The James Lick Comets had their 2nd league meet of the 2018 season on Thursday September 27th. The team was facing off against the Branham Bruins. The Bruins were a difficult opponent as they appear to the be the class of the ‘B’ division through the first month of the season. Although both varsity squads fell to the Bruins, the Comets had a huge number of athletes run PRs, achieving one of the highest PR totals for a single meet on record in school history.
The meet began with the frosh/soph boys. The Branham team is by far the best squad in the division, so the frosh/soph boys fell to 0-3. The Comet boys ran much better than they did last week however. Omar Fimbres placed 4th overall in 18:32 a PR by over 2 minutes. Jo-Jo Bradley ran 19:50, missing his PR. Jonathan Cortez and Jay Austria ran 20:15 and 20:58 respectively, both were PRs by over a minute. Alberto Trejo was the 5th boy in 23:51, a PR by over 40 seconds.
The Varsity girls were the next race up. It was a big matchup, with both teams at 2-0 and the Bruins one again defeated the Comets, though not without a big fight. Every member of the squad who had run Montgomery Hill before ran a big PR, and produced a thrilling race overall. Arlet Miranda took it out fast from the gun, leading the race through the first mile. Last week, she finished 3rd behind Emily Harris of Sobrato and Skyler Miller of Branham. Both girls are seniors like Arlet, so she has been running against them for 4 years, with Emily and Skyler trading race wins the majority of those years. Arlet took 2nd behind Emily today, and beat Skyler for the first time in her entire career in a league meet. This was a really clutch performance on behalf of Arlet, and it resulted in a PR of 19:10. This was a PR two years in the making (Arlet’s previous best was 19:13 as a sophomore) and was 46 seconds better than last week.
Yeimili Adame was the next Comet in, finishing in 10th place at 21:14. This was a PR by nearly a minute for Yeimili, as well as the first top 10 finish of her career. Belen Sanchez ran a PR of 22:18, beating her previous best of 23:30 by over a minute. Ashley Preciado and Jessica Cervantes ran 22:57 and 22:59, both girls had never run under 23 minutes at Montgomery Hill before. Jenny Villagomez ran a 12 second PR of 23:31 and Yesenia Martinez completed the course for the first time, running 25:15. The team ran a combined team time of 1:48:18, the 2nd best team in school history only to the team of 2014. The team has two more cracks at the record (1:45:57) this season.
The Varsity Boys had a very good race as well, going 7 for 7 on PRs, despite another loss to Branham. Mark Orpia lead the group again in 17:09, 15 seconds faster than last week. He was the only Comet to break the 18 minute barrier last week, while 5 boys accomplished the feet this week. Jerriho Habon and Melvin Estrada came in together at 17:30 and 17:31 (Previous PRs of 18:19 and 18:03 respectively). Brandon Cruz stoped the clock in 17:44, a PR by 52 seconds. Jared Resendiz finished in 17:59, shattering his PR of 19:03. Nien Tran managed a 40 second PR of 18:11 as the 6th boy and Geo Campos ran 19:10 to PR by 13 seconds.
The reserve boys were next, and they would match the 7 PRs of the varsity boys. Daniel Portillo lead the group in 19:29, a PR by 21 seconds. Gustavo Madrigal ran a PR of 20:21, shaving 36 seconds off of his previous best. Rodolf Ocampo did the same, running 21:35. Hu Thai ran a massive PR in just his 2nd race for the team. Hu finished in 24:19, a PR by 3 and a half minutes, yet he would not even lay claim to the biggest Comet improvement of the day. Josue Gomez finished in 25:34 after running over 31 minutes last week. Alexis Sarellano made his debut for the team in 25:41, not far behind. Rafael Yanez ran 27:12, after failing to break 30 minutes a week ago, and Kevin Santacruz rounded out the team by running 29:23. Kevin’s time from a week ago was 34:56.
The PRs continued with the final race of the day, the JV/varsity girls. Last week, Jessica won the race in 23:30 without another girl from any team running under 25 minutes. That earned her a spot on varsity this week. With Jessica moving up, Ruth Rodriguez won the race in a huge PR of 24:20, last week she ran over 26 minutes. Giulissa Correa and Estefani Herrera came in together at 25:35 and 25:39 respectively. Neither girl had run under 27 minutes before. Erika Camacho had an off race finishing in 26:20. Emely Lopez was the 5th girl in for the team in a 1 minute PR of 26:29. Francine Estranero ad Jhesselyn Santos both ran strong PRs of 28:18 and 28:28 respectively. Jhesselyn had not run under 30 minutes for Montgomery Hill before. Araceli Mejia finished in 31:11, missing her PR by mere seconds to end the Comets day. The JV girls came away with the win, moving to 3-0.
The day yielded more PRs than the Comets have ever achieved at the 2nd league meet of the season since I’ve been coaching. Things look very god for the team going forward, if they can continue to improve at such a high rate.
The varsity team will compete at the Stanford Invitational on Saturday September 29th before the entire team will head up to Crystal Springs for the Aragon hosted Center Meet on Wednesday October 3rd.
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.
The Comets took to the highly competitive Stanford Invitational on Saturday, September 26th to compete against some of the best runners in the State. Only Varsity teams compete at the prestigious invite. The team was looking to use the fast 5k race over the flat Stanford Golf Course,as a means of preparing themselves for fast paced races down the road. The end result was nearly every Comet runner, running the fastest mile pace of their career for a Cross Country race of any distance.
The Boys Varsity team once again demonstrated their dramatic improvement, running over 6 minutes faster as a team than they did last year at the same meet. The best performance was from team captain Hector Ramirez who ran 17:35. Hector had only ever once run under 6 minute mile pace for an official Cross Country race, and that was at his first league meet of the season where he clocked 5:59 pace. At Stanford however, Hector ran 5:40 pace for 5k distance. He was closely followed by Nathan Bernardo who ran 17:39, 5:42 mile pace. Inteus Castro-Lopez was the 3rd boy in, at 18:11, with a mile pace of 5:52. This gives the Comets 3 boys much faster than last year’s best runner at Stanford, when Karan Singh lead the team in 18:33. Gustavo Aguilera and Azael Zamora completed the team’s scorers, in 18:45 and 18:58 respectively. Gustavo Parra took a big step forward in his recovery, running 19:05, for a mile pace of 6:09. He had never before run under 6:30 pace. Jesse Chircop finished the team’s day by running 19:20 as the 7th man. This is after last year’s 3rd best runner was Hector in 19:19.
On the girl’s side, Arlet Miranda lead the group in 23:37 treating the race as a tempo run, she nonetheless earned the 5th spot in the school’s all time list for the Stanford invite. Andrea Ortiz was next in 24:23, running under 24 minutes for 3 miles for the first time en route. Raquel Rodriguez ran 24:50, 8:01 pace after never having run under 8:30 pace before. Daisy Nava finished the teams day in a solid 25:12, 8:08 pace, compared to her previous best pace of 8:17.
The team looks ahead to the Watermelon run next week, and the Artichoke Invitational in Half Moon Bay next Saturday where even faster paces are sure to come.
The 2015 Track season was a colossal step forward for the team. Not since 2002 had either the boys or girls teams have a winning record. In 2015 the boys went 4-3 and the girls went 6-1. In past seasons the most athletes from James Lick who qualified for BVAL championships was 5 in 2014. In 2015 13 athletes qualified to compete at BVAl championships. The last time the Comets had more than 1 athlete qualify for CCS trials was 2003, in 2015 5 athletes accomplished the feat. Robert Rios in boys shot put, Paloma Contreras in girls 400, Daniela Camacho in girls 800, Andrea Ortiz in girls 300h and Davion Thomas in boys 200.
The comets were a surprise in the WVAL for how quickly they turned from a last place team, to a team to be reckoned with. The additions of Coach John Quasarano, and the larger role of Coach John Vela were huge in developing and recruiting athletes. The 2015 season saw the team dramatically improved in many areas.
It had been exceedingly rare for the team to have more than one athlete score in an event at WVAL finals as only the top athletes in the league score. This year however, two athletes scored in girl’s long jump, girl’s shot put, girl’s 100h, girl’s 300h, girl’s 400 girl’s 3200, boy’s 1600, and boy’s 3200 with 4 girls scoring in the girl’s 800! The team had two individual league champions this year, with Robert Rios winning the boy’s shot put and Paloma Contreras winning the girl’s 400.
The boys top 10 all time list is a difficult list to crack in most events, since it has 65 years of athletes competing. This year however, several additions were made, whereas none were made since 2009. Davion made it onto 10th in the boys 100 list with a wind aided time of 11.42, (converted to 11.48 wind legal). He made 8th place in the 200 list with a wind legal 23.19 at BVAL championships for both times. Karan ran his way onto the boy’s 3200 8th place with a time of 10:23.00 at WVAL Finals. Robert Rios also achieved 8th place in the boy’s Shot Put with a throw of 43-2 inches at WVAL Finals. The 300 hurdles, being a more modern event allowed Gustavo Aguilera to move into 10th at 48.93 and Jon Rodriguez into 7th at 47.34.
The girl’s lists were largely re-written as this was the closest the team has ever come to winning a Track league title on the girl’s side. Maria Mendoza, Paloma and Andrea are now 7th 8th and 10th respectively with Maria at 28.73 for the team’s seasons best. Paloma moved into 3rd on the team’s 400m list with her PR of 1:02.54. Daniela Camacho, Cierra Gutierrez, Maria Mendoza and Gabriela Aguilar are 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th respectively.
Daniela had a historic season in which she set school records in multiple events. She is the best 800m runner in school history with a time of 2:27.64. Paloma moved up to 4th with a time of 2:37.14. Brianna Flores, Maria, Daisy Nava and Cierra hold spots 6-10 now. The 1600 is lead by another school record by Daniela: 5:27.54. Brianna moved into 6th by taking her PR from 6:51 to 6:13 this season. Cierra is now 8th at 6:18. Daniela holds the school record for 3200 at 12:18.09. Brianna is 5th at 13:46.
Maria and Andrea are now 4th and 6th on the 100h list. Andrea now holds the school record in the 300h with a time of 50.20, with Maria second at 51.28. The 4×100 team ran the 3rd fastest time in school history, clocking 55.04 this season. The girl’s 4×400 had the 2nd best time in school history at 4:31.12 both marks at WVAL Finals. Lyndel Ventura, Crystal Nguyen, and Elyse Elder are now 3rd 4th and 5th on the school’s triple jump list. Lyndel is also 7th on the school’s long jump list. Elyse is 6th on the girl’s high jump list as well. Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron are 8th and 9th on the school’s discus list. Alejandra is 6th on the school’s shot put list and Charli 8th.
The year was a great step forward for the Comets. They will lose high scoring seniors such as Karan, Paloma, Daniela, and Robert, but with young up and comers like Nathan, Maria, Daisy, and Daniel, the team will strive to fill their loses and be even better because of the groundwork laid down by the team of 2015. The one team that beat the JL girls was Prospect and with them moving up to the Santa Teresa division, the team can set their focus on going after the league title in 2016 on the girl’s side, and rising to a top 3 finish on the boy’s side as well.
A great season for the team. Many of the Comets who ran track will be joining Coach Vela in football, or Coaches Benny Reeves and Coach Quasarano in Cross Country in a few weeks. Here’s to a great season and congratulations to all our seniors, everyone of whom is graduating and attending college next year.