Comets Have Historic Day at STAL #3

The Comets took to Montgomery Hill for their 3rd league meet of the season on Wednesday October 5th. This matchup was highly anticipated, as the first Montgomery meet of the season, as a matchup with STAL powerhouse Pioneer high school.

For a course history of Montgomery Hill, read here first: 

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/jlxc-history-montgomery-hill-time-trial-recap/Th

Montgomery Hill is now the signature course of the BVAL and the Comets began racing on the course during the final years of the James Lick boy’s last great era. As such, the course holds immense significance for the ability to compare within the BVAL. After two weeks of hard work, the Comets were ready to show the benefits of their training.

The day got off to a bizarre start. Due to a mix-up, the Frosh/Soph boys were pointed in the wrong direction on the course in two separate areas. Every Frosh/Soph Boy ran the middle school course of 2.06 miles, instead of the high school 2.74 mile version. As every boy ran this version of the course, the places were allowed to stand as legitimate. Pioneer is the team to go through on the boys side in the STAL. Not only are they the 2014 and 2015 Varsity boys STAL champs, but their reserve and Frosh/Soph teams have already showed tremendous depth. At STAL 2, Pioneer had their top 5 Frosh/Soph boys in the top 11 overall, while the Comets #1 Frosh/Soph Boy was Mark in 22nd place.

The team was not able to defeat the Mustangs, but they did give them a much more difficult fight than anticipated. Pioneer boys took places 1-4 overall, but Comet runners Vincent Giglio, Mark Orpia, and Nien Tran came in 5th, 7th and 11th. Rudy Peterson and Jerricho Habon rounded out the team’s scoring 5. Melvin Estrada and Hugo Marquez rounded out the team overall.

The Varsity girl’s had no trouble going the correct way, and Arlet Miranda lead the group in 19:16, a huge PR and the 2nd best James Lick girls time in school history to finish 5th overall. After missing time to work on her grades, Maria Mendoza ran 21:50, a strong improvement on the 22:52 she ran at STAL 1. Daisy Nava ran a 20 second PR of 22:38 to be the team’s 3rd girl, though the absence of Milka Perez hurt the team overall. Denisse Calixto and Belen Sanchez rounded out the scoring in 24: 14 and 24:55 respectively, with Analilia Regla finishing in 25:05 a PR by more than 1:30. The team ran a team time of 112:53 (1:52:53) better than the 113:53 that they opened last season’s first Montgomery meet with. While the team is trending in the right direction, they too were unable to defeat the Pioneer Mustangs.

 

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Varsity Girls Left to Right: Arlet Miranda, Maria Mendoza, Belen Sanchez, Analilia Regla, Daisy Nava, Denisse Calixto

The Varsity Boys were next up on the ledger, but before detailing their race it’s important to contextualize this team’s drive.

No team has come to represent the rebirth of JLXCTF more than this group of athletes. I began coaching 4 years ago, and the varsity team of 2013 had very little running experience. While there were dedicated athletes like Karan Singh, Nathan Bernardo and Gustavo Aguilera, the team was a long way from being competitive within the BVAL, let alone the STAL specifically. Our best team that season at Montgomery hill was 94: 56 (1:34:56). A far cry from the school record of 81:48 (1:21:48) ran in 2003 by a team that went 7-0 in the MHAL (‘A’ division). Nathan ran 19:17 as a freshmen at Montgomery Hill, while Gustavo Aguilera ran 27:00. While their times were not even particularly impressive frosh/soph times, both boys showed an indomitable spirit and desire to improve themselves, that would help lay the foundation for the team culture we have now.

We were moved down to the WVAL after this season, in part because our rapidly improving girl’s team was listed as 0-7 on the league standings sheet, while their correct record should have been listed at 4-3. I remember Nathan asking after this if we could get back into the STAL if we ran fast enough, and more so, if we might potentially win a league championship one day. Myself, then fellow JLXC coach, John Quasarano,and the students on the team felt that we deserved to remain in the STAL. We set out with the goal of proving this, and I as a first year coach, was very determined to try to “outcoach” other coaches, and help my athletes develop at a faster rate than the athletes are larger, more financially advantaged schools.

In setting out to coach the best I could, I began to compile the all time list available on this site. Having a father who ran at James Lick, and having run at James Lick myself, lead me to understand the great tradition of JLXC. In compiling these lists however, I began to truly understand the depth and power of James Lick’s tradition in general, and our goal’s began to shift. We wanted a team that was inclusive of all athletes regardless of ability level. A place where anyone who wanted to run XC/Track, would be able to do so with the unmitigated support of their coaches and teammates. The positive attitude of athletes like Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores, Mario Perez, and Oscar Sanchez helped ensure this was the case.

From a competitive standpoint, we wanted to eventually restore James Lick’s status as a powerhouse not just within the WVAL, not just within the BVAL,  but within the CCS. The reality is James Lick is not the same school that it was during much of it’s athletic glory days. The population is lower, the demographics have shifted, and the wallet’s are thinner. We are consistently one of the smallest school’s in the BVAL, currently 4th smallest, and the smallest of any team in the STAL for Cross country. We are consistently one of the poorest schools in the BVAL. Educational data from 2013/2014 showed that 80% of James Lick’s students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Only Overfelt had  a greater percentage of students from “low income” households. In comparison, STAL schools from the south side, Leigh, Branham and Pioneer have only 7%, 14% and 26% of students qualifying for the same program.

While this is not a direct factor on athletic or academic success, the ability to live comfortably affords one the ability to focus on tasks such as school and sports with greater rigor. This is exemplified by athletes like Maria Mendoza, who qualified for CCS last year as a junior, but is struggling to find time to practice between the fact that she is busy applying for college, taking care of school work, and working two jobs to help support her family.

James Lick’s rate of sending students to college is among the lowest in Santa Clara Country. Ultimately our goal in attempting to restore the program’s competitive success, was to demonstrate that Comets, and east-siders everywhere are capable of success regardless of the limitations set upon them. The idea was, if a small poor school from the East Side, could compete with the large rich schools of the West side, and do so with a class and sportsmanship that defied people’s assumptions about what the “kids from the hood” were like, we could in our small way, raise our school/community consciousness and work towards our fellow east siders achieving more than they thought they could. The Comets understand their status as societal and athletic underdogs, and the team is using this as chip on their shoulder, rather than as another reason to be discouraged.

These goals, however idealistic, were a long way from coming to fruition. 94:56 is a long way from 81:48. In the 2013 season when we ran our 94:56, we had only one boy run under 19 minutes. While Nathan’s 19:17 was a promising freshmen time, there was little indication that team would be competitive outside of the WVAL any time soon. There were 3 runners who ran under 16 minutes at Montgomery from the STAL when the Comets ran 94:56,and all 3 had been running under 16 since their freshmen year. For the team to begin to approach it’s long term goals, athletes like Nathan would have to wok very hard to move the program forward each year. The 2014 WVAL Championship by the girls had the team moving back to the STAL for the 2015 season, a year removed from when the Varsity boys were only a 94 minute team. While Nathan and Gustavo remained from freshmen year, they’d been joined by fellow distance runners along the way, all buying into the cause that we have been toiling towards for the last four years.

In those four years, the team has come along way towards their goals, and it showed in the matchup with Pioneer. Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 15:52, tied for the 2nd best time in school history on the course, placing second overall, narrowly holding off Pioneer’s fastest runner. Erik Olsvold was close behind at 15:57, becoming just the 4th Comet in school history to break the 16 minute barrier at Montgomery Hill, just seconds after Nathan became the 3rd. Azael Zamora placed 7th overall in 16:26, an off race by his standards. Inteus Castro-Lopez, 16:40, Gustavo Aguilera, 16:53 and Gustavo Parra, 16:57 came in 9th, 11th and 12th respectively to round out the team. The Comets had all 6 of their runners in before Pioneer had their 3rd. The dominant team showing yielded a team time of exactly 81:48, tying the school record in the highly symbolic victory over a strong Pioneer team. The Varsity boys move to 5-0 with this victory, and take another step towards winning the STAL championship. This would be only the 8th James Lick league championship in any sport since the year 2000, and the first championship not to come from the ‘C’ league.

The girls JV race, as well as the reserve races followed up the Varsity Boys with some strong performances as well. Camilla Hernandez continues to flash strong potential, running 25:19 on her first try on the course, a very promising young time. Heck, that’s faster than Gustavo A’s first try as a freshmen and he ran 16:53 today! Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos were not far behind, running solid JV times. Valerie Flores narowly dipped under the 30 minuter barrier for the course, running 29:53. Diana Romero ran 30:28 a huge PR from her 31:51 a year ago. Ashley Preciado also continues to develop, running 30:59 better than her previous league race best of 33:04 just 2 weeks ago. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the girl’s race with league race bests as well, running 32:42 and 34:15 respectively.

The reserve boys have been a source of strength for the team in the past decade, and are beginning to round  into form as well. David Bejines placed 3rd overall in 19:32, a minute faster than his 20:33 STAL previous best. Isaak Herrera and Austin Swank ran 20:49 and 20:50, very strong times for the first Montgomery meet of the season. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:52 a league race best by more than 2 minutes. Daniel Portillo ran a league race best as well, finishing in 23:39 while Kevin Bach finished in 23:45 to finish the Comets day.

With 3 league races in the books, the Comets will finish up the STAL season with meets at Montgomery Hill both of the next two Thursdays, and will head to Crystal Springs this Saturday for their final invitational of the season. Crystal Springs will allow the team to compare themselves against many of the best teams in the CCS.

Thank you for reading, especially if you hung in there while I got all sociological.

-Benny Reeves

 

 

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JLXC History: Montgomery Hill / Time Trial recap

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Montgomery Hill as seen from a spectator’s view.

This post will contain two blogs for the price of one. 

Blog 1: JLXC at Montgomery Hill

Today, James Lick is a member of the BVAL, a 24 team “power league” which formed in 1996. James Lick was a member of the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League) from 1965- the early 90s. With the formation of the BVAL in 96′ MHAL took the place of the ‘A’ division of the BVAL,the STAL (Santa Teresa League) took on the role of the ‘B’ division, and the WVAL (West Valley League) took on the role of the ‘C’ division.

Following its foundation, the BVAL searched for an accessible area to use for its league meets. Alum Rock park, long used by the MHAL, was used for some races, as was Helyer Park and Santa Teresa park. In the year 2000 however, the BVAL created a race course at Montgomery Hill Park, right next to Evergreen Valley college. The park, as its name indicates, is extremely hilly for a cross country course and has no shade to offer. These factors combined with its loose dirt in places, makes it the slowest race course (in terms of mile pace) in the CCS central conference. The original course was 2.95 miles, and was used for several races in 2000. In 2001 and 2002, the course became almost exclusively the BVAL’s course of choice for league meets. In 2003, the course was modified to its current 2.74 mile format, and has been run by the BVAL every year since.

With the 2016 season approaching, Montgomery’s entering its 17th year of use. James Lick has 15 years of history on the course (In 2012 all of JL’s league meets were at Alum Rock). With a limited history compared to historic courses like Crystal Springs, and one which has taken place after most of JL’s greatest seasons, the Montgomery hill school all time lists are not amongst the school’s best performances. The teams of recent years however are heading solidly in the right direction.

The JL teams of the early 2000s were some of the best teams in the entire BVAL on the boys side. The 2001 team ran some of the first fast times on the course. The boy’s team’s 2nd best combined team time (calculated by adding the times of the top 5 runners together) on the course was run in 2001. The team ran a time of 82:47 (converted for the 2.74 mile course). Ivan Navarro ran a converted 15:52, one of only 2 sub 16 minute clockings at Montgomery in school history.

In 2003 the course was altered to its current format, and with it came the current school records on the course, both individually and as a team. Jose Gutierrez ran 15:05,  an outstanding time and a school record for the course. This time helped the team to a combined time of 81:48, an average of 16:22 a runner. In the mid 2000s, (the weakest era of JLXC) the team consistently ran times in the high 80s or low 90s, with a few standout performances such as Erick Herrera’s 16:01 in 2005.

The team gradually fell from the top of the ‘A’ division in 2003, to the middle of the ‘C’ division a mere 4 years later. The team of 2009 however, began to spark some life into the program by winning the WVAL and moving up to the STAL. Even then however, the boys team only managed a team time of 90:02, a far cry from the mid 80 minute clockings of the early 2000s.

The rebirth of JLXC that the current program is striving to create has been a joy to witness. The team of 2013 (my first year as coach), ran a team time of 94:56, the slowest Montgomery Hill team time for James Lick on record. A year later however, then sophomore and current senior and team captain, Nathan Bernardo, helped the team take a huge step back towards respectability with a team time of 87:05.

In the now 16 years of course History,24 Comet boys have run under 17 minutes at Montgomery Hill (A common  varsity boy time even in the ‘A’ division), but only 9 Comets have managed the feet since 2006. In 2014, Nathan added his name to the list along with teammate Karan Singh, making it the first season where two Comets simultaneously broke the barrier since 2010, when Ricardo Flores and myself combined to do so.

2015 witnessed yet another leap forward, as the team combined for a time of 84:40, despite not running their normal 4th runner at their best league race. This was the 4th best team time for JL (out of 15 total years) in history, and only 20 seconds off  of the team of 2004. Nathan ran 16:10 to put himself #4 on the school’s all time list for the course, and the team also saw Hector Ramirez run under 17 minutes, with Inteus Castro-Lopez and Gustavo Aguilera at 17:00 and 17:09 respectively.

The team of 2016 is actively going after the school record of the 2001 team, and their first time trial of the season was a great indicator of their capability. More on that Below.

Even in the 2000s where the boys team was struggling compared to decades and even years past, the girls team was struggling mightily to be competitive, like throughout much of its history. JL was unable to field a full team in some of the early BVAL years, and 2003 was the first time the team managed to break 2 hours for the course, with a combined team time of 1:58:39 or 118:39.

In a few years however, the team was bolstered by the arrival of Kayla Matsuda, who currently stands as James Lick’s greatest ever girl Cross Country runner. Kayla’s PR and school record of 18:12 run in 2006, still stands as one of the top 20 Montgomery times for any school. It also lead the team to a big school record team time of 1:54:53. This time was bettered a year later by the team of 2007, running 1:49:51 to narrowly miss out on winning the ‘C’ division championship. That team also saw freshmen Aurora Lepe run 21:14, a 21 minute time is a decent varsity time in the ‘A’ division. After Kayla’ graduation in 2009, the girls team struggled to be competitive again, especially with the teams move into the ‘B’ division in 2010. From 2010-2012 the Varsity girls team went a combined 0-21, strong individual times such as the 20:03 clocking in 2010 by Ana Tapia (3rd best JL time ever) and the 21:25 of freshmen Daniela Camacho in 2011 not withstanding.

The team of 2013 however saw a surge in there group capability. Despite the boys struggles in 2013, the girls team ran 1:50:06, the then #2 team time in school history, and managed a winning record in the ‘B’ division as a result. Record keeping and political issues lead to the team of 2014 being placed in the ‘C’ divison for the 2014 season, and the 2014 team worked hard to correct that mistake. Daniela Camacho ran the #2 time in school history, with a 19:32 clocking, giving the Comets two girls (all time) under 20 at Montgomery to go with  their 2 boys under 16. Thanks to strong runs from athletes like Paloma Contreras, Milka Perez, and Maria Mendoza, 2014 was the first season in school history where 4 girls ran under 22:00 in the same race. This resulted in a huge team record of 1:45:57, and arguably the greatest girls XC season in JL history.

Despite the loss of of 6/7 of the team’s varsity girls from the 2014 season, the 2015 season ran a solid team time of 1:49:58, breaking the 1:50:00 barrier at Montgomery for the 3rd time in the school’s 15 seasons on the course, despite a very inexperienced girls team. Maria lowered her PR to 20:31, giving her the #4 JL time in history for the course.

Montgomery hill is now the team’s most raced upon course. Generally the team has somewhere between 2-4 races their every season, and the all time lists for the course will continue to grow each season. With the team striving every day to rebuild a once tremendous XC program. Montgomery hill times will be an important barometer of success going forward.

More information on JLXC’s rich history can be found here:

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

Note: All historical data is based on actual archival data/ newspaper results. This is simply the all time lists I have been able to compile, if you have any information that I am missing please do not hesitate to send it my way!

It is my intention to write on a piece on the history of every course we will race this year, if coaching/ graduate studies/ student teaching allow me enough time.

In any case thank you for reading this summary, Blog 2 Below. 

 

Blog 2: Time Trial Recap

The 2016 team showered their desire to take yet another step forward this season with a very strong time trial showing. Azael Zamora lead the group in a huge PR of 16:42, despite only giving an estimated 85% effort. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a 1 second PR of 16:59, despite the earliness of the season and the fact that he was also treating the run as ,ore of a threshold run than a true time trial. Erik Olsvold did go all out, and ran a full minute PR of 17:18, showing the benefits of his strong track season. Nathan Bernardo did not even bring his racing shoes, but ran a time of 17:33, 17 second abetter than his time at the same time trial a year ago.

Gustavo Aguilera and Gustavo Parra ran 18:36 and 18:49 respectively, way ahead of their 19:04 and 21:37 clockings from last years Montgomery time trial. Jesus Deloya and Vincent Giglio also broke 20, running 19:36 and 19:53, putting both runners on track to break 18 minutes this season for the course.

The next Comet in was sophomore Arlet Miranda, fresh off of her breakout track season, looking to push away the memories of her injury plagued freshmen XC season. Her time of 20:47 puts her #5 on the all time list, and bodes well for her chances to move onto #2 on the school’s list by seasons end. Recent transfer, David Bejines finished with a time of 22:12, an experienced runner as a junior, David will look to factor into the teams plans as he rounds into shape. Freshmen Jericho Habon was next in a time of 22:19. Jericho is one of a number of extremely dedicated freshmen who have worked hard to turn themselves from runners who couldn’t run under 8 minutes for a mile, to strong ‘B’ division frosh-sops athletes. This is their goal with a few weeks before races begin. fellow dedicated freshmen, Kevin Bach came across the line in 24:48 in his first official James Lick clocking. Julia Cruz was the only girl besides Arlet to take part, and she ran a solid 25:05 after her first week back at practice. This is faster than Julia’s time from early October of last season, and she went on to run a solid 23:07 that season.

The Comets are hard at work, and have big time aspirations this season. Despite the fact that the top group of boys treated this run as only a hard practice run, they ran 1:27:07/87:07 , faster than 7 of the 15 seasons where James Lick has run at Montgomery Hill. The team record of 1:21:48/ 81:48 is on their mind, as is a ‘B’ division title.

The girls team spearheaded by Arlet has the aim of breaking 1:50:00 at Crystal Springs, which would be the best league finals time in school history for the girls. Despite the 2 girl showing on Saturday, the girls team is very much rounding together with athletes like Daisy Nava, Maria Mendoza, and Milka Perez hard at work.

The North Rim trail has been closed, but the Comets will look to run a time trial on it as soon as it opens if their schedule permits. In any case the Alumni Race will take place on Friday September 2nd beginning at 6:00 P.M. I recommend any alumni runners arrive at 5:30 if possible to allow time for warmups. The event is less than two weeks away, and the whole Comet team is gaining steam.

Stay tuned for more Comet news.