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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
1954 SCVAL Boys
1955 SCVAL Boys
1956 SCVAL Boys
1967 MHAL Boys (Co-champions)
2000 WVAL Boys (‘C’ division)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
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).
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:
The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
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
The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
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
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.
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.
This blog will detail the Comets final two meets of the regular season. All that remains now is league finals on Monday October 31st, where all 3 divisions of the BVAL will compete together.
On Thursday October 20th, the Comets had STAL # 5, their final meet of the year at Montgomery Hill. The fact that the meet was run with higher temperatures than any of the other Montgomery meets this year hurt the ability for athletes to run huge PRs, but the team competed well nonetheless.
Vincent Giglio and Mark Orpia started the team’s day off very strong, with a 1-2 overall finish in the Frosh/Soph Boys race. Vincent’s time of 17:49 was a small PR and Mark’s time of 18:15 was a 20 second PR. Mark’s time as a freshmen is better than the freshmen PRS of top runners such as Nathan Bernardo and Erik Olsvold, making his future very bright indeed. Rudy Peterson ran a sizable PR of 20:00 to be the 3rd boy in for the Comets. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon had off days, running 20:02 and 20:09 after both boys ran under 20 minutes a week ago. Hugo Marquez ran a PR of 20:32 and Melvin Estrada ran a solid 21:16 to be the 7th boy. The Frosh/Soph Boys defeated Independence and finish their season 4-3. They head into league finals 4th in the STAL, but a win over Branham at league finals would likely have them finish in 3rd place in the division. The Frosh/Soph Boys group has rallied strongly over the second half of the season. After having no boys under 20 minutes and only 2 boys under 21 minutes at STAL 1 and 2, the team ended with 4 boys under 20 and a 5th at 20:00, and a 6th boy solidly under 21 minutes. The Frosh/Soph boys represent the depth the boys are building and the likely strength of the program for years to come.
The Varsity girls also defeated Independence, giving them a 2-5 record for the season. This means the girls will likely finish 6th place in the STAL as a team, a respectable showing considering the lack of depth on the girls side. For the girls to be as successful as the boys have been, recruiting more athletes and eliminating athlete turnover need to be focal points going forward. Despite the lower finish on the girls side, it needs to be acknowledged that the girls cross country team is the only James Lick girls team in any sport that is not in the WVAL (c division). Last year the team beat every team from the WVAL by several minutes and is likely to do the same this year. Arlet Miranda lead the team at STAL 5, though she missed her PR running 19:23. Maria Mendoza ran 21:51 and Milka Perez ran a small seasons best of 22:12 to be the 3rd girl in. Daisy Nava ran 22:26, missing her PR by a few seconds. The big breakthrough for the team was Belen Sanchez finishing in 23:37. This huge PR helped close the gap between the team’s 4th and 5th runner, and gave the team a team time of 1:49:29 (109:29) the 2nd best team in school history, only to the team of 2014. Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the team’s scoring.
Despite the absence of Erik Olsvold, the varsity boys were victorious again,finishing their season 7-0 with the win over Independence. Nathan Bernardo lead the group though he had an off race running 16:08. Azael Zamora ran a small PR of 16:13 as did Gustavo Parra who ran 16:45. Gustavo Aguilera, Inteus Castro-Lopez and Jesus Deloya helped finish off the team, though none of them had good races. With their 7-0 record, the Varsity Boys had the chance to get the team their first XC boys championship since 2009 and the school’s first non ‘C’ league championship since the turn of the century. The boys XC team of 1999 won the STAL (and were 1st at BVAL finals overall) to be the last James Lick team in any sport to win a championship in anything higher than the WVAL. The varsity boys team of 2016 will need to finish 1st among STAL schools at BVAL finals to clinch their title.
The JV girls were missing members and unable to field a full team in STAL 5. As a result, they finish 3-4 on the season, though several athletes showed big improvement throughout the season. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, who ran a PR of 24:06 to place 8th in the JV race overall. Camila’s time is promising for a freshmen girl, and she could be a factor on the varsity side as soon as this track season if she maintains her current level of dedication. Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos both competed as well, and though they missed their PRS, he duo has given the team a solid base all season long. Both girls started the STAL season in the 28 minute range, and have worked their way down to the 26’s. Valerie Flores and Brittany Salazar competed on the reserve side and ended the lady Comets day.
The Reserve boys had one of their best showings of the season, with two boys breaking the 20 minute barrier in the same race. David Bejines lead the group in 19:27, a small PR. Isaak Herrera ran a huge PR of 19:31 to place 5th overall. Isaak has improved by leaps and bounds each season, from a league meet best of 28:22 as a freshmen, to 19:31 as a junior. Only last year he was running in the 22 minute range. The drastic improvement of athletes like Isaak is what has us excited about the number of freshmen boys running under 21 minutes this season. Austin Swank ran 20:16 a narrow miss on a PR. Manuel Villalobos, Daniel Portillo and Jesse Friaz rounded out the Comets day at STAL 5.
The next day, a group of 7 boys and 7 girls headed down to Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac Invitational. This trip has been a James Lick tradition since the year 2000, and the team was looking to run fast times in preparation for league finals. The team’s schedule necessitated that they would compete against Division 1 schools (2500 or more students) despite James Lick’s status as a Division 3 school with only 1240 students.
The girls raced first, and battled heat and fatigue to run a solid result. Arlet Miranda ran 20:36 for the 2nd best time in school history. Maria Mendoza was the next girl in for the Comets at 23:08. Milka Perez ran 23:51, and Daisy Nava ran a sizable PR of 24:02. Denisse Calixto ran 25:46 to be the 5th girl and Analilia Regla ran 26:16 to finish off the girls team.The team time of 1:57:23 was the 5th best team time in school history. The team also defeated 3 of the 20 division 3 schools in the race.
On the boys side, Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 16:54. Nathan’s time places him 4th on the school’s all time list at Mt. Sac. Azael Zamora ran 17:16 to move onto 8th on the school’s all time list, and Inteus Castro-Lopez moved into 14th with a time of 17:25. Gustavo Parra was the 4th boy in 17:48, a huge PR for 18th on the school’s all time list. Gustavo Aguilera was the teams 5th boy in a very poor race for him of 18:27. Jesus Deloya and Austin Swank also competed at Mt. Sac for the first time, running 19:44 and 21:40 respectively.
Considering the long drive, short night sleep etc, the Comets competed well, though based on the team’s times I’d say the team underperformed considerably at Mt. Sac. Even so, the team placed well on the boys side finishing 9th/20 D1 schools. Their team time of 1:27:50 (87:50) is 4th in school history, and the first sub 90 minute clocking at mt. sac since 2003. The team raced in the same race as fellow BVAL school: Evergreen, a team which recently finished the MHAL (A’ division) season with a 6-1 record. The Comets beat the Cougars by nearly 5 minutes. It should be acknowledged that Evergreen was missing several members of the their varsity team, but their consistent #1 runner was in attendance, and the Comets and 3 boys in before a single Evergreen boy.
The team is now busy at work for league finals, only one week away as I write this now. BVAL finals is the biggest day of the season for most of the team. The top 12 varsity teams at BVAL finals will advance to CCS (assuming that all 24 teams run a full team). After the top 12 teams are determined, the runners from these 12 teams are omitted, and the remaining top 9 individuals advance to CCS as well.
“At Large” marks are given in the CCS as well. These are times that guarantee a spot at CCS if achieved at league finals, regardless of place. These marks exist so that worthy runners are not excluded from CCS in the case of an extremely competitive league. Generally, it is easier to make it to CCS via place than it is to hit the at large marks. In any case, the CCS at large marks for Crystal Springs for a division 3 school are:
86:31 as a team, and 17:34 as an individual on the boys side. In short, any individual varsity boy who runs 17:35 or faster at BVAL finals will go to CCS regardless of place. The same goes for any team who runs a team time of 86:31. On the girls side, the team standard is 106:41 and the individual standard is 21:36.
This week is all about getting the team primed and ready for league finals. We are looking for every athlete, from boys varsity to girls reserve to end the season with a strong performance. Most athletes are training to peak for league finals, though the Varsity Boys and Arlet are training to peak at CCS. Today the team will run a mile time trial to track the team’s progress from the beginning of the season.
The season is nearly over and it is go time for the team as a whole. Be ready Comets.
On Thursday October 13th, the James Lick Comets faced off against the Oak Grove Eagles in STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill. The meet was a very successful one, in which two different team records fell, 20 PRs were set, and the team scored wins in every division.
The Frosh/Soph boys kicked off the action with a fantastic start. Vincent Giglio won the race in a huge PR of 17:54, finally rounding into form. Vincent’s time not only won the race, but is the best Frosh/Soph time for a James Lick runner at Montgomery Hill ever. Freshmen Mark Orpia had by far the best race of his young career, placing 6th in 18:35. Both Vincent and Mark nearly ran the best mile pace of the season, despite the fact that Montgomery Hill is a very slow course pace-wise. Nine Tran and Jerricho Habon ran 19:24 and 19:37 respectively, giving the FS team 4 Comets under 20 minutes at STAL 4, compared to 0 at STAL 1 and 2. Projected 5th runner Melvin Estrada was absent, but Rudy Peterson sealed off the scoring team with a 20:42 clocking. Hugo Marquez was close behind in 20:51, and Manuel Villalobos ran 21:08 for a 44 second PR as the 7th boy.
After seeming like a typical Frosh/Soph team for much of the season, the team busted out at STAL 4. Their team time of 96:12 (1:36:12) establishes a new Frosh/Soph school record at Montgomery Hill, beating the 98:49 of the team of 2010 handily. This young group continues to look very promising. Only the reserve boys of 2010, a very strong group, ran a faster Non-Varsity team time than this group of Frosh/Soph Boys. They move to 3-3 on the season with the win over Oak Grove.
Next up were the Varsity Girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 19:13 to lead the group in 5th place overall. Maria Mendoza struggled with knee pain, but ran a solid 21:54 to be the 2nd girl. Daisy Nava and Milka Perez finished in the middle of the pack, coming in together at 22:19, a 20 second PR for Daisy. The 5th girl continues to be a weakness for the team, as Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla rounded out the group in 24:26 and 24:55. The 24:55 time by Analilia was her first time breaking 25 minutes for the course. The win over the Eagles netted the Varsity Girls their first win of the season, putting them at 1-5 on the season.
After tying the school record time of 81:48 as a group a week ago, the Varsity Boys were determined to make the top team time their own. Erik Olsvold won the race overall in a huge 30 second PR of 15:27. Erik is the first individual Varsity winner in a BVAL league race for James Lick since Carlos Montes in 2009. His time moves him firmly into #2 on the school’s all time list. Erik will be on religious retreat next week when the team has their final Montgomery meet, but as a Sophomore, the school record of 15:05 is firmly in sight. Nathan Bernardo had an off race by his standards, but ran a good time of 16:05 to place 6th overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez and Azael Zamora came in next with PRS of 16:17 and 16:22 respectively, giving the team 4 runners in the top 8 overall. Gustavo Parra ran 16:50 as the 5th boy, to give the team a combined time of 81:01 (1:21:01) smashing the old school record. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:22, and Jesus Deloya established a new PR of 18:22 to finish the varsity boys day. The team moves to 6-0 and with a win against Independence next week, will end the regular season undefeated.
The Reserve Boys race was next and David Bejines once again lead the group, though he missed his PR narrowly, running 19:37. Austin Swank ran a 20 second PR of 20:10, not far behind to place 11th out 98 reserve runners. Isaak Herrera ran a small PR of 20:42 to finish 16th. Kevin Bach ran a huge PR of 22:04, and Daniel Portillo just missed his own PR, running 23:34, 8 seconds off. Though technically non-scoring, the reserve boys are 4-2 against the other reserve teams so far.
The JV and reserve girls finished up the team day. Camila Hernandez continues to impress, breaking 25 minutes for the first time with a 24:42 clocking. Susie Peterson ran a PR of 26:08 as did Aliana Santos who ran 26:54. A PR for Ashley Preciado followed in 30:42, and Diana Romero rounded out the group in 31:55. The JV girls took the win over an incomplete Eagles team, moving to 3-3 on the season. Valerie Flores knocked down a PR in 28:36 as did Brittany Salazar, running 31:51 to break 32 for the first time.
The Comets have one league meet next, and will record their final PRs, and records for the season at STAL 5 on October 20th. The next day, a select group of highly dedicated Comets will take the trip down to Los Angeles for the Mt. Sac invitational.
The most significant and historic Cross Country course in the bay area is without a doubt Crystal Springs in Belmont. Unlike other courses, the Crystal Spring’s course was specifically designed as a cross country course. The Course was founded in it’s 2.95 mile format in 1971, and shortly afterwards became a key course for the entire CCS. In 1973 James Lick ran it for the first time at the Crystal Springs Center meet. It served as the CCS regional meet course for region 3 which James Lick found itself in,beginning in 1975 so the Comets ran the course for the first tim in it’s very first year of existence. Athletes would have to run fast enough to qualify for CCS at their regional meets, making the regional meet a key point in the season, BVAL finals and other league finals have taken the place of regional meets and act as the modern day qualifying meet for CCS.
The Crystal Springs center meets are weekday meets run throughout the season at Crystal Springs for athletes to prepare for the big regional meet. The Crystal Springs invite, held on the 2nd Saturday of October, would follow a few years later. In 1973 CCS was held at Crystal Springs for the first time. CCS would be held at Crystal Springs every year from 1972-2000 with the exception of 1974 when it was at Helyer park. In the 2000s, the CCS committee began the process of alternating the CCS location between Crystal Springs in odd years, and Toro Park in even years. By this time however, the Comets were running Crystal Springs at BVAL finals every year, as well as the Crystal Springs invite or center meet.
The rich history of Crystal Springs make sit the team’s most impressive all time/ team list. The Comets have run at Crystal Springs virtually every year since 1971, now over 40 years of course history! Many years Crystal Springs was run 2-3 times by the Comets, and the full results from almost every race at Crystal Springs dating back to these early years are available online (wish that was the case for every course…) The Crystal Springs course status as a league finals/ CCS playoffs course, make it the number one course in the bay area for time comparisons and rankings.
The Course is made up entirely of dirt trails and is very undulating, with the first 2 miles being downhill overall, with small hills dispersed throughout the course. The final mile (.95 technically) is hilly, with athletes running up towards the finish line form the 2 mile mark. Despite it being a hilly course, its net downhill construction makes it a relatively fast course. In recent years it has become clear that a Varsity athlete should run 45-60 seconds slower at Crystal Springs, than they would for the shorter BVAL league meet courses (Montgomery and Alum Rock).
The Comets of today have a wealth of great times to shoot for, and new great times to achieve when they take to the Crystal Springs course for BVAL Finals and CCS Finals this year.
The Comets began running quality times on the course in 1973 when the began racing it. top runner on that team, Alvarado, ran 16:06, a time which despite it’s standing at 5:27 mile pace, is only the 17th best time for the Comets in school history at Crystal Springs. This team also ran the 3rd best team time in school, a phenomenal 1:22:25, an average of 16:29 a runner. This was all done at the Crystal Spring’s center meet.
A few years later, more strong additions would be made. The team of 1975 ran a strong team of 1:24:35, which stands at number 10 on the Comet list. They were lead by Joe Salazar however, who became the first Comet to run under 16 minutes on the course, running the school record of 15:21, 5:12 mile pace. Peter Munoz would break 16 a few years later, running 15:57 for a team that ran the 8th best team time in school history, 1:23:44. The team of 1977 ran the #2 team time in school history, 1:21:51 (81:51) at the Crystal Springs center meet.
The boys teams of the mid-late 1970s were very strong, but they were just a precursor to the teams of 1980 and 1981, likely the best boys teams in JLXC history. The team of 1980 ran a very strong 1:23:20 (83:20) for #6 on the school’s all time team list. This gave the team a 10th place finish at CCS finals. Rich Diaz lead the team with a 16:03 clocking, tied for 12th in school history, though many of the team’s runners would return for the 1981 season.
1981 in terms of competition, was probably JLXCs best season altogether. Both the boys and girls won the MHAL, the only time in school history that the boys and girls have won a league championship in the same season, and the only MHAL title in school history for the girls (one of only 2 total championships for the girls, the most recent coming in 2014). The girl’s team of 1981 ran whats stands as the school team time record by a large margin. Their time of 1:46:41 at the Crystal Springs invite in 1981 has never been seriously threatened, as the only time in school history the team ran under 1:50 (or 110:00 mins). The team’s top runners, Kim Willoughby in 20:10, Angie Silva in 20:27 and Betsy Whyer in 21:19 currently stand as #2, #4 and #9 respectively on the team’s all time list. The team of 81 was the only girls team in school history to have two girls run under 21 minutes at Crystal Springs in the same season.
The boys team of 1981 was equally impressive. Their team time of 1:20:46 (80:46) still stands as the team record. The team placed 4th as a team at CCS, though this team time nowadays would likely win CCS in division 3 in most seasons. Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina ran 15:37 and 15:49 this season, 4th and 7th on the school’s all time list. Jim Saldivar also ran 16:16 for 19th place on the list. The team’s average of 16:09 a boy is outstanding. The 5th boy in CCS finals for the Comets that year ran 16:31, while the 7th ran 16:45. This outstanding team stands as the competitive apex of JLXC history, and the team that current Comet team’s look up to while striving to better themselves.
Greg Machado was a freshmen on the team of 1981, running 16:37 as the 6th boy, a few years later he would lead the team with a 15:33 #3 in school history. Unfortunately results from Crystal Springs are incomplete from 1982-1984 with no team times available in these years.
The teams of the late 1980s showed a lot of the strength of he early 80s teams as well. The team of 1986 ran 1:22:32 and the team of 1987 ran 1:22:25, 5th and 6th on the combined team list for the Comets. Joe Amendt tied Joe Salazar’s 15:21, giving two Comets a 5:12 mile pace at the top of the Crystal Springs list. Jim Strachan ran 16:06 for #14 on the school’s list in 1986 and Lanoura Goulart in 1988 ran 21:38 for #12 on the girl’s list.
The team experienced a bit of a dry spell during the very late 80’s and early 90’s. Even so, boy’s teams in this dry spell like the team of 1989 ran high quality team times like 1:27:08 (87:08) that the team of today is trying to return to. 1992 saw Armando Avilez run 16:06 to add his name to the school’s all time list, while Lorena Socarzano did the same on girl’s side running 21:32.
In 1996, Alberto Meza ran 15:53, #9 on the all time list, and was followed a few years later by Will Crane who ran 15:45. Crane is #5 on the school’s all time list, and the most recent Comet to break the 16 minute barrier at Crystal Springs. Emil Kayer ran 21:06 on the girl’s side during the same year, #8 on the school’s all time list. The 90’s and early 2000s had quality runners, but the depth of James Lick throughout 70’s and 80’s was fading as the school achieved it’s “at risk” status. On the boy’s all time team’s list 9/10 times were run in the 70’s and 80’s. The one exception is the 1:24:03 (84:03) of the team of 2000, 9th on the school’s list.
Only two additions to the boy’s all time list have been made since the year 2000, Ivan Navarro’s 16:09 in 2000, and Jose Gutierrez’ 16:00 in 2003. From 2006-2015 no Comet even ran under 17 minutes for Crystal Springs. The team times also weakened as a byproduct.
From 1973- 1989 the Comets ran under 90 minutes (on the boys side) as a team every year on record. Most years they ran under 87 minutes. The team failed to break 90 minutes for the first time in 1991, then again in 1995. In the early 2000s, the team constantly ran in the 85-87 minute time range, very respectable though unspectacular team times. A team time in this range is essentially a guarantee of a CCS spot, more than most sports at the school can claim right now.
Following the 2003 season however, the team fell fast. From a time of 86:14 (1:26:14) in 2003,the team did not break the 90 minute barrier again for 11 straight seasons.Finally in 2015, we were able to break the 90 minute barrier again, running 89:07 as a team at BVAL finals. This season, the Comets had it’s first runners break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs since 2005, Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora ran 16:45 and 16:48 at the Crystal Sprinsg invite to accomplish the feet, and the big meets are still ahead with the chance to run faster. This is why we are excited about the team of today, and feel we are moving in the right direction to restore JLXC to it’s former position of competitive success, without sacrificing team culture.
While the boys teams of the mid2000s-2010s were among the weakest in school history, the girl’s teams (which traditionally were never strong competitively) have seen rising success.
Kayla Matsuda ran the school record of 19:39 at Crystal Springs in 2008. On the girls’ all time team list, #1 belongs to the team of 1981, but all 9 other positions have been set since the 2000s. The 10th position is currently held by the team of 2005, at 2:00:16 (120:16) though this year’s team should kook them off, making all 10 positions sub 2 hour clockings.
The #2, #3 and #4 team times at Crystal Springs have been set the past 3 seasons. 1:50:00 in 2014, 1:50:27 in 2015, and 1:55:07 in 2013. The fact that 1:55:07 in 2013 is the 4th best team time in school history, shows that the team’s of the last few seasons are making the school’s history on the girl’s side stronger each passing season. The team will need to break into the 1:40s to be truly competitive throughout the CCS however. Christina Avalos ran 20:38 in 2022 for #7 on the school’s all time list. Daniela Camacho ran 20:33 in 2014 to put herself # 5 on the school’s all time list. In 2015 Maria Mendoza ran 20:35 for #6 and this year Arlet Miranda has already run 20:18 for #3.
With the Crystal Springs Invite just having past, and BVAL Finals at Crystal Springs just 3 weeks away, this is a chance to reflect on the team’s storied history on the course. The JLXC team of 2016 will work hard to try to improve it further, and know that Comets before them have set a high bar for success.
STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill will take place on Thursday October 13th, with STAL #5 a week later. The team is in it’s final phase of training now, readying themselves to run at their best at BVAL Finals (though Arlet and the varsity boys will work to peek for CCS 12 days later).
Thank you for reading, there is a chart of Crystal Springs by year below.
Below is a list of James Lick’s best times at Crystal Springs each year, taking the best team time in a season, and listing what its runners ran to achieve it.
The 2016 addition of the Artichoke Invitational took place on Saturday October 3rd. A group of 30 Comet athletes headed up to Half Moon Bay for the historic run, looking to leave a strong mark. This is the 29th time the team has run the Artichoke Invite, and as a result, the team’s times are significant, with so many years of history to compare against.
The day got under way with the freshmen boys. Mark Orpia and Jerricho Habon ran 15:41 and 15:52 to lead the team. Next in was Melvin Estrada at 16:31. Hugo Marquez was the 4th guy at 17:03, the 7:19 mile a pace being a new career best for an XC course, and Nien Tran rounded out the scoring team at 17: 25. Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo came in close together at 17:58 and 18:05. Joseph Allen finished off the race for the team at 26:37, running much faster than his pace from a week ago. This was a bit of an underperformance form the group as a whole, but valuable race experience for each member of the team.
The Frosh/Soph girls race was next, and it saw a breakout performance from Camilla Hernandez in 20:30, 8:37 mile pace. Camilla’s time is considerably faster than the times that (current varsity athletes) Denisse Calixto and Analilia Regla ran a year ago. After a strong debut at STAL 2, Camilla is rapidly working her way into future team plans. Ashley Preciado ran 23:46, and Jocelyn Rios ran 27:22. All 3 girls ran their fastest ever mile pace for an XC course. In the Frosh/Soph Boys, Vincnet Giglio ran 15:03, an dis gradually working his way back into shape.
In the JV girls race, Valerie Flores lead the team with a solid 22:17 clocking. Aliana Santos was behind her in 22:29. Elizabeth Perez rounded out the team in 24:01. On the boys side, Isaak Herrera lead the team in 16:30, Isaak continues to progress strongly in his junior year. Esteban Garcia-Gomez ran 16:52 for 7;14 mile pace, and Manuel Villalobos ran 17:14 for 7:24 mile pace, for both runners by far the fastest mile pace of their XC career.
The day finished with the two varsity races. Arlet Miranda ran a new school record for the course to place 4th overall in the small school’s race. Milka Perez ran a solid 18:07, and Daisy Nava battled through cramps to run 18:24. This was the first time under 8 minute mile pace this season for both Daisy and Milka. Belen Sanchez continues to show tremendous potential, running 19:10, with Denisse Calixto right behind her in 19:12. The girls ran 8:13 and 8:14 mile pace, the best of their careers respectively. The same was true of Analilia who ran 19:58 for 8:35 pace. The girl’s had a combined team time of 1:30:30 (90:30) good for the 4th best team time in school history, despite not having #2 runner Maria Mendoza. The girls finished solidly in the middle of the pack in combined team scoring. When the day was done, between both the small schools and large schools races, every team’s top 5 athletes were added up to calculate combined team places. The Lady Comets finished 34th out of 57 total teams, a solid placing.
The Varsity Boys ran well as a team, finishing 5th/19 schools in the small schools division, and 14th/69 teams overall, their best placing in years. Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo came in together at 13:04, with Azael adding his name to the school’s all time list, and Nathan moving up it slightly with the 9 second PR. Inteus Castro-Lopez is still struggling to find his form, but ran a PR of 13:49 nonetheless. Gustavo Parra did the same in13:55, a more than 40 second PR, and Gustavo Aguilera ran a small PR of 13:58. Both Gustavo’s ran under the 6 minute mile pace barrier for the first time in their careers. Jesus Deloya ran a 2o second PR of 15:03 to finish the team’s day. The team’s combined time was 1:07:48 (67:48) missing the team’s top 10 team times list by 10 seconds. While several BVAL schools took their varsity teams to the Stanford Invitational, the Comets were able to compete directly against several schools from each division and see their standing.
The only school that the boys lost to from the BVAL was Evergreen, who ran 67:05 to the Comets 67:48, although Erik Olsvold’s presence would help offset this difference greatly. Evergreen is currently undefeated in the MHAL (A division) and in my estimation, are the #2 team in the MHAL, likely to lose to perennial MHAL champion Willow Glen and no other A league school. Despite not having Erik, (somewhere between our #1 and #3 runner depending on the day) the Comets were able to beat several MHAL schools, Piedmont Hills by 1 minute, as well as Silver Creek and Leland by several minutes (though those schools were also notably missing members). The team also beat Lincoln high school, last year’s WVAL (C division) champions. Despite their status as a WVAL team, Lincoln was the #2 school at BVAL finals in 2015, only losing to Willow Glen. Lincoln like Leland and Silver Creek was missing some of their top runners, but the more than 2 minute gap, combined with Erik’s absence, gives the Comets a good shot at defeating these teams come league finals.
The team now looks ahead to STAL #3 on Wednesday October 5th at Montgomery Hill. This is highly anticipated matchup, with the team taking on Pioneer high school. This pits the STAL’s two undefeated Varsity Boys teams against each other, and the Comets will do their best to come out on top.
Feel free to come out and support the team in this important meet.
The Comets participated in their 3rd league meet of the season on Thursday October 15th. It was the 2nd league meet of the year which was held at Montgomery Hill, and even though it was only a week after the initial Montgomery meet, the race yielded many PRs for the team.
The Frosh/Soph Boys team, which has been missing many of it’s members, nonetheless had 3 PRS for the 3 boys that run. Erik Olsvold and Jesus Deloya crossed the line in 18:38 and 18:40, strong Frosh/Soph times. Austin Swank was the last racer for the team and ran 21:08, a 0:57 second PR.
The Varsity Girls were the team that took the biggest leap forward of the day. Maria Mendoza lead the group in 20:31, nearly a full minute PR and the 4th best time in school history for the course. Andrea Ortiz and Elizabeth Guevara were next in 22:03 and 22:14. Jennifer Custodio and Gabriela Aguilar finished off the scoring in 22:30 and 22:40. Daisy Nava fought though a rough day to run 23:59. This gives the team a combined team time of 1:49:58, a substantial improvement from the 1:53:53 of the previous week. The team will look to take their time down another minute or two at the final league meet next Thursday, and remain hopeful that Arlet Miranda will return to help the team at league finals, though return to racing by next week seems unlikely.
The Varsity Boys had a mixed day, but nonetheless, beat Prospect to move to 5-1 on the season. This was the first time JL had defeated Prospect in an XC or Track dual meet in years. Nathan Bernardo had an off day but still ran 16:26 just 2 seconds off his PR. Hector Ramirez, recovered from a minor hamstring injury ran 16:42 for 9th place overall, over a minute PR. Gustavo Aguilera ran 17:12 as the 3rd boy, an off day for him as well. Inteus Castro-Lopez battled sickness to run a solid 17:35 as the 4th boy, and Azael Zamora ran a small PR as the 5th: 17:41. Jesse Chircop and Gustavo Parra finished in 17:43 and 17:54 to complete the team. This gave the comets a team time of 1:25:38, the best team time since 2004. A better team time than the 2009, and 2010 teams managed at Montgomery (both teams were successful in making CCS). The team is aiming for a myriad of PRS to lead the team to a team tim ender 1:24:00 in their final league race next week.
The Reserve Boys were again lead by Guillermo Villalobos in a solid PR of 18:42. Miguel Chavez and Ryan Puzon ran 20:10 and 20:15 respectively, while Kelvin Arenas was the 4th boy in 20:45. This gives the team 4 reserve boys under 21 compared to only 1 last week. Ivan Morales completed the team in 23:19, and will look for a better time next week.
The JV and reserve girls had a very strong showing. Julia Cruz was 3rd place overall in 23:10. Evilly Garcia ran 25:22 as the 2nd girl, and Carla Manzanares made her official debut in a strong 25:28. Analilia Regla and Jocelyn Aguirre wrapped up the scoring in 26:18 and 26:20. This was a full minute PR for Analilia. The JV team was completed by Christine Young and Susie Peterson in 27:23 and 27:34. Alonico Urango ran 27:41 to lead the reserve girls, and Elizabeth Perez ran 30:00 exactly as the 2nd. She will naturally look to break 30 minutes for the first time next week. Diana Romero finished the comets day in 31:51, nearly a 2 minute PR for the course.
The Team is looking to make a statement in their final league meet of the season against Independence. Anyone interested in watching the team can see them compete on Thursday 10/22 at 3:30 at Montgomery Hill.
As always the schools ALL TIME lists can be viewed under “Cross Country History” ^
The James Lick Comets took to Alum Rock Park on September 4th to contest the annual alumni race once again. This year’s showing on the boys side in particular, was outstanding. The core group of athletes who have been in the program for over a year, and logged hundreds of miles in preparation this summer, produced team times which have not been run for years.
Not since 2010 (the last year the Comet boys made CCS as a team) had a pair of Comets run under 14 minutes with a duo of boys clocking 13:48 each. This year however, Nathan Bernardo and Hector Ramirez ran 13:25 and 13:27, with Gustavo Aguilera running 13:50 to make them the strongest trio in many years. I’ve been proud to see growth in each of my 3 years of coaching, from 2 runners breaking the 15 minute barrier in 2013. That number doubled to 4 in 2014, and has doubled again to 8 in 2015. The 3 veterans under 14, were followed by Inteus Castro-Lopez in 14:16, Azael Zamora, 14:28, Jesus Deloya, 14:48, Jesse Chircop and Freshmen Vincent Giglio in 14:52, and Gustavo Parra in 14:58. Freshmen Erik Olsvold also narrowly missed the barrier, in 15:01.
All summer long the Varsity boys group, lead by Hector Ramirez has been working hard toward the goal of leaping the school forward into the top 10 of the BVAL at league finals (The top 12 teams make CCS, last years team finished 15th). The 2014 varsity boys ran the best league finals team time of any James Lick Team since 2004, and that was with an Alumni race top 5 far weaker than this years
Karan Singh 14:12 1. Nathan Bernardo 13:25
Nathan Bernardo 14:19 2. Hector Ramirez 13:27
Cesar Azevedo 14:37 3. Gustavo Aguilera 13:50
Hector Ramirez 14:45 4. Inteus Castro-Lopez 14:16
Gustavo Aguilera 15:24 5. Azael Zamora 14:28
Seniors Miguel Chavez, and Kelvin Arenas were next in 16:40 and 16:50, providing a good foundation for the reserve team. Sophomores Rene Bravo, Isaak Herrera, and Austin Swank were the next boys to finish with times of 17:02, 17:13, and 17:45 giving the Frosh/Soph Boys an exciting start to the season. Last year’s team did well to finish 12th at league finals out of the 24 teams in the BVAL. That team’s top 3 runners at the alumni race ran 15:49, 16:00 and 19:30. The leading boys this year, Jesus, Vincent, and Erik are substantially stronger.
The first girl to finish was freshmen Arlet Miranda in a very strong 17:35. She was followed by teammates: Fellow freshmen Raquel Rodriguez 19:08, Elizabeth Guevara, 19:12, while Daisy Nava, Andrea Ortiz and Gabriela Aguilar packed together to run 19:43. This marks the first Alumni race in school history in which all 7 Varsity girls finished under 20 minutes. While they lack the raw firepower of last year’s league championship team, from which only 2 runners remain on the team, the girls will be looking to be competitive through race-packing and depth.
Ivan Morales, a reserve veteran ran a solid 20:11, with another reserve boy, Ryan Puzon close behind in 21:00. Jocelyn Aguirre, 20:55, and Jennifer Custodio 21:00 lead a strong JV girls contingent, with Analilia Regla running 21:56 not far behind. Manuel Urango ran 21:54, and Juan Carlos-Rios ran 23:53, though he suffered a fall during the race and was helped by teammates to the finish line.
Susie Peterson and Denisse Calixto paced together to run 24:31, while Christine Young and Elizabeth Perez did the same finishing in 24:37 and 24:38.Over a 3 minute PR from last year’s times for both girls. Diana Romero finished in 26:34 a strong performance, better than many of the JV girls of last year’s team.
The Alumni Race was a fantastic dress rehearsal for the team’s first league race next Thursday, where they will compete against Sobrato and Leigh. The course will be similar to the Alumni, and with the performances demonstrated by the team, especially the Varsity Boys, hopes are high to indeed push the Comets forward this year.
Revisions to the Team’s All time Lists and Best Times Under Coach Reeves list will be made shortly. All records can be viewed under Cross Country History .