Comets Show Great Improvement at Watermelon Run: Midseason Recap

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The Comets team awaits the start of the Watermelon Run Headed by several James Lick Alumni

After two weeks of hard work without a race, the James Lick Cross Country team assessed their fitness with the 2017 edition of the Watermelon Run. Due to the cancelation of the Alumni Race earlier in the month, the Watermelon Run doubled as the alumni race with several recent James Lick graduates in attendance.

The team ran the 3.03 mile north rim time trial course. The team ran the same course on August 14th to check their fitness heading into the new season. The Watermelon run showed just how far some of the Comets have come.

Azael Zamora battled sickness to run 17:58 a few seconds off of his personal best. Inteus Castro-Lopez was the 2nd boy across in 18:55, a 2 second PR. The big improvements started piling in soon after. Mark Orpia ran 19:37, far better than his 22:06 PR on August 14th. Erik Olsvold was next in 20:57. Erik has yet to race this season after his outstanding 2016 cross country season. His knee is nearly 100% and he looks to ready to finally begin racing again soon. Jesus Deloya ran a massive PR of 21:06, far better than the 25:17 clocking he managed at the original North Rim time trial of the season.

Nien Tran ran 21:09 for a new PR (25:57 on August 14th). Freshmen Jonathan Cortez ran 21:27 and continues to show his long term potential as a distance runner. This is the best freshmen time at the Watermelon run in the past 4 seasons at least. A stream of Sophomores were next, further illustrating the team’s youth.  A group of Sophomores, Melvin Estrada (21:29) Jerricho Habon (21:38) and Hugo Marquez (21:42) and Daniel Portillo (21:59) all ran under 22 minutes for the first time.

Cody Huoch came across the line next in 23:01. Isaac Veronica ran 23:12 for his first time on the course. Austin Swank was not far behind him in 23:18, a lifetime best in his final run on the course to give the team a strong reserve trio. Freshmen Omar Fimbres ran 23:51 just before Brandon Cruz and Rudolph Ocampo came across together in 23:55. Brandon managed to run faster for North Rim Timed than he did for Toro Park, indicating a big breakthrough is coming. Rudolph made a big impression in his first race for the team. The two sophomores were joined by freshmen Jose Ruiz (23:58) and Jonathan Bradley (24:10). We have some big decisions ahead on who should run on the Frosh/Soph team after these strong performances. Luis Escamilla and Kevin Bach also ran well with times of 24:50 and 25:15 to add two more solid sophomore times.

The girls team as a whole took a huge step forward in the watermelon run. At the North Rim time trial in August, only one girl on the team, (Arlet Miranda) managed to run the course under 33 minutes. Arlet ran 23:07 that day but has been battling iron deficiency since. With Arlet focusing on getting back to full health, it is more important than ever that the team steps up. They certainly did that at the Watermelon run.

Yeimili Adame who made a big impression during track joined the cross country team one week ago. Helped by Arlet’s pacing, Yeimili and Belen Sanchez came across the line together in 25:58. They are only the 6th and 7th JL girls to run under 26 minutes for the North Rim course. Belen ran 33:41 to be the #2 girl on August 14th. Arlet was right behind in 26:03. Xochitl Godinez and Justine Austria came across together in 27:42. Justine ran 37:12 for her first try on the course in August. This gave the girls 5 girls under 28 for the slow North Rim Timed course, something they were unable to muster at STAL 1 this season. Jennifer Villagomez, Jana Kikia and Analilia Regla came in at 28:45, 28:46 and 28:49, giving the team 8 girls under 29 minutes for North Rim Timed. Again, when we did the time trial on August 14th, we had only one girl under 33 minutes.

Alvaro Fabian and Jonathan Ergino were the last boys in at 28:43 and 29:19. Ashley Preciado ran 30:07 for a 4 minute PR. She was joined under 31 minutes by freshmen Mya Hammond (30:53) Emely Lopez (30:55) and senior Aliana Santos 30:53. All 3 girls achieved big PRs. Mya and Emely ran 41 minutes and 39 minutes respectively when they ran the course on August 14th.

Mariana Perez (32:11 for a 6 minute PR) Erika Camacho (32:44, 5 minute PR) and Francine Estranero (32:58) provided 3 more freshmen girls under 33 minutes for the team. Emma Veronica ran 32:56 for her first time on the course. Susie Peterson also ran 32:58, narrowly missing her PR but running 5 minutes faster than she managed in August. The final big PR of the day belonged to Estefani Herrera, 35:12 compared to a 44 minute clocking in August. Kirsten Yutuc ran 37:26 and Maria Sanchez ended the team’s day running 52:26.

Overall it was a big step forward for the team and a welcome performance with STAL 3 just days away. Some interesting notes from the Watermelon run:

46 Current Comets attended the Watermelon Run, the most in my 5 years of coaching. 2 runners, (Jose Limon and Adrian DeLaRosa) were sat out as they are dealing with minor injuries.

Of the 44 Comets who competed in the run, the team breaks down like this:

  1. Freshmen: 14 Total 9 girls 5 boys
  2. Sophomores: 17 Total 6 girls 11 boys
  3. Juniors: 4 Total 2 girls 2 boys
  4. Seniors: 8 Total 3 girls 5 boys

The team is very young this year, with nearly 70% of the team being underclassmen. This bodes very well for the future. This year in some ways might seem like a letdown after the 2016 STAL championship of the varsity boys, but the team is building towards future success.

Cross country and track are the only sports at James Lick reprinting the school in the ‘B’ division this year, and competing against larger schools is never easy. I am confident however, that the team will finish strong and improve on their current records.

Here is a breakdown of the teams records and how their team times changed from STAL 1 to STAL 2 (Team Times are the team’s top 5 runners times added up): 

Varsity Girls: 0-3   STAL 1: 126:06 STAL 2: 124:38

Varsity Boys: 1-2  STAL 1: 91:35  STAL 2: 87:59

Frosh/Soph Boys: 2-1 STAL 1: 101:35  STAL 2:  100:59

JV Girls: 0-3  STAL 1: 142:37   STAL2: 143:47

Reserve Boys: STAL 1: 110:59          STAL 2: 111:47

Reserve Girls: STAL 1: 164:03   STAL 2: INC

The team’s varsity record so far is 1-5 for a .200 winning percentage. I’d be willing to bet that this will improve over STAL 3 and STAL 4.

Both varsity teams improved from STAL 1 to STAL 2 by a considerable amount and the girls did it without Belen.

Frosh/Soph and JV tend to be inconsistent with runners moving up and down as needed for varsity. At STAL 2, the top runner from Frosh/Soph (Melvin Estrada) moved up to run varsity. The Frosh/Soph boys still managed to run faster as a team.

We are hoping that the Varsity Boys will run under 85 minutes as a team at STAL 3,  with the girls ideally running under well under 2 hours as a team for the first time this season.

The team will face Oak Grove and Sobrato at STAL 3 on Wednesday October 4th. It will be the 1st meet of the year at Montgomery Hill for the team. The team will look for many STAL season bests and the first wins of the year on the girls side.

The team will then trek to Half Moon Bay for the Artichoke Invitational on Saturday October 7th.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for STAL 3 recap!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comets have fun day at annual Watermelon Run

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Comets Run to New Heights in Time Trial

The team atop the Boccardo Trail in Alum Rock Park
The team atop the Boccardo Trail in Alum Rock Park

Since 2009, the James Lick Comets have used a version of the north rim trail to asses their fitness at various points in the season. The time trial version of North Rim, begins and ends at the park entrance, for a 3.03 mile run. The extra distance and added hill of service road make the league race course (2.85 miles) seem less challenging by extension. The North Rim Timed course is far and away the slowest course the comets will race all season, with a typical varsity boy being able to run roughly a minute faster at Crystal Springs (the league finals course) and 2 minutes faster at league races (Montgomery hill and the league race version of north rim).

A North Rim Time trial to start the season is a good indicator of where an athlete’s fitness is at, and gives an idea of what is to come. Owing to the courses difficult nature, no runner had ever run under 20 minutes for the first time trial of the season. Until now.

Nathan Bernardo 19:12, Hector Ramirez 19:19 and Gustavo Aguilera 19:53 have started the season where no Comet in recent years has started before. And with Guillermo Villalobos running 20:10 not far behind, the team has the look of the strongest top 4 it has boasted in years.

Sophomores Inteus Castro-Lopez and Azael Zamora, ran 21:04 and 21:12 respectively, barely slower than the 21:00 time Nathan ran to start his sophomore season. Jesus Deloya and Freshmen Vincent Giglio ran 21:43 and 21:44, giving the team a ton of young depth. No freshmen has started the season with a better time than Vincent did. Senior Jesse Chircop ran a solid 22:39 to round up the potential varsity runners.

Freshmen Erik Olsvold ran a strong 24:20, followed to the finish by Kelvin Arenas in 24:41. The next finishers demonstrated their packing ability with Renei Bravo 27:41, Austin Swank 27:43, Freshmen Arlet Miranda 27:46, Maria Mendoza 27:48, Elizabeth Guevara and Andrea Ortiz 27:53 and Gabriela Aguilar 28:15. The top 5 girls all came within less than 30 seconds of each other, an impressive team performance. Daisy Nava and Freshmen Raquel Rodriguez came home in 30:03 rounding up the likely varsity girls point at this juncture. Freshmen Joseph Benitez ran 30:05 in close pursuit of Raquel and Daisy.

Senior Ivan Morales 31:43 and Sophomore Isaak Herrera 32:04 were next, as well as newcomer Sophomore Jocelyn Aguirre in 32:11. Analilia Regla finished in 32:59, showing potential to be a leading JV girl.

Sophomore Elizabeth Perez demonstrated her vast improvement, running 37:54 compared to 53 minutes to start last season, she ran most of the ay with Deniesse Villalobos who finished in 38:01. Diana Romero and Susie Peterson rounded up the time trial in 47:40.

With the team moved up the STAL (B League) this season, the boys in particular were looking to make a big leap to show we not only belong in the B league, but that we are a team to be reckoned within it. Both teams have their eyes set on making CCS, an achievement which requires a finish at league Finals in the top 12/24 teams. Last years girls were 8th, beating several teams in the “A” league, and the boys were 15, a strong showing for the school with the second lowest population in the BVAL.

This season, the girls will look to work hard to not fall far off their stellar finish, in a year of transition after likely losing 6/7 Varsity girls. The arrival of freshmen Arlet and Raquel, and Track converts, Andrea, Elie, and Daisy will help spearhead this goal.

The boys are looking to make the jump into top 10 BVAL territory themselves and look well on their way to doing it. Last year’s team which ran the best league finals time from a James Lick team since 2004, had only 2 runners under 22 minutes to start least season on north rim timed. This year 8 runners accomplished the feat. No runners ran under 21:00 to start last season whereas 4 did this year with 3 breaking 20!

The Comets are in a good place to start the season, Stay tuned for more Comet news.

For an explanation of the league and it’s history start here:

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/cross-country-history/jlxc-championships-and-bval-history/