James Lick Track Season Comes to a Close: A Reflection on 5 Years of Coaching

When Charli Chircop hurled the discus 100-10 at CCS Finals, she signaled the end of not only her career, but of the 2018 track season (as far as James Lick is concerned). The 2018 season ending was very significant for me personally. It signified the end of my 5th year coaching, and also the end of my first year as a teacher. This blog will be a reflection on my first 5 years as a coach, and the growth of the cross country and track programs over the past 5 seasons.

The team has improved a lot over the past 5 seasons, that is especially demonstrated in track. If this years team faced the team of 2014 in a dual meet, assuming everyone matched their seasons bests, this would be the result:

Boys 2018: 116             Girls 2018: 102

Boys 2014: 19               Girls 2014: 25

I began coaching in fall of 2013. Alex Ponik, one of my coaches at James Lick, was stepping down as head coach. He offered me a position as an assistant coach, a job I was happy to accept. The day before school began for James Lick however, I was informed that our intended head coach would be unable to coach after all. As a result, I was forced to take the helm along with John Quasarano at the last moment.

That first year was tough. As a 20-year old, I lacked confidence in  my own authority as a coach. Our top runner and team captain was Armando Aguilar. Armando and I were teammates just a few years before when I myself was team captain. We were also a very inexperienced team on the boys side. 5 of our 7 varsity boys had never run cross country before 2013. Only Armando had been a member of the varsity team before. This combined with our placement in the ‘B’ division, saw us finish with a 1-6 record on the varsity boys side. Honestly, we were lucky to even win 1 meet.

The huge bright side of that season was the varsity girls team. We pulled off a 4-3 season, the first winning season for the Lady Comet since 2009. Of the 24 BVAL teams, we finished in 15th place on the girls side at BVAL Finals. Our Combined team time was 117:28 (or 1:57:28). It was the first time the team had run under 2 hours at Crystal Springs in several years, giving us good hope for the future.

The boys however finished 20th. Our team was 97:09 (1:37:09). This was partly due to the fact that Armando was unable to finish the race, but in any case, a 20th place finish was not where we wanted to be. Seeing our BVAL places, and our inexperienced coaching staff, the BVAL moved us down to the ‘C’ division for the 2014 season.

That was my lowest moment as a coach so far, largely because I believed that we did not belong in the ‘C’ division. We were a young coaching staff and a young team, but I was very confident we could turn things around.

Track was a different season. I joined the track coaching staff along with Ricardo Flores, Juan Trejo and Ray Iniguez. At the time, James Lick track had not won a single dual meet in over 5 years. The Comets had not had a winning season since 2000, and the girls had not had one on record in school history (definitely not since 1996 when the BVAL began keeping records).

The setup that first year saw me in charge of the girls track team, while the other 3 coaches handled the boys team. We managed to eek out our first wins in years, which gave us cause to dream bigger for the future.

On a personal level, 2014 was my most important year as a coach. My goal has always been to help my athletes improve by as much as possible, and hope that wins and success will follow from great improvement. 2014 was when I first gained confidence in my ability to foster improvement in my athletes, thanks to the hard work of a few key athletes.

Daniela Camacho had run 5:49 for the 1600 as a freshmen, though she slowed down to 6:02 as a sophomore, (not an uncommon phenomenon among girl distance runners). That year as a junior, we managed to reverse that trend and Daniela ended the season at 5:43 for the 1600. She lowered her PR to 5:27 the next season, a mark which currently stands as our school record (though Arlet Miranda ran 5:31 this season so here’s hoping she will beat it next year).

Destiny Lopez was maybe the most important athlete towards helping me believe in my own training methods. Destiny had run track since freshmen year, and her PRs were 6:51 in the 1600 and 15:47 in the 3200. 2014 was her senior year, my only year coaching her. It was a trough process, but at division finals, she ran massive PRs, 6:31 for the 1600 and 14:11 for the 3200.

Our track team had 23 athletes in 2014 and we had our first wins in years. Most important to me personally, I felt that just like the James Lick teams of old, we could work hard and improve substantially in pursuit of bigger victories. Our goal for XC 2014 was simple, prove that it was a mistake to send us down to the ‘C’ division.

Our girls thrived in that goal. The team went 7-0 and won the division handily. At BVAL Finals, after placing 15th in 1:57:28 the year before, we finished in 8th place in 1:50:00. The 1:50:00 mark is the 2nd best team time in school history. The team of 1981 is the only team to have run faster, incidentally the only other girls championship team in school history. The boys team improved significantly as well, moving up from 20th place to 15th place, and running 6 minutes faster as a team.

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2014 Team at CCS Left to Right: Mila Perez, Maria Mendoza, Paloma Contreras, Julia Cruz, Evalilia Garcia, Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores

The 2014 team will always be special to me because it was my first division championship as a coach. The more rapid improvement was in track and field. In 2015, we had our first winning season in over a decade. By 2016, a girls division title. In 2017 a 2nd girls title, followed by our move up the ‘B’ division. The success in track and field is in no small part thanks to the excellent coaches I’ve had the chance to work with. From Coach Vela who was by my side in track from the beginning, to coach Nichols, and Turner, and recently coach Raul Lopez. Every coach we’ve had in track has played a pivotal role in improving the team.

The most impressive team of my coaching career however was the 2016 XC team, my only boys title to date, and my only ‘B’ division championship team so far.

That team showed what the culmination of years of hard work could lead to. Team captain Nathan Bernardo did an exceptional job leading that team. Truth to be told, I had to miss many practices throughout the season but Nathan never let the team waver. He lead practice when I could not. All of the teams hard work paid off with the boys going 7-0 and placing 2nd at BVAL finals, only losing to the ‘A’ division champions Willow Glen.

Our team time of 1:25:19 was a respectable mark for James Lick in any era. While it is nowhere near the school record of 1:20:46, it was the 12th best team time in school history,  and the best ever JL time at BVAL Finals.

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2016 Championship team Left to right: Me, Gustavo Aguilera, Erik Olsvold, Nathan Bernardo, Inteus Castro-Lopez, Gustavo Parra, Azael Zamora

After 5 years, I feel pretty good about where the program is at. We are solidly in the ‘B’ division in both cross country and track, and we have a very young team on both sides. Long term, coach Raul Lopez and myself will be looking to help take the program to the next level, eventually being a member of the ‘A’ division.

I’m proud that we’ve been able to outperform many schools that are larger than us, and better funded. We are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL with a tick over 1100 students. The schools that are still consistently better than us have a few things in common. Some are outside of our control, such as larger enrollment and greater funds to draw from.

The most difficult discrepancy to overcome for us in my opinion is the lack of experience many of our athletes have. Our primary feeder schools are Joseph George and Shepard Middle School . Neither school had a track team this year. They often do not have cross country and when they do, it is not a substantial program. Willow Glen is consistently the best cross country team in the BVAL. This is in large part due to the amazing work of Coach Victor Santamaria, but every year, Willow Glen Middle School churns out multiple boys in the low 5 minute range in the 1600 and sometimes even some sub 5 minute boys.

The same is true of many of the schools we struggle to beat. Many of the top athletes in the area have been training for a long time. Our athletes have a lot of catching up to do. Azael Zamora just graduated with HS personal bests of 4:33 in the 1600 and 9:55 in the 3200. He did not join cross country until his sophomore year, and to that point he had never broken 6 minutes for the mile.

Long term, we are aiming to help ensure  that some of our alumni will take on coaching positions at some our local middle schools to help athletics not just at James Lick, but throughout the east side as a whole.

I also hope to have more alumni join my coaching staff. Coach turnover has been an issue for us, and having a more consistent solidified coaching staff will help us improve.

We are not at the same level of James Lick’s greatest teams, but restoring the greatness of James Lick in XC and track has been my goal since I started coaching. We are not nearly there, but we are a lot closer than we were 5 years ago. I want to thank every Comet that has been apart of it, and everyone who actually reads my rambling with interest/support.

Best marks/times under me can all be found under the history section of the blog ^

The 2018 XC team will begin conditioning on June 18th at 9:30 A.M.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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James Lick Track, Then And Now: The Rise and Fall and Rise (hopefully) of James Lick Track and Field

Forward: I have a profound love for James Lick High School. I have lived within a few minutes of the school my entire life. I learned how to swim there. I was raised next door to its most successful coach (who I will discuss later). I went to school there, as did my father and his sisters. Now I have the privilege of teaching and coaching at James Lick, and as a history teacher, I often find myself reflecting on the history of the school I hold so dear.

Through the hard work of my athletes, I’ve already experienced a lot of fortunate success as a coach as I approach the end of my 5th year coaching. I’ve been lucky enough to have coached 4 different division champion teams (2 in XC 2 in track). I have twice been awarded James Lick’s “Keith Antes Coach of the Year Award” (Undeservedly I might add, more on Keith Antes later). And above all, I’ve been pleased to have fostered a high rate of improvement among my student athletes. That is the only success that is really meaningful, because as I am about to detail, the competition my teams have beaten, pales in comparison to what the Comets of yesteryear had to face.

As I will discuss below, by many measures, James Lick “used to be a better school.” When I first started at James Lick in 2007, it had a very negative reputation, and that is still the case today (though to a slightly lesser extent). It is against this reputation and pervading negativity that we as a team fight today. For we as a team/school to continue to progress, I think it is important to draw pride, wisdom, and lessons from the past. As such, this is my best attempt to briefly compare James Lick (and the CCS as a whole) across eras. This is my attempt to summarize the track history of a school that is almost 70 years old, to the furthest degree possible by a 25 year old. To you kids reading this, understand the powerful tradition we are trying to reignite. To alumni reading this, thank you for setting the bar.

James Lick Track: Then

James Lick High School, like much of Eastside San Jose, contains a rich history that may easily be lost on a casual observer. James Lick opened its doors in 1950, as the first high school in the East Side Union High School district. James Lick track has such a history, that it predates the BVAL, the MHAL, and even the CCS.

When James Lick track began competing, it was a member of the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) within the NCS (North Coast Section). James Lick had immediate success, winning three straight titles in the SCVAL, in 1954, 1955, 1956. While the Green and White has been a constant, much has changed at James Lick over the years, not just in terms of track and field.

Many of the athletes on the great teams of the 1950s would be just as competitive if they were competing today. Despite the faster track surfaces, (rubber instead of cinders) some of James Lick’s best times come from a long while back.

It is worth noting that most of my sources are from a combination of internet/newspaper archives, and first-hand word of former James Lick athletes and coaches. As such, our current all time lists and information are incomplete.  Anyone with any information about past teams/times, can feel free to contact me at: reevesb@esuhsd.org. I would very much appreciate any information.

The first James Lick track champion that I have on record, was a pole vaulter at the 1952 SCVAL championships. This vaulter (last name Guzman) cleared 11-0 to take the title. The pole vault is very symbolic of James Lick’s rise and fall. The Comets were once great in pole vault, and we are now beginning to try to emulate that greatness. By the mid ‘60s, the Comets had already had 3 different league champs in the pole vault. The best of them was Ray Clayton, an athlete who cleared 14-2.5 in 1964 to make the State Meet.  We are attempting to re-institute pole vault competition this year. If any vaulter clears a height in a meet, they will be the first Comet to do so this century.

James Lick was a very strong school by every measure by the 1960s, a time period that saw the foundation of both the CCS and the MHAL (Mt. Hamilton Athletic League). The football team had its best run of success with Jim Plunkett at quarterback, winning multiple MHAL titles. The swimming and waterpolo teams also had a remarkable run of success under coach Gene Nyquist. Coach Nyquist is by far James Lick’s winningest coach, having over 20 league titles to his name.

My dad attended James Lick in the late 1960s, and ran track and cross country under the legendary coach Keith Antes. Coach Antes and his longtime assistant coach/successor, Carlos Saldivar, were both James Lick alumni. This connection to the school might help to explain the tremendous success that both of these coaches had at James Lick. In 1967, the team achieved its only MHAL track title.

In some ways, the ‘60s were the glory days of James Lick Track, if not San Jose track as a whole. With San Jose dubbed “speed city” the area bore witness to tremendous High School track competition. The one MHAL title is a result of the stiff competition the Comets had to face. For example, the Comets had to contend with Lee Evans of Overfelt High School in the early ‘60s. Evans would of course go on to win the gold medal in the 400m in the 1968 Olympics, and become the first man to run under 44 seconds for the event. You can imagine how tough he would have been against the Comets in a dual meet.

But the Comets strength and depth in track was fantastic. The team consistently had multiple athletes in the 4:40 mile range. The team produced top-notch jumpers like Phil Passafuime, Chris Moulton and Dave Pike. Pike is in fact still the schools long jump record holder at 22-6.5. Towards the later part of the decade, James McGhee and Bill Pabst threw for the Comets. Their best discus marks of 159-5 and 149-7 respectively still rank 1-2 in school history. To even make the varsity team was a huge challenge.

It wasn’t uncommon for James Lick to have 3 different boys go over 40 feet in the triple jump in the same dual meet. By comparison, as I write this in April of 2018, only 4 boys have gone over 40 feet in the triple jump in the entire 24 team BVAL.

There is of course a natural ebb and flow to the quality of CCS track. Some eras are stronger than others. But in some areas, the extent to which modern marks/times pale in comparison to those of more than 30 years ago is jarring.  For example, I will compare the MHAL finals of 1975, to the MHAL finals of 2017.

The MHAL of 1976 was its own league, whereas the MHAL of 1996- present has been a division of the BVAL. Regardless, in both cases the MHAL has generally had 8 teams. The modern MHAL is the ‘A’ division of the BVAL so it should be the strongest in any given year. The MHAL of 1976 had 11 teams, so while it did have several more teams to add quality to the league, it was a geographical league, not a power league.

The 1976 MHAL 4×100 (Back then the 440 yard relay, which is actually a tiny bit longer than the 400m relay)  was won by Mt. Pleasant in 41.8. A new MHAL record at the time. Piedmont Hills ran 42.2 and Yerba Buena ran 42.5. Times in this era were still hand-timed, meaning they are likely off by roughly .25 seconds. Even accounting for this, the times are substantially stronger than the 44.78 winning time of Santa Teresa at the 2017 version of the event.  Santa Teresa would go on to run a very strong 43.24 at CCS Finals. Even with that strong time, a time which placed them 6th at CCS finals, they would have only placed 5th at the 1976 MHAL Finals.

Some events are still as strong/stronger than ever around the area. The Winner of the 880 (Which takes about a half second longer to run that the 800m) ran 1:55.8. The top athlete in the MHAL right now is Jason Gomez of Westmont, he ran 1:52 last year as a junior in the event. Similarly, the mile was won in 4:26.7 by Johnson from Overfelt. That equates to roughly a 4:25 1600. That would have placed him 3rd at the 2017 MHAL which was won in 4:18. Lick’s Joe Salazar placed 3rd in 1976 with a 4:30.1 (converted to 4:28.8 for 1600). Azael Zamora, our top distance runner today is at 4:35.20 with a month left in the season, so he isn’t totally put to shame by strong milers like Joe Salazar.

While distance is as competitive (maybe even a bit more competitive) as ever, many of the speed based events are lacking. The relay is the most glaring example, showing a lack of depth of top-notch sprinters compared to the ‘70s. The jumps are the next most extreme example.

The 2017 MHAL boys long jump was won with a jump of 21-0 by freshmen Jared Vasquez. While that is a great mark, especially for a freshmen, it would not have placed him in the top 5 at the 1976 MHAL finals.

Hunter Beck of Branham won the MHAL 300 hurdles, and ran just under 40 seconds to do so. Going under 40 in the event is an impressive feet, no other athlete did so at MHAL finals 2017. The entire top 5 of the 1976 MHAL finals ran under 40. The event was won by Andre Philips of Silver Creek in 36.4. This was only a few years after the CCS made the switch from the 180 low hurdles to the 330 yard intermediate hurdles (basically identical to the modern 300 hurdles). Andre Phillips would go on to win the gold medal at the Olympics in the 400 hurdles in 1988.

The depth of the BVAL in throws is also way down compared to earlier years. Bill Pabst was unable to make CCS in the discus throw with his career best heave of 149-7 in 1969. 133-3 was good enough to make CCS last year.

I do not draw this comparison to criticize or demean our current crop of athletes. Looking at the past strength of the CCS forces us to consider ways to reignite the strength of our track programs here in the Blossom Valley. That is certainly what I am trying to do at James Lick, a school that fell further than most from the great times of the ‘70s.

Most of James Lick’s top athletes showed up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Pete Moreno went 50 feet in the triple jump. Henry Barba ran 10.69 in the 100, a school record which still stands. Randy Pangelina and Joe Amendt both won CCS titles in the 800, Randy running 1:52 and Joe running 1:50. These are the marks that I intend for James Lick athletes of today to aspire to. We are a long way off in most areas, but emulating the Comets of the past will only help our current athletes.

By the 1980s, the depth of James Lick track was beginning to wane. More and more schools began to populate San Jose, and take from James Lick’s attendance. The most significant of these was the foundation of Independence HS in 1976. Independence quickly grew into a power in the CCS, let alone the MHAL.

There was one especially large change during the ‘70s that would alter the CCS forever, the inclusion of girls sports. With the inclusion of girls sports officially happening after many of James Lick’s greatest teams, you have to wonder how many lady Comets missed their chance. And even with girls finally having the opportunity to compete on the same level as boys, it would take time for them to receive the same emphasis.  

Even so, some of our schools records on the girls side are from this era as well. Joan Jacobs running 12.26 for the 100, and Christine Smallwood running 25.1 are the most impressive Comet marks from the ‘70s. The girls all time list is much weaker than the boys one, and one of the joys of coaching the team right now is that the team is dramatically altering that list. For example, Kathy Shelby threw the shot put 34-0 in 1975. That remained the school record for over 40 years until Alejandra Ceron threw 35-8.5 last year.  

San Jose as a whole would dramatically shift over the next few decades. The rows of orchards became houses, and the blossom valley became silicon valley. Some things never change. Students still take every chance they get to swing by Peters Bakery before school for a slice of Burnt Almond cake. James Lick distance runners run right past the country club on their way to Alum Rock Park. James Lick’s sporting success in recent years however, is a far cry from what it once was.

The BVAL formed with its 3 division ‘power league’ structure in 1996. Since then, most James Lick sports have never been out of the WVAL (‘C’ division). In the late 90s and early 2000s, James Lick track was at its lowest point. They did win a title in track in 2000, and a few titles were won by other sports over the years, but overall JL suffered. From 2007-2013 the team did not win a single dual meet, despite being in the lowly WVAL. The girls team hadn’t managed a winning record in a single season from 1996 on. The WVAL in those years was far weaker than it has been lately. In many dual meets, all it would have taken were enough athletes  to fill up events to grab a win. The team hovered between 8-12 athletes (combined between boys and girls) during these years, and the program would have been cut if not for the intervention of soccer coach Ray Iniguez, (now our athletic director).

James Lick Track Now

In 2014 I was brought on to coach the team. While it is not standard practice to hire 20 year olds to head track programs, few 20 year olds are as obsessive as I was. More importantly, I had a very dedicated freshmen class, whose talent as athletes was fair, and whose caliber as people was exceptional. Nathan Bernardo, Gustavo Aguilera and Maria Mendoza to name a few. They would transform as athletes over the next few years. Nathan went from a 6:00 mile to a 4:47. Gustavo went from a 54 second 300 hurdles time to a 44. Maria went from 58 in the 300 hurdles to 51 seconds, setting a new school record until a teammate broke it.

Besides working hard themselves, they brought more athletes to the team. The team size grew from 12 in 2013, to 23 in 2014 where we grabbed our first wins. We went 1-6 on boys and 1-6 on girls. Those wins were important to our morale, we broke our losing streak and knew we were heading the right direction.

In 2015 came the big jump, our team size doubled to 45 athletes and we went a combined 10-4. 6-1 on girls and 4-3 on boys. The first winning season on record for the girls in school history.

For the first time in a long time, James Lick started to vaguely resemble its past. Davion Thomas ran 23.19 for the 200 and 11.44 for the 100. These times do not approach the school records of Henry Barba, or even the consistent low 11s of James Lick’s heyday, but James Lick had a sprinter at CCS. Karan Singh ran 4:39 for the 1600, becoming the first Comet to run under 4:40 in over a decade.

While we are still in the infancy of recapturing James Lick’s glory on the boys side, I am confident in saying that the girls team as a whole has never been better.

We won the WVAL in 2016 and 2017, propelling us to our first ‘B’ division season this year. The boys narrowly missed the WVAL title, losing to Independence by 5 points in our dual meet.

Now we sit in the ‘B’ division. We are moving upwards, but we are not yet near where we want to be. We are currently a combined 1-7 in the ‘B’ division, but mark my words, we will greatly improve on that record before the season is over (don’t rule out 7-7).

We are not the only James Lick sport showing an upwards trajectory. The girls volleyball team, and girls basketball team both won the WVAL this school year. Both teams made incredible improvements to earn their titles. The volleyball team went from 3-11 to 13-1, and the girls basketball team went from 2-11 to 10-0 (the WVAL is only 6 teams in basketball this season).

As a school, we are committed to improving the school, and I will encourage my team to use the past as a measuring stick.

If you’ve sorted through this convoluted mess, thank you sincerely. I appreciate your interest.

 

The 2nd half of the season kicks off this week. The Comets will be hosting Piedmont Hills, and then heading up to the Bearcat Invite in San Mateo.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

Comets Compete at the historic Artichoke Invitational

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Inteus Castro-Lopez on his way to an 11 second PR

The Artichoke Invitational is one of the highlights of the bay area High School season. James Lick has been running at the Artichoke Invitational since the 1970s, making the course a good indication of athlete fitness and a good measure of how current Comets stack up against the great athletes of the past. The course was 2.25 miles from its foundation up until 2007. The course has been 2.33 miles since.

The day began with a bang in the freshen boys race. Jonathan Bradley and Omar Fimbres came in close together at 15:18 and 15:24 respectively. Both boys ran by far the fastest pace of their careers to this point, running 6:34 pace and 6:38 pace respectively. These times were notably faster than Mark Orpia’s time from last year (15:41) as Mark is now a high quality STAL varsity runner. Jonathan’s time was even faster than Nathan Bernardo’s freshmen time of 15:22. Nathan would of course go on to lead the team to a STAL championship as a senior and win the school’s Ryan award. Jose Ruiz also had a strong race running 16:37.

The Frosh/Soph girls race was next and the Comets sent a huge group of athletes forward. The leading Comet in the race was Ashley Preciado, who is a great example to her teammates. Ashley ran 19:45 for 8:28 pace, the best of her career. This was a huge PR for Ashley who ran 23:46 as a freshmen last year. Ashley has turned herself into a borderline varsity level runner and should inspire others to do the same. For example, Mya Hammond ran 20:30, Emma Veronica ran 20:55 and Emely Lopez ran 21:06. All 3 girls ran the best races of their careers to this point, and show the potential to be strong varsity runners next year. Mariana Perez (21:46) Francine Estranero (23:06) and Estefanie Herrera (24:34) all had the best races of their career as well. Denise Marquez, Maria Sanchez and Anahi Santos rounded out the race for the Comets.

The Frosh/Soph boys was another huge group for the Comets. The team was lead by a stupendous performance by Sophomore Mark Orpia. After running 15:41 as a freshmen, Mark ran 13:43. This is Mark’s first time under 6 minute pace for an XC race, with a 5:53 pace. This is the 2nd best Sophomore time by a James Lick Comet in the past decade, narrowly missing Nathan Bernardo’s 13:38. Mark placed 5th overall.

Melvin Estrada was the next Comet in, also running the best race of his career. Melvin ran 6:20 pace even, going under 6:30 pace for the first time in his career. He lead a stream of big sophomore PRs. Melvin ran 14:47 compared to a 16:31 clocking a year ago. Nien Tran and Hugo Marquez ran 15:13 and 15:21 compared to times of 17:25 and 17:03 respectively as freshmen. Daniel Portillo went from 18:05 as a freshmen to 15:56 as a sophomore. Jerricho Habon battled a tight hamstring and did not PR. Rudolf Ocampo (17:37) Brandon Cruz (17:44) Luis Escamilla (18:51) and Alvaro Fabian (19:37) completed the team.

Only two athletes ran in the JV race for the team, Elizabeth Perez and Aliana Santos. Aliana ran a big PR of 20:58, while last year she ran over 22 minutes.

The varsity races were last on the ledger. Arlet Miranda ran 17:40 to lead the team. Belen Sanchez ran 18:12, a full minute PR from her 19:10 performance last year. Jennifer Villagomez and Justine Austria ran 19:18 and 19:24 as they continue to build towards solidifying the team. Both girls ran under 8:20 pace for the first time in their careers. Analilia Regla has battled injury this week, but ran a decent time of 21:14 to complete the team.

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Azael Zamora on his way to a 7th place finish in the varsity boys race

In the varsity boys race, Azael Zamora became the first Comet to run under 13 minutes on the 2.33 mile course. After running 13:04 as a junior, Azael managed a 20 second PR of 12:44. This moves Azy up from 17th to 8th on the school’s all time list. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a strong race as well, running 13:38 for an 11 second PR. Cody Huoch had the best XC race of his career to run 15:07. Jose Limon ran 15:33. Isaac Veronica and Austin Swank came across the line together in 16:30 and 16:33 respectively.

The team continues to rapidly approach as the season progresses. The team will take on Leigh and Pioneer at Montgomery Hill for STAL 4. The team will then begin preparations for BVAL finals on October 30th.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

James Track Moves Up To ‘B’ division for 2018 Season: 2017 Season Summary

The 2017 Track season was another step forward for the James Lick Comets. I am happy to announce that with the BVAL meetings having concluded, the James Lick track team will be officially be placed in the ‘B’ division for the 2018 season. The strength of the team’s past few seasons, especially  the 2017 season, is what catapulted the team out of the WVAL.

The old local leagues of the BVAL, the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League) the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) merged together in 1996 to form the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League). The BVAL is a 24 team ‘power league’ with the 3 former leagues operating as an ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ division.

The BVAL formed at a point where James Lick was well past it’s heyday in most sports. The track team of James Lick for example, was placed in the ‘C’ division from the very beginning of the BVAL era (like most James Lick sports) and has remained there ever since. 20 seasons of the BVAL era have passed with James Lick in the ‘C’ division every single season. That is all set to change in the 2018 season.

James Lick will compete against the teams of the STAL, with Andrew Hill moving down to replace James Lick in the WVAL. The ‘B’ division was won by Pioneer on the boys side, and Evergreen on the girls side. Other teams in the STAL are: Prospect, Lincoln, Sobrato, Oak Grove, and Piedmont Hills. We will be fully focused on trying to prove we belong in the STAL division, by achieving a middle of the pack finish in our first year in the division.

Now a look back at the season that moved us up. With any luck, we will look back on the 2017 season as the last season James Lick was in the ‘C’ division for track and field.

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Some of the Track Team after the Team Banquet in Alum Rock Park

 

We began conditioning as a team in January. At this early stage we had a large number of boys out, but the majority of our girls were participating in Winter sports. We had the goal all season of trying to win the WVAL on both the boys and girls side.

We came close, going a combined 13-1 for a girls title, narrowly missing the boys.

Here is a breakdown of scoring by event for the 2017 season:

Boys : 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 24.31 27 90% 49
Hurdles 15.14 18 84% 22
Jumps 15 27 55% 17.5
Relays 5 10 50% 13
Sprints 13.14 27 48% 18
Throws 12.85 18 71% 8

Girls 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 16.41 27 60% 32
Hurdles 14.35 18 79% 26
Jumps 17.85 27 66% 28
Relays 3.5 10 35% 10
Sprints 8.56 27 32% 0
Throws 17.27 18 96% 45

Both hurdle squads, the girls throws teams and boys throws teams were very dominant in the WVAL. They will look to lead the team next season as the team takes on the STAL.

The team’s top point scorers were:

  1. Valeria Cortez: 130 points 
  2. Cody Huoch: 99 points
  3. Arlet Miranda: 99 points
  4. Erik Olsvold: 80 points
  5. Lyndel Ventura: 75 points
  6. Nathan Bernardo: 70 points
  7. Azael Zamora: 65 points
  8. Alejandra Ceron: 63 points
  9. Jonathan Rodriguez: 61 points
  10. Ace Medina: 53 points

As the team heads up a division, an encouraging note is that all 5 of the teams top point scorers are not seniors, as are 8 of the teams top 10. The team will need a good returning group of athletes in order to compete at the next level.

At the Willow Glen Invitational, many athletes competed for the team and things looked very promising. Jose Limon began the season with times of 11.97 and 24.40 for 100/200 both of which were top 5 finishes for the meet’s frosh/Soph division. This was a fantastic start to the year as no Comet had run under 12 seconds in 2016. Unfortunately, at the very first dual meet of the season, Jose aggravated his hamstring running the 4×100 and never fully recovered, effectively losing his very promising sophomore year.

One of the sprinter’s who stepped up the most in Jose’s absence was Misael Herrera, the team’s next best Sophomore sprinter. Misael opened the season at 12.80 for the 100 and 26.70 for the 200. Over the course of the season, he worked his way down to big PRS of 12.30 for the 100, 24.56 for the 200, and 56.48 for the 400. By the end of the season, Ace Medina would be the team leader in the 100/200 with PRS of 11.68 and 24.17, despite opening the season at 12.70. Cody Huoch would run 24.40 as well to give the team 4 boys under 25 seconds in the 200, a big improvement over the 1 athlete from 2016. The team scored points at WVAL finals in all 3 boys sprint events for the first time since I’ve been coaching.

In the girls sprint events, the team lost their #1, #2, and #3 sprinters from 2016, putting the team in a tough spot. Silvia Amaya emerged as the team’s top sprinter on the side. She opened the season at 15.20 at Willow Glen and worked her way down to 14.30 by seasons end, scoring points for the team in many dual meets along the way. Freshmen Yeimili Adame emerged mid-season as a potential standout athlete, demonstrating impressive range in the two meets she competed in before becoming academically ineligible. We hope she’ll return as a force next season.

This was the first season that the team’s jumpers were under the tutelage of coach Christopher Turner. In this one season, the future strength of the team’s jumpers was shown through massive improvement. Juan Gutierrez opened his season with jumps of 15-2 for the long jump and 31-1 for triple jump. He would end up with PRS of 17-8.50 and 36-3.  Freshmen Jamie Vong had the most encouraging improvement, going from 31-0 at our first dual meet in triple jump, to 37-6 at WVAL finals. He also went from 14-4 in the long jump to 16-10. Hadji Yono-Cruz lead the team in long jump with a leap of 18-3.  Cody Huoch lead the team with a triple jump of 39-4 at WVAL finals.

On the girls side, Lyndel Ventura finally broke the 15 foot barrier officially with help from coach Turner. She started the season at 13-3 and 25-2, and worked her way up to 15-3 and 28-10.50 by WVAL finals. Kirsten Yutuc joined the jumps crew late in the season, but in a very short amount of time went from 12-10 to 13-9 and from 27-7 to 29-10. I’m very excited about the future of these athletes under coach Turner, only bigger things are ahead.

The team also had a much improved season in the high jump. Elyse Elder achieved a PR of 4-8 to take 2nd at WVAL finals, the highest placing by a JL girl at WVAL finals ever. Jonathan Rodriguez went 5-6 and Ace went 5-8 to give the team two boys who scored pints at WVAL finals, after having none the year before.

The hurdles team also took a big step forward. Two boys ran 44 seconds for the 300 hurdles, and Cody Huoch won the team its first ever league title in the event at WVAL finals. Cody also ran the best 110 hurdles time in years for the Comets, clocking 17.16. Hadji also broke the 18 second barrier running 17.83. Jonathan and Gustavo Aguilera ran under 19 seconds to give the team 4 boys under that mark, compared to only two last year.

Valeria Cortez captured the WVAL title in the 100 hurdles with a PR of 16.75, good for #3 in school history. She also brought her 300 hurdles PR down significantly to 52.12. Susie Peterson did the same thing by running 58.99, and Kirsten Yutuc ran a strong freshmen time of 54.44 in the event, as well as running under 20 seconds for the 100 hurdles.

The girls distance team stared the season with some difficulties. Arlet Miranda opened her season at Willow Glen with two great performances, running 5:41 and 2:34, nearly PRs for both events. She suffered injuries the rest of the season which greatly impacted her training. She was eventually able to run a PR in the 800 however, qualifying for CCS by running 2:28.42 at BVAL championships. Belen Sanchez stepped up to be a contributor for the team. She began the year at 7:05 at our first dual meet, and worked her PR all the way down to 6:12 by the end of the season.

On the boys side, the team was lead by Erik Olsvold. Erik took his freshmen year PRs of 4:54 for the 1600 and 10:36 for the 3200 down to 4:37 and 10:20 despite missing time due to a few different issues. While he was able to capture the WVAL title in the 3200, to some extent this was a disappointing season that Erik will be looking to bounce back from in XC. Azael Zamora took his 1600m PR down to 4:40, even though he too struggled with injuries through most of the season.

The freshmen boys were a highlight of the distance team. Hugo Marquez, Melvin Estrada, Daniel Portillo, Nien Tran and Mark Orpia all finished a full year of distance training between XC and track with great results. Hugo’s ran the mile trial for us in August and ran 7:37. He ended track season with a PR of 5:21. Similarily Melvin started off at 6:50 (though he actually had summer training) and ended Track at 5:20. Daniel started off at 7:23 and worked his way down to 5:52.

Mark and Nien did not have as much training time as they both came out from Wrestling late, but they enjoyed big improvement as well. Mark worked his way down from 6;06 to 5:06 and Nien from 6:20 to 5:28. This young group of boys figures to be a strong FS team in XC.

The throws team was improved on the boys side, and exceptional on the girls side. 3 boys threw above 100 feet in discus on the same team for the first time under coach Vela. Alex Alonzo lead the group at 111-4, a 10 foot PR from 2016.

The girls side was the truly remarkable group for the team however. Alejandra Ceron improved her Shot Put PR from 31-9.50 to 35-8.75, a new school record. She also improved her Discus from 90-10 to 95-11. Valeria improved from 99-8.50 to 108-3 in discus, and from 31-1 in Shot Put to 33-4. Charli took her PRS up to a whole new level after missing her Sophomore season. She went from 29-10 to 32-5 in Shot Put, and from 79-0 to 109-4 for discus. With her throw of 109-4, she took the school record from Valeria and became made CCS finals. A  fitting end of the season for a strong team.

The team ends this season with a lot to be proud of, and a big season ahead in 2018 with the ‘B’ division on the horizon.

A few notes looking ahead

For the first time this summer, James Lick athletes who join the East Side running/track club will compete in all comers meets in preparation for the 2018 track season. My club is open to anyone who wants to join of any age group, and the only fee is the USATF registration fee.

Some of the team’s athletes will begin preparation for their fall sports in a few weeks time as well. Coach Turner is the JV girls volleyball coach, and Coach Vela is the JV boys football coach (and I think Coach Steve may join him as a positions coach this year).  I will begin cross country conditioning with the oh so lovable distance rascals in a few weeks, and am happy to say I will be joined by two new coaches this season who have served as volunteer coaches this past track season.

Lastly, I’m very happy to announce that I will be beginning my teaching career when the 2017/2018 school year begins (teaching world history). 90% of my students grades will be participation in cross country or track! (just kidding of course).

I’ll do a general recap of JL sports for the school year if there is an interest in one. This was the best year we’ve had as a school this decade in terms of championships/overall record. Please comment if you’d be interested in such a blog.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

Who Is The Best Athlete in James Lick Track History?

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

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

Marks/Times vs titles.  

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 5 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comets Rolling After Lowell Invitational

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are looking bright for the Comets.

Thank you for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

JLXC History: Alum Rock Long Course / STAL League Meet Previews

This blog contains both a course history of Alum Rock Park’s Long course, and a breakdown of the upcoming STAL league meets, including a cool ( I think so anyway) competition chart.  

With just two days left until the 2016 Season opens for the Comets, now is a great time to look over the school’s history at the current Alum Rock race course. Alum Rock Park, only 2 miles away from James Lick, has always given the Comets a home field advantage. Just yesterday, the Comets did hill repeats up the signature North Rim hill, in preparation for their league race.

Alum Rock Park’s short course (the 2.25 mile version which you can read about here: https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/jlxc-historyalum-rock-short-course/)   was used for MHAL Finals and the Alum Rock Invitational, from 1966-1990. The league switched to the current 2.85 mile version, using a farther back starting/finish line, in the early 90s. 1996 saw the formation of the BVAL, in which 3 of San Jose’s leagues (the MHAL, STAL, and WVAL) were merged to create a 24 team power league. The BVAL gradually moved away from Alum Rock Park as a race course. While it was still raced on most years in the 90s, it was usually used exclusively by the MHAL (‘A’ division). By 2001, the entire BVAL was using Montgomery hill as the leagues only course (with Crystal Springs as the league finals course).

Alum Rock Park was not used for any races from 2001-2007. In 2008, the WVAL held two races at Alum Rock, bringing the course back into activity. In 2010, with James Lick moving up into the STAL (‘B’ Division) 3 Alum Rock races were run. Alum Rock was raced on again in 2012, 2013, and 2015 in only one BVAL division, (It’s likely not a coincidence that the only division to run Alum Rock in the 2000s is always the division that James Lick happens to be in…). We have two races at Alum Rock on the ledger in 2016 (our first two league meets) and I for one will fight to keep races at Alum Rock as long as I am coach.

With a total of 9 seasons on record, the Alum Rock Long Course is no where near as impressive as the Short Course, but it continues to grow stronger each season the Comets run on it, and some notable additions should be made this year.

The team saw it’s earliest strong times in 1993. This team saw Onofre Navarro run 15:36, and Jaime Recondez run 16:05, these times still stand as the team’s #3 and #6 all time marks respectively. The current school record was set in 1995, by star runner Alberto Meza. Meza ran 15:15 for the course at MHAL finals. Despite running a few years after the end of James Lick’s golden era, Meza is a JLXC all time great. In addition to holding the course record at Alum Rock Park for the long course, with a PR of 15:53 at Crystal Springs, Meza is in the top 10 all time on James Lick’s most impressive all time list.

The team of 1997 ran some strong times on the course as well. Will Crane, another all time JLXC great ran 15:36 to tie Navarro’s mark for #3 all time. In addition to Crane, the team had 3 runners make the all time list, with Daniel Rendon at 16:16, Sham Parmar at 16:27 and Rubalcalva at 16:29. These late 90s years marked the beginning of the decline of James Lick’s prolonged Cross Country success. The team of 1997 sent 4 runners to the State Meet, the most in school history. The team of 1996 won the STAL, to win James Lick’s first championship in the BVAL era in it’s very first year of existence.

The team of 1999 won the STAL again, moving into the MHAL, though Alum Rock Park was not run in 99. The year 2000 was the last time Alum Rock Park would be used for several years, and the Comets made it count. Eric Santos ran a very strong 15:28, and Ivan Navarro ran 15:47. This marks the only time in school history where two Comets broke 16 for Alum Rock long course in the same race ( a feat which this years group, Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora in particular, is trying to replicate). Brent Nichols at 16:21, Nelson Funston at 16:27, and Jerry Reyes at 16:55 capped off a very strong top 5. This group combined for a team time and school record of 1:20:58 (or 80:58) This team had tremendous potential, and went on to run a very strong team time of 1:25:46 (85:46) at league finals at Crystal Springs to place 3rd in the BVAL. They did this without the benefit of top runner Eric Santos, who may have helped them win the whole thing. Santos would go on to have a great track season, running a 4:25 1600m, the 2nd best time in school history (on record).

The only girls time on the all time list set prior to 2000 was Emel Kayer’s 22:14 in 1997. The team time on the girls side in 2000 was 2:16:44 (136:44) a far cry from the team times of recent years, consistently well under the 2 hour mark.

James Lick remained in the MHAL from 2000-2003, but has not been back in the ‘A’ division since. Nor has the team been able to match the spectacular ‘5 guys under 17 minutes’ for a league race course that teams of the early 2000s were able to achieve. From 2001-2007, the BVAL used only Montgomery hill as a race course. The course returned to Alum Rock just in time for Kayla Matsuda to run the course as a senior. Kayla ran the school record of 18:56 to win a WVAL race in 2008, making her the school record holder on a total of 9 different courses, by any measure, she is without a doubt the best JLXC runner on the girls side in history.

The team of 2008 lowered the team record to 2:09, a 6 minute improvement on the team of 2000. In addition to Kayla, 2008 saw Elsie Carillo run 22:03, currently the 9th best time in school history. The team of 2008 also saw Carlos Montes run 16:52 on the boys side, adding his name to the all time list.

The team of 2010 had numerous additions on the boys side. Currently the #2 team time by JLXC was run in 2010, 1:26:11 (86:11). I ran 16:28 for the course that year, and my teammate Ricardo Flores also broke 17, running 16:40. On the girls side, Ana Tapia ran 20:48, the #3 time in school history. She and teammates Teresa Farias and Melissa Cabrera at 23:5 and 24:02 respectively, helped lower the team record to 2:00:35. The team of 2012, would lower the mark even further to 1:57:12 (117:12) breaking 2 hours as a team for the first time. Alma Padilla ran her PR of 22:41 to be the #2 girl on that team to Daniela Camacho’s 21:25. Armando Aguilar at 17:04, Isaac Sanchez at 17:14 and Luis Carrasco at 17:15 added their names to the all time list for the course that season as well.

The 2013 season saw the girls setting the current team record of 1:49:16 (109:16). They were lead by Daniela’s #2 all time clocking of 19:53. Karla Rodriguez and Paloma Contreras ran strong times of 21:54 and 21:58 to give the team 3 girls under 22 on the course. The 2015 team had the benefit of only one race at Alum Rock Park, their very first race of the season. Even so, the team ran strong, with Arlet Miranda running 21:55, and Elizabeth Guevara running 22:55. Maria Mendoza and Andrea Ortiz would go on to run 20:54 and 21:17 at the post season time trial of the course.  Nathan Bernardo ran 16:33 to add his name to the all time list in 2015, as did Hector Ramirez running 17:02.

Despite the team having only their first league meet at Alum Rock, the boys ran the 3rd best team time in school history in 2015. With only 2 early season meets scheduled at Alum Rock this year, the team of 2016 will be hard pressed to beat the school record, but they should come closer than any team ever has by a long shot.

 

STAL League Race Preview

 

With the team on the verge of facing Branham and Leigh to begin their STAL season, now is a good time to look into an explanation of the significance of various times. As always, our focus is on each athlete being a positive representative of James Lick high school, and improving as much as they can over the course of the season. In my opinion, the most successful runner on the team is the one who improves the most from where they started, not necessarily the team’s fastest runner. If every runner on the team experiences significant improvement,(both as a runner and as a person) and has fun doing so, I will consider our season a success. In terms of competition however, it’s natural to also go after wins, just not at the expense of our team culture.

Here is an explanation of various levels of competitive times in the BVAL:

My hope is that the following information will give athletes who are very competitive context to go with their times, as well as the ability to set goals based on places and tiers, in addition to time and process goals.

The return of the use of the Alum Rock Long course in 2008, has illustrated to me (though some other coaches disagree) that Montgomery Hill and the Alum Rock course are essentially equal in terms of time. The Alum Rock course is .11 miles longer than Montgomery, though the overall hillier Montgomery course makes times turn out very similar on either course. It goes without saying that some runners are stronger on a particular course, and each Course needs to be treated distinctly as it’s own entity. I do think that we can compare Montgomery and Alum Rock fairly closely, and use the common times to establish “league race PRS” based on a runners fastest time between the two courses.

I believe in most cases that the disparity in time between the two courses is due more to the point in the season that each course was run, rather than one course being slower than the other. Last year for example, Nathan ran 16:33 at Alum Rock and 16:10 at Montgomery. His Montgomery time however was run a month after his Alum Rock time, with him closer to peak form.  Montgomery is undoubtedly the slower course in terms of mile pace, but the shorter distance of the course should equate to roughly equal times for the two courses, varying by each runners specific strengths.

In any case, the past decade has indicated the following in terms of competetiveness:

BVAL Competitive Times Chart

These competitive times charts are based on the past 10 seasons, with an emphasis on the past 3. Times are sorted into categories or tiers based on how rare each time is.

Each division has different levels of strength, as you’ll see below, a Strong time in the STAL is only a decent time in the MHAL and so on.

Very Elite: Less than 1% of runners run this fast each year.
Elite: less than 5% of runners run this fast each year.
Near Elite: less than 10% of runners run this fast each year.
Very Strong: Less than 25% of runners of runners run this fast each year.
Strong: Less than 40% of runners run this fast each year.
Solid: Less than 50% of runners run this fast each year.
Decent: Less than 70% of runners run this fast each year.
Respectable: Less than 90% of runners run this fast each year.

Varsity Boys

Time MHAL (‘A’ Division) STAL (‘B’ Division) WVAL (‘C’ Division)
15:00 or faster Elite, usually 1-3 boys a season Very Elite, usually 1-2 boys, if any, run this fast. Very Elite, usually no boy runs this fast.
16:00 or faster Strong, usually 15-20 boys will run this fast Near Elite, Usually about 3-5 boys will run this fast Near Elite, Usually about 2-4 boys will run this fast
17:00 or faster Decent, usually about 30 boys will run this fast Strong, usually about 13-18 Boys will run this fast Very Strong, Usually about 10-15 boys will run this fast
18:00 or faster Respectable, Usually about 50 boys will run this fast. Decent, Usually about 30-35 boys will run this fast Solid Usually about 20-25 boys will run this fast

Varsity Girls

Time MHAL (‘A’ Division) STAL (‘B’ Division) WVAL (‘C’ Division)
18:30 or faster Elite, usually 1-3 girls a season will run this fast. Elite, Usually 1-2 girls, will run this fast. Very Elite, usually no girl runs this fast.
20:00 or faster Strong, usually 10-15 girls will run this fast Very Strong, Usually about 6-10 girls will run this fast Elite, Usually about 2-4 girls will run this fast
21:30 or faster Decent, usually about 28-33 girls will run this fast Strong, usually about 15-20 girls will run this fast Near Elite, Usually about 6-10 girls will run this fast
23:00 or faster Respectable, Usually about 45-50 girls will run this fast. Decent, Usually about 30-35 girls will run this fast Very Strong Usually about 10-15 girls will run this fast

 

Frosh/Soph Boys

Time MHAL (‘A’ Division) STAL (‘B’ Division) WVAL (‘C’ Division)
17:30 or faster Near Elite, usually 4-8 boys a season will run this fast. Very Elite, usually 1-2 boys, if any, run this fast. Very Elite, usually no boy runs this fast.
19:15 or faster Decent, usually about 35-40 boys will run this fast Very Strong, Usually about 10-15 boys will run this fast Near Elite, Usually about 3-6 boys will run this fast
21:00 or faster Respectable, Usually about 50 boys will run this fast. Decent, usually about 28-34 Boys will run this fast Very Strong, Usually about 12-16 boys will run this fast
22:45 or faster Usually every FS Boy who races runs this fast. Respectable, Usually about 40-45 boys will run this fast Solid Usually about 19-25 boys will run this fast

 

A team’s varsity group will always be the thing people focus on. The BVAL division placements are based almost entirely on varsity team strength. The BVAL hold 6 different races at any given league meet.

Varsity Boys (Top 7 Boys)

Varsity Girls (Top 7 Girls)

Frosh/Soph Boys (Top 7 Freshmen and Sophomore boys, not on Varsity)

JV Girls (Top 7 Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors not on Varsity).

Reserve Boys (All remaining boys)

Reserve Girls (All remaining girls).

While Varsity teams are the true focus of a competitive season, the Frosh/Soph and JV teams are also scored, meaning a team can achieve a championship in one of those divisions as well, though only a Varsity Championship will be widely acknowledged. The reserve teams are technically non-scoring, though with the help of XC stats, I will score the meets personally to see which team wins in those races as well. I see no reason why an athlete who works hard to better themselves shouldn’t be able to be a part of a scoring team simply because they were too old for Frosh/Soph or not fast enough for Varsity. Some of our reserve boys the year would be Varsity runners at other schools.

And finally an explanation of how our league meets are scored (If you’ve read this far thank you for your interest).

All 8 teams in the STAL will race at the same time this Thursday at Alum Rock Park. The current schedule indicatesVarsity girls start at 3:30, boys at 3:40 and so on. For STAL #1, we are facing both Branham and Leigh. The BVAL uses head-to-head scoring to determine league meet results. This means that even though 8 teams are racing, our race will be scored first as if only James Lick and Branham ran, and then as if only James Lick and Leigh ran.

Each runner is assigned a point value based on their place in the meet. For example last years STAL 1, which also featured James Lick vs. Leigh, looked like this in terms of scoring.

  1. Nathan Bernardo 16:33 JL
  2. Alec Reynolds 16:49 LE
  3. Hector Ramirez 17:02 JL
  4. Jason Morway 17:14 LE
  5. Inteus Castro-Lopez 17:27 JL
  6. Gustavo Aguilera 17:38 JL
  7. Pearson 17:52 LE
  8. Azael Zamora 17:55 JL
  9. Hisamura 18:06 LE
  10.  Mead 18:07 LE
  11. Jesse Chircop JL 18:15
  12. Gustavo Parra JL 18:38
  13. Carlen LE 19:33

Once a race is finished the top 5 runners places are added up to calculate a team score. In Cross Country the lowest score wins. The 6th and 7th runners displace, so while they don’t affect their own team’s score, they can add points to the other team’s total.

The results of the meet listed above were:

JL: 1,3,5,6,8 (11) (12) for a total of  23 points.

LE: 2,4,7,9,10 (13) for a total of 32 points.

If Jesse as the 6th boy had run 18:05, he would have added two points To Leigh’s score, while not affecting ours.

Hopefully this blog was helpful in understanding how our STAL meets work. The Comets will look to start off strong against Branham and Leigh. The opportunity to take on two larger and more affluent schools is an exciting one for this group of Comets, looking to represent the Eastside well. Branham will be an extreme challenge on the girls side, having placed 2nd at BVAL finals last year and both teams will need to be taken seriously.

STAL #1 recap coming soon. Thank you for reading.

-Benny Reeves

Boys All Time List Alum Rock 2.85 Miles

Place Name Time Pace Date Race Place Grade
1 Alberto Meza 15:15 5:21 1995 MHAL Finals 6th 11
2 Eric Santos 15:28 5:25 2000 MHAL # 1 1st 12
3 Onofre Navarro 15:36 5:28 1993 MHAL Finals 6th 12
4 Will Crane 15:36 5:28 1997 STAL Meet 2nd 11
5 Ivan Navarro 15:47 5:28 2000 MHAL # 1 4th 11
6 Jaime Recondez 16:05 5:38 1993 MHAL Finals 12th 12
7 Daniel Rendon 16:16 5:42 1997 STAL Meet 5th 12
8 Brent Nichols 16:21 5:44 2000 MHAL # 1 8th 10
9 Sham Parmar 16:27 5:46 1997 STAL Meet 8th 11
10 Nelson Funston 16:27 5:46 2000 MHAL #1 10th 11
11 Benny Reeves 16:28 5:46 2010 STAL # 4 3rd 12
12 Rubalcalva 16:29 5:46 1997 STAL Meet 11th
13 Nathan Bernardo 16:33 5:48 09/17/2015 STAL # 1 5th 11
14 Ricardo Flores 16:40 5:51 2010 STAL # 4 5th 12
15 Carlos Montes 16:52 5:55 10/10/2008 WVAL # 2 2nd 11
16 Jerry Reyes 16:55 5:56 2000 MHAL # 1 16th 12
17 Hector Ramirez 17:02 5:59 09/17/2015 STAL # 1 9th 12
18 Armando Aguilar 17:04 5:59 10/04/2012 STAL # 4 18th 11
19 Isaac Sanchez 17:14 6:03 09/20/12 STAL # 2 19th 12
20 Luis Carrasco 17:15 6:03 10/04/2012 STAL # 4 23rd 12

 

Girls  All Time List Alum Rock 2.85 Miles

Place Name Time Pace Date Race Place Grade
1 Kayla Matsuda 18:56 6:38 10/01/2008 WVAL # 2 1st 12
2 Daniela Camacho 19:53 6:59 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 8th 11
3 Ana Tapia 20:48 7:18 10/05/2010 STAL # 2 8th 12
4 Maria Mendoza 20:54 7:20 11/04/2015 Farewell Seniors Race 1st 11
5 Andrea Ortiz 21:17 7:28 11/04/2015 Farewell Seniors Race 2nd 12
6 Karla Rodriguez 21:54 7:41 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 17th 11
7 Arlet Miranda 21:55 7:42 09/17/2015 STAL # 1 21st 9
8 Paloma Contreras 21:58 7:42 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 18th 11
9 Elsie Carrillo 22:03 7:44 10/01/2008 WVAL # 2 6th 12
10 Emel Kayer 22:14 7:48 1997 STAL Meet 12th 11
11 Jennifer Custodio 22:40 7:57 11/04/2015 Farewell Seniors Race 3rd 11
12 Alma Padilla 22:41 7:58 10/04/2012 STAL # 4 33rd 10
13 Gabriela Aguilar 22:43 7:58 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 27th 10
14 Karen Ruiz 22:48 8:00 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 28th 12
15 Elizabeth Guevara 22:55 8:02 09/17/2015 STAL # 1 30th 12
16 Teresa Farias 23:08 8:07 10/19/2010 STAL # 4 34th 11
17 Destiny Lopez 23:52 8:22 10/24/2013 STAL # 5 37th 12
18 Melisa Cabrera 24:01 8:26 09/21/2010 STAL # 1 2nd 11
19 Andrea Romero 24:02 8:26 10/04/2012 STAL # 4 39th 11
20 Daisy Nava 24:23 8:34 09/17/2015 STAL # 1 41st 11

 

 

 

One Comet On to CCS after BVAL Championships

IMG_5268.JPG
Valeria Cortez and Coach Vela sharing Enthusiasm after her huge PR and school record in the girls Discus. 

 

 

The Comets took a record number of athletes to the BVAL Championship meet at Sliver Creek high School on May 12th. In total 16 Comets competed. The meet held such strong results for the team, though it was not a great showing for the team overall. The team will look to emphasize this meet to a greater extent in future seasons, with more and more Comets advancing from WVAL finals with ease.

The BVAL Championship meet is contested between all three BVAl divisions (A, B and C). A total of 16 automatic qualifiers advance to BVAL Championships, based on their divisional meets. The top 8 Athletes in each event at BVAL champs advance to CCS trials.

The girls 4×100 team of Lyndel Ventura, Maria Mendoza, Karen Montes and Elyse Elder ran 54.68 to end their season. Arlet Miranda got valuable big-race experience in the girls 1600. She placed 10th in a time of 5:41, the fast first lap of the race costing her in the later half. As a freshmen however, Arlet will look to build on her performance in future seasons, coming within 2 places of making CCS. In the boys 1600, Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo competed, though they did not perform well, running 4:54 and 4:58 respectively.

Andrea Ortiz had a strong final 100h race of her high school career, running 17.68 for 10th place after not even making BVAL champs in the event the year before. Valeria Cortez competed as well, though she had a poor race. Hadji Yono-Cruz ended his season on a high note, running a PR of 18.27. Hadji will look to break through next year.

The girls 400 had Maria running 1:08.91, while Jose Limon ran the boys 400 in 55.99. The girls 800 had another solid race for Arlet, coming home in a high 2:31. Daisy Nava competed as well running 2:46. Erik Olsvold ran a small PR in the boys 800 of 2:08.14. Nathan ended his season with a 2:10 following his 1600. The girls 300h had Andrea placing 10th in 50.96. Andrea’s injury plagued season limited her potential in the event. Her knee pain was so bad she was on the verge of dropping out 100m into the race, but decided to finish at a lessened effort level. She ran a time which only missed qualifying for CCS by .3 seconds, despite being hampered by injury causing her to hold back. Andrea’s toughness is a lesson in perseverance, as well as illustrating the fact that things don’t always go smoothly just because you work hard. While we dearly wish she could have run to her full potential, she has a bright future ahead of her and will be competing at De Anza college next year. Gustavo Aguilera competed in the boys 300h, running 46.80.

The team finished the running events with the 4x400s. The boys team of Jose, Gustavo, Misael Herrera and Nathan ran a seasons best of 3:45. The girls team of Maria, Daisy, Andrea and Arlet ran a solid 4:34. In the field events, Elyse Elder placed 11th in girls high jump at 4-4. Lyndel Ventura jumped 14-4.5 for 12th place in girls long jump.

In the girls Shot Put, Alejandra Ceron threw a PR of 31-9 for 10th place. Valeria threw a solid 30-0. The event of the day for the team however was the girls discus. Alejandra struggled, throwing 82-0, but Valeria had a huge day throwing a new PR of 99-9.50. This was good enough for 6th place and a CCS berth. This also makes Valeria the school record holder in the girls discus, beating the 96 foot throw of Ward in 2002. Valeria has had a tremendous season. At her first ever high school competition, Valeria competed in her 3 primary events. At the Willow Glen Invitational she threw 25-5.50 in the Shot Put, 65-10 in Discus and ran 22.94 in the 100 hurdles. Valeria worked hard all season under Coach Vela in the throws and myself in the hurdles, and drastically improved her marks. She ended up throwing 31-1 in the Shot Put, 99-9.50 in Discus and 17.80 in the 100 hurdles. Valeria should be a huge factor in the WVAL, and the entire BVAL for years to come.

Valera will head to Gilroy High school next Saturday for the CCS Trials, while some members of the team will contest the Stanford Cardinal All Comers Meet at Gunn high School in the same day.

 

 

 

A Brief History of James Lick Track

IMG_4916.JPG
Daniela Camacho, James Lick School Record Holder in the 800, 1600 and 3200  (Left) Now Competing For De Anza college. Arlet Miranda, Freshmen and heir apparent to Daniela’s records (right).

 

With only one dual meet remaining in the season before the team heads to WVAL finals, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the rich history of James Lick Track in order to better contextualize the success of this years team.

James Lick began competing in Track and Field very soon after it was founded in 1950. The low number of schools in the area helped ensure James Lick was abundant in talent. By 1954 the team was winning league championships in Cross Country in the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) and producing great athletes in Track and field. This was before the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) or the CCS (Central Coast Section) were in existence.

The team produced multiple championships, with athletes like Ray Russ in the 880 yard run (804 meters) and Henry Aguilar in the 120 (109 meters) yard hurdles winning not just the SCVAL, but the entire NCS (North Coast Section) title in their events. Records of times and marks throughout much of James Lick’s history are scarce, making the All Time lists I have complied only mostly completed. In order to compare the athletes of JL history to the athletes of today, all marks achieved in yard events have been converted to their metric-event equivalents. Ray Russ’ 880 time of 1:55.7 for example converts to a 1:55.24 800 time which still stands as the 3rd best time on record in school history. Henry Aguilar’s 14.90 converted 110 hurdle time is still the school record.

The CCS was formed in 1965, the same year that James Lick and several other schools formed the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League). During the 60s and 70s James Lick demonstrated incredible depth, with several of James Lick’s best ever marks achieved during this era. Dave Pike’s long jump record of 22-6.50, Dan Lloyd’s school record 59-9.50 Shot Put throw, and James McGhee’s school record 159-9 Discus throw were set during these years.

As more and more schools popped up around San Jose, the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) were formed. At this time the leagues were purely geographical, with the MHAL being the east side league, the STAL the south league, and the WVAL the western league. The foundation of more schools nearby James Lick, such as Independence and Piedmont , began to make a dent in James Lick’s Track and Field depth, as more and more students piled into other schools. Even so, the best athletes of James Lick in the late 70s and 80s were phenomenal, and 1975 marked the start of girls competition in the MHAL.

The 3200 school record of 9:26 (converted from a 2 mile time) set by Joe Salazar, and Peter Moreno’s outstanding 50-1 Triple jump were both set in 1976. The CCS has existed now over 50 years and with hundreds of athletes contesting the triple jump every year, Moreno’s mark still stands as the 3rd best in CCS history. The mid and late 80s saw two more JL greats. School record holder and double CCS champion Henry Barba ran 10.69 for the 100, and 21.57 for the 200 in 1985. Joe Amendt won 4 straight MHAL titles over 800 meters, from 1985 to 1988, eventually running a time of 1:50.75 for a school record and still 4th best time in CCS history. Joe also ran what stands as the converted school 1600 record of 4:18.49. By the early 1990s however, as James Lick began to suffer academically, more and more students chose Private schools or other local choices. This severely weakened the strength of the Cross Country and Track Teams, with much of James Lick’s would be talent turning elsewhere.

The early years of girls competition in the 70s and 80s had some strong marks, but the girls team never achieved the success of their male counterparts. A few years after girls were allowed to compete, the team produced very little athlete turnout on the girls side. Kathy Shelby’s school record 34 foot Shot put throw and Joan Jacobs school sprint records of 12.26 and 25.44 (again converted from yard events) were set in these early years. Again it should be noted that records were not well kept in this time, so records are based on what I could verify.

In the very late 1980s and 1990s, as James Lick declined, more and more schools opened around San Jose. As the CCS grew, and sought more organization, leagues began to experiment with Power league structures, where teams would move up or down between leagues of varied competition level based on ability.

In 1996 the BVAl was formed, with the MHAL, STAL, and WVAL coming together to form the biggest “Super League” in the CCS, with 24 total teams.  The MHAL served as the ‘A’ league, the STAL the ‘B’ League and the WVAL the ‘C’ League. While some great marks were set in the 90s, including a school record in the 100 hurdles by Jamalia English of 15.51, James Lick was getting weaker by the year as more and more students flocked to schools that were performing better academically.

James Lick Track was immediately placed in the WVAL (C League) in 1996, and has been there ever since, along with most of the school’s sports. By this time, James Lick was not competitive in Track and Field at all anymore, with a few standout athletes not being able to help the team finish better than last place on the girls side, and 6th on the boys side in the weakest league of the BVAL in it’s first ever year.

In short, James Lick Track has struggled in the entire BVAL era (1996 on). The girls history, having never been strong as a team, saw several record breaking performances in the 2000s despite team struggles. These included a school record in the girls Discus by Ward in 2002 of 96-6 and outstanding girls Jumps records by Ruth Lebeau, 17-5.50 for long jump and 37-5 for Triple jump.

In 2009 The Track team was on the verge of folding with only 12 athletes on the entire team between boys and girls combined. Coach turnover was high, with soccer coach Ray Iniguez, school teacher Ms. Everet, and off campus coach Juan Trejo all stepping in to ensure the team at the very least existed. Over the course of 5 seasons from 2009-2013 the team did not win a single meet, going a combined 0-70 during this span.

In 2013 I came on as the Head Coach for Cross Country (along with Coach John Quasarano) and Track, having graduated from James Lick in 2011. It is a testament of the extent to which Track was not emphasized at James Lick in the early 2000s that I ran Cross Country all four years without ever participating in Track until college. I hoped dearly that we could gradually improve the fortunes of the team, and perhaps in a few years have a winning record. I was thrilled in my first season to be joined by throws Coach Jon Vela, who shared my ambitions for the team and obsession with fostering improvement.

What myself and Coach Vela, along with Coaches Juan Trejo and Ricardo Flores experienced was a student body which has blown away all expectations put on them. Despite the reputation James Lick has amassed in some circles regarded as an “at risk” school full of gang bangers or delinquents, the team has overcome the struggles of much of the BVAL era. As fall coaches (Vela coaching football), myself and Coach Vela are able to put a greater emphasis on recruiting athletes from within James Lick’s student body to come out and try Track and Field and this was the first step to success. The team of 2014 grew from 12 total athletes to 25. With this increase came the end to the team’s long losing streaks, and an encouraging breath of air along with it. The graduating class of 2015 was a truly special group of athletes. Team members such as Daniela Camacho, Paloma Contreras, Mario Perez, Karan Singh, Brianna Flores, and Robert Rios were instrumental in recruiting many of their friends and teammates from other sports to Track and,  with it came far greater success.

Prior to 2015, myself, Coach Vela and Coach Q discussed the teams prospects. Our number one priority is always that every athlete improves as much as possible, but we also set the goal of finishing with a winning record on both sides for a combined winning record. At the time this was a very ambitious goal, having gone just 1-6 on both sides the year before, with the last winning record on other side being the 4-3 record of the boys in 2002. In fact, in the entire BVAL era, from 1996 to 2014 the Lady Comets Track team had NEVER had a winning record even once. The best combined record was the 7-7 team of 2001, when the boys went 5-2 and the girls 2-5.

The Team collectively demonstrated that they were ready to change that. the team of 2015 finished a combined 10-4, with the Varsity girls achieving the first winning record on record in school history (1975-2015) and definitely the first winning record in the BVAl era.  The rapid turn around of the program speaks to the very hard working group of student athletes on the Comet Track team. James Lick still has limitations. We are still considered academically “at risk” we are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, but despite these limitations, the Track Team’s size spiked from 25 athletes in 2014, to 44 athletes in 2015.

The great 2015 JLTf renaissance boasted the school’s best girls team in the BVAL era and likely the best one in school history. Daniela set school records in all three distance events, and Andrea Ortiz set the school record in the 300 hurdles. The most commendable thing about the group of athletes who have turned JLTF around however isn’t the way that they compete, but the way they cohere. At WVAL finals last year, I had the immense pleasure of being told by multiple coaches that the James Lick Track team stood out for their remarkably welcoming and supportive treatment of their teammates and opponents. The Sportsmanship demonstrated by the team shows that the group of athletes we currently have aren’t weighed down by the perceptions of outsiders, or the limitations placed upon them.

Another measure of the 2015 team’s success was the number of athletes sent to BVAL Championships. This is a meet contested by all 3 of the BVALS leagues, with the top 4 athletes at WVAL Finals, the top 5 athletes at STAL Finals and the top 7 athletes at MHAL finals qualifying for the meet. For much of the 2000s, only a handful of athletes from JL would attend BVAL champs, with the highest number of the 2000s being 5 individual athletes in 2003. In 2015 however the team sent 9 individuals and 3 relay teams for a total of 16 athletes at BVAL champs.

The foundations set by the team of 2015 have set the team on the course for success for years to come. When a program is truly successful, it’ll have special years with special graduating classes, but it will continue to be successful even when it loses strong athletes because it has a system that works and a tradition of success. This is illustrated by many of the strong teams around the CCS such as Los Gatos, Lynbrook and local powerhouse Mt. Pleasant. The James Lick Track team is not yet a CCS power, nor  a BVAL power, but only a few years ago it was the weakest team in the WVAL, and it is now arguably the best.

The team of 2015 was unquestionably the best team of the BVAL era (effectively the modern era or JLTF) with it’s 10-4 combined record. Despite the loss of the Top 3 Point scorers on the boys side, and the loss of school record holders and League champions on the girls side, the 2016 team has already improved upon the 2015 season standing at 11-1 with a highly anticipated dual vs YB remaining.

With the girls team at 6-0, they are on the verge of the first league championship in school history. This is amazing even in the C league when one considers that only 2 years ago the team had never even had a winning season in the BVAL era. The addition of experienced coach Steve Nichols in Sprints and Jumps has been huge in maintaining the team’s growth.

The team will need to throw down their best performances to defeat the also undefeated Yerba Buena warriors on their home turf, but the heart and determination the 2016 Track team has shown time and time again will surely serve them well. I count myself as extremely lucky for having a group of student athletes so determined to better the reputation and standing of their school.

On behalf of my coaching staff Thank you for your support of the James Lick Track Team and stay tuned for Final Dual Meet recap and WVAL finals preview coming soon.

All time list:

http://www.xcstats.com/track_all_time.php?school_id=1097

More can be found under Track History:

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/q/