2019 Track Season Recap/ Ryan Oyama Awards

This blog is in two parts. The first part is a summary of the 2019 track team. The 2nd part is located at the end of that post, and is a summary of the Ryan/Oyama Awards ceremony. 

A I write this there are only 6 school days left at James Lick High School. Graduation for the class of 2019 is a week away, and all of the sports teams have finished their competition. It is a good time to look back on the track season briefly, and to recap the school year in terms of sports.

We went into the 2019 track season with the goal of achieving a winning record in the ‘B’ division in what was only our 2nd year in the division in the entire BVAL era (since 1996).  The boys managed to achieve this goal, going 5-2. The girls had a myriad of issues and only went 2-5. Nonetheless, the combined 7-7 record was an improvement on the 6-8 record the year before.

The team looked very strong at our first meet against Live Oak. The Comets took dominant wins against a quality Acorn team. At that moment, hopes were very high that both teams could be a force in the division.

As the season went on, the boys team showed more depth than any James Lick track team in nearly 20 years. For example, this season the Comets had 11 different boys run under 13 seconds for the 100 (they were all under 12.8 in fact). Since the year 2000, the most Comet boys to break that barrier in a single season had been the 8 boys who managed it last year. Of the 11 who managed it this year, only two were seniors.

Only one Comet in the last years had run under 55 seconds for the 400, Gustavo Aguilera in 2017. This year two Comets accomplished the feet, with Misael Herrera leading the way at 54.51, the best time since I’ve been coaching. We had 9 different boys run under 60 seconds in the 400, also a best of the last decade.

In my first 3 years of coaching, we had only 3 different boys who managed to long jump farther than 18 feet. This year alone we had 6 (None of them had done it before this year) and none of them are seniors. We also had our first 20 foot long jumper in over a decade in Salvador Lopez, who missed making CCS by only one place this year.

Perhaps the biggest leap forward for the boys was in pole vault however. Coach Raul Lopez worked hard last year to produce two vaulters for the first time in decades. Mark Orpia went 9-0 and Rodolf Ocampo 8-6. The two are the top returning vaulters in the division for next year, with PRS of 10-8 and 10-2. Rodolf also became the first Comet in 11 years to run under 16 seconds in the 110 hurdles. The 4×100 team ran 45.06, the best time by a James Lick team since 2002. The 4×400 achieved the same distinction running 3:36.78.

The team’s most valuable athletes based on league meet points scored were as follows:

1. Rodolf Ocampo: 106.75

2.Mark Orpia: 83 

3. Salvador Lopez: 77.50 

4. Raven Alcantara: 53.50 

5. Erik Olsvold: 39.50 

The top 4 point scorers on the boys side were all juniors, as were the 6th and 7th (Jerricho Habon with 38 and Geovanny Campos with 34). For reference, Rodolf is only the 2nd Comet boy to score over 100 points in a season since I’ve been coaching, and the first to do so in the ‘B’ division.

 

The team’s only real weakness was the throwing events, as demonstrated by the chart below.

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 15.85 27 59% 7
Hurdles 12 18 66% 12.5
Jumps 23.25 36 65% 30
Relays 4.28 10 43% 14
Sprints 11.85 27 44% 10
Throws 4.71 18 26% 1
 

 

 

The large amount of juniors on the team puts us in a great place for next year on the boys side, especially if we can find some strong throwers.

What started off as a season full of hope on the girls side, became a season of struggle unfortunately. We had a number of injuries, and some issues with academic ineligibility that really held the girls team back.

While the team had some standout athletes, team depth was simply not there. Valeria Cortez won league titles in the discus and the 100 hurdles to cement her already impressive legacy. Marquise Nelson finished 2nd in the girls shot put and discus at division finals, along with a 2nd place finish for Arlet Miranda in the girls 800.

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 13.55 27 50% 21
Hurdles 13.1 18 73% 24
Jumps 14.86 27 55% 0
Relays 1.73 10 17% 3
Sprints 7.72 27 28% 1
Throws 14.85 18 82% 32

As you can see from the girls event scoring breakdown, the girls sprint team due to injuries and grade issues, was not where it needed to be for the team to be competitive. This lead to a deficiency in jumps as well, by division finals the team was not able to score a point in jumps.

This will be an area of emphasis for next season. With the team’s top 3 point scorers all graduating on the girls side, the team will need to re-load quickly.

The girls top point scorers were as follows:

  1. Valeria Cotez: 155
  2. Arlet Miranda: 71.25 
  3. Marquise Nelson: 61
  4. Natalie Rem: 53.25
  5. Yesenia Martinez: 49 

Valeria’s point total is an unofficial team record (I only have records of points since I’ve been coaching) but it is a mark I do not see falling anytime soon.

Below are the top 3 marks in each events by the Comets this season:

 

Boys

Event #1 Comet Mark # 2 Comet Mark # 3 Comet Mark
100m Raven Alcantara 11.47 Salvador Lopez 11.84 Geovanny Campos 11.87
200m Raven Alcantara 23.94  Salvador Lopez 24.26 Misael Herrera 24.56
400m Misael Herrera 54.51  Salvador Lopez 54.97 Jerricho Habon 55.28
800m Erik Olsvold 2:05.90 Jerricho Habon 2:06.52 Mark Orpia 2:12.88
1600m Erik Olsvold 4:51.05 Mark Orpia 4:55.67 Brandon Cruz 4:55.81
3200m Mark Orpia 10:55.36 Jerricho Habon 11:02.14 Melvin Estrada 11:03.48
110H Rodolf Ocampo 15.97 Josh Merin 18.07 Mark Orpia 18.47
300h Rodolf Ocampo 45.59 Salvador Lopez 45.74 Mark Orpia 46.02
Shot Put Rodolf Ocampo 34-2 Nathan Rios 34-0 Adrian DeLaRosa 27-9
Dicsus Josh Merin 92-1 Nathan Rios 83-1 Alexis Sarellano 71-9
Long Jump Salvador Lopez 20-4 Geovanny Campos 19-2 Raven Alcantara 18-7.5
Triple Jump Salvador Lopez 38-2.50 Jordan Laguna 37-9.5 Raven Alcantara 37-9
High Jump Salvador Lopez 5-8 Josh Merin 5–4 Erik Olsvold 5-3
Pole Vault Mark Orpia 10-8 Rodolf Ocampo 10-2 Adrian DeLaRosa 8-6
4×100 Alcantara, Ocampo, Lopez, Campos 45.06 Alcantara, Merin, Lopez, Campos 45.72 Alcantara, Merin, Herrera, Campos 46.01
4×400 Lopez, Olsvold, Habon, Herrera 3:36.78 Herrera, Campos, Habon, Lopez 3:40.45 Herrera, Lopez, Merin, Habon 3:45.44

 

Girls 

 

Event #1 Comet Mark # 2 Comet Mark # 3 Comet Mark
100m Natalie Rem 13.73 Lisbeth Galdamez 13.90 Marquise Nelson 14.19
200m Mya Hammond 29.89 Yeimili Adame 30.10  Natalie Rem 30.18
400m Yeimili Adame 1:05.65 Arlet Miranda 1:09.21 Mya Hammond 1:14.43
800m Arlet Miranda 2:28.08 Mya Hammond 2:48.81 Ashley Preciado 2:51.62
1600m Arlet Miranda 5:42.11 Belen Sanchez 6:24.50 Jessica Cervantes 6:24.56
3200m Arlet Miranda 12:28.59 Yeimili Adame 13:27.25  Lizbeth Espana 14:14.08
100H Valeria Cortez 16.84 Yesenia Martinez 18.57 Natalie Rem 20.10
300h Valeria Cortez 52.08 Arlet Miranda 55.82 Yeimili Adame 56.24
Shot Put Marquise Nelson 33-8 Valeria Cortez 33-3 Natalie Rem 25-8.5
Dicsus Valeria Cortez 116-10 Marquise Nelson 94-4.5 Adriana Marcelino 75-0
Long Jump Marquise Nelson 14-9 Natalie Rem 14-4 Arlet Miranda 14-2
Triple Jump Natalie Rem 33-4.25 Yesenia Martinez 28-8 Marquise Nelson 28-6
High Jump Yesenia Martinez 4-6 Lisbeth Galdamez 4-4 Marquise Nelson 4-4
Pole Vault Yesenia Martinez 6-0        
4×100 Galdamez, Cervantes, Hammond, Rem 56.02 Galdamez, Nelson, Adame, Gonzalez 56.28 Thach, Nelson, Hammond, Adame 56.32
4×400 Espana, Sanchez, Adame, Miranda 4:53.24 Hammond, Sanchez, Adame, Miranda 4:57.49 Hammond, Cervantes, Nelson, Adame 4:59.33

The track season is over and the team is now finishing up their schoolwork. The distance- underclassmen will begin training for cross country in June, and a few of the Comets will be competing in summer track meets as members of a few clubs, such as the Eastside Running club.

Thanks for reading!

 

Ryan/Oyama Summary 

It was a down year for the school overall. The 2017/2018 school year saw James Lick finish with a combined record of 101-85-4, the first combined winning record for the school in many years.  This year the school went 67-85-4. It should be acknowledged however that the James Lick girls basketball team moved up to the ‘B’ division, which made it more difficult to obtain a great win/loss record.

We had the 2019 addition of the Ryan/ Oyama Awards on Tuesday May 21st in the James Lick gym. This ceremony is our signature end of the year award ceremony for all sports, and the Ryan award is the award for our best senior student-athlete as determined by their four years of athletics for the school. The Oyama award is the female equivalent.

The award ceremony begins with the coaches awards. Every team is allowed to give out two awards for each group on their team. For example, in cross country we are able to give two varsity and two JV awards for both boys and girls.

The JV girls awards went to Jessica Cervantes as the JV girls MVP and Estefani Herrera for the girls most improved runner. On the boys side, Gustavo Madrigal was our most improved JV runner and Omar Fimbres was our team MVP.

Arlet Miranda was our varsity girls MVP and Belen Sanchez was our most improved athlete. On the boys side, MVP went to Mark Orpia and Most Improved went to jared Resendiz.

In track, we gave our JV awards to Lizbeth Espana and Mya Hammond on the girls side, and Jordan Laguna and Dekota Castro-Lopez on the boys side. Valeria won the team MVP for girls and Adriana Marcelino was most improved. On the boys side, Adrian DeLaRosa won an award for leadership, and Rodolf Ocampo was our MVP.

Next up were the class awards. Jhesselyn Santos won freshmen girl of the year. She participated in cross country, wrestling, and track. She was a strong young athlete in the sports I coach, and she won the most improved award for JV wrestling.

Jordan Laguna won the boys freshmen of the year. He excelled as a jumper in track and besides our award, he won an award for wrestling as well. Sophomore of the year went to a couple more XC runners. Omar Fimbres won the boys award, he played basketball and baseball in addition to being a strong cross country runner. Esetfani Herrera won the girls award, she played soccer besides running cross country and track.

Dulce Jacobo, one of the stars of the school’s championship volleyball team, and the school’s ‘B’ division basketball team, won junior of the year. I’ve been trying to get Dulce to join track for several years now to no avail. Rodolf won the boys junior of the year in something of an upset victory considering there were several 3 sport junior athletes of comparable caliber, whereas Rodolf only ran cross country and track.

Finally the moment everyone was waiting for, the Ryan/Oyama Awards themselves. The Ryan Award went to Misael Herrera, the 3rd straight track athlete to win it following Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora. Misael competed in football and track all four years of his HS career, and also competed in wrestling his junior and senior year. He is a dedicated and very hard working teammate. His victory was not shocking considering he had won freshmen of the year, sophomore of the year, and junior of the year throughout his career.

The girls competition however was very tight. It’s difficult to compare across eras, but I think there is a legitimate case to be made that the 2019 girls class is the best athletic class in James Lick history.

The girls class of 2019 produced 6 division titles for the school. Of those 6, 4 came in sports that James Lick had never won a championship in. During Arlet and Valeria’s freshmen year, they both scored a ton of points towards helping us win our first ever championship in girls track. This duo were the 1-2 punch that helped us repeat this feat in 2017, and saw us move up to the ‘B’ division for the first time.

In the fall of 2017, Valeria was the setter for the school’s first ever championship in girls volleyball. The star of the team was the middle hitter, Marquise. Marquise used her height to excel at spiking, and this duo was the driving force behind their back-back titles in girls volleyball.

In winter of 2018, the girls basketball team won their first title since 1997, lead by the efforts of Marquise, and other key contributors from the class of 2019 like Corina Gutierrez and Serena Salas (both also played for the championship volleyball team). The girls softball team was lead by star pitcher Corina, and twice finished with a record of 17-4 during this four year span, missing a title by one game twice.

In addition to her prowess in volleyball and track, Valeria made it to the State meet in wrestling with a 3rd place finish at CCS finals. This to say nothing of the accomplishments of 3 sport athletes like Belen Sanchez, who was also a key to several team records in cross country this season, a team captain on the soccer team and a member of both track championship teams.

In most years, I think Arlet would have been a shoe in for the Oyama award. She is a 4 time CCS qualifier (3 in cross, one in track) who has won individual league championships and lead a team to two league titles, all while maintaining a 4.0. The high number of string 3 sport athletes made it so that she was not even in the top 3 candidates considered.

In the end, Valeria won the Oyama award against a very deserving runner up in Marquise. To me, this was the toughest call between any  Oyama or Ryan award duo that I’ve ever seen. I think either lady could have taken home the honors.

IMG_7214
Misael Herrera (Left) Myself (Center) and Valeria Cortez (Right) with their awards

That puts a wrap on another year of James Lick sports. James Lick graduation is on Wednesday May 29th at the football field beginning at 7 PM. The final day of school is on May 30th.

We are nearly at the end of another school year!

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

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Comets Set New Team Record For Total Points Scored at ST Division Finals

The James Lick Track Team contested day 2 of the ST division finals(‘B’ division of the BVAL) on Saturday May 20th at Lincoln High School. It was the teams 2nd year in the ‘B’ division in the BVAL era (since 1996). In the teams first year, the Comets scored a grand total of 110 points at division finals. A respectable combined total. This year the team managed a total of 158 points, a strong improvement over the year before.

To make ST division finals, many of the events require the athletes to compete in prelims on Thursday, in order to advance to the final on Saturday.  The top 8 athletes in each event score points for their respective teams, while the top 5 in each event advance to BVAL Championships on May 2nd with the chance to advance to CCS Trials.

The meet began with the 4×100. The girls team of Chantrea Thach, Marquise Nelson, Yeimili Adame and Mya Hammond combined to run 56.32 and took 6th overall (3 points for the team). This ends a year for the girls sprint crew full of struggle, with injuries really taking a big hit on the teams depth.

The boys however performed very strongly. The 2018 team was the first Comet team since 2002 to run under 46 seconds for the 4×100. They did so at division finals last year, running 45.88, (5th place) and followed that up with a 45.51 at BVAL champs where we placed 11th, three places off a CCS berth. This years group improved upon the “best time since 2002 status” by running 45.27, only .05 off of the winners, Pioneer.

IMG_6959
Raven Alcantara handing the baton off to Rodolf Ocampo on the 1st exchange 

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this breakthrough time for the team of Raven Alcantara, Rodolf Ocampo, Salvador Lopez and Geovanny Campos is that every member of the squad is a junior. The team has their sights set on the 45 second barrier at BVAL champs.

The boys 1600 was next, and it was the only distance event where the Comets did not produce points. Nonetheless, both Mark Orpia and Brandon Cruz ran PRS, running 4:55 each, and Melvin Estrada ran a seasons best 5:05 as well. The girls 1600 took place on Thursday, so the next event on the track was the 100 hurdles.

Valeria Cortez won her 3rd consecutive title in the 100 hurdles with a seasons best (2nd best time of her career), 16.84. This was Valeria’s 5th individual championship for the Comets at BVAL division finals (she has 2 in girls discus). While it needs to be acknowledged that all of Valeria’s individual championships came within a division of a larger league, this accomplishment ties her with John Aguiar and Joe Amendt as the only Comets (on record) in school history to win 5 individual league/division titles for the school.

John Aguiar won the SCVAL league title in 100 yard dash from 1953-1955 and had 220 yard dash titles in 53′ and 54.’ Joe won 4 consecutive 800m titles in the MHAL (now the ‘A’ divsion of the BVAL) and won the mile title as a senior as well. The accomplishments/marks of John and Joe are objectively more impressive but is still a hallowed club that Valeria joins, and an achievement we are very proud of.

Yesenia Martinez also qualified for BVAL champs for the 2nd consecutive season with a seasons best 18.57 clocking for 2nd place.

IMG_6967.JPG
Valeria Cortez won the 100 hurdle final by a wide margin

In the boys 110 hurdles, the Comets saw a pair of breakthroughs as well. Rodolf Ocampo ran under 17 seconds for the first time, stopping the clock at 16.85 to advance to BVAl champs with a 3rd place performance. Rodolf took 3rd place in pole vault on Thursday as well, helping him become the boys teams highest point scorer at division finals. Joshua Merin in only his 3rd hurdle race ran 18.07, a massive PR for 6th place, just .02 away from a spot at BVALs.

We very much regret not having Josh try hurdling earlier. He ran 21.18 on his first try, then 2 weeks later ran 19.30, only 2 days before his 18.07 clocking today. As a junior, Josh figures to keep improving in the event next season as well.

After running a big PR of 1:05.65 on Thursday, Yeimili struggled in the 400m final, running 1:08 for 8th place. Misael Herrera placed 6th for the Comet boys in 54.88, a good improvement for a team that had no 400m runners make the division final a year ago.

The biggest PR of the day in terms of a major step forward was in the boys 100. Raven has been our best sprinter over the past 2 seasons. He capped off last season at 11.79, and narrowly missed making BVALS (he placed 6 at division finals). His primary goal this year was to advance to BVALS in the 100, but he had only lowered his PR to 11.72. Raven is  a masterful starter, but his weakness has been holding his speed at the end of races. This is evidenced by the fact that his 200m PR entering this season was 25.12 compared to a 100m best of 11.79. This season, he lowered his 200m best all the way down to 24.04 prior to the 100m final, which to me was a sure sign he finally had the strength he needed.

Raven delivered on all hopes, running a massive PR of 11.47 to place 3rd and punch his ticket to BVALS. While there was no wind gauge on what seemed to be a strong tailwind, Raven defeated runners who had run as fast as 11.51 and 11.58 in wind legal conditions this season, showing the legitimacy of his PR.

The girls 800 saw Arlet Miranda run a seasons best 2:30.01 for 2nd place, her best 800m time since her sophomore year when she made CCS in the event. This was especially impressive considering Arlet had to lead the chase pack with winner Hannah Gehrt of Lincoln more than 5 seconds clear of any other runner. Arlet was nearly 4 seconds ahead of 3rd place as well. Mya Hammond ran a PR of 2:48.81 for 9th place, just missing scoring.

Jerricho Habon coasted to a 3rd place finish in the boys 800 running 2:09, sealing his place at BVALS and extending the Comets streak of having at least 1 boy represent the team at BVALS in distance events to a 5th consecutive year, (the girls streak is at 7). Garret Hedlund of Pionerr (1:57 seasons best) and Omar Pina (4:27 1600 PR) were well clear of the field, but Jerricho impressively out-kicked the chase pack.

The Comets had some strong performances in field events as well. Marquise tied for 2nd place in girls Shot Put with a new PR of 33-0. Valeria took 4th in 32-9.5. Sal became the first Comet boy since 2014 to advance to BVAL champs in the long jump, placing 3rd with a leap of 19-4.75. Geo Campos also scored for the team with a jump of 18-5 for 7th place.

The girls 300 saw Valeria take 2nd in a PR of 52.08. Arlet placed 6th though her time was poor as she was fatigued from the 800m. Valeria’s 2nd place 300 hurdle saw her end the day with a total of 33 points at division finals. This is a school record at division finals, bettering her own record of 29 points at the ‘C’ division finals of 2017. As every athlete is allowed 4 events maximum, Valeria’s 33 point performance is very hard to top. She tied with Taylor Hohn of Lincoln (1st in triple jump, 2nd in long jump, 1st in 200m, 2nd in 100m) as the most valuable athlete of the meet.

I do not have records of points scored in league meets from before I was coaching. That being said, I am almost done with year 6 of coaching. In that time, the highest point total any athlete accumulated in a single season was Valeria’s 130 points in 2017, our last year in the ‘C’ division. This year Valeria shattered that mark, with her 33 points at division finals giving her 155 for the season. Considering the 2nd most scored in a season is 113, (by Karan Singh in 2015) I think Valeria’s unofficial record will stand for a long time. We are really going to miss her.

Rodolf and Mark both had off races in the 300 hurdles, but managed to add 4 points to the meet total between the two of them. Raven made it a 2nd PR on the day by running 23.94 in the boys 200 for 7th place. Next up was the girls 3200. Many of the girls were fatigued due to the short meet at the end of long week. This left the door open for Arlet to take 4th for the team, and Yeimili to place 5th in 13:59. Yeimili was only put in the 3200 because of the thin nature of the entries in the division, and because of her XC running proficiency. After qualifying for BVALs, her training will shift quite radically from 400 based to 3200 based for the remainder of the season.

Due to the lack of depth on the girls side, we opted to not contest the 4×400. The boys 4×400 was a very exciting race, with James Lick, Live Oak and Pioneer trading the lead throughout the race. The Comets were in 1st place with 150 left but both Pioneer and Live Oak pulled away in the final straight. Misael, Geo, Jerricho and Sal combined to run a seasons best 3:40.45, and the team will be looking to run faster at BVALS with a chance to qualify for CCS trials on the line.

When all was said and done, the scores for the meet were as follows.

Boys: 

  1. Pioneer: 234.5
  2. Lincoln: 91
  3. Live Oak: 81.75
  4. James Lick: 78
  5. Piedmont Hills: 53
  6. Prospect: 52.5
  7. Sobrato: 16.25
  8. Oak Grove: 11

Girls: 

  1. Lincon: 125
  2. Piedmont Hills: 117.50
  3. Pioneer: 82.50
  4. James Lick: 80
  5. Prospect: 78
  6. Sobrato: 64.50
  7. Oak Grove: 29.50
  8. Live Oak: 7

Of the girls 80 points, a vast majority were scored by seniors:

Valeria Cortez: 33 points

Arlet Miranda: 20 points

Marquise Nelson: 16.5

The team will need younger athletes to step up to remain competitive after some huge losses to come.

On the boys side however, things look good with all of the team’s top 5 point scorers being juniors:

Rodolf Ocampo: 16.5

Salvador Lopez: 11

Raven Alcantara: 10

Mark Orpia: 10

Jerricho Habon: 7.5

The Comets and other ESUHSD schools will have the benefit of Spring Break next week to train hard in preparation for BVAL finals on May 2nd at Westmont High School.

We have high hopes to send a handful of athletes on to CCS.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

Comets Suffer First Loss of Season at Pioneer

The James Lick Track team suffered its first loss of the season in all 3 divisions against the Pioneer Mustangs on Thursday March 21st 2019. The Mustangs are undefeated so far, and seem to be the likeliest division champion on both the boys and girls side.

Despite the defeat, there was a lot to feel good about in the meet, including 23 PRS and several strong performances.

One of the great early performances was the boys 4×100 team. Raven Alcantara, Josh Merin, Misael Herrera and Geovanny Campos combined to run 46.01. This is a seasons best time, and the fastest time any James Lick team has run in March in over a decade. Last years 4×100 team made BVAL Championships for the first time in many years with a time of 45.88. That was done in May of last year, as was the 45.50 clocking at BVAL finals. That 45.50 stands as the best James Lick 4×100 time since 2002. This years team is well on pace to beat it, and may well crack the 45 second barrier by the end of the season, a time which may advance them to CCS.

Arlet Miranda scored the first points of the meet for the girls with a seasons best 5:44 1600 for 2nd place. Arlet did this despite battling stomach pain prior to and during the race. On the boys side, Jerricho Habon scored the first boys point of the day with a 3rd place finish in a PR of 5:02.00.

The girls 100 hurdles was a victory for Valeria Cortez in 17.08, a huge seasons best for her first of what would be 4 victories on the day. This is the 5th best time of Valeria’s career (PR of 16.75) but it is the fastest time she has ever run in March or April. Her best times have always come in May when she is in peak condition. Yesenia Martinez was 2nd in 18.73 a seasons best as well. On the boys side, Rodolf Ocampo scored the Comet boys only victory of the day in a PR of 17.29.

In the girls 400, Yeimili Adame ran a seasons best 1:07.43 for the 2nd best time of her career. This netted her 3rd place on the day. The Pioneer boys swept the 400, but the Comets had a number of solid performances. Salvador Lopez ran a seasons best 57.18 to lead the Comets. Geo Campos made his debut in 57.45 a very solid first cocking in the evnt. Josh Merin ran more than a 2 second PR to stop the clock in 57.86 and Misael ran 58.35 for a seasons best time. Angel Guerrero made his debut in the event, running 59.33 to end the Comets day in the event.

The girls 100 was won by Pioneer, with Comets taking 2nd and 3rd. Natalie Rem and Lisbeth Galdamez both ran 13.90, narrowly edging out a Pioneer runner. This was a .04 second PR for Lisbeth.

In the boys 100, Raven Alcantara backed up his 11.72 PR last week with a time of 11.78. Despite this solid time, Pioneer swept the boys 100. Joran Laguna ran a PR of 12.53 and Jerricho lowered his PR to 12.57. Bryan Rodriguez made his debut, running 14.23.

Pioneer swept the girls 800, though Mya Hammond ran a seasons best 3:00.16 and Emely Lopez ran a PR of 3:19. Jessica Cervantes also made her return to racing after injury in February. In the boys 800, Erik Olsvold took 3rd with a seasons best 2:09.98, the first Comet to break 2:10 this season. Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 2:19 as well.

Valeria took 1st in the 300 hurdles in a big seasons best of 53.80, putting her ranked #1 in the division so far. Yeimili ran a PR of 57.12 for 3rd place in the race as well. On the boys side, Rodolf took 2nd in a PR of 46.40.

Only two lady Comets ran the 200, though both ran PRS. Mya clocked in at 30.97 in 4th place, a PR by 3 tenths of a second. Araceli mejia lowered her PR nearly a second, running 32.73. On the boys side, Misael ran a seasons best 25.03 and Rodolf ran a big PR of 25.58 despite having the hurdles right before.

Belen Sanchez won the girls 3200 with a season opening time of 14:20. Lizbeth Espana made a very strong debut in the event, running 14:36 for 2nd. Erika Camacho ran a massive 2 minute PR of 14:51, and Ashley ran 14:55 to start her season. Melvin Estrada ran a seasons best 11:14 to take 2nd in the boys 3200. Jerricho took 4th in a new PR of 11:23.

Pioneer was victorious in both 4x400s. The Pioneer boys had a massive lead after the running events were added up, while the Pioneer girls held an advantage as well.

The field events were slightly better for the Comets. Rodolf scored a point in the pole vault by clearing 9-0. Sal scored a point in the high jump clearing 5-4. On the girls side, Lisbeth and Yesenia went 2-3 with jumps of 4-4 and 4-2. Natalie took 2nd in both horizontal jumps,  going 31-4 in triple jump and 13-9 in long jump respectively. Geo Campos went 19 feet in long jump for the first time to take 3rd. Sal and Raven took 2nd and 3rd in the boys triple jump.

The throwing events had several meet highlights for the Comets. Chief among them was Valeria throwing 111-8, a seasons best just 1 foot off of her PR to win the meet. Marquise Nelson stepped up and threw 83-8 for her first time in discus as well. In the shot put, they formed a 1-2 punch. Valeria threw 33-2.5, a seasons best only 6 inches off her PR, while Marquise threw a PR of 28-10.

Valeria stood out all meet, despite the team losing, she scored 20 points (the maximum possible) with 4 seasons bests.

The Comets lost the meet, but gained valuable meet experience against a very tough opponent.

The team will head to the De Anza Invitational on Saturday March 23rd before facing off against Prospect High School in another tough matchup.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

Comets Begin Season with Willow Glen Invitational

As has become tradition over the past few seasons, the James Lick track team began their season with competition at the Willow Glen Invitational. Another tradition continued as for the 4th consecutive year, athletes had to compete through some amount of rain and wet conditions at the invite. The morning rain yielded to fair conditions in the afternoon, and when the dust settled, 34 Comets opened their seasons.

The conditions and early season status of the meet kept the competition numbers lower than normal, and it also weakened the marks/times achieved across the board. Nonetheless, overall the team competed very well, placing highly in a number of areas.

The meet began with the 4×100. The varsity team of Geo Campos, Salvador Lopez, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara clocked in at 47.71 to place 4th overall and win their heat. While the time isn’t extremely fast, not many fast times were produced in the 4×100 in general, and the team competed well against some consistently good teams. This 47 second opening time is also the fastest season opening 4×100 time the team ahs achieved since I’ve been coaching. For reference, last year at Willow Glen the team ran 49.25 and by the end of the season ran 45.50. With that in mind, the 47.71 in the rain is very encouraging.

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Misael Herrera hands off the baton to Raven Alcantara on the final leg of the 4×100

The next event on the track was the 1600. The Comets sent a large group of frosh/soph girls to compete, fresh off their JV undefeated season in cross country. Erika Camacho lead the group in 6:50, a PR by 12 seconds, her first time cracking the 7 minute barrier (always a big moment). Ruth Rodriguez ran a 12 second PR as well, clocking in at 7:07. Newcomer Lizbeth Espana ran a very solid 1600 debut of 7:09 just behind Ruth. Estefani Herrera, Mariana Perez, Emely Lopez and Francine Estranero also competed but are still working themselves into shape.

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The frosh/soph girls before the race

Ashley Preciado made her season debut running 6:56. While this is not near her PR of 6:09, it actually is 2 seconds ahead of her time from last year. The varsity boys 1600 saw two strong early season performances. Mark Orpia ran a 1 second PR of 5:05.62 and Brandon Cruz ran a 6 second PR of 5:08.81. Both boys are way ahead of where they were a year ago and are poised to break the 5 minute barrier very soon.

Around this time the rain broke, allowing for better conditions for the hurdles. Valeria Cortez and Yesenia Martinez both competed, though not with great results. On the boys side, both Rodolf Ocampo and Mark (fresh off of his mile PR) ran under 19 seconds for the first time in the 110 hurdles.

Several Comets competed in field events during this time as well. Josh Merin cleared 5-0 in high jump for the first time in an official meet. A year ago at this time, Josh only managed to go 4-6. Sal cleared 5-4, much better than the 4-10 he managed a year ago. Both boys medaled in the shallow high jump field. Raven lead the team in the triple jump, with a leap of 36-9.5 Sal was next in 35-9.5 and Jamie Vong went 35-6. For reference, last season Raven and Sal opened the season at 33 feet each, so they are well ahead of where they were a year ago.

The 100m dash saw several strong showings from Comets as well. Raven won his heat in a time of 12.02 matching his seasons best. The next heat, Geo ran 12.13 a seasons best and the 2nd best time of his career. Sal won his heat in a big PR of 12.41 (Sal rarely runs the 100 but had never run under 13 before). Rodolf also netted a sizable PR, stopping the clock at 12.54 ( his first time under 13 as well). Josh Merin ran 12.64, a PR by nearly 2 tenths of a second. Adrian DeLaRosa ran a seasons debut of 13.04 and Angel Guerrero ran 13.06 for a small PR. The Comet Sprint corps are looking much better than they did at this time last year.  Last year only two Comets ran under 13 seconds at the WG invite, compared to a full 5 this year with two more under 13.1.

On the girls side, Jenny Fimbres made her debut running a solid 15.67. Krissy Aguja ran 17.50 for her first time at the event. Emily De Dios made her debut running 17.22. Marquise Nelson made her debut for the team and ran 16.12. Valeria lead the lady sprinters in 15.07. Marquise is the school’s star basketball and volleyball player, and we are excited to see what she can do in track (she played softball before this year).

The 800m was next and with it, the large group of frosh/soph girls took to the track again. Mya Hammond ran 3:05, 3 seconds better than her clocking here a year ago. Erika was not far behind, running a 3 second PR of 3:08. Lizbeth just missed her PR running 3:15 and Ruth ran 3:16 in her debut in the event. Mariana Perez and Estefani Herrera came in at 3:25 and 3:26 (both girls are about 10 seconds better than they were at this time a year ago). Emely Lopez stopped the clock at 3:28 and Francine at 3:34.

Ashley Preciado ran 3:05 for the 800, 5 seconds ahead of what she ran last year at this time. Arlet Miranda took 3rd place overall, the highest finish of the day for any Comet in a running event. She ran 2:33.76, her fastest ever season debut in the 800 and she did it as a negative split.

On the boys side, Jerricho Habon ran 2:13.10 to lead the Comets. He missed his PR by only .2, but last year he did not run 2:13 until mid April. Mark managed his 3rd PR on the day, running 2:16 to lop a second off his personal best. Melvin Estrada and Brandon ran 2:26 and 2:27 respectively. Hugo Marquez rounded out the team in 2:43.

More field events continued during this time. Rodolf managed a new PR in the pole vault, going 9-6. This is the best mark by any Comet since we re-established pole vault last year. Mark matched his PR of 9-0 as well. In the long jump, Jamie Vong managed a massive PR of 18-0. This was a PR by over a foot and he was one of only 5 boys to jump 18 feet on the chilly day. Raven, Josh, Geo and Angel also competed in the long jump.

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Jamie on his big PR jump 

In the girls high jump, Yesenia cleared 4-4, much better than last year when she did not make a height. Marquise went 4-0 on her first go at the event. In the throwing events, Adriana Marcelino threw 18-6 in Shot Put and 58-10 in Discus. The discus throw is 6 feet better than her willow glen mark from last year. Marquise had an impressive debut in the shot put throwing  26-9.5, placing 8th overall. Valeria placed 4th with a throw of 30 feet even.

The highlight of the field events was Valeria throwing 108-11 in girls discus. This is by far the best she’s ever thrown to start the season, and the mark was good to make her the meet champion in girls discus.

The final two events with Comets competing were the 300 hurdles and the 200. Arlet ran a PR of 55.82 in the 300 hurdles. Yesenia ran 1:03.28, slightly better than last year even though her block gave out and she slipped at the beginning of the race. On the boys side, Rodolf managed a 4th PR on the day by running 48.47 for the 300 hurdles. Luis also competed in the event.

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Valeria releasing the discus on her meet winning throw. 

The long day finally ended with the 200. Jenny and Emily made their debuts running 34.28 and 36.87 respectively. Natalie Rem opened her season with a 30.93 clocking. On the boys side, Geo lead the group in 25.99. Misael was not far behind in 26.23, faster than his 26.5 season opener from last year. Jerricho ran 26.13 taking a big chunk off of his PR. He is much faster than he was at this time a year ago when he ran 27.20 for the 200.

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Jerricho during his 200m PR

It was a successful first meet for the Comets. The team netted 20 PRS, The team finished in 7th place on the varsity boys side and 8th place on the varsity girls side out of the 31 teams in attendance. Not bad considering we still don’t have a track to practice on.

Some of the Comets may head to Westmont HS on Saturday March 9th for the K-bell invitational depending on training and weather this week. Either way the Comets will open their league season on March 14th against Live Oak HS. This is scheduled as a home meet, but will likely be at Live Oak as construction on our track is still ongoing.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

James Lick Track 2019 Season Preview: Year 2 In The ‘B’ Division

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.

BVAL Shakeup

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:

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 10.7 27 40% 5
Hurdles 12.5 18 69% 22
Jumps 12.5 27 46% 12
Relays 3.5 10 35% 6
Sprints 7.7 27 28% 2
Throws 16.7 18 93% 48

Top returning girls

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:

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 16.5 27 61% 10
Hurdles 9.7 18 54% 6
Jumps 10 27 37% 3
Relays 2.86 10 28% 9
Sprints 7.6 27 28% 0
Throws 6.28 18 35% 4

 

Top returning boys

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.

Conclusion: 

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.

Official practice begins tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Fun Run In Half Moon Bay: Lady Comets finish in 4th place at Artichoke Invitational

The Comets took to the historic Artichoke Invitational in Half Moon Bay High School on Saturday October 6th. This marked the 32nd time on record that the Comets participated in the Artichoke Invite. These days it is the favorite yearly invite for the majority of the team, and the short course (2.33 miles) yielded some great PRs and fast paces for the team.

The Comets day began with the frosh/soph girls race. Many of the Comet sophomores ran huge PRs, with some managing the best race pace of their XC careers. Mya Hammond was the first girl in with a PR of 19:13. Last year, Mya ran 20:30. The 8:15 mile pace was by far the best of Mya’s cross country career. Mariana Perez and Estefani Herrera would come in together at 19:40 and 19:43, both massive PRs. Mariana ran a PR by over 2 minutes, and Estefani ran a PR by nearly 5 minutes. Both girls ran under 8:30 pace for the first time. Erika Camacho was 4th in 20:19, with Emely Lopez close behind in  a PR of 20:22.  Francine Estranero ran a time of 21:27, shattering her previous PR of 23:06, and Araceli Mejia ran 22:44, breaking 10 minute pace for the first time in her career.

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The Frosh/Soph Girls on the starting line 

The frosh/soph boys were next. Omar Fimbres lead the group with a 26 second PR of 14:58. Jonathan Cortez ran 16:07 for his first time on the course. Alberto Trejo ran 17:27, for a race pace of 7:27, the best of his career so far. Josue Gomez and Kevin Santacruz ran 19:33 and 22:12 respectively. Both absolutely shattered their career best mile paces,

The Comets had only a handful of athletes in the JV races. Giulissa Correa ran 20:17 and Adriana Marcelino ran 24:55. This was an especially good race for Adriana who’s official mile PR is 11:02, yet she ran under 11 minute pace for the course. On the boys side, Rodolf Ocampo lead the team in 16:27, a PR by 1:10. Josh Merin ran 17:38, and Rafael Yanez ran 20:57. It was the best mile pace of both boys careers to this point.

The varsity races followed. The varsity girls team was spearheaded by Arlet Miranda. Arlet set the school record on the course in 2016 by running 15:37. She ran exactly the same time at the 2018 edition, running 15:37 for 8th place, the highest pacing Comet on the day. Ashley Preciado ran a huge PR 17:38, a PR by over 2 minutes which put her 12th on the school’s all time list for the course. Belen Sanchez ran a 10 second PR of 18:01. Jessica Cervantes made her debut on the course running 18:15 and Jenny Villagomez was the 5th girl in with a PR of 19:07. Yesenia Martinez ran 20:28 for her first time on the course.

The girls team combined for a team time of 88:38, the 2nd best team time in school history only to the team of 2014. Many teams were away at the Crystal Springs invite, but the girls team managed to place 4th as a team in the varsity race.

The varsity boys were lead by Mark Orpia in 13:40. A pack of Comets finished in the 14 minute range. Jerricho Habon ran 14:15 ( A PR by 2 minutes) and Jared Resendiz ran 14:19 for his first time on the course. Melvin Estrada and Brandon Cruz ran 14:38 and 14:40, both PRs, Brandon’s by over 2 minutes. Nien Tran rounded out the team’s day with a PR of 14:49.

It was a great day for the Comets who competed at the Artichoke Invitational. The team will turn their attention back to Montgomery Hill where they will face Sobrato and Oakgrove on October 11th in ST division race #3.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

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

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

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

Boys 2018: 116             Girls 2018: 102

Boys 2014: 19               Girls 2014: 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comets End Regular Season Combined 13-1, Girls 7-0 for 2nd consecutive year.

The James Lick Track Team hosted the final dual meet of the WVAL season on Wednesday, April 26th . The meet saw the team entering with a record of 5-1 on the boys side, and 6-0 on the girls side. It marked the final dual meet of the careers of the teams seniors, and was especially significant for Gustavo Aguilera and Nathan Bernardo, the only athletes on the team to have competed all 4 years in track. These two have special significance for me as these two (along with Juan Gutierrez who returned to track this year) were the only boys on the team who were on the team when I began coaching. They embody the turn-around of James Lick track more than anyone.

 

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Nathan Bernardo anchoring the 4×400 team after receiving the baton from Gustavo Aguilera. 

The meet began with the Del Mar girls winning the 4×100. The James Lick boys won the 4×100 in 46.71, just .03 off their season best despite poor handoffs on several legs. The team of Hadji Yono-Cruz, Cody Huoch, Misael Herrera and Ace Medina accomplished their 3rd victory of the season in the event.

Arlet Miranda won the girls 1600 in 6:00 her fastest dual meet time of the season. Belen Sanchez and Daisy Nava came in 3rd and 4th both in 6:22. Denisse Calixto competed on the home track for the final time but did not score for the team. The boys got their 7th 1600m victory of the season, with Erik Olsvold winning the event in 4:48.18. Nathan placed 3rd in 4:55.06. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a PR of 5:01.59. Julian Delreal ran a PR of 5:42 and Osman Lopez ran his final race on the home track as well.

Despite typical headwinds, Valeria Cortez won the 100 hurdles in a small PR of 17.40. Kirsten Yutuc ran a PR of 19.87, and Susie Peterson finished in 19.90 to complete the sweep for the team.  Cody Huoch and Jonathan Rodriguez finished 2nd and 3rd in the 110 Hurdles.

Justine Austria ran a strong race for the team to place 3rd in the 400, running 1:11.75. The boys event was a thrilling race, won by Gustavo Aguilera in a PR of 55.36. David Bejines ran a PR of 59.33 and Osiris Zamudio ran a PR of 1:03.42.

Silvia Amaya took 2nd for the team in the 100 in 14.69, a fairly strong time into the wind. Ace Medina and Cody Huoch went 1-2 in the boys 100, the best performance by the Comets in the event all season. Ace ran 12.09, a strong time considering the wind.

The 800m order was the same as in the 1600, with Arlet winning the event in 2:42, and Belen 3rd in 2:53, with Daisy just behind her. Nathan Bernardo won the boys event in 2:13 with Erik close behind in 2:14.

The girls 300 hurdles was another sweep for the Comets, with Valeria, Kirsten and Susie once again combining to accomplish the feat. Gustavo won the boys version of the event, and Jonathan took 3rd. Silvia placed 3rd for the team in the 200 and Aliana Santos placed 3rd, though the winds were very extreme at this point, hampering times. Ace won the boys 200, capturing the sprint double victory. He ran 24.60, narrowly missing his PR despite the wind. Misael Herrera placed 3rd in the 200.

Arlet won the girls 3200 to win the distance triple, while Valerie Flores scored her first points for the team by placing 2nd. Azael Zamora won the boys 3200 in a strong time of 10:46, while Inteus ran a PR to finish 2nd in 10:51. Mark Orpia ran a huge PR of 11:34 to go under 12 minutes for the first time, as did Melvin Estrada who ran 11:58. Hugo Marquez also ran a big PR of 12:02, narrowly missing the 12 minute barrier. Daniel Portillo ran a small PR of 13:02 to end the Comets day.

The Dons won both 4x400s, though the boys ran a seasons best 3:46.33 to finish 2nd.

The field events saw a number of strong performances for the team. In the girls long jump, Lyndel Ventura went a seasons best 14-6. Kirsten jumped a PR of 13-9.5 to finish 2nd and Elyse Elder went 13-5 for 3rd. Hadji placed 2nd in the boys long jump in 17-7. Kirsten got her first win in the triple jump with a PR of 29-4. Lyndel went 28-1 for 2nd, and Yaliza Cortez placed 3rd for the team in 26-6. Cody won the boys version of the event in a PR of 37-10 and Hadji placed 2nd in 36-6.25. Juan jumped a PR 36-3.

In her final home meet, Elyse went 4-8, a PR putting her within 2 inches of the school record. On the boys side, Ace got a new PR of 5-8 to finish 2nd. Jonathan placed 3rd in 5-4.

After her outstanding new PR of 35-8.75 at the Top 8 meet, Alejandra Ceron backed up her throw by tossing the Shot 35-0 and 34-7 to win the event. Valeria threw a new PR of 33-2. Mariah Santos threw a PR of 24-4 as did Ruth Rodriguez who threw 21-2. Audrey Nguy had a massive PR of 21-10, giving the team 3 freshmen girls above 21 feet to end the season. In the discus, Charli Chircop won the event with a throw of 101-0. Valeria was 2nd in 100-9 and Alejandra 3rd in 88-5. Ruth managed her 2nd PR of the day throwing 54- 9, as did Kiely Leal who threw 52-4.

Josh Garcia won the boys Shot Put in 37-8. Daniel Medina was 2nd, and Roger Alonzo was 3rd in a new PR of 34-4. Roger also got his first ever event win by taking the boys discus in 102-11. Alex Alonzo was 2nd in 101-0 in his final dual meet, and Daniel was 3rd in 99-11.

The team ends their regular season at this point, though a large number of Comets will advance to West Valley Division Finals next week at Overfelt. All 8 teams in the West Valley division will compete in the meet, with the top 8 in each event scoring points.

The Comets have the goal of finishing in 1st place on both sides of the meet. Dual Meets are weighed more heavily than Finals, but a 1st place finish would mean alot to the team regardless. The top 4 athletes will advance to BVAL Championships the following week.

The team will begin WV finals on Wednesday May 3rd and will hope to get PRS, BVAL qualifiers, points, and individual titles out of the meet (as well as a team title on the girls side).

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

James Lick Track History: League/ Division Champions

This post is a recap of James Lick’s league and division championship history in Track and Field.

The data I have here, and the school records list, (http://www.xcstats.com/track_all_time.php?school_id=1097 ) is based off records I have found using the prepcaltrack index of athletics, and newspapers.com. I’ve also gotten a few reports from various James Lick alumni including coach Keith Antes. While a large number of years are available on these sites, many still are missing. James Lick has at least 63 years of Track history, and I only have 35 years league finals results fully accounted for.

I have 55 years with at least one track meet result available, but only the past decade or so have nearly the full season worth of meet results available to draw from. If you have any specific meet results from past seasons that I can add to our XCstats database, I would very much appreciate you contacting me with the specifics.

In short, the school records and list of champions especially is very much incomplete. In any case, here is a list of all league/division champions that I have on record for the Comets.

It should be noted when James Lick began competing in Track, (at latest 1952) they were a member of the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League). By 1963 they were a member of the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League). From 1996 onward, we have been a member of the BVAL. The MHAL was generally an 8 team league for most of its history. The BVAL is a 24 team league, and the league is further divided into three different 8 team divisions. James Lick Track has been a member of the WVAL (within the BVAL) since 1996.

While WVAL, STAL, and MHAL are now technically divisions, they are each the size of many leagues, and I have therefore put champions from the BVAL era in the same category as champions of the Pre-BVAL era. It should be acknowledged however that as the WVAL is the ‘C’ division, a championship in this division is usually considerably easier to achieve than it would have been in the MHAL or SCVAL days. In any case here is our championship history.

The earliest records I have are of the 1954 SCVAL Championships. The article mentions however, that John Aguiar won both the 100 and 220 yard dash the year before. This makes Aguiar the first Comet Track league champion on record, with a double championship in 1954. Aguilar repeated the feat in 1954, becoming the school’s first double champion on record, and the school’s first repeat champion on record. His converted times of 11.00 and 22.64 for the 100m and 200m respectively stood as school records for over a decade. He is still one of only two Comets ever to repeat as league champion in the 100/200.

1954 is the season with the most Comet champions on record. Ed Brewer was the SCVAL double champion in hurdles, winning the 120 yard hurdles and the 180 low hurdles which is no longer contested. Brewer’s converted 110m hurdles time of 15.44 is still the 5th best James Lick time on record. A jumper named Lawrence also became the school’s first champion in the long jump, going 20-10.50. Gary Antes, brother of long time JLXCTF coach Keith Antes, won the mile run in 4:35.9. This was the first of 8 individual league championships in the 1600 that the Comet boys have achieved.

The team of 1954 narrowly missed winning the SCVAL finals meet, but won the SCVAL title on merit of their dual meet victories. According to the school’s banners, they were able to win the SCVAL title in both 1955 and 1956 as a team. Full records from those years are unavailable however.

In 1956, Russ Ray won the SCVAL title in 880 yard run, becoming the first Comet on record to break 2:00 for the 800, with a converted time of 1:58.70. He repeated his title in 1957, becoming the school’s first repeat champion in a distance event. Ray still stands as one of only 2 Comets ever to win two league titles in the 800. 1958 Saw a jumper named Turner go 44 feet in the Triple Jump to capture the SCVAL title for the Comets.

Records from 1959-1962 are very limited. In 1963, Ray Clayton went 13-6 in the Pole Vault to become the only Comet Pole Vault champ on record. Clayton also became the first Comet champion on the MHAL era on record. There is no record of the 1964 MHAL finals, though judging by his 4th place finish at NCS Finals, and his place on the Norcal Best Marks list for 1964, it is very likely that Clayton won the league title in the pole vault again in 1964. Clayton also competed at the CIF State Meet in 1964, becoming the first Comet on record to do so.

In 1967, the Comets were co-Mt. Hamilton league champions as a team. The team also had the only 400m champion on record on the boys side this season. Steve Baker ran a converted 52.8 to capture the then 440 yard MHAL title. The team also captured a victory in the no longer run, 880 yard relay.

The 1968 season team saw a number of champions as well, including the teams first 4×400 league title on record. The team of Richard West, Chris Moulton, Gary Sires and David Pike won the mile relay in what converted to a 3:31.5 for the modern 4×400. Richard West was the MHAL champion in the 880, with a converted 800 time of 2:02.7. Molton won the triple jump in 44-3, and Pike won the 220 with a converted time of 23.02 for 200m. Noe Chavez also won the pole vault for the Comets, with a  mark of 12-6.

Records from MHAL finals for many of the upcoming years are missing, though the Comets did have some champions during the available years. In 1969 Dave Pike won the 220 yard sprint. This was the 3rd converted 200m title for the Comets on record. The same  George Costa also won the 880 with a  time of 2:01, giving the Comets their 4th league championship in the half mile run on record.

The next available MHAL records are from 1975. The Comets had Shot Put champion Webster that year, with a colossal heave of 56 feet. The following year Pete Moreno won the triple jump with a mark of 48-11, surely one of the best MHAL championships marks ever.

In 1979, the Comets got their first ever female champion, just a few years after girls track began. Joan Jacobs ran a converted 12.34c to win the 100 yard dash for the Comets. The girls results from 1980 are missing, but Jacobs won the 100 again in 1981. This makes her the only repeat winner of the 100 in school history on the girls side.

1984 and 1985 saw Henry Barba winning the 100/200 in back to back years. Barba established school records in both events in his tenure, and is fairly definitively the best sprinter in school history, with official HS bests of 10.69 for the 100 and 21.57 in the 200. 1985 also saw the first league championship for Joe Amendt, winning the 800 as a freshmen in 2:00.24. Joe would go on to win the MHAL 800m title 4 consecutive times and add a 1600m title in his senior year as well.

Joe Amendt is the only Comet on record to win 4 league/ division championships in a single event. He is also the one of only two JL runners to win titles in both the 1600 and 800 and the only one to achieve the double. Joe’s 5 individual MHAL titles makes him the winningest athlete in school history.

The 1990 season saw Arick Putnam win the 1600 with a time of 4:33.35.  Again, results in the early 90s are largely missing, though the 1996 season held two titles for the Comets. Patrick McClinton won the long jump in the Comets first year in the WVAL, going 21-1. Alberto Meza won the 1600 with a time of 4:36.7 In this era, full finals results became more readily available and most years in the BVAL era have good records.

The year 2000 saw the boys win their most recent title, winning the WVAL ‘C’ division championship of the BVAL. They had a number of individual champions this year. Kevin Stewart won the Long Jump and Triple jump, going 21-5 and 41-1 respectively. This made Stewart only the second Comet ever to win a double championship in jumps, following the example of Lawrence in 1954. Mike Rodgers also won the sprint double with times of 11.26 and 22.43 for the 100 and 200. In addition, Rogers helped the team to a victory in the 4×100 with a team time of 44.43. Eric Santos gave the team their first 3200 champion on record with a 10:09 clocking, and Ivan Navarro added his name to the list of school 1600m champions with a time of 4:43.34.

The teams of the early 2000s also won a number of titles. After winning the 3200 the year before, Eric Santos won the 1600 with a time of 4:36.4, giving the team its 7th 1600m champion a year before Nelson Funston (4:40.05) would give the school its 8th. Tommy West won the 200 with a strong time of 22.15 in 2001. The team also won only their second 4×400 title on record with a time of 3:33.6. 2001 also saw Nelson Funston winning the 800 in 2:01.20.

In 2005, Ruth Lebeau won the first of her 4 WVAL titles, becoming the winningest athlete in JL track history on the girls side. Ruth won 2 Long jump titles and 2 triple jump titles and established school records of 17-5 in long jump, and 37-5 in triple jump along the way. Sara Toscano also won the girls 400 in 2005 with a time of 1:01.25. The same season Rogelio Gonzalez won the boys 800, giving the school its 9th individual 800m title, making it the most successful event for the Comets at league/division finals in school history.

In 2011, Ricardo Flores won the 3200 for the Comets with a time of 10:52, just the 2nd title for the Comet boys ever in the 3200 or 2 mile. In 2014, Robert Rios won the first of his back-to-back Shot Put titles, throwing 40-3 and 43-2 in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Paloma Contreras became the school’s 2nd ever 400m champion on the girls side the same year.

In 2016, the James Lick girls team won their first ever championship, taking the WVAL title with a 7-0 record. Despite huge success at WVAL finals, the team only had one individual champion, Alejandra Ceron in the discus who threw 90-10.

The track team has only 6 total team league/division championships in school history to this point.

  1. 1954 SCVAL Boys
  2. 1955 SCVAL  Boys
  3. 1956 SCVAL  Boys
  4. 1967 MHAL Boys (Co-champions)
  5. 2000 WVAL Boys (‘C’ division)
  6. 2016  WVAL Girls (‘C’ division)

 

The full list of champions I’ve found can be found at the link below, as can all of our info about JL track and field history.

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

This year the team is aiming to take a leaf out of some of the team’s past seasons and add some team and individual titles to the school’s resume.

Thanks for reading as always,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

What The Comets Overcome When They “Make CCS”

 

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The team running up the North Rim Trail in the rain 

I think it is important to understand our leagues and their structures, and to at least think about issues in education that spill into athletics, so if you take the time to read this whole ugly mess, thank you very sincerely.

This blog will be interesting to you if you want to better understand the BVAL, the CCS, how qualification works, and how the different CCS leagues stack up against each other. I will also include a lot of sociological analysis of the different leagues, and breakdown in my opinion, why certain leagues are strong and detail exactly what the Comets need to overcome to succeed, and compete against more advantaged schools and leagues.

Often times when talking about goals, we discuss “making CCS.” For our newer athletes, and for casual readers, the significance of this goal is unclear. This blog will serve as an explanation of what the CCS is, how it works, and how competitive it is.

All high schools in California operate under National and State rules. Our state governing body is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). Here is an explanation of the highest level of competition an athlete can advance to in high school cross country.

  1. The Footlocker/Nike National Meets. There are two national meets these days, athletes may qualify for both/either and choose between them. The best athletes in the country are split between these two national meets. Generally speaking, Footlocker is the individual race, and Nike is the team race, but there is overlap. It is a strange system to say the least, having two separate same day national championships meet.
  2. To qualify for the National meets, athletes compete at their Regional Meet. There are four regions, West, Midwest, Northeast and South. We of course find ourselves in the Western Region with 11 other States.
  3. Only the very best athletes from the State Meet proceed to the regional meet. The State meet brings together competitors from each of the CIF’s 5 cross country divisions. In Cross Country, every team has a CIF (State) division based on population. Therefore, nowadays there is a CCS and State champion in each division, so 5 boys champs and 5 girls champs, both for teams and individuals.
  4. The CCS is one of 10 sections in California. The CCS (Central Coast Section) covers schools from San Francisco to King City, roughly 150 total schools. Division 1 schools are the largest schools, with over 2,000  students, whereas Division 5 schools have less than 500 students. We are currently a division 3 school, though we are on the smaller end of D3. For division 3, the top 3 teams at CCS advance to the State Meet, as well as the top 5 individuals who are not on those 3 teams, provided these 5 individuals were in the top 14 overall. If you place 15th or lower in CCS D3 finals, your only chance to make State is as a team.

Only 8 Comet Athletes have ever made it to the State Meet (all boys). The State Meet was founded in 1987, and Joe Amendt was the first athlete to run at State for the Comets that very same year. No Comet has made State since 2005 when Erick Herrera qualified (James Lick was a D4 school that year).

James Lick has one CCS Cross Country team championship. The team of 1971 won the small schools race, the first year that CCS had divisions (just large schools and small schools). A few years later the CCS would move into 3 different divisions, and gradually grew into it’s 5 division format of today. Other sports have various numbers of divisions. In short, in cross country both CCS Finals and CIF (State) Finals both have 5 champions for each gender, one for each division.

In terms of the 10 State Sections, the CCS is among the upper middle of the pack in competitive success. The SS (Southern Section) is by far the best section, though it should be considering it consists of over 500 schools, while The SDS (San Diego Section) is the 2nd largest at roughly 200 schools. The CCS, SJS (Sac-Joaquin Section) NCS (North Coast Section) and CS (Central Section) are all very comparable in size, ranging from 140-170 schools. As logic dictates, there is a direct correlation between the size of a section and it’s competitive success. The Oakland and San Francisco Sections are the two smallest sections in the CIF, both comprising less than 20 schools. As a result they are virtually always the two weakest sections competitively by far.

Originally, James Lick was a member of the NCS. By the 1960s however, the CCS was formed, largely composed of schools in the Santa Clara Valley area. As the CCS grew, and more and more schools popped up under its jurisdiction, it moved to structure things more formally. The CCS now has a total of 3 Conferences (which don’t actually mean anything) and 3 ‘Power Leagues’ within each conference.

The strongest conference of the CCS in cross country and track is the Central Conference. The 3 leagues here in the Central Conference (Morgan Hill to Palo Alto) are:

  1. WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
  2. SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) a 14 team public school league made up of schools from West-Side San Jose to Palo Alto, including Los Gatos and Saratoga. They use 2 divisions or smaller leagues, the ECAL (El Camino League, their ‘A’ division) and the DAL (De Anza League, their ‘B’ division).
  3. BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) 24 teams including Campbell, Central, South, and East Side San Jose, as well as Morgan Hill. It is the largest league in the CCS, and is the only one to use a 3 division format, MHAL/STAL/WVAL as discussed in other blogs.

The other 6 leagues include:

  1. The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
  2. WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
  3. PSAL (15 team Private School Athletic League, mainly small private or charter schools). These leagues make up the Norther Conference of the CCS.

The Southern Conference includes

  1. The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
  2. The MBL (15 team Monterey Bay league). The MBL uses two smaller leagues, the “Gabilan” as an ‘A’ division and “Pacific” as a ‘B’ division
  3. The MTAL (16 team Mission Trails Athletic League). This league is geographical with an Mission Trails Division division and a Coastal division, but has most of it’s strong teams in the Mission Trails Division.

In Track and Field for 2016, it was clear that the 3 strongest leagues were the SCVAL, WCAL, and the BVAL. While the BVAL lags far behind the far richer schools of the SCVAL and WCAL, it is considerably stronger than any of the other CCS leagues in regards to competitive times and marks, in large part because it has more schools than the other leagues. Just for comparison, the 10th fastest boy in the 100m dash in the WCAL and SCVAL ran under 11.30. The 10th fastest boy in the BVAL ran under 11.45. In no other league was the 10th fastest boy under 11.65.

In cross country things are a bit more spread out. The SCCAL (Santa Cruz County Athletic League) has some extremely strong runners. In particular, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, produce top tier CCS runners every year. The Aptos’ girls team is the reigning D3 State Champion, and under coach Dan Gruber (arguably the best coach in the CCS) they may well win State again. CCS is essentially already locked up.

There are also strong runners in other leagues, King City in the MTAL  has produced some outstanding runners over the past few seasons, though the WCAL and SCVAL are dominant overall. I often compare the BVAL, and James Lick specifically, against the SCVAL. The SCVAL being a public school league right next to us, but a highly competitive one at that, makes for interesting comparisons.

James Lick last season placed 13th in the BVAL on the boys side and 14th on the girls side. Considering we were the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, and the 2nd poorest (based on percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch) this was a solid accomplishment, placing solidly in the middle of the 24 team league despite disadvantage. The majority of the school’s sports have losing records in the ‘C’ division by comparison.

In the SCVAL however, the teams would have finished 13th/14. Despite only being a 14 team public school league, the SCVAL is extremely strong, putting many other public school leagues to shame.

For example, in 2016 Kaylah Grant of Live Oak won the BVAL Championship meet in the 1600m run, in  a very strong time of 5:11. 6th Place in the BVAL was 5:19, also a very high quality time. 6th Place in the SCVAL however was 5:08, faster than the BVAL winning time of Kaylah Grant.

Here is an article that my dad  wrote for the Mercury News about the strength of the SCVAL in cross country.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2015/09/23/high-school-cross-country-scval-teams-continue-to-excel/

As discussed in the article, the SCVAL has several advantages, one is large schools. The smallest school in the SCVAL, Saratoga, outnumbers James Lick by several hundred, and is the only D3 school in the SCVAL.

The SCVAL also has the benefit of a highly motivated student body in a good area to train. Many parks, such as Fremont Older and Rancho San Antonio are in close proximity to the SCVAL schools, and their highly driven students are very determined to stand out to colleges and take both academics and athletics seriously. Monta Vista, a top SCVAL school, ranked 11th in the entire State in academic rankings done by “U.S. News Best High School Rankings,” in 2015.

Lastly the SCVAL has the benefit of extremely capable and intelligent coaches. Gunn High School in Palo Alto’s current head coach is Patti Sue Plumer, Stanford Alumni and former American record holder in the 5000m run. Patti Sue has already coached several runners to huge success, last year Gillian Meeks of Gunn won the State Meet for division 2 in XC, and yet, the case could be made that she is not even the best coach in the SCVAL.

This area also has a number of very strong middle school programs. Students getting a head start on training can be very helpful. The primary feeder schools of James Lick are George and Shepherd, and this is the first time in the past decade that they both even had a cross country team in the same season, (no runners form either school advanced to the County meet however, the middle school equivalent of CCS). Evan Franco of Branham won the first three  STAL meets of the 2016 season despite being a freshmen. Last year at Price Middle School, he ran 4:41 for the 1600m as an 8th grader. A middle school which develops athletes like Evan, helps schools that they feed like Branham to a large degree. Erik Olsvold, our top sophomore won STAL #4 in a fantastic time of 15:27, finally defeating Evan. The difference is Erik came in un-trained from Joseph George, running only 6:19 for the 1,600 as an 8th grader. Evan was able to run 16:13 in his very first STAL meet. As a freshman, Erik ran 18:14 and that was after a summer of training. The SCVAL schools have many schools like Price, sending already experienced athletes to high school, ready to be a factor from day one.

The last big factor contributing to SCVAL success is their financial status, despite being a public school league. It makes sense that private schools have a huge advantage in this regard. Bellarmine has its own private buses, enabling the team to run in awesome locations whenever they want, whereas the only bus we get all season is for our league finals meet. This advantage is also significant at wealthy public schools such as those in the SCVAL.

In my dad’s original article,he mentioned the fact that having financial flexibility affords one greater ability to succeed. This acknowledgement was ultimately deleted by the Mercury News.

It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge the systemic issues that affect academic and athletic success in our schools, but the simple reality is that they are present. I would make the case that this issue colors all others.

A student who is fortunate enough to not have to worry about money at home can afford to train and get enough sleep every night, without needing to work a job. Standing around for several hour shifts is not ideal for a distance runner’s recovery, nor is getting home late and having to do homework until 3 AM when they should be sleeping.

A recurring issue in James Lick athletics is students not being eligible to compete due to failure to “make grades.” Some of these students simply did not work hard enough or take agency of their education. Some of these students had no interest in taking their schooling seriously. Many however,  had family issues which are not conducive to achievement, or need to work long hours to simply help make ends meet. The student who works until 9 PM, gets home at 10 PM, does homework until 1PM wakes up at 6PM and has to skip breakfast to walk to school for ‘0’ period on time, is necessarily going to have a hard time succeeding in school compared to someone who has less responsibility. Provided this student makes grades, they are then at disadvantage because of their tiring lifestyle and inadequate rest/nourishment. If this student fails to make grades, they will be lumped in as “another statistic”  or a “screwup” just the same as the students who are genuinely unengaged or disinterested in school. It is also wrong in my opinion to label students who are “failing” as failures. Many students who are unengaged in school are uninterested due to a lack of guidance or inability to cope with difficult situations. This is true of students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Some schools in our league have the luxury of a training room, with an athletic trainer and facilities designed to help athletes grow stronger and recover from injuries. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this, but I suspect virtually every school in the SCVAL has this advantage. Comparatively I’m not sure if we even have a school nurse.

Through academic struggles, James Lick has received labels such as “at risk” and in my 4 years coaching, I’ve heard young Comet athletes relay this type of  message from 8th graders more times than I can count:  “they said James Lick sucks, so they didn’t want to come here.” Through economic flexibility, a parent can spend time helping their student excel in pursuits such as cross country. The number of (expensive) running/track clubs on the West Side reflect this. Many parents at James Lick do not have the time to be invested in their students academic or athletic success. Using Maria Mendoza as an example, Maria qualified for CCS last year with a strong Crystal Springs time of 20:35. I’ve had to send letters home convincing her parents to let her continue running, because her family needs her to work two jobs to help make ends meet. Despite her status as a CCS qualifier in XC and a BVAL qualifier in Track, her family has never seen her compete. Not because they don’t care, but simply because they don’t have time with their own busy work schedules to make time for what they see as a luxury, but what could be for students like Maria, an outlet for success.

A student whose family is struggling is unlikely to have the ability to eat the healthy diet that a runner should ideally eat. It is far cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy a big mac, than it is to head to the store, buy meat, rice, vegetables, pasta etc. and prepare them each day.

When comparing the BVAL and SCVAL, a total of 38 schools, in the 2014/2015 school year, James Lick tied for 2nd most students that qualify for free and reduced lunch as a percentage of total students. At James Lick 78% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.Only 9/38 schools had more than 50% of students in this category, all 9 were BVAL schools. 8/9 were East Side schools.

15 schools had less than 20% of their students in this category, 9/14 total SCVAL schools are in this group however. There are only 4 schools in the SCVAL where more than 30% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These 4 schools finished 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th last year at SCVAL’s finals (again out of 14 teams) on the boys side. On the girls side they finished 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. On the girls side Saratoga finished in 14th, though one of the wealthiest schools in the SCVAL by a measure of free and reduced lunch percentile, they have 400 less students than any other SCVAL school.

A great way of comparing the schools and leagues of the CCS is through the “league finals combined results” provided by former Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Using a course conversion formula, he combines every ‘league finals’ meet from the CCS. Course conversions are done to equalize times to Crystal Springs. Course conversions are never fully accurate, but they give one a rough idea of where everyone stands.

Last year under the format, with 115 total boys teams combined, 5 of the top 10 schools in the CCS at league finals were from the WCAL. Bellarmine in 1st, and St. Francis in 2nd. 4 of the top 10 were from the SCVAL. The lone exception was top BVAL school Willow Glen, a perennial powerhouse under coach Santa Maria. The 2nd BVAL school was Lincoln at 31st. James Lick came in at 60th,  solidly in the middle of the pack.

Contrary to the perception of some, struggles in communities like the East Side are not born out of a lack of work ethic, rather, they are the product of a system which is not entirely receptive to upward mobility. The majority of funding for public schools in California comes from property taxes of the surrounding area. A poor area necessarily produces less money in property taxes, and less funding for schools as a result.So while many students at James Lick struggle with the hardships that relative poverty create at home, they also receive less funding at school to help them rise above their circumstances. The case could be made that the students who need more school programs and strong school funding the most, receive the least of it. A poorer school cannot pay teachers and coaches as much as a wealthier school could.

I made less as a varsity head coach my first year at James Lick than a colleague of mine did as a JV assistant coach at Cupertino High School in the SCVAL. Teachers and coaches who accumulate a good reputation, are more likely to coach at the already successful SCVAL schools, where they can count on the already strong programs to provide them with a plethora of motivated student-athletes.

Students are asked to work hard and earn a better life for themselves. It is very possible to achieve success with enough hard work in our current education system, but the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity at attending a top college for example is inaccurate . The notion that our education system is a meritocracy is at best a false claim. I would call it a farce.

Schools like James Lick which have gained negative reputations, see a high percentage of potentially high-achieving students flee to other local schools or private schools as a an alternative. This phenomenon only drives school performance down further. Teacher turnover is a nationwide issue, and one that plagues poor schools to a far greater degree. When schools like James Lick perform poorly, they are subject to intervention, which only makes teachers desire to transfer greater. If teachers do not stay long enough to establish a rapport at a school to effectively teach students, students will not be educated as well as they could be. If students who are already struggling at home, do not have teachers who can teach them as well as students at richer schools, is it in any way surprising that rich schools would perform better academically than poor schools? That’s only one contributing factor. If top colleges heavily weigh AP (advanced placement)  participation, and schools like James Lick cannot offer even close to the same number of AP classes as a school like Los Gatos, is it fair to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed?  A Comet who wants to go to Stanford University does not have to work as hard as a typical student at Palo Alto high school, they have to work significantly harder (not even taking the potential of legacy enrollments into account.)

There are plenty of Comet success stories over the past few decades. Students who despite difficult living stations, worked hard, earned scholarships and achieved immense success in post high school life. Shawn Herrera, CEO of Mazda technologies is a good example of this type of former JLXC athlete. So is Paloma Contreras, currently attending Santa Clara University on a full academic scholarship (she could also run track for them if she chose).

It is very possible for a JLXC athlete to succeed in this system, but this system is not made for JLXC athletes. The fact that Paloma “made it” should be an inspiration to her fellow Comets who are striving to do the same. It should not however be an indictment of those who don’t “make it.”

Just this year, we had a strong JLXC athlete transfer to Piedmont Hills High School because their parents felt that Piedmont was simply a better school. No blame can be placed on a parent trying to do what is best for their child, and in this parent’s mind, what was best for their child  wasn’t James Lick.

The reality is James Lick is not nearly as disadvantaged as some schools across the country. I myself was fortunate enough not to have to worry about having food on the table every day, and I was always allowed the unconditional support of my parents. These were huge factors on the moderate amount of XC success I achieved. We have many high achieving students on the team, cross country tends to produce mentally strong athletes after all. I have no doubt that students like Nathan Bernardo, and Azael Zamora (both have very high GPAs) will go on to college and be successful in whatever they pursue. I’m worried about athletes like Maria who have to fight so hard just to make it in our current system.

In a few days the James Lick Comets will run at BVAL Finals, and will work to run as fast as they can, earn PRs, and high places.

Come what may however, it bears remembering that when the Comets toe the line and tear up hills at league finals, they will carry more than simply the pain of cross country with them.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves