a team that went 7-0 in the MHAL (‘A’ division). Nathan ran 19:17 as a freshmen at Montgomery Hill, while Gustavo Aguilera ran 27:00. While their times were not even particularly impressive frosh/soph times, both boys showed an indomitable spirit and desire to improve themselves, that would help lay the foundation for the team culture we have now.
We were moved down to the WVAL after this season, in part because our rapidly improving girl’s team was listed as 0-7 on the league standings sheet, while their correct record should have been listed at 4-3. I remember Nathan asking after this if we could get back into the STAL if we ran fast enough, and more so, if we might potentially win a league championship one day. Myself, then fellow JLXC coach, John Quasarano,and the students on the team felt that we deserved to remain in the STAL. We set out with the goal of proving this, and I as a first year coach, was very determined to try to “outcoach” other coaches, and help my athletes develop at a faster rate than the athletes are larger, more financially advantaged schools.
In setting out to coach the best I could, I began to compile the all time list available on this site. Having a father who ran at James Lick, and having run at James Lick myself, lead me to understand the great tradition of JLXC. In compiling these lists however, I began to truly understand the depth and power of James Lick’s tradition in general, and our goal’s began to shift. We wanted a team that was inclusive of all athletes regardless of ability level. A place where anyone who wanted to run XC/Track, would be able to do so with the unmitigated support of their coaches and teammates. The positive attitude of athletes like Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores, Mario Perez, and Oscar Sanchez helped ensure this was the case.
From a competitive standpoint, we wanted to eventually restore James Lick’s status as a powerhouse not just within the WVAL, not just within the BVAL, but within the CCS. The reality is James Lick is not the same school that it was during much of it’s athletic glory days. The population is lower, the demographics have shifted, and the wallet’s are thinner. We are consistently one of the smallest school’s in the BVAL, currently 4th smallest, and the smallest of any team in the STAL for Cross country. We are consistently one of the poorest schools in the BVAL. Educational data from 2013/2014 showed that 80% of James Lick’s students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Only Overfelt had a greater percentage of students from “low income” households. In comparison, STAL schools from the south side, Leigh, Branham and Pioneer have only 7%, 14% and 26% of students qualifying for the same program.
While this is not a direct factor on athletic or academic success, the ability to live comfortably affords one the ability to focus on tasks such as school and sports with greater rigor. This is exemplified by athletes like Maria Mendoza, who qualified for CCS last year as a junior, but is struggling to find time to practice between the fact that she is busy applying for college, taking care of school work, and working two jobs to help support her family.
James Lick’s rate of sending students to college is among the lowest in Santa Clara Country. Ultimately our goal in attempting to restore the program’s competitive success, was to demonstrate that Comets, and east-siders everywhere are capable of success regardless of the limitations set upon them. The idea was, if a small poor school from the East Side, could compete with the large rich schools of the West side, and do so with a class and sportsmanship that defied people’s assumptions about what the “kids from the hood” were like, we could in our small way, raise our school/community consciousness and work towards our fellow east siders achieving more than they thought they could. The Comets understand their status as societal and athletic underdogs, and the team is using this as chip on their shoulder, rather than as another reason to be discouraged.
These goals, however idealistic, were a long way from coming to fruition. 94:56 is a long way from 81:48. In the 2013 season when we ran our 94:56, we had only one boy run under 19 minutes. While Nathan’s 19:17 was a promising freshmen time, there was little indication that team would be competitive outside of the WVAL any time soon. There were 3 runners who ran under 16 minutes at Montgomery from the STAL when the Comets ran 94:56,and all 3 had been running under 16 since their freshmen year. For the team to begin to approach it’s long term goals, athletes like Nathan would have to wok very hard to move the program forward each year. The 2014 WVAL Championship by the girls had the team moving back to the STAL for the 2015 season, a year removed from when the Varsity boys were only a 94 minute team. While Nathan and Gustavo remained from freshmen year, they’d been joined by fellow distance runners along the way, all buying into the cause that we have been toiling towards for the last four years.
In those four years, the team has come along way towards their goals, and it showed in the matchup with Pioneer. Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 15:52, tied for the 2nd best time in school history on the course, placing second overall, narrowly holding off Pioneer’s fastest runner. Erik Olsvold was close behind at 15:57, becoming just the 4th Comet in school history to break the 16 minute barrier at Montgomery Hill, just seconds after Nathan became the 3rd. Azael Zamora placed 7th overall in 16:26, an off race by his standards. Inteus Castro-Lopez, 16:40, Gustavo Aguilera, 16:53 and Gustavo Parra, 16:57 came in 9th, 11th and 12th respectively to round out the team. The Comets had all 6 of their runners in before Pioneer had their 3rd. The dominant team showing yielded a team time of exactly 81:48, tying the school record in the highly symbolic victory over a strong Pioneer team. The Varsity boys move to 5-0 with this victory, and take another step towards winning the STAL championship. This would be only the 8th James Lick league championship in any sport since the year 2000, and the first championship not to come from the ‘C’ league.
The girls JV race, as well as the reserve races followed up the Varsity Boys with some strong performances as well. Camilla Hernandez continues to flash strong potential, running 25:19 on her first try on the course, a very promising young time. Heck, that’s faster than Gustavo A’s first try as a freshmen and he ran 16:53 today! Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos were not far behind, running solid JV times. Valerie Flores narowly dipped under the 30 minuter barrier for the course, running 29:53. Diana Romero ran 30:28 a huge PR from her 31:51 a year ago. Ashley Preciado also continues to develop, running 30:59 better than her previous league race best of 33:04 just 2 weeks ago. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the girl’s race with league race bests as well, running 32:42 and 34:15 respectively.
The reserve boys have been a source of strength for the team in the past decade, and are beginning to round into form as well. David Bejines placed 3rd overall in 19:32, a minute faster than his 20:33 STAL previous best. Isaak Herrera and Austin Swank ran 20:49 and 20:50, very strong times for the first Montgomery meet of the season. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:52 a league race best by more than 2 minutes. Daniel Portillo ran a league race best as well, finishing in 23:39 while Kevin Bach finished in 23:45 to finish the Comets day.
With 3 league races in the books, the Comets will finish up the STAL season with meets at Montgomery Hill both of the next two Thursdays, and will head to Crystal Springs this Saturday for their final invitational of the season. Crystal Springs will allow the team to compare themselves against many of the best teams in the CCS.
Thank you for reading, especially if you hung in there while I got all sociological.