The James Lick Comets opened their 2018 cross country season in Golden Gate Park with the Lowell Invitational on Saturday September 8th. This is just the 4th time the Comets have competed at the Lowell Invite, but this was the best showing the Comets have had on the girls side.
The Lowell invitational is a very competitive meet, and the first race that James Lick competed in was the frosh/soph girls race. It was the first time that the team had a complete frosh/soph girls team on the 2.13 mile course. Freshmen Ruth Rodriguez had an impressive debut running 17:35 to lead the group, the 2nd best time on the course in the 4 years of school history in Golden Gate Park. Erika Camacho was next in 18:18, the 8:36 pace being the best of her career for a cross country course. Mya Hammond and and Jessica Cervantes came in together at 18:32. It was a 1 minute PR for Mya despite the fact that she fell down during the race. Mia Hammond and Mariana Perez streamed in at 18:43 and 18:44, giving the Comets 6 girls under 19 minutes for the course, compared to only one last year. Jana Kikhia last year was the top Comet at 18:34. Jana went on to run 24:52 at Crystal Springs by league finals, placing 29th out of 97 JV girls. The fact that so many Comets are around Jana’s time at Lowell, indicates just how strong this year’s JV girls team could be.
Despite all of this, myself and coach Raul actually feel that several of our JV girls actually underperformed. We think big things are to come later this month. Francine Estranero ran 20:45, 1 PR by 1 minute, despite staying back to check on Jana, who was injured in the race.
The next race for the team was the JV boys race. The non frosh/soph races were contesting the 2.93 mile course. A fast course, very similar in distance to Crystal Springs. Gustavo Madrigal lead the group, running a time of 19:50. This shattered his PR of 21:58, and it was also the first time Gustavo has ever run under 7 minute mile pace (6:46 pace) for an XC course. Omar Fimbres was next in 20:06. Omar ran the 2.93 mile course in 6:53 pace, by comparison, he only ran 7:01 pace for the 2.13 mile course last year. Rodolf Ocampo, Alberto Trejo and Josue Gomez rounded out the team in 21:56, 22:24 and 26:59 respectively.
The JV girls race saw Giulissa Correa and Kirsten Yutuc compete for the team. Giulissa had a great race, running 26:05, 8:54 pace. Giulissa has really impressed with her work ethic in this, her first cross country season. Kirsten managed a small PR of 26:46 as well.
In the afternoon, both varsity races were run. On both sides, the team was missing a few members of their team, but the teams competed to the best of their abilities. On the girl’s side, we have sent the goal of chasing school records this year, and the Lowell invite was the first and easiest step. With only 4 years of history, the team was indeed able to set a new team record. The team time record before this season was 2:01:10. The team this year managed to run 11 minutes faster, a team time of 1:50:15.
The team was lead by Arlet Miranda in 19:42. Arlet wasn’t able to beat her own school record of 19:28 but it was a strong performance nonetheless. Yeimili Adame ran 21:09, for a 7:13 pace, the best pace of her young career. Belen Sanchez was the 3rd Comet in at 22:17, beating her PR of 23:09 quite handily. Ashley Preciado was close behind in 22:22, a PR by over 3 minutes, and by far the fastest pace of her career. Jenny Villagomez was the 5th girl in 24:43. The team was without Yesenia Martinez who had been the team’s 5th girl at the alumni race.Overall it was a great performance for the girls team, and one they will hope to build on going forward.
The final race of the day was the varsity boys. The team was without top runner Erik Olsvold, and team #5 at the alumni race, Jared Resendiz. Mark Orpia spearheaded the team with a 30 second PR of 17:15. Jerricho Habon was next in at 17:49. Jerricho’s PR on the 2.13 mile course was run at 6:48 pace, a far cry from the 6:05 pace he just ran on the 2.93 mile course. Nien Tran took a big step forward, running 18:32 as the 3rd boy in. Brandon Cruz and Geo Campos were close behind in 18:36 and 18:37.
The varsity team is still developing but there is good reason for optimism for the future. For one thing, all 5 of these boys are juniors. Geo is in his first season of cross country for the team and is improving rapidly. The other Comets are all improving from year to year as well. Last year Nien ran 6:59 pace for the 2.13 mile course. This year he ran 6:20 pace for the 2.93 mile course. Brandon has had an even more impressive development, from 7:51 pace on the 2.13 course, to 6:21 pace on the nearly 3 miles long course.
The boys team is going to face stiff competition this year. We were defeated handily at the Lowell invite by Branham, who will we face in our 2nd ST division meet. Prospect won the freshmen boys race, showing that they have an impressive future as well. The Comet boys will need to work hard to compete, but the team is up to the challenge.
The team will head to the Earlybird Invitational in Toro Park next Saturday before their first league meet on Thursday September 20th at Montgomery Hill. The team will face Prospect and local rival Independence.
After a one year hiatus due to extreme weather conditions, the James Lick alumni race was back with a vengeance for the 2018 edition. The race is always a great experience for our current runners. It serves as both a test of their fitness before official races begin, and a chance to meet some of the great runners of James Lick’s history.
This year’s event had a great cast of characters from Glenn Reeves and Luis Garza classes of 1969 and 1977 respectively, to Randy Pangelina and Gilbert Zaragosa, both members of the greatest ever James Lick teams (the teams of the early 80s). Also in attendance were Don Mora, Jeremy Peterson, and the seemingly always in great shape Joe Amendt, members of the late 80s Comets crowd. Of course, there were also members of James Lick’s latest success’ present, such as Paloma Contreras and Azael Zamora.
The race over the historic 2.25 mile course was new to much of the team since we weren’t able to contest it last year. Many of the returners managed huge PRs from their last try at the course two years ago.
I managed to just hold on for the win in 13:49 with Erik Olsvold the first Comet across in 13:50. This is an encouraging start for Erik who spent all of last cross country season dealing with injury. Jerricho Habon was the 2nd Comet in at 14:06. Jerricho has come a long way since freshmen year when he ran 16:25. Joe Amendt was right behind Jerricho as the 4th place finisher and 2nd alumni in at 14:10.
Melvin Estrada and Brandon Cruz came in at 14:34 and 14:42 respectively. Melvin’s previous best was 17:29. Jared Resendiz added was the 5th boy in at 14:52, a strong quintet for a team missing Mark Orpia, the team’s top runner from the time trial two weeks ago. Geo Campos and Nien Tran came in close together at 15:11 and 15:15. This was over a 2 minute PR for Nien, and a very impressive time for Geo who continues to show great potential in his first ever cross country season.
Daniel Portillo was next in 16:10, more than a 2 minute PR. Gustavo Madrigal and Arlet Miranda came in close together in 16:35 and 16:40, with sophomore Jonathan Bradley close behind in 16:44. It was a close race as Alberto Trejo (17:57) alumni Paloma Contreras (17:58) Rodolf Ocampo (17:59) and alumni Don Mora (18:01) streamed in close together. Josh Merin ran 18:18 and alumni Daisy Nava came in at 18:34, beating her high school PR by over 20 seconds despite not running all out since she practiced with her team at UC Merced in the morning.
Belen Sanchez and Yeimili Adame came in together at 18:56 as the 2nd and 3rd lady Comets. Ashley Preciado and Yesenia Martinez came in at 19:27 and 19:42. In my 6 years of coaching, this was the fastest girls team at the alumni race. For only the 2nd time, 5 girls ran under 20 minutes, and for the first time, 3 ran under 19. Erika Camacho just missed breaking 20, running 20:06.
Alumni Austin Swank, Jeramy Peterson and Andy Giang came in next in 20:21, 20:22 and 20:35 respectively. Mariana Perez, Ruth Perez and Emely Lopez ran 21:11, 21:26 and 21:49 to show some strong JV girl potential. Alumni Luis Garza finished in 22:11.
Jhesselyn Santos finished in 22:38. Alumni Phuc Pham finished in 22:39 and a number of Comets just managed to crack 23 minutes behind him. Jessica Cervantes, Giulissa Correa and Francine Estranero came in at 22:50, 22:55 and 22:58. Eddie Tinajero was alumni on the men’s side in 23:15. Angelina Guevara and Mia Hammond came in together at 23:20. Jesse Chircop ended the alumni men’s day with a time of 23:21, and Rafael Yanez ended the boys day with a time of 23:24.
Kirsten Yutuc came across in 23:35. Alumni Aliana Santos and Susie Peterson finished in 24:37 and 25:39 respectively. Adriana Marcelino ended the Comets day with a time of 27:45.
It was a fun day for the team, and there is a lot to look forward to as races begin soon.
The team will take roughly 20 athletes to the Lowell Invitational in Golden Gate Park on Saturday September 8th. They will then head to the Early Bird Invitational in Toro Park Salinas the following Saturday. Our first league meet is not until the 20th.
Thank you to all the alumni who came to our event!
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 Comets competed at BVAl Finals at Westmont High School on Thursday May 10th. The BVAL Finals is the BVALs CCS qualifying meet. The top 7 athletes of the MH (A’) division, top 5 from the ST (‘B’) division and top 4 from the WV (‘C’) division meet to compete for spots at CCS Trials. Athletes who achieve the BVAL Automatic qualifying mark also advance from division finals, but for the most part, 16 athletes compete in each event. The top 8 athletes at BVAL Finals advance to CCS Trials.
The very first event contested was the varsity boys pole vault. Mark Orpia and Rodolf Ocampo placed 12th and 13th, not bad for their first year Pole Vaulting. Mark managed a PR of 9-0, while Rodolf matched his PR of 8-6. This was a good end to the season for the Comet pole vaulters, the first in several decades for James Lick.
Several other field events kicked off soon after. Alejandra Ceron booked her ticket to CCS trials for the 2nd year in row in the girls Shot Put. Her throw of 33-2.5 took 7th place in a very competitive field. Valeria Cortez just missed out on making CCS in the event, taking 10th in 32-5.5. Charli Chircop threw 30-11.5 for the final Shot Put competition of her career.
Lyndel Ventura competed in girls long jump for the final time. Her best jump was 15-7.5, the 2nd best jump of her career, a solid final competition for Lyndel. In the girls triple jump, Natalie Rem placed 9th with the 2nd best jump of her career, 33-0.5. A post meet scratch moved Natlie into the 8th place spot, meaning that she will compete at CCS trials as a freshmen, the first Comet to do so since Valeria in discus as a freshmen.
In the boys Shot Put, Josh Garcia ended his career with a toss of 40-6.5. The Girls discus was the best event for the Comets on the day. Charli threw 116-3.5 the 2nd best throw of her career for 2nd place overall, the highest placing at BVAL Finals by any Comet this decade. Valeria took 3rd with a throw of 109-1. Alejandra threw 100-3 for 9th place.
In the girls 4×100, the Comets ran their 2nd best time of the season, clocking 54.04 despite a very poor final handoff. Valeria, Kirsten Yutuc, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem accomplished the mark. On the boys side, the team improced upon their “best mark of the decade” status. Cody Huoch, Jose Limon, Geovanny Campos and Raven Alcantara combined to run 45.50. The team placed 11th, and with 3/4ths of the team returning, the Comets have their minds set on trying to make CCS next year.
Arlet Miranda competed in the girls 1600, running 5:46. Arlet has always battled injury issues, and despite barely running over the past few weeks, she competed well.
The one running events with two athletes competing was the girls 100 hurdles. Valeria ran 17.22 and Yesenia Martinez ran 18.53. It was the 2nd best time of the season for both ladies. Valeria narrowly missed making CCS, placing 9th, only .05 off of 7th place.
Kirsten competed in the 300 hurdles, running the 2nd best time of her career, 52.30. Cody became the Comets 5th CCS qualifier on the day, running 42.62, a small PR in the boys version of the event. Azael Zamora competed for the Comets in the 3200. Like many other Comets, he ran the 2nd best time of his career, 9:59.49, he missed out on making CCS by less than 1 second.
The final event on the day was the 4×400. The girls team of Yesenia, Kirsten, Yeimili and Arlet competed hard, but did not run particularly fast. The boys team managed to break the 3:40 barrier for the first time in over a decade. Salvador Lopez, Erik Olsvold, Cody Huoch and Misael Herrera combined to run 3:39.
5 Athletes are left competing for the Comets.
Charli and Valeria in Girls Discus, Alejandra in Girls Shot Put, Natalie in Girls Triple Jump, and Cody in the boys 300 hurdles. These 5 will compete at CCS Trials on Saturday May 19th at Gilroy High School.
The Ryan/Oyama Awards will be held on Tuesday May 15th in the school gym. A number of XC/Track athletes should be honored. Also, brand new banners representing James Lick’s most recent championships will be unveiled. (This includes boys cross country 2016, and girls track 2016 and 2017.)
The Artichoke Invitational is one of the highlights of the bay area High School season. James Lick has been running at the Artichoke Invitational since the 1970s, making the course a good indication of athlete fitness and a good measure of how current Comets stack up against the great athletes of the past. The course was 2.25 miles from its foundation up until 2007. The course has been 2.33 miles since.
The day began with a bang in the freshen boys race. Jonathan Bradley and Omar Fimbres came in close together at 15:18 and 15:24 respectively. Both boys ran by far the fastest pace of their careers to this point, running 6:34 pace and 6:38 pace respectively. These times were notably faster than Mark Orpia’s time from last year (15:41) as Mark is now a high quality STAL varsity runner. Jonathan’s time was even faster than Nathan Bernardo’s freshmen time of 15:22. Nathan would of course go on to lead the team to a STAL championship as a senior and win the school’s Ryan award. Jose Ruiz also had a strong race running 16:37.
The Frosh/Soph girls race was next and the Comets sent a huge group of athletes forward. The leading Comet in the race was Ashley Preciado, who is a great example to her teammates. Ashley ran 19:45 for 8:28 pace, the best of her career. This was a huge PR for Ashley who ran 23:46 as a freshmen last year. Ashley has turned herself into a borderline varsity level runner and should inspire others to do the same. For example, Mya Hammond ran 20:30, Emma Veronica ran 20:55 and Emely Lopez ran 21:06. All 3 girls ran the best races of their careers to this point, and show the potential to be strong varsity runners next year. Mariana Perez (21:46) Francine Estranero (23:06) and Estefanie Herrera (24:34) all had the best races of their career as well. Denise Marquez, Maria Sanchez and Anahi Santos rounded out the race for the Comets.
The Frosh/Soph boys was another huge group for the Comets. The team was lead by a stupendous performance by Sophomore Mark Orpia. After running 15:41 as a freshmen, Mark ran 13:43. This is Mark’s first time under 6 minute pace for an XC race, with a 5:53 pace. This is the 2nd best Sophomore time by a James Lick Comet in the past decade, narrowly missing Nathan Bernardo’s 13:38. Mark placed 5th overall.
Melvin Estrada was the next Comet in, also running the best race of his career. Melvin ran 6:20 pace even, going under 6:30 pace for the first time in his career. He lead a stream of big sophomore PRs. Melvin ran 14:47 compared to a 16:31 clocking a year ago. Nien Tran and Hugo Marquez ran 15:13 and 15:21 compared to times of 17:25 and 17:03 respectively as freshmen. Daniel Portillo went from 18:05 as a freshmen to 15:56 as a sophomore. Jerricho Habon battled a tight hamstring and did not PR. Rudolf Ocampo (17:37) Brandon Cruz (17:44) Luis Escamilla (18:51) and Alvaro Fabian (19:37) completed the team.
Only two athletes ran in the JV race for the team, Elizabeth Perez and Aliana Santos. Aliana ran a big PR of 20:58, while last year she ran over 22 minutes.
The varsity races were last on the ledger. Arlet Miranda ran 17:40 to lead the team. Belen Sanchez ran 18:12, a full minute PR from her 19:10 performance last year. Jennifer Villagomez and Justine Austria ran 19:18 and 19:24 as they continue to build towards solidifying the team. Both girls ran under 8:20 pace for the first time in their careers. Analilia Regla has battled injury this week, but ran a decent time of 21:14 to complete the team.
In the varsity boys race, Azael Zamora became the first Comet to run under 13 minutes on the 2.33 mile course. After running 13:04 as a junior, Azael managed a 20 second PR of 12:44. This moves Azy up from 17th to 8th on the school’s all time list. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a strong race as well, running 13:38 for an 11 second PR. Cody Huoch had the best XC race of his career to run 15:07. Jose Limon ran 15:33. Isaac Veronica and Austin Swank came across the line together in 16:30 and 16:33 respectively.
The team continues to rapidly approach as the season progresses. The team will take on Leigh and Pioneer at Montgomery Hill for STAL 4. The team will then begin preparations for BVAL finals on October 30th.
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.
The 2016 season started with some big goals for the James Lick Comets. The team set competitive goals of winning the STAL on the boys side, and improving on a 2-5 record from 2015 on the girls side. The team was hoping to also place within the Top 5 teams at BVAL finals on the boys side, and the top 12 on the girls side. The team also set the time goals of running 86:30 (1:26:30) on the boys side at BVAL finals and 112:30 (1:52:30) on the girls side. The team wanted to do this while representing and performing well in the non-varsity races as well.
From the first days of summer training in early June, the likely group of varsity boys showed how much they wanted to achieve their goals. Based on the PRS of the team’s top 5 returners, Nathan Bernardo 17:02, Inteus Castro-Lopez 17:55, Gustavo Aguilera 18:00, Azael Zamora 18:13 and Erik Olsvold 18:14, the team would run team time of 89:24. While Track season showed dramatic development, especially from Azael and Erik, the team would have to improve quite a bit to hit their ambitious goal. 2015 marked the first seasons since 2003 that the team had run under 90 minutes at Crystal Springs, and a time in the mid 80s would show the team was back to being a tough local team consistent with the teams of James Lick’s glory years.
As these boys worked hard in the early days of summer, more and more freshmen boys joined the team. Athletes like Jerricho Habon, Melvin Estrada, Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo followed the lead of their veteran leaders working their way into good shape. These boys are very admirable for the fact that they lacked natural running ability, but worked hard all season to better themselves and turn themselves into strong Frosh/Soph runners. The Frosh/Soph team was made especially strong with the addition of more freshmen boys: Mark Orpia and Nien Tran once school started, along with sophomore Rudy Peterson. The team became so rich in young boy runners, that by the final league meets of the year, the team consistently had 3-4 potential Frosh/Soph boys run reserve who would have been scoring members of half of the other Frosh/Soph teams in the league.
The depth of hard working athletes that the boys team saw, the fruition of 4 years of hard program building lead by team captain Nathan, never developed to the same degree on the girls side. After a breakout track season, Arlet Miranda was a weapon at the front of the team all season, but top returners Maria Mendoza and Daisy Nava both worked various jobs throughout the season in addition to taking numerous AP classes, cutting into their practice time and curtailing their improvements despite their best efforts. This coupled with the fact that 3 of the girls teams top 6 returners, did not in fact return for the 2016 season. The team did gain Milka Perez, who was a team star in the 2014 season, fresh off a 2015 season that she missed due to a torn ACL. Her addition and gradual improvement is a bright spot for the team going forward. While the boys team experienced a large group of incoming freshmen with future varsity potential, the girls team did not receive the sam boom. They gained several hard working freshmen like Ally Floreza and Ashley Preciado, and one clear future varsity runner in Camila Hernandez. The hard work of Analilai Regla, Denisse Calixto, and Belen Sanchez saw them help out as varsity runners despite being well behind the speed of a ‘B’ division varsity runner when the season started.
In the early part of the season, the team struggled with inconsistency but showed they had the potential to achieve their goals. The Alumni Race was a strong performance for the team, Azael lead the team with a time of 12:57, the first JL athlete to break 13 for the course in many years. The boys team in general ran well, and had the privilege of meeting JLXC all time greats Joe Amendt and Greg Machado.
Despite a great performance at the Alumni Race, the team did not perform as well at STAL 1 and STAL 2, their only two Alum Rock Park meets of the year. Erik, Azael and Nathan did move into 7th, 9th and 11th on the 2.85 mile course JL all time list, but the team was unable to achieve their league race goal of having 5 boys under 17 minutes. In any case, the Varsity Boys emerged from STAL 2 4-0, with a win over Prospect, one of two STAL teams to beat them at BVAL finals in 2015.
The team did have some success at their first 2 invitationals, setting school records at both the Lowell Invitational and the Delasalle Invitational. In both cases, Azael lead the team, finishing narrowly ahead of Nathan both times. This was only the 2nd time the comets have run at the Lowell Invitational and the 8th time they have competed at DLS. In any case, both team time records were set by huge margins. The teams consistency issues continued at these invites, while Azael and Nathan performed exceptionally well, Inteus struggled as did Gustavo A. Gustavo P however, began to show huge progress, running 18:31 at the DLS invitational for a new PR by over 1 minute. The Lowell invitational was significant for the team however as they defeated both Santa Teresa and Evergreen, two of the top teams in the MHAL (‘A’ division). The team began the 2015 season looking like a solid ‘A’ league team only to finish 13th at BVALs and the team was determined to not repeat that type of placing.
The team worked very hard over a 2 week hiatus, showing improvement at the 2016 edition of the watermelon run. Nathan became the first Comet athlete to run under 18 minutes for the 3.03 mile version of North Rim, a course which should take longer to run than any other course we race on. The team was very much motivated for a big performance at STAL 3, where they would take on 2 time defending champion Pioneer, at Montgomery hill. The team put it all together at this race, Nathan lead the group as a captain should, running a PR of 15:52 to become the first Comet under 16 at Montgomery Hill since 2003, and only the 3rd ever to do so. The Comets managed to have 6 athletes under 17 minutes at STAL 3, with Gustavo Parra as the 6th boy in, beating the #3 runner from every other school. Even Jesus Deloya as the teams 7th boy ran 18:22 beating the 5th boy on 4 of the teams in league.
In coming weeks more PRS were set, with the team’s top 4 all achieving PRS under 16:20. Erik Olsvold would go on to run 15:27, the 2nd best James Lick time ever at Montgomery and the best by a Sophomore by far.
The boys extended their record to 7-0 with strong times achieved at the Crystal Springs Invite and Mt. Sac invite as well. Nathan lead the team at Mt. Sac as the first Comet under 17 minutes for the course in a decade.
The team ramped up their focus once more BVAL finals knowing that a good performance would see them achieve their goals. They did all that and more, running a team time of 85:19, and finishing 2nd in the BVAL overall. They were spearheaded by Erik once again, in a time of 16:22. Erik’s times as a freshmen were quite good, his track season was more impressive and this cross country season more impressive still. Erik has truly broken out as a force within the BVAL. Nathan and Azael both run under 17 minutes as well. Inteus had a slightly off race by his standards, but the team saw all 6 competing boys run 17:40 or faster.
The team competed 2 weeks later at CCS without Erik (who cannot compete on Saturdays due to religious commitments) and while their performance was poor at CCS compared to BVAL Finals, the season was overall a huge victory for the varsity boys. The 2016 season saw many milestones for the team, including team course records at Golden Gate Park, Newhall Park, and most significantly Montgomery Hill.
Just as they set out to do, the 2016 JLXC boys team ended the season as STAL champions. This is the 15th cross country league/division championship in school history. It is the 13th league title for the boys, the 5th JLXC title in the BVAL era (1996 and on) and the first ‘B’ division championship for JLXC in the BVAL era, (the first since 1999). This victory is significant for the school as a whole. Since the BVAL went to its power league structure, (1996) James Lick has only won 17 league/division championships counting this one. This is only the 4th ‘B’ league championship, and the first since Wrestling in 2004.
These varsity boys will now take a break and look ahead to track, where they hope to continue their winning ways.
The Varsity Girls struggled with numbers and finding the time to train as described earlier, but managed to repeat their placings of 2015. The team went 2-5 and placed 14th at BVAL Finals. They also defeated every team in the WVAL (‘C’) league one again, indicating that the time would have won 3 straight championships had we elected to stay down in the WVAL after our 2014 championship. We as a program would much rather move up and push ourselves with greater competition than simply strive for as many titles as possible.
Arlet ran a myriad of good times as the teams leading girl runner. She broke the 20 minute barrier at Alum Rock park and Montgomery hill. Over the course of the season she set school records at Golden Gate Park and at Half Moon Bay HS. She moved up to #2 on virtually every other all time course list, behind only Kayla Matusda. As only a sophomore, Arlet’s future is very bright. At CCS finals she ran 20:02, missing making the State meet by only 7 seconds, the closest any Lady Comet has ever come to qualifying for the State cross country meet.
Arlet helped lead the team to their middle of the pack finish at BVAL finals. Despite the season being slightly disappointing overall for the girls, the team still competed well and had several bright spots. At STAL 5, the girls ran a team time of 109:29, the 2nd best team time at Montgomery Hill in school history. Maria, Daisy and Milka were all quality varsity girls despite difficulties in other areas. Denisse and Analilia stepped up from 2015 and embodied true Comet spirit to become varsity girls. At BVAL final Denisse and Analilia ran 24:26 and 25:08, compared to times of 25:25 and 26:57 in 2015. Belen Sanchez showed great dedication in the 2nd half of the season and looks to be a potential star going forward as well.
The JV and reserve girls suffered from the same lack of numbers that hit the varsity girls, but they nonetheless had a large group of hard working athletes. Chief among them was Camila Hernandez, the team’s top JV runner. Camila began her season at Alum Rock park, running 27:25 for a 9:37 mile pace. She worked her way all the way down to 24:34 at Crystal Springs, running 8:20 mile pace. Susie Peterson had her best season so far, and teammate Aliana Santos had a very quality JV season as well. Fellow hard working athletes like Ashley Preciado, Diana Romero, and Ally Floreza also helped the JV team to a 3-4 placing in the STAL and a 12th place finish at BVAL Finals.
The Frosh/Soph boys had an exceptional season much like their varsity counterparts. The team started slow, with the top boys at STAL 1 being Melvin Estrada in 20:43 and Mark ropier in 20:46. The FS team time at STAL 1 was 105:35, (1:45:35). By STAL #4 however, the team would run almost 10 minutes faster, recording a team time of 96:12 (1:36:12), a new school Frosh/Soph team record at Montgomery hill.They were aided by Vincent Giglio running 17:49, a new FS race record for the Comets at Montgomery Hill. After starting the season in the high 20s, Mark worked his way all the way down to 18:15 at STAL 5. Nien Tran and Jerricho Habon also ran under 20 minutes, with Rudy Peterson running exactly 20 seconds for his PR. This group of boys, along with Melvin and Hugo Marquez, went on to run a team time of 1:40:17 (100:17) at league finals, the best Frosh/Soph team time of the BVAL era. This hard working group of athletes makes the upcoming track season even more excitement.
It’s very easy to focus on the scoring teams, and to especially hone in on the fastest varsity athletes. This sport truly is about improvement, and the fact that an athlete is willing to put themselves through miles and miles of effort in the cause of bettering themselves is a fact wort admiring regardless of the athletes competitive level. Valerie Flores exemplified this, starting the season with times consistently in the 29-30 minute range before working her way all the way down to 27:09 at league finals. Brittany Salazar also ran huge improvement throughout the season as the only other reserve girl on the team.
The reserve boys were the team’s biggest group and several athletes had seasons to remember. David Bejines lead the team all season, running quality reserve times of 20:14 at Crystal Springs and 19:23 at Montgomery hill. Isaak Herrera had a breakout season, running under 20 minutes at Montgomery hill as well,a dramatic improvement from a year ago when such courses took him over 23 minutes. Austin Swank, Esteban Garcia-Gomez, Kevin Bach and Daniel Portillo consistently helped fill out the team along with Jesse Friaz. Kevin and Daniel in particular, as freshmen runners, made great strides over the course of the season.
The 2016 XC season has come to a close for the Comets. All that stands left is the team banquet in December. Many athletes have moved on to Winter Sports, while many more take a break to focus on school. Beginning in December several of the teams athletes will come together to begin training, and on January 1st 2017, the preparation for Track 2017 will begin in earnest. JLXCTF will look to continue the momentum from a very successful XC season into an equally strong track season.
Thank you for reading and a happy Thanksgiving to you all.
On October 31st, all 24 teams of the BVAL took to the Crystal Springs cross country course for BVAL Finals. The meet determines the final standings for all 3 BVAL divisions, the WVAL (‘C’ division) STAL (‘B’ division) and the MHAL (‘A’ division).
The WVAL, STAL, and MHAL, were all their own individual leagues, but in 1996 they came under the governance of the 24 team ‘super league’ called the BVAL. This re-structing (which happened throughout the CCS during this era) occurred after the glory days of James Lick sports. With teams moving up and down in the BVAL based on strength of program, where a school has it’s teams places is a good indicator of how strong the school’s programs are.
The fact that the BVAL came into existence at the same time that James Lick was achieving the makeup that it has today, helps us to analyze James Lick teams over the past 20 years as part of the “modern era.”
Since the BVAL’s foundation (1996) , James Lick entered the 2016-2017 school year with a total of 16 championships across all sports. Only 3 of these 16 championships were in the STAL (‘B’ league of the BVAL) with the Wrestling team of 2004 being the last JL team to win a title in the B division. Just being placed in the B division is a victory for a James Lick sport these days. Since the BVAl era, James Lick has offered 16 sports, (considering Cross Country, Swimming, and Track as 1 sport each, since boys and girls teams score separately, but cannot move divisions independently). Only 8 of these 16 sports at James Lick however have ever competed in any division other than the WVAL (‘C’ league of the BVAL). In addition, 2 of those 8 competed in the B division while there was no C division due to a shortage of BVAL teams offering the sport. This means only 6/16 JL sports in the BVAL era have ever been out of the lowest division of the BVAL.
While some teams commonly have most of their teams in the A and B divisions, James Lick currently only has 3, Cross Country, Boys Soccer, and Boys volleyball (though there is no ‘C’ division for boys volleyball). In 20 years now in the BVAL era, with at least 13 sports offered a year, James Lick has never had more than 4 teams in the same year be placed in the ‘B’ division or higher. As such, the cross country team continues to strive to represent the school as a legitimate ‘B’ league team.
BVAL finals in cross country is a great way to prove this strength of program, with all 24 teams in the same race, theoretically a perfectly formatted league would have the MHAL teams place 1-8, STAL place 9-16 and WVAL place 17-24. Any placing higher than 16th in a race legitimatizes the Comets standing and gives the team a sense of pride. As the 4th smallest school in the BVAl, and the 2nd poorest as measured by % of students who receive free/reduced lunch, overcoming this disadvantages to beat schools in a better place to succeed is something to be proud of.
The day started well, with the team’s two reserve girls racing for the Comets. After running 29:24 at the Crystal Spring’s invite, Valerie Flores ran 27:09 to place 17th in the reserve race, a huge PR for Valerie. The 9:12 mile pace is by far the best of her career, ending with a very strong peak performance. Brittany Salazar had a similarly huge PR, after running 34:49 at the invitational, she ran 32:41 at league finals. Her 11:05 mile pace was also by far the best of her career. A very strong ending for the two seniors.
The JV girls race was next, as the first scoring race of the day, the team looked for a top 16 team performance. The JV girls is the easiest race to score highly in, as many programs struggle to field a full team. In any case, the Comet girls came in 12th in the BVAL a solid performance. Camila Hernandez lead the group with a very strong time of 24:34. Camila looks poised to have a big track season, and be a key member of the girls team in future seasons. The 8:20 mile pace at league finals was the best of her career. The same was true of Aliana Santos, running 9:01 pace for a time of 26:36. At the CS invite, Aliana ran 29:27, making her league finals PR another outstanding performance. Susie Peterson was next in, while her time of 28:14 was an off race compared to other races this season, it was a solid 30 second PR at Crystal Springs. Ashley Preciado also had the best race of her career, running 29:06 and breaking the 10 minute mile pace barrier for the very first time. Diana Romero ran 31:20 to seal off the team, and Ally Floreza battled through an ankle injury to finish her race and show a warrior spirit in the process.
The Frosh/Soph Boys were next, and they improved their league standing by placing 2nd amongst B division teams at league finals. While final team results are not yet up of FS, I believe that the team managed to finish 8th overall, beating several ‘A’ division teams. Similarly, I do not know the records of the other teams in the ‘B’ division, but this performance may have moved the FS team as high as 2nd place in the STAL.
Vincent Giglio lead the team with a strong PR of 18:22, placing 1st in the STAL to give the team the STAL F/S boys individual champion 2 years in a row. Mark Orpia gave the team a 2nd boy under 20 minutes, running 19:34. The 6:38 mile pace for Mark was the best of his career, though I think it was actually a bit of an off-race for him after he ran 6:40 mile pace at Montgomery Hill a few weeks back. Nien Tran ran 20:18 to manage a 6:53 pace, the first time Nien has run under 7 minute mile pace for an XC race. Rudy Peterson and Melvin Estrada completed the scoring team with times of 21:00 and 21:03, the first the fastest paces of both boys career for a course longer than 2.1 miles. Hugo Marquez was close behind at 21:16, the 7:13 pace being the best of his career as well. Jerricho Habon rounded out the team in 21:25, battling the hip injury that has troubled him throughout much of the season. The team’s 8th place finish saw them defeating 2 teams from the MHAL and running the best James Lick frosh/soph team time in the BVAL era. Their team time of 1:40:25 (100:25) beats the FS team of 2010 (101:06) for a new BVAL Finals FS record. Our goal of breaking the 100 minute barrier was narrowly missed.
Next up were the varsity girls. Arlet Miranda ran a small PR of 20:12, running a very productive race in which she experimented with running a very hard 2nd mile in preparation for CCS. The Varsity girls team has struggled with finding time to train this season, but the pack of Maria Mendoza in 22:44, Milka Perez in 22:50 and Daisy Nava in 23:02 helped solidify the team’s placing. Denisse Calixto ran 24:28 the best race of her career to come through as the 5th girl. Belen Sanchez had a bit of an off-race running 25:03, though Analilia Regla ran 25:08, the best mile pace of her career as well. The teams time of 1:53:16 (113:16) is the 4th best team time in school history.
Skipping ahead to the reserve race, David Bejines lead the Comets with a strong reserve time of 20:14. Isaak Herrera came in next at 20:31 and Austin Swank was 3rd in 20:50, giving the team 3 athletes solidly under 21 minutes. Both David and Isaak ran under 7 minute mile pace for the first time on a near 3 mile course. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:42 and Esteban Garcia-Gomez ran 22:08 to seal off the top 5. Kevin Bach ran 22:34 and Daniel Portillo was not far behind in 23:00 a big PR from the Crystal Springs invite. Jesse Friaz finished off the team’s day with a time of 24:26. All 8 reserve boys ran the best mile pace of their career for a new 3 mile course.
The Varsity boys team went in highly motivated, knowing that a good race would clinch championship. In order to seal the victory, the team would have to hold off a very strong Pioneer team. Erik Olsvold lead the group, displaying his signature strong finish, Erik moved from 15th to 9th place in the last 200 meters of the race. His time of 16:22 is the best time by any James Lick boy in over 10 years, and puts him tied for 20th on the school’s al time list as only a Sophomore. Narrowly holding off Evan Franco of Branham who ran 16:24, Erik also ends the season as the STAL individual champion on the boys side, one year after being the FS champion. Erik’s remarkable improvement, from 18:14 a year ago, speaks to the immense work ethic of the varsity team. Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora both missed their PRS, but competed well running 16:47 and 16:59, giving the team 3 boys under 16 minutes in the same race at Crystal Springs for the first time in over a decade. All 3 boys finished in the top 20 overall. Inteus Castro-Lopez had a rough race, but showed his toughness, gritting out a time of 17:33 for a 22 second PR. Gustavo Aguilera also ran a 20 second PR of 17:39, with Gustavo Parra right behind in 17:40.
Pioneer ran a very strong race as well, and ended up placing 5th in the entire BVAL, beating half of the ‘A’ division teams. The Comets nonetheless were able to clinch their STAL championship, placing 2nd out of all 24 BVAL teams, only losing to Willow Glen, the ‘A’ league champs. The fact that the team was able to jump from a disappointing 13th place finish last year, to 2nd this year is truly remarkable. Their team time of 1:25:20 (85:20) is the best James Lick time at BVAL Finals in school history.
When Nathan and Gustavo A were freshmen, they ran 20:36 and 22:34 at BVAL finals. Nathan was the 7th boy on a varsity team where the #1 runner ran 18:29. That James Lick team placed 20th at BVAL Finals. The work ethic of Nathan and Gustavo, taking minutes off of their starting times, has helped foster a culture of hard work that has inspired their teammate around them, and drawn in athletes like Inteus and Gustavo P. In their 4 year careers, they saw the varsity boys team move from 20th in the BVAL to 2nd, and from a team time of 97:09 at league finals, to the 85:20 of today.
In the now 38 years of school history (on record) at the Crystal Springs cross country course, the team of 2016 ranks 11th in team time, showing that in 4 short years, the Comets were able to take a team from its 2nd slowest time, back to the times of James Lick’s heyday. It is up to the returning and future members of the team, to keep James Lick where it belongs an to keep driving the team upwards towards greater success. While the varsity and Frosh/Soph boys teams could have committed in the MHAL this year, the girls team has a ways to go before they are able to do the same.
Willow Glen has won 12 of the last 13 BVAL finals meets, and there is no sham in losing to the highly formidable team. The varsity boys team of 2016 showed that the Comets are still capable of competing with the best however, and every year we will try to reach greater and greater heights. The varsity boys, and fellow CCS qualifier Arlet Miranda now look ahead to CCS Finals on November 12th, where they will compete against fellow D3 runners from the CCS. To better understand CCS qualification you can read here:
The team will unfortunately be without top runner Erik Olsvold at CCS, making a top 3 finish, and a better team time difficult, but the Comets will do their best to try to get a State Qualifier for the first time in 2005.
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.