Counting the relay athletes, the Comets had 9 CCS qualifiers from the BVAL Finals meet on Thursday May 2nd at Westmont High School. This is the most athletes the team has seen qualify for CCS in the entire BVAL era (since 1996). That being said, the team only produced 3 individual qualifiers, compared to 4 the year before.
The meet features the top 7 athletes from the ‘A’ division finals, the top 5 athletes from the ‘B’ division finals and the top 4 from the ‘C’ division finals. In some events, additional athletes competed in the case that the “At-large” mark was reached. For example if the 5th place time in the ‘C’ division final was high quality enough, they would also advance to BVAL finals.
For the most part, every event has 16 entries and the top 8 in each event advance to CCS Trials.
The meet began with the pole vault. Last year at BVAL finals, both Mark Orpia and Rodolf Ocampo competed, representing the Comets at the meet in Pole Vault for the first time in school history. They went 9-0 and 8-6 respectively, both PRs at the time. The duo has come a long way, with the pair achieving PRS of 10-8 and 10-2 respectively at this years addition. They placed 10th and 12th.
Next up was the girls discus. Valeria Cortez took 2nd overall with a toss of 111-1, sealing her 4th consecutive CCS appearance in the girls discus. Joe Amendt and Ruth Lebeau are the only other Comets (on record) to make CCS four times in a single event. Marquise Nelson managed a PR in the event though she came in 10th, ending her career with a best of 94- 4.5, the 5th best mark in school history in the discus.
The running events began at 5:00 PM with the 4×100. This years squad has established themselves as the best 4×100 team from James Lick in many years and they backed it up, becoming the first 4×100 team from James Lick to make CCS trials in the BVAL era. The squad of Raven Alcantara, Rodolf Ocampo, Salvador Lopez and Geovanny Campos combined to run a seasons best 45.06 to place 7th, clinching their spot at CCS.
The next event with Comet competitors was the hurdles. Valeria ended her career in the event with a 17.28, finishing 10th place. Valeria’s PR of 16.75 in the event is currently the #3 all-time mark in school history (on record).It was an off race for her, where many times were hampered by a headwind. Yesenia Martinez was racing well until she clipped a hurdle and stumbled, losing her balance. She recovered but it was a poor time by her standards.
The performance of the day in my opinion, and perhaps the performance of my entire coaching tenure was Rodolf in the 110 hurdles. Last year, Rodolf began hurdling late in the season and ended the year with a PR of 19.01, not advancing to BVAL finals. This year, he improved dramatically, lowering his PR all the way down to 16.85 at ‘B’ division finals to place 3rd and qualify for BVALS. He went into BVAL finals ranked 11th, meaning he would need a big day to make CCS. Rodolf had more than a big day, he had an absolute breakthrough. He placed 5th in a massive PR of 15.97, making CCS by a wide margin. After “four-stepping” all year, it was Rodolf’s first time “Three-stepping” a race and it lead to the huge PR. Rodolf is the first boy to make CCS in the 110 hurdles in the BVAL era.
The Comets did not have any more competitors in the meet until the boys 100. Raven ran 11.63, the 2nd best time of his career in the event, placing 14th. Next up was the girls 800. After years of ups and downs, Arlet Miranda went out with the best time of her career, 2:28.08. This PR was not enough to get her to CCS however, as she finished 9th, one spot out of qualification. Arlet nonetheless ends her career #2 in school history in all 3 distance events.
Jerricho Habon competed in the boys 800 but had a poor race, gaining experience for next years addition. The final field events were going on at this time. Marquise Nelson threw 32-4.5 for 7th place in the girls Shot Put, punching her ticket to CCS trials. In the long jump, Sal barely missed his PR, going 20-3.5 but sadly finishing in 9th place. Even so, Sal had a great season as last year his best long jump was 17-10. Yeimili Adame contested the girls 3200 for the Comets, running 13:27, a PR by more than 30 seconds, moving her to #7 on the schools all time list in the event.
The final event of the day was the boys 4×400. The Comets went in ranked 11th, needing a great performance and some good luck to make it through to CCS. The team of Sal, Erik Olsvold, Jerricho and Misael Herrera combined to run 3:36.78, the best time by any JL 4×400 team since the 3:35 clocking of 2002. Initially, it looked like the Comets were 10th, but disqualifications to Willow Glen and Pioneer moved the Comets up to 8th place.
The Comets who advanced to CCS trials will be competing on Saturday May 11th at Westmont High School with the chance to end the season with some good marks, and to potentially make CCS finals. The 9 total qualifiers is the highest number the Comets have ever produced at BVAL finals.
The James Lick track team is conditioning now ahead of what will be it’s second year of competition in the Santa Teresa (‘B’) division of the BVAL in track and field. A year ago in my season preview, I said that our goal was simply to go 5-9 between the boys and girls sides, to prove we belonged in the division. We exceeded that goal by going 6-8, just one win shy of a .500 record. The team of 2018 was the largest track team I’ve coached, with a max total of 69 athletes competing for James Lick in our dual against Pioneer last year. We were also able to re-institute pole vault at James Lick for the first time in decades. Coach Raul Lopez managed to help two Comet boys advance to BVAL finals in the event.
Last season, the combined records in the division looked like this:
1. Evergreen: 14-0
2. Pioneer: 11-3
3. Lincoln: 11-3
4. James Lick: 6-8
5. Prospect: 6-8
6. Piedmont Hills: 5-9
7. Sobrato: 2-10
8. Oak Grove: 1-13
Normally the BVAL stays pretty stagnant, but things were shaken up after this season. Evergreen was dominant. Their closest dual meet was decided by more than 20 points, and they were the outright winners of several invitationals. They moved up to the ‘A’ division with Mt. Pleasant moving all the way down to the ‘C’ division, and Live Oak moved up to join us in the ‘B’ division.
The makeup of the division is much different without Evergreen. Live Oak will look to make an impact with some very impressive young talent.
With year 2 on the horizon, the Comets are working towards their first winning season in the ‘B’ division, and we have our sights set in attacking a ‘B’ division title on the girls side outright. While the girls team of 2018 only went 3-4, it finished very strong. We opened the season with 4 straight losses then finished with 3 straight wins. At Division finals last year, the lady Comets finished 2nd overall, only losing to dominant division champions.
This strong performance on the girls side showed the potential the team has for a title chase, and 2019 figures to be an exciting season with the team more prepared for the thralls of the Santa Teresa division.
Girls Season Preview (Boys Below)
Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness.
Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:
On the girls side, the team’s weakest area was sprints. That being said, it was actually the best sprint corps the team has had on the girls side in some time, it was primarily the greater strength of the ‘B’ division that created the low point total. The year before in 2017, the lady Comets had 32% of available sprint points. That total barely dropped as the team moved up to a substantially more difficult division. The team will be counting on a few key athletes in these events to take the next step. Furthermore, the team ran the best 4×100 that James Lick has managed since 1993. It did so with a team that contained no seniors or juniors. There is great reason to be optimistic about 2019.
The distance team also will look to improve. Similar to the sprint squad, the Comets are returning all of their best distance athletes. The team scored 40% of points available, a respectable total in a year where we only managed a 1-6 record in cross country. This school year we went 5-2 in cross country, and I think this greater XC success will translate into greater distance results in track.
Jumps are an area of focus as well. While the team’s top 2 triple jumpers are back (both scored at division finals) the team lost the stalwart of presence of Lyndel Ventura. Lyndel moved up to #4 on the school’s all time long jump list with a leap of 16-7.25 last year, and her graduation leaves a bit of a void in the event. The team will also look to improve in high jump, with their 3 top athletes returning (all were sophomores last year). Last but not least, a major deciding factor in the title race will be the Comets ability to produce lady pole vaulters. Only a handful of girls pole vaulted in the entire division last year, which could give the Comets a big advantage if they succeed.
The Comets were very strong in hurdles, with a returning division champion in the 100 hurdles and the top returning 300m hurdler in the division as well. With the team’s top 3 hurdlers returning, it should be another great area of strength for the team.
Throws have been absolutely dominant for James Lick over the past few seasons. The case could be made that we were the best girls throws team in the entire BVAL. We produced 3 CCS qualifiers in throws for 2 consecutive years, but we are likely to take a hit in throws this year. While the team returns Valeria Cortez, as by far the division’s #1 ranked discus thrower, the loss of Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron, ( the school record holders in discus and shot put respectively ) will make this area more challenging. We will need some younger lady Comets to step up.
Key Comet Athletes
We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes.
Valeria Cortez: While I would love more data to have more athletes to compare her to, as it currently stands, Valeria is likely the 2nd best female track athlete in school history. (She certainly is based on the records I have). She is the only James Lick athlete I know of to have qualified for CCS trials in 3 different individual events. Based on last season, among returners she is ranked #1 in girls discus (112-8, while 2nd is at 100-8) , #2 in the girls 100 hurdles (16.88), and #3 in girls shot put (33-7). Her 300 hurdles PR is better than all but 1 girl in the division as well. To make things more interesting, Valeria is only a few feet behind the current school discus record.
Arlet Miranda: Arlet has had a very string career, plagued with injuries. Whenever healthy, she’s been a force for the team. As a sophomore, she became the first girl in school history to make CCS outright in the 800 (and she wasn’t fully healthy at the time). She is coming off of only her 2nd XC season to be injury free, and is poised for a big season if she can continue that. She is ranked #4 in both the 1600 and 800, and #6 in the 3200. She is also #2 in school history in all 3 distance events, making this an exciting year in terms of potential school records.
Natalie Rem: As a freshmen last season, Natalie took the division by storm. She was primarily focused on jumps for most of the season, but came on very strong as a sprinter by the end of the season. She is the #3 returning triple jumper with a PR of 33-1. She is also ranked #8 in long jump (15-1) and #3 in the 100 at 13.49. That 100m PR put her 9th place in school history, and she is by far the fastest girl we’ve had since I’ve been coaching. Natalie could be a force for this team if she continues to develop her sophomore season.
Kirsten Yutuc: Kirsten has two consecutive BVAL qualifications in the 300 hurdles, and she took major strides last season. With Evergreen gone, Kirsten stands as the best 300 hurdler in the division with a PR of 51.80. Kirsten is a very versatile athlete. She is on the top 14 rankings of more events than any athlete in the entire division. She is a threat in all 3 sprint events. She is ranked top 10 in both Long Jump (14-9) and Triple Jump (30-9.5) and she is ranked #4 in the 100 hurdles (18.22).
Yesenia Martinez: Yesenia was our most improved athlete as a sophomore last season. While she was only our 10th best sprinter, by the end of the season she qualified for BVALS in the 100 hurdles. She is ranked 6th in that event (18.43) 6th in teh 300 hurdles (54.72) and tied for 4th in High Jump at 4-6. We will be looking for Yesenia to hit the ground running this season.
Boys Season Preview
Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness.
Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:
The team’s strongest area a year ago was distance. This isn’t too surprising since the cross country team was already competing in the ‘B’ division, but the loss of top runner Azael Zamora does leave a void. Younger Comets will have to step up, but the team will need to use depth to overcome the loss of a top-notch runner.
Hurdles were the 2nd best area, primarily because of Cody Huoch. With Cody also graduated (now competing at San Jose City College) the team will need to find some new hurdlers, and we aren’t drawing from a position of strength the way that we are in distance. Finding new hurdlers is a key to success this season.
The sprints and jumps squads should be radically improved this year, and that is an area of excitement for us. While we took only 28% of points in sprints, and 37% of points in jumps, the vast majority of our top athletes are back and looking strong. By the end of the season, the team was much better in these events, and will look to build on a strong finish by their sophomore athletes.
Throws are the biggest area of concern at present. We netted 35% of points last year, but virtually all of those points graduated with Daniel Medina and Josh Garcia. Last year the frosh/soph boys scored only 10% of possible throws points. The team desperately needs reinforcements in throws, this is a critical area of improvement for this season.
Key Comet Athletes
We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes.
Salvador Lopez: Sal was one of our top athletes in his sophomore season. He was the starting Quarterback for the varsity team this year, and has gotten much more explosive through working out and natural growth. For example, last season his High jump PR was 5-2. At an all comers meet earlier this month, Sal jumped 5-8 despite the fact that he hasn’t practiced high jump in months. One can only wonder what improvements he’ll show in other events. He was already ranked as the #6 returning triple jumper (37-8.5) and #10 returning long jumper (17-10). He’s also just 1 spot off the list in the 400 but I suspect Sal will be a great athlete for us across the board this year.
Raven Alcantara: By the end of last season, Raven was our top sprinter. He ended the season with a 100m PR of 11.79, the #6 returning 100m runner in the division. Raven has always struggled to double and we are focusing on helping him be more capable of running the 200 as well. He is also ranked 7th in the boys triple jump (37-8). Raven and Sal both decided not to play basketball this season in order to focus on track and this could mean big things for their development.
Erik Olsvold: Erik’s career has been up and down. As a sophomore, he was poised to be a tremendous distance runner, winning the ‘B’ division championship in XC and the 3200 title in the ‘C’ division in track. Injuries kept him out most of his junior year, but in a period 3 weeks, Erik went from not being able to job without pain, to placing 6th at division finals in the 800. Erik’s focus will be the 400/800 this season, and he is determined to go out on a high note.
We are very optimistic about the 2019 season. We will need to be creative over the next few weeks as our track and field is being resurfaced. The expectation is that we will host our first home meet on March 15th against Live Oak on a brand new track.
The team will have some strong WVAL teams to battle if it is to win a double WVAL title, and move up to the STAL for the 2018 season, and the teams/ athletes of the WVAL will be the focus of this blog.
The Comets have their eyes set on a 14-0 season in the WVAL, and a double championship as a result. The West Valley Athletic League, is admittedly , the weakest division (‘C’ division) of the BVAL. Even so, a boys title would be the 1st WVAL championship for the team since the year 2000, and only the 6th title in the more than 60 year history of boys track at James Lick. A girls title would be the 2nd title in school history on the girls side after we claimed the first one in 2016.
We as coaches preach that Track is all about progress. Whether you are an 11 second 100m runner or a 19 second 100m runner, all we can do is work within our ability to improve ourselves. There’s nothing more worth doing than working to make yourself better. As recently as 2014, the team was in the middle of a combined 74 meet losing streak, so finishing 12-2 in 2016 was a huge turnaround for us. This speaks to tremendous team-wide improvement. Progress is what is worth being proud of because progress takes dedication and willpower, regardless of talent level or competition. This focus on improvement has moved us to a more and more competitive position, to the point that we can now add the goal of WVAL championships alongside our chief goal of the improvement of every athlete on the team.
Given the nature of High School sports, it’s possible for any team in any league to have a sudden down year, or to receive an outstanding class of athletes that propel them to new heights. Time will tell what new athletes will burst on to the scene in 2017, but here are the top returning athlete from last season in each event.
Only one of the top 5 point scorers on the girls side in 2016 was a senior, meaning the girls are in an excellent place to repeat as WVAL champions. Currently the team has a small number of girls practicing, but with the winter sports season now over , the team will hopefully add many more athletes on both sides.
Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season:
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Last season, the Comet girls team lead all teams in the WVAL in distance, throws, and hurdles points at WVAL finals. Distance and throws on the girls side are poised to repeat this feat. Arlet Miranda and Daisy Nava were the teams top distance scorers last season, with Arlet finishing 2nd in both the 800 and 1600, and Daisy finishing 4th and 7th respectively. With both athletes back, the team can aim for even more points in the distance events this season.
Similarly in throws, the girls had a 1-2 finish in discus, a 2-3 finish in Shot Put. The throws team scored a whopping 86% of available dual meet points over the course of last season. The girls throwing group is growing in numbers as well, with 8 Lady Comets poised to throw for the team, including Charli Chircop returning from injury. The ability of Coach Vela’s top 3 throwers, Valeria Cortez, Alejandra Ceron and Charli, make throws a source of strength for the team. We can aim for all 18 available throws points, in virtually any dual meet we contest this season.
Keys to the team will be the development of the team in jumps, sprints and hurdles. Last seasons relay teams peaked very well for WVAL finals, finishing 2nd in the 4×100 in a minor upset, and 3rd in a tightly contested 4×400. The relay teams lost two members however, meaning new athletes will need to step up. Maria Mendoza figures to lead the sprint team, and time will tell how many athletes she brings with her from a girls soccer team that took a big step forward this season. Newcomers like freshmen Kirsten Yutuc give the team reason to be hopeful in these events.
Lyndel Ventura and Elyse Elder figure to continue leading the team in jumps. Both athletes had strong seasons last year, but struggled a bit at the very end of the season including WVAL finals. The team will be counting on them to rack up points in the horizontal jumps both at dual meets and at WVAL finals.
The hurdle events will also need athletes to step up with Andrea Ortiz (2nd in both hurdle events at WVAL last year) having graduated. The team does have 3 returning scorers from WVAL finals though, with 100h 4th place Valeria Cortez, 6th place Susie Peterson and 300 hurdles 6th place Belen Sanchez all returning. The void in the 300h is particularly concerning, as the team has no true 300 hurdler with Andrea gone. This is an event the team will be looking to new talent to fill.
Rival teams/athletes to watch
Every team in the WVAL will be treated with due respect and seriousness, but naturally some teams are more threatening than others.We won’t know more about the new athletes in the league until the season is underway, but based on last years results, here are the teams that I expect to pose the most competitive dual meets for the Comets this season on the girls side.
The 2nd place WVAL team last year was Yerba Buena.
They had a strong group of athletes in the hurdle races, and in sprints. Margarita Kirilenko in particular was one of the top 100/200 runners in the WVAL, and will be tough for any Comet runner to take down. Vanessa Ta in the 1600/3200 was also a BVAL championships qualifier and Arlet will be keying on her in the 3200 where Vanessa was able to beat Arlet both times they raced in 2016. There are 127 available points in a WVAL dual meet, meaning that 64 points is our magic number. Last year against Yerba Buena, the lady Comets scored 76, a solid victory, but our lowest margin of victory of the season. Many of Yerba Buena’s best athletes are returning, and the Comets will need to be wary of allowing victory to go the Warriors way this season. Head coach Jesus Pineda is no stranger to WVAL titles either. His boys teams won 3 straight WVAL titles in track from 2013-2015, and his girls won the 2015 WVAL title in cross country as well.
Live Oak: The Acorns were the team with the 2nd most points at WVAL finals last season. They boast the best distance runner in the entire BVAL in Kaylah Grant, making the dual with Live Oak the one dual where Arlet is unlikely to win the 1600 or 3200. Live Oak’s signature over the past few years has been a strong sprint group, winning the WVAL 4×100 title the last 3 years in a row and often advancing all the way to CCS. While their best sprinter and WVAL champion from 2016 graduated, they have two girls returning who scored in both the 100 and 200 at WVAL finals (No lady Comet scored in the 100 or 200 at WVAL finals last season by comparison).
The Comets will need to combat Live Oak’s strength in sprints with points in hurdles and throws. The dual should be god competition for both teams. As with most teams, Coach Vela’s throwing group should net the Comets many points in girls throws. Live Oak’s head coach Alberto Suarez is a throws coach as well however, and if his girls begin to follow the success of his boys (more on that later) the dual meet will be even more intense.
As the largest school in the entire CCS, Independence has a tremendous tradition in track and field. Similar to James Lick, Independence fell far from the success of its heyday in the 2000s. Current coaches head coaches, Don Barber and Khoi Tran are working hard to build their program as well. Khoi and myself especially have a bit of a friendly rivalry as we graduated only a year apart and are both back heading our former schools against each other. (We’ve also both been lucky enough to coach athletes who’ve become much faster than we were in HS).
The size of Independence, (3300 students compared to James Lick’s 1200) make it so that the 76ers can pull strong athletes out of seemingly nowhere. Last year the WVAL champion in the girls Shot Put emerged in the form of a senior who had never done track before. In terms of returners, Independence has the top returning 400m runner in the WVAL in Stephanie Justo, and the top returning 800 runner in Lydia Ma. (Lydia is a great rival for Arlet who may not compete this season due to other commitments but I for one hope she does in order to push Arlet). Based on the depth of returners on each team, the Comets should have an edge but the program in place at Independence, along with their number of students to draw from, make them a school to be wary of.
Gunderson: Gunderson head coach Joseph Miclette has built a strong program of jumpers and throwers. He has the WVAL champion in girls long jump, as well as 2nd and 3rd in triple jump all returning. He also has high scoring athletes returning in the 100, 200, 800, 1600 and 3200. Relative weakness in hurdles and Throws give the Comets and edge, though Gunderson is definitely another team to be wary of.
Others: As any team striving for success knows, every opponent needs to be taken seriously. It’s entirely possible for Overfelt, Del Mar, or San Jose to explode onto the scene with a strong team (we went from 1-6 in 2014 to 6-1 in 2015 after all). Overfelt has one of the top returning athletes in the WVAL in double hurdles champion Chrizna Milanes. Del Mar has had some strong teams in recent seasons when they get a good amount of athletes out for track, and San Jose High finally has a coach who knows track well and who will work to develop the talent that is already present on the team.
Boys Team Preview
Last year’s boys team placed 3rd in the WVAL with a 5-2 record, suffering losses to Independence and Yerba Buena. The team finished 4th in points at WVAK finals, losing to the two already mentioned teams and Live Oak. The boys team only lost one scoring athlete from WVAL finals however (Hector Ramirez who scored in both the 1600/3200) and should be much stronger this season with another hard years work in for an overall young team.
Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season:
Average Points Per Dual Meet
Points Available Per Meet
Average Points as percentage of Available
League Finals Points
Last season the teams strongest areas were distance and hurdles. If the team is to pursue a WVAL title, points in these areas will be even more essential. At WVAL finals the Comet distance boys scored a whopping 38 points. The only event group from any team to yield a higher point total were boys jumps from Independence, scoring 41. The team has the top 2 returning finishers in the 1600 last season in Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo. This duo coupled with rising star Erik Olsvold make the team a very formidable force this season, and I expect the distance team to score in excess of 50 points this season at WVAL finals. The distance team will be aiming not just for WVAL titles, but for sweeps. The proscenia of strong runners like Jesse Cruz form Overfelt, and Quinlan Daley from Del Mar, make victory alone far from a certainty, but the Comets have great ambition in distance this season. We’ll be aiming for all 27 distance points at most dual meets this season.
In hurdles, the Comets had top 4 finishes in WVAL from Hadji Yono-Cruz in the 110h, and Gustavo Aguilera in the 300h. Hadji will be focusing on jumps this season however, meaning that athletes like Gustavo and Jonathan Rodriguez will need to step up to fill the teams void.
The jumps team struggled at WVAL finals and this will be a focus for the team this season. In addition to Hadji, the team has a host of newcomers who look to be ready to help the team to greater heights this season. Coach Turner is hopeful that the team will have several boys go farther than 20 feet in the Long Jump fro the first time in years.
Sprints and Throws are also key to the team being able to run the table. While coach Vela’s throwers have been dominant the past few seasons, the boys team has lacked a top level athlete since Robert Rios graduated. Alex Alonzo figures to lead the team. His discus PR of 102-0 makes it so that this is the first season that coach Vela has a returning athlete over 100 feet in the discus. Josh Garcia was recovering from injury in his last track season, but managed to score for the team at WVAL finals in the Shot Put after only one month of work. He’ll figure to combine with Alex and Daniel medina to try to earn the critical throws points the boys will need this season.
In Coach Steve’s 2nd year working with the sprinters, we’re hoping for na explosion of ability. Top returners Jose Limon and Misael Herrera figure to lead the team. After placing 4th in the 400 and 6th in the 200 at WVAL finals as a freshmen, we’re hopeful Jose will be able to spearhead a much more developed sprint corp.
We’ll need every group to come together to replicate the success of the girls team last season, and to overcome some very daunting opponents.
Rival teams/athletes to watch
The reigning WVAL champion. Independence blew everyone out of the water last season in a dominating performance. They scored 160 points last season at WVAL finals. 2nd Place Yerba Buena scored 119, and we scored 76 points in 4th. When we faced them head to head last season, we lost 86-38. This added with what I’ve already said about the school, and their ability to pull new athletes from their student body, makes them a fearsome opponent. Last year senior Devin Ary competed despite not doing track in previous years, he placed 4th in the 100, 2nd in the triple jump and 1st in the long jump at WVAL finals.
The 76ers did lose some very strong athletes however. Ivan Godinez was one athlete the Comets couldn’t beat last season. With him gone, Indy’s best runners Isiah Tulio, a sub 5 miler in his own right. Nonetheless, all 21 distance points Independence scored at WVAL finals last season were Ivan’s. Devin Ary’s 23 points are also gone. As are Anthony Ho’s 20 points from winning both the 110h and 300h. With Anthony gone, hurdles will be a critical event. The Comets will badly need to take victories there against a still strong Independence hurdles crew.
Independence is a balanced team up and down. In short, I think this will be the most competitive dual meet of my career so far as a coach, and it will have a good chance of determining the 2017 WVAL champion.
To get to the Independence dual meet undefeated however, we’ll first have to go through Yerba Buena first. Yerba Buena was the WVAL boys champion 3 years in a row before Indy unseated them last year. We fell to them in a close dual meet, 69-58, last season. 11 Points may sound like a comfortable victory, but just a switch in the 4×400 from a YB to a JL victory would make the score 64-63.
Yerba Buena was strong in sprints and jumps as well, tallying up the 2nd most points at WVAL finals. They lost the best sprinter in the BVAL in Anthony Richard to graduation however, and this loss alone could tip the scaled in the Comets favor. They have the top returning 300 hurdler in the WVAL, and have strong returners in the jumps and 400 as well. A weakness in throws makes them a bit vulnerable. Their recent track record shows they can also dig up strong athletes from nowhere, and this early season dual meet (2nd of the season) will be a huge test for the Comets. It’s been at least 10 years since James Lick beat YB in a dual meet on the boys side.
Live Oak: Live Oak has a very strong group of throwers which helped them to 92 points at WVAL finals last season. In particular, Brendan White is the reigning Shot Put champion, and finished 3rd in discus last year as well. Our dual meet against them last season was a very slim 67-59 victory. In addition to a strong returning group of throwers, Live Oak usually has a strong group of sprinters as well. The reigning WVAL champion in the 400, Damien Vasquez, is a senior now.
A weakness in distance and horizontal jumps held the team back last year, but their strong sprint corp mean they could find then athletes they need in jumps at any points. Live Oak is another strong team to watch.
Gunderson: Last year we opened the season against the Grizzlies and won by only 1 point. Gunderson typically boasts strong sprinters, and they also have a solid group of distance runners and throwers as well. Jose Alvarez returns as the WVAL champion in the 800, a title the Comets hope to win from him this season.
A lack of hurdlers gives the Comets a good area of focus against when they face Gunderson. Gunderson tallied a slightly higher point total than the Comets at WVAL finals last season, and if the team is to climb form a 4th place finish at WVAL finals, to a 1st place finish this season, they’ll need to beat out teams like Gunderson.
Others: The biggest threats to the Comets dominance in the distance events come from Del Mar and Overfelt in the form of Quinlan Daley, Chris Solorzano and Jesse Cruz. For reference, the only 3 runners of any WVAL track schools to run under 17 minutes at BVAL finals in Cross Country were Erik, Nathan, and Azael for James Lick. Quinlan from Del Mar ran 17:04 and Jesse from Overfelt ran 17:14.
As competition approaches, the Comets are gearing up to make a run at these ambitious goals, with their minds focused on training.
The team will participate in its first meet of the year with many athletes heading to the Los Gatos All comers meet this Saturday (unless it gets rained out). Rain or shine the team will see its first official competion on March 4th at the Willow Glen invitational.
The new year is here and the James Lick Comets are beginning their preparations for the 2017 Track season. The team is looking to continue their growth as a program, and we have clearly fixed goals in mind for the season as a whole. In this blog post I will detail the competitive goals that my fellow coaches and I have set for the 2017 season. Our goals go from highest priority/main goal to lower priority/ secondary goals.
Team Goals for 2017:
1. Have a team-first supportive and welcoming team culture.
2. See Each athlete improve consistently throughout the season.
3. Greater support from infield and bleachers when teammates are competing, ESPECIALLY for field events.
4. Have more than 50 members of the team consistently at practice and competing by March.
5. Have more food at the end of season Track Banquet.
Competitive Goals for 2017:
Win WVAL championship in both boys and girls: Combined 14-0 record
Have 30 total BVAL qualifications, send over 20 different athletes to BVAL Champs in at least 22 different events.
Have 5 athletes qualify from BVAL championships to CCS trials
Win 5 Individual event titles at WVAL finals
Have an athlete place in the top 5 at BVAL Championships
Place in the top 10 teams at an invitational
Qualify for the Stanford Invitational in the Distance Medley Relay
The 2016 season saw the team win their first ever championship on the girls side, winning the WVAL (‘C’ division of the BVAL) with a perfect 7-0 record. The boys went 5-2 for a 3rd place finish, both sides improving on the combined 10-4 record of the 2015 season. With a huge majority of 2016s top athletes returning, we have set the goal of winning a double championship this season, with the ultimate goal of being placed in the STAL (‘B’ division) of for the 2018 season.
While James Lick was a power in many sports in the early years of its existence, the schools athletic success has sagged greatly in the BVAL era (1996 and onward). Since the onset of the BVAL, where the 24 team of the BVAL are placed in 8-team divisions based on strength of program, only a handful of JL teams have ever risen out of the WVAL. James Lick Track has never been out of the WVAL since being placed there in 1996. As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, this is perhaps not surprising given the population of James Lick, currently the 4th smallest BVAL school based on 2016-2017 enrollment.
In 2016 however, the cross country team not only competed in the ‘B’ division, but won a championship on the boys side.This was the first non ‘C’ division title for any James Lick sport since Wrestling in 2004. We are hoping to have the track team follow suit.
As always, our primary goal is to help each athlete grow as an athlete, and as a person. We seek to do this, all while creating a family-like supportive atmosphere that is an escape for our students. Each one of our coaches sets out the best road-map they can to train our athletes to develop to the best of their ability, and we believe competitive results will stem from this focus.
In addition to our competitive team goal of winning the WVAL on both sides, we will also be pushing for a greater focus on top tier and post-season success. Our regular season ends with WVAL finals, where the top 4 athletes in each event qualify for BVAL championships. Last year we had 25 total qualifications between the boys and girls, in 20 total events (out of a total of 30 events, as each side has 15 different events). This was the largest number of events James Lick has ever qualified for BVAL championships in, and we will be striving to increase the number this season.
Also, despite the high number of qualifications and a league title to show for it on the girls side, we had only one individual event championship last season, Alejandra Ceron in the girls discuss. I think we could realistically win as many as 8 event championships at WVAL this season, and bringing home at least a handful of individual titles is another goal. We also had only one CCS qualifier last season, Valeria Cortez in the girls discuss. We will be aiming to advance at least a few more athletes to CCS trials this season.
To help us towards our competitive goals, here are just a few of our top returning athletes who are likely to factor heavily for us in 2017.
Nathan Bernardo: Team captain and the boy’s team’s highest point scorer in 2016. Nathan became the first Comet ever to qualify for BVAL Championships in all 3 distance events in the same season last year.
Azael Zamora/ Erik Olsvold: This dynamic duo combined to give Nathan a run for his money all cross country season, and even beat him at times. Erik in particular is only beginning to come into his own as a sophomore, and is in my mind the favorite to win individual WVAL titles for the team on the boys side. Both athletes were BVAL qualifiers last year.
Jose Limon: The team’s top sprinter in 2016 despite only joining in April. Jose qualified for BVAL champs in the 400 as a freshmen. He will need to continue to recover from a broken collarbone sustained in football season, to continue to spearhead our spirits team this year.
Hadji Yono-Cruz/ Gustavo Aguilera: Our top 110 and 300 hurdlers respectively. The WVAL hurdlers around the league are historical weak from a competitive standpoint, these two have the opportunity to capitalize with huge point totals for the team. Both athletes were BVAL qualifiers last season.
Alex Alonzo/ Josh Garcia: Alex was the team’s top discus thrower in 2016 but lost the last half of his season due to grades. Josh was the only boys thrower to score points at WVAL last season for the team. These two will need to combine to give the team the boost they need in throws to win the WVAL title.
Arlet Miranda: Arlet, like Nathan, qualified for BVAL champs in every distance and anchored the 4×400 team to 3rd place at WVAL finals as well. She was the team’s highest overall point scorer last year as a freshmen, and coming off a great cross country season, is likely to repeat in that roll.
Valeria Cortez: Last year Valeria was the only freshmen girl in the entire CCS to make CCS trials in a throwing event. She did so by setting a new school record in the discuss with a throw of 99-9.50. She also made BVAL champs in Shot Put and the 100h, making her an incredibly versatile athlete.
Alejandra Ceron: Valeria’s partner in crime and appointed “big sister.” Alejandra beat Valeria in discus at WVAL finals last year to be the schools only individual champion, and placed 2nd in Shot Put, making her another likely candidate for individual titles this season.
Maria Mendoza: After qualifying for BVAL champs in the 400 last season, Maria is likely to be our leading sprinter this season. Her versatility means she will be able to help the team in a variety of ways in 2017.
Lyndel Ventura/ Elyse Elder: The team’s top jumpers, qualifying for BVAL champs in the Long Jump and high jump respectively, they are also key members of the 4×100 team and will likely do more sprinting this season as well.
These are just some of the teams key returning athletes.
Lastly, as the team’s distance coach, I have several goals for the distance team as a whole this season.
Score 70 combined points in the 3 distance events at WVAL finals on the boys side.
Have 3 boys under 4:40 for the 1600
Have two distance runners qualify for CCS.
Establish new school records in 2 girls distance events, girls and boys DMR and 4×800.
Between the boys and girls, win 3 individual WVAL event championships.
Have a 1-2-3 finish in a distance event at WVAL finals.
Have an athlete run under 10 minutes for the 3200.
Have every distance boy run under 6 minutes for the 1600, and every girl under 7 minutes for the 1600m.
Conditioning is just now getting underway and meets are along way off. The members of the team who are not participating in Winter sports however, are already hard at work with big goals in mind.
In the next few weeks I will do reviews of James Lick’s championship history in Track, as well as BVAL qualification history.
It’s the middle of February and the track season is rapidly approaching! The 2015 season was a huge step for the team, finishing a combined 10-4, (girls 6-1, boys 4-3) for the teams first winning season in over a decade. The upcoming season is a promising one. As always the primary goal of JLTF is to foster as much improvement, both as an athlete and as a person, as possible. The team has the competitive goal this year of winning the WVAL on the girls side, a feat which has never been accomplished in school history. A strong returning group of athletes, several promising freshmen, and the addition of Sprints and Jumps coach Steven Nichols, has the team looking at an improved season on both sides. The program building which has been taking place since 2014 is in full swing.
A group of roughly 20 athletes began conditioning in January, and that group has swelled to around 30 total athletes now that official practice is underway. This is with the team still awaiting the finish of the Winter Sports season, which much of the track team is busy participating in.
On February 22nd, the team will participate in 400m time trials to evaluate the fitness of each individual athlete. Then on Saturday February 27th, many members of the team will compete for the first time at the final Los Gatos all comers meet of the season.
Official Action will kick off March 5th at the Willow Glen Invitational, and the team will have its first Dual Meet of the Season on March 10th, hosting Gunderson.
Here is a breakdown of the Top 14 ReturninG Athletes in the WVAL in each event. This list was complied using the best marks in the WVAL from 2015 for all non seniors. This list will not include freshmen, newcomers to track or outside of WVAL transfers, but it serves as a decent picture of what the WVAL competitive level will be this season, and how the James Lick returners stack up in each event. (I have included marks set in Cross Country for the James Lick distance runners.)
The girls sprint team has some talented returners such as junior Maria Mendoza, Senior Andrea Ortiz and Senior Karen Montes. Other hard at work rascals include athletes like Elizabeth Perez. The boys group is composed mostly of freshmen runners who in their short time as members of the track team have demonstrated great work ethic. Freshmen such as Danny Nguyen, and Adrian DelaRosa have shown an aptitude for learning quickly and have the potential to develop into great sprinters/ jumpers.
We are very happy to have Coach Steven Nichols aboard this year to join the staff of myself and Coach Vela. Coach Steve has had success coaching sprints and jumps at numerous top programs of the SCVAL, and he will be working to get the most out of our young sprint group.
The team’s distance runners were the track team’s greatest strength this year. The loss of Daniela Camacho on the girls side, and Karan Singh on the boys side mean that the rest of the group will need to work hard to pick up the slack and fill in for their now graduated teammates. Nathan Bernardo and Hector Ramirez, both already with PRS in the low 4:50s will look to threaten sub 4:40 times this season and be a force in the league, aided by teammates such as Guillermo Villalobos, Inteus Castro-Lopez and Gustavo Parra who all showed strong growth in Cross Country. Newcomers Erik Olsvold and Vincent Giglio who had strong XC seasons, will help build the team’s depth and prepare for when they will take the reigns, along with speed orientated teammate Jesus Deloya.
On the girls side Freshemn Arlet Miranda has the potential to be a huge force in league this year. I believe her to be capable of running well under 6:00 for the mile this year. Senior Elizabeth Guevara and Junior Jennifer Custodio both had great XC seasons and are poised to threaten sub 6 themselves, as is junior Julia Cruz. Freshmen Raquel Rodriguez and Carla Manzanares will provide depth for the distance girls who managed to place 4 girls in the top 8 in the WVAL Finals over 800m last year.
In hurdles, athlete like Hadji Yono-Cruz will look to have a strong season after adjusting to high school hurdle heights. he will be helped along by Gustavo Aguilera and Jesse Chircop who both aim to score points at league finals in the 300 hurdles. The boys haven’t scored any points in hurdles at league finals in several years.
The girls hurdlers are a different story. With a talented group like this, there are a number of exiting individual goals set for this season. Andrea Ortiz is the #2 ranked 300m hurdler in the WVAL this year, and has the goal of improving on her school record, and becoming the first girls 300m league champ in school history. Maria Mendoza should be right behind her and after a strong XC season, Daisy Nava will also look to score points at league finals. Susie Peterson had a solid freshmen season and has a good shot at making the 100h final as well.
Much like in sprints, the boys jumps group is young and developing under the stewardship of coach Steve. The girls have a strong core already. Lyndel Ventura despite only being a sophomore, is the #3 ranked long jumper in the league, and also has a good chance at a league championship in the event. Teammates who also scored at league finals in jumps, junior Elyse Elder and sophomore Crystal Nguyen give the team a very strong girls jumps group.
In the throws, sophomore Daniel Medina has a bright future, he is ranked highly in shot put and is growing in strength by the day. Hard working teammate Alex Alonzo will look to be a factor in the league scoring as well. The girls side has the return of 2 athletes who managed to score points as freshmen, Alejandra Ceron and Charli Chircop. This dynamic duo will look to help spearhead a very well rounded girls team, with talented freshmen such as Valeria Cortez joining the group.
2016 is shaping up to be a very exiting year for the James Lick Track and Field Program. We are only a few weeks away from our first track meets, stay tuned for more comets news.