Comets Begin Season with Willow Glen Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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The frosh/soph girls before the race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jamie on his big PR jump 

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

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

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

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Valeria releasing the discus on her meet winning throw. 

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

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Jerricho during his 200m PR

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

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

The James Lick track team is conditioning now ahead of what will be it’s second year of competition in the Santa Teresa (‘B’) division of the BVAL in track and field. A year ago in my season preview, I said that our goal was simply to go 5-9 between the boys and girls sides, to prove we belonged in the division. We exceeded that goal by going 6-8, just one win shy of a .500 record. The team of 2018 was the largest track team I’ve coached, with a max total of 69 athletes competing for James Lick in our dual against Pioneer last year. We were also able to re-institute pole vault at James Lick for the first time in decades. Coach Raul Lopez managed to help two Comet boys advance to BVAL finals in the event.

BVAL Shakeup

Last season, the combined records in the division looked like this:

1. Evergreen: 14-0 

2. Pioneer: 11-3

3. Lincoln: 11-3

4. James Lick: 6-8

5. Prospect: 6-8 

6. Piedmont Hills: 5-9

7. Sobrato: 2-10

8. Oak Grove: 1-13

Normally the BVAL stays pretty stagnant, but things were shaken up after this season. Evergreen was dominant. Their closest dual meet was decided by more than 20 points, and they were the outright winners of several invitationals. They moved up to the ‘A’ division with Mt. Pleasant moving all the way down to the ‘C’ division, and Live Oak moved up to join us in the ‘B’ division.

The makeup of the division is much different without Evergreen. Live Oak will look to make an impact with some very impressive young talent.

With year 2 on the horizon, the Comets are working towards their first winning season in the ‘B’ division, and we have our sights set in attacking a ‘B’ division title on the girls side outright. While the girls team of 2018 only went 3-4, it finished very strong. We opened the season with 4 straight losses then finished with 3 straight wins. At Division finals last year, the lady Comets finished 2nd overall, only losing to dominant division champions.

This strong performance on the girls side showed the potential the team has for a title chase, and 2019 figures to be an exciting season with the team more prepared for the thralls of the Santa Teresa division.

Girls Season Preview (Boys Below) 

Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness. 

Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:

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

Top returning girls

On the girls side, the team’s weakest area was sprints. That being said, it was actually the best sprint corps the team has had on the girls side in some time, it was primarily the greater strength of the ‘B’ division that created the low point total. The year before in 2017, the lady Comets had 32% of available sprint points. That total barely dropped as the team moved up to a substantially more difficult division. The team will be counting on a few key athletes in these events to take the next step. Furthermore, the team ran the best 4×100 that James Lick has managed since 1993. It did so with a team that contained no seniors or juniors. There is great reason to be optimistic about 2019.

The distance team also will look to improve. Similar to the sprint squad, the Comets are returning all of their best distance athletes. The team scored 40% of points available, a respectable total in a year where we only managed a 1-6 record in cross country. This school year we went 5-2 in cross country, and I think this greater XC success will translate into greater distance results in track.

Jumps are an area of focus as well. While the team’s top 2 triple jumpers are back (both scored  at division finals) the team lost the stalwart of presence of Lyndel Ventura. Lyndel moved up to #4 on the school’s all time long jump list with a leap of 16-7.25 last year, and her graduation leaves a bit of a void in the event. The team will also look to improve in high jump, with their 3 top athletes returning (all were sophomores last year). Last but not least, a major deciding factor in the title race will be the Comets ability to produce lady pole vaulters. Only a handful of girls pole vaulted in the entire division last year, which could give the Comets a big advantage if they succeed.

The Comets were very strong in hurdles, with a returning division champion in the 100 hurdles and the top returning 300m hurdler in the division as well. With the team’s top 3 hurdlers returning, it should be another great area of strength for the team.

Throws have been absolutely dominant for James Lick over the past few seasons. The case could be made that we were the best girls throws team in the entire BVAL. We produced 3 CCS qualifiers in throws for 2 consecutive years, but we are likely to take a hit in throws this year. While the team returns Valeria Cortez, as by far the division’s #1 ranked discus thrower, the loss of Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron, ( the school record holders in discus and shot put respectively ) will make this area more challenging. We will need some younger lady Comets to step up.

Key Comet Athletes 

We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes. 

Valeria Cortez: While I would love more data to have more athletes to compare her to, as it currently stands, Valeria is likely the 2nd best female track athlete in school history. (She certainly is based on the records I have).  She is the only James Lick athlete I know of to have qualified for CCS trials in 3 different individual events. Based on last season, among returners she is ranked #1 in girls discus (112-8, while 2nd is at 100-8) , #2 in the girls 100 hurdles (16.88), and #3 in girls shot put (33-7). Her 300 hurdles PR is better than all but 1 girl in the division as well. To make things more interesting, Valeria is only a few feet behind the current school discus record.

Arlet Miranda: Arlet has had a very string career, plagued with injuries. Whenever healthy, she’s been a force for the team. As a sophomore, she became the first girl in school history to make CCS outright in the 800 (and she wasn’t fully healthy at the time). She is coming off of only her 2nd XC season to be injury free, and is poised for a big season if she can continue that. She is ranked #4 in both the 1600 and 800, and #6 in the 3200.  She is also #2 in school history in all 3 distance events, making this an exciting year in terms of potential school records.

Natalie Rem: As a freshmen last season, Natalie took the division by storm. She was primarily focused on jumps for most of the season, but came on very strong as a sprinter by the end of the season. She is the #3 returning triple jumper with a PR of 33-1. She is also ranked #8 in long jump (15-1) and #3 in the 100 at 13.49. That 100m PR put her 9th place in school history, and she is by far the fastest girl we’ve had since I’ve been coaching. Natalie could be a force for this team if she continues to develop her sophomore season.

Kirsten Yutuc: Kirsten has two consecutive BVAL qualifications in the 300 hurdles, and she took major strides last season. With Evergreen gone, Kirsten stands as the best 300 hurdler in the division with a PR of 51.80. Kirsten is a very versatile athlete. She is on the top 14 rankings of more events than any athlete in the entire division. She is a threat in all 3 sprint events. She is ranked top 10 in both Long Jump (14-9) and Triple Jump (30-9.5) and she is ranked #4 in the 100 hurdles (18.22).

Yesenia Martinez: Yesenia was our most improved athlete as a sophomore last season. While she was only our 10th best sprinter, by the end of the season she qualified for BVALS in the 100 hurdles. She is ranked 6th in that event (18.43) 6th  in teh 300 hurdles (54.72) and tied for 4th in High Jump at 4-6. We will be looking for Yesenia to hit the ground running this season.

Boys Season Preview

Areas of Strength/ Areas of Weakness. 

Last year, the team’s league points breakdown was as follows:

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

 

Top returning boys

The team’s strongest area a year ago was distance. This isn’t too surprising since the cross country team was already competing in the ‘B’ division, but the loss of top runner Azael Zamora does leave a void. Younger Comets will have to step up, but the team will need to use depth to overcome the loss of a top-notch runner.

Hurdles were the 2nd best area, primarily because of Cody Huoch. With Cody also graduated (now competing at San Jose City College) the team will need to find some new hurdlers, and we aren’t drawing from a position of strength the way that we are in distance. Finding new hurdlers is a key to success this season.

The sprints and jumps squads should be radically improved this year, and that is an area of excitement for us. While we took only 28% of points in sprints, and 37% of points in jumps, the vast majority of our top athletes are back and looking strong. By the end of the season, the team was much better in these events, and will look to build on a strong finish by their sophomore athletes.

Throws are the biggest area of concern at present. We netted 35% of points last year, but virtually all of those points graduated with Daniel Medina and Josh Garcia. Last year the frosh/soph boys scored only 10% of possible throws points. The team desperately needs reinforcements in throws, this is a critical area of improvement for this season.

Key Comet Athletes 

We’ll be counting on the contributions of many different athletes, but below are a few of our most critical returning athletes. 

Salvador Lopez: Sal was one of our top athletes in his sophomore season. He was the starting Quarterback for the varsity team this year, and has gotten much more explosive through working out and natural growth. For example, last season his High jump PR was 5-2. At an all comers meet earlier this month, Sal jumped 5-8 despite the fact that he hasn’t practiced high jump in months. One can only wonder what improvements he’ll show in other events. He was already ranked as the #6 returning triple jumper (37-8.5) and #10 returning long jumper (17-10). He’s also just 1 spot off the list in the 400 but I suspect Sal will be a great athlete for us across the board this year.

Raven Alcantara: By the end of last season, Raven was our top sprinter. He ended the season with a 100m PR of 11.79, the #6 returning 100m runner in the division. Raven has always struggled to double and we are focusing on helping him be more capable of running the 200 as well. He is also ranked 7th in the boys triple jump (37-8). Raven and Sal both decided not to play basketball this season in order to focus on track and this could mean big things for their development.

Erik Olsvold: Erik’s career has been up and down. As a sophomore, he was poised to be a tremendous distance runner, winning the ‘B’ division championship in XC and the 3200 title in the ‘C’ division in track. Injuries kept him out most of his junior year, but in a period 3 weeks, Erik went from not being able to job without pain, to placing 6th at division finals in the 800. Erik’s focus will be the 400/800 this season, and he is determined to go out on a high note.

Conclusion: 

We are very optimistic about the 2019 season. We will need to be creative over the next few weeks as our track and field is being resurfaced. The expectation is that we will host our first home meet on March 15th against Live Oak on a brand new track.

Official practice begins tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

James Lick Track WVAL Season Preview 2017

The team will have some strong WVAL teams to battle if it is to win a double WVAL title, and move up to the STAL for the 2018 season, and the teams/ athletes of the WVAL will be the focus of this blog.

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Alex Alonzo practicing his discus release.

 

The Comets have their eyes set on a 14-0 season in the WVAL, and a double championship as a result. The West Valley Athletic League, is admittedly , the weakest division (‘C’ division) of the BVAL. Even so, a boys title would be the 1st WVAL championship for the team since the year 2000, and only the 6th title in the more than 60 year history of boys track at James Lick. A girls title would be the 2nd title in school history on the girls side after we claimed the first one in 2016.

We as coaches preach that Track is all about progress. Whether you are an 11 second 100m runner or a 19 second 100m runner, all we can do is work within our ability to improve ourselves. There’s nothing more worth doing than working to make yourself better. As recently as 2014, the team was in the middle of a combined 74 meet losing streak, so finishing 12-2 in 2016 was a huge turnaround for us. This speaks to tremendous team-wide improvement. Progress is what is worth being proud of because progress takes dedication and willpower, regardless of talent level or competition. This focus on improvement has moved us to a more and more competitive position, to the point that we can now add the goal of WVAL championships alongside our chief goal of the improvement of every athlete on the team.

Given the nature of High School sports, it’s possible for any team in any league to have a sudden down year, or to receive an outstanding class of athletes that propel them to new heights. Time will tell what new athletes will burst on to the scene in 2017, but here are the top returning athlete from last season in each event.

Top 14 Returners Girls:  

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/wqn23yp0n4qfrd5/Top%2014%20reteruners%20WVAL%20girls%20%20pre%20season%202017%20.pdf?dl=0

Top 14 Returners Boys: 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pte9ywfath76izi/Top%2014%20reteruners%20boys%20WVAL%20pre%20season%202017%20.pdf?dl=0

 

Girls Team Preview 

Only one of the top 5 point scorers on the girls side in 2016 was a senior, meaning the girls are in an excellent place to repeat as WVAL champions. Currently the team has a small number of girls practicing, but with the winter sports season now over , the team will hopefully add many more athletes on both sides.

Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season: 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 20.02 27 74% 29
Hurdles 13.85 18 77% 29
Jumps 17.55 27 65% 15
Relays 4.28 10 43% 14
Sprints 13.85 27 51% 6
Throws 15.56 18 86% 34

 

Last season, the Comet girls team lead all teams in the WVAL in distance, throws, and hurdles points at WVAL finals. Distance and throws on the girls side are poised to repeat this feat. Arlet Miranda and Daisy Nava were the teams top distance scorers last season, with Arlet finishing 2nd in both the 800 and 1600, and Daisy finishing 4th and 7th respectively. With both athletes back, the team can aim for even more points in the distance events this season.

Similarly in throws, the girls had a 1-2 finish in discus, a 2-3 finish in Shot Put. The throws team scored a whopping 86% of available dual meet points over the course of last season. The girls throwing group is growing in numbers as well, with 8 Lady Comets poised to throw for the team, including Charli Chircop returning from injury. The ability of  Coach Vela’s top 3 throwers, Valeria Cortez, Alejandra Ceron and Charli, make throws a source of strength for the team. We can aim for all 18 available throws points, in virtually any dual meet we contest this season.

Keys to the team will be the development of the team in jumps, sprints and hurdles. Last seasons relay teams peaked very well for WVAL finals, finishing 2nd in the 4×100 in a minor upset, and 3rd in a tightly contested 4×400. The relay teams lost two members however, meaning new athletes will need to step up.  Maria Mendoza figures to lead the sprint team, and time will tell how many athletes she brings with her from a girls soccer team that took a big step forward this season. Newcomers like freshmen Kirsten Yutuc give the team reason to be hopeful in these events.

Lyndel Ventura and Elyse Elder figure to continue leading the team in jumps. Both athletes had strong seasons last year, but struggled a bit at the very end of the season including WVAL finals. The team will be counting on them to rack up points in the horizontal jumps both at dual meets and at WVAL finals.

The hurdle events will also need athletes to step up with Andrea Ortiz (2nd in both hurdle events at WVAL last year) having graduated. The team does have 3 returning scorers from WVAL finals though, with 100h 4th place Valeria Cortez, 6th place Susie Peterson and 300 hurdles 6th place Belen Sanchez all returning. The void in the 300h is particularly concerning, as the team has no true 300 hurdler with Andrea gone. This is an event the team will be looking to new talent to fill.

Rival teams/athletes to watch

Every team in the WVAL will be treated with due respect and seriousness, but naturally some teams are more threatening than others.We won’t know more about the new athletes in the league until the season  is underway, but based on last years results, here are the  teams that I expect to pose the most competitive dual meets for the Comets this season on the girls side.

The 2nd place WVAL team last year was Yerba Buena. 

They had a strong group of athletes in the hurdle races, and in sprints. Margarita Kirilenko in particular was one of the top 100/200 runners in the WVAL, and will be tough for any Comet runner to take down. Vanessa Ta in the 1600/3200 was also a BVAL championships qualifier and Arlet will be keying on her in the 3200 where Vanessa was able to beat Arlet both times they raced in 2016. There are 127 available points in a WVAL dual meet, meaning that 64 points is our magic number. Last year against Yerba Buena, the lady Comets scored 76, a solid victory, but our lowest margin of victory of the season. Many of Yerba Buena’s best athletes are returning, and the Comets will need to be wary of allowing victory to go the Warriors way this season. Head coach Jesus Pineda is no stranger to WVAL titles either. His boys teams won 3 straight WVAL titles in track from 2013-2015, and his girls won the 2015 WVAL title in cross country as well.

Live Oak: The Acorns were the team with the 2nd most points at WVAL finals last season. They boast the best distance runner in the entire BVAL in Kaylah Grant, making the dual with Live Oak the one dual where Arlet is unlikely to win the 1600 or 3200. Live Oak’s signature over the past few years has been a strong sprint group, winning the WVAL 4×100 title the last 3 years in a row and often advancing all the way to CCS. While their best sprinter and WVAL champion from 2016 graduated, they have two girls returning who scored in both the 100 and 200 at WVAL finals (No lady Comet scored in the 100 or 200 at WVAL finals last season by comparison).

The Comets will need to combat Live Oak’s strength in sprints with points in hurdles and throws. The dual should be god competition for both teams. As with most teams, Coach Vela’s throwing group should net the Comets many points in girls throws. Live Oak’s head coach Alberto Suarez is a throws coach as well however, and if his girls begin to follow the success of his boys (more on that later) the dual meet will be even more intense.

Independence: 

As the largest school in the entire CCS, Independence has a tremendous tradition in track and field. Similar to James Lick, Independence fell far from the success of its heyday in the 2000s. Current coaches head coaches, Don Barber and Khoi Tran are working hard to build their program as well. Khoi and myself especially have a bit of a friendly rivalry as we graduated only a year apart and are both back heading our former schools against each other. (We’ve also both been lucky enough to coach athletes who’ve become much faster than we were in HS).

The size of Independence, (3300 students compared to James Lick’s 1200) make it so that the 76ers can pull strong athletes out of seemingly nowhere. Last year the WVAL champion in the girls Shot Put emerged in the form of a senior who had never done track before. In terms of returners, Independence has the top returning 400m runner in the WVAL in Stephanie Justo, and the top returning 800 runner in Lydia Ma. (Lydia is a great rival for Arlet who may not compete this season due to other commitments but I for one hope she does in order to push Arlet). Based on the depth of returners on each team, the Comets should have an edge but the program in place at Independence, along with their number of students to draw from, make them a school to be wary of.

Gunderson: Gunderson head coach Joseph Miclette has built a strong program of jumpers and throwers. He has the WVAL champion in girls long jump, as well as 2nd and 3rd in triple jump all returning. He also has high scoring athletes returning in the 100, 200, 800, 1600 and 3200. Relative weakness in hurdles and Throws give the Comets and edge, though Gunderson is definitely another team to be wary of.

Others: As any team striving for success knows, every opponent needs to be taken seriously. It’s entirely possible for Overfelt, Del Mar, or San Jose to explode onto the scene with a strong team (we went from 1-6 in 2014 to 6-1 in 2015 after all). Overfelt has one of the top returning athletes in the WVAL in double hurdles champion Chrizna Milanes. Del Mar has had some strong teams in recent seasons when they get a good amount of athletes out for track, and San Jose High finally has a coach who knows track well and who will work to develop the talent that is already present on the team.

Boys Team Preview

Last year’s boys team placed 3rd in the WVAL with a 5-2 record, suffering losses to Independence and Yerba Buena. The team finished 4th in points at WVAK finals, losing to the two already mentioned teams and Live Oak. The boys team only lost one scoring athlete from WVAL finals however (Hector Ramirez who scored in both the 1600/3200) and should be much stronger this season with another hard years work in for an overall young team.

Here is the teams breakdown of points scored by event group last season: 

Event Group Average Points Per Dual Meet Points Available Per Meet Average Points as percentage of Available League Finals Points
Distance 20.16 38 74% 38
Hurdles 13.70 18 76% 16
Jumps 15 27 55% 1
Relays 4.28 10 43% 10
Sprints 10.41 27 38% 9
Throws 7.57 18 42% 2

Last season the teams strongest areas were distance and hurdles. If the team is to pursue a WVAL title, points in these areas will be even more essential. At WVAL finals the Comet distance boys scored a whopping 38 points. The only event group from any team to yield a higher point total were boys jumps from Independence, scoring 41. The team has the top 2 returning finishers in the 1600 last season in Azael Zamora and Nathan Bernardo. This duo coupled with rising star Erik Olsvold make the team a very formidable force this season, and I expect the distance team to score in excess of 50 points this season at WVAL finals. The distance team will be aiming not just for WVAL titles, but for sweeps. The proscenia of strong runners like Jesse Cruz form Overfelt, and Quinlan Daley from Del Mar, make victory alone far from a certainty, but the Comets have great ambition in distance this season. We’ll be aiming for all 27 distance points at most dual meets this season.

In hurdles, the Comets had top 4 finishes in WVAL from Hadji Yono-Cruz in  the 110h, and Gustavo Aguilera in the 300h.  Hadji will be focusing on jumps this season however, meaning that athletes like Gustavo and Jonathan Rodriguez will need to step up to fill the teams void.

The jumps team struggled at WVAL finals and this will be a focus for the team this season. In addition to Hadji, the team has a host of newcomers who look to be ready to help the team to greater heights this season. Coach Turner is hopeful that the team will have several boys go farther than 20 feet in the Long Jump fro the first time in years.

Sprints and Throws are also key to the team being able to run the table. While coach Vela’s throwers have been dominant the past few seasons, the boys team has lacked a top level athlete since Robert Rios graduated. Alex Alonzo figures to lead the team. His discus PR of 102-0 makes it so that this is the first season that coach Vela has a returning athlete over 100 feet in the discus. Josh Garcia was recovering from injury in his last track season, but managed to score for the team at WVAL finals in the Shot Put after only one month of work. He’ll figure to combine with Alex and Daniel medina to try to earn the critical throws points the boys will need this season.

In Coach Steve’s 2nd year working with the sprinters, we’re hoping for na explosion of ability. Top returners Jose Limon and Misael Herrera figure to lead the team. After placing 4th in the 400 and 6th in the 200 at WVAL finals as a freshmen, we’re hopeful Jose will be able to spearhead a much more developed sprint corp.

We’ll need every group to come together to replicate the success of the girls team last season, and to overcome some very daunting opponents.

Rival teams/athletes to watch

Independence: 

The reigning WVAL champion. Independence blew everyone out of the water last season in a dominating performance. They scored 160 points last season at WVAL finals. 2nd Place Yerba Buena scored 119, and we scored 76 points in 4th. When we faced them head to head last season, we lost 86-38. This added with what I’ve already said about the school, and their ability to pull new athletes from their student body, makes them a fearsome opponent. Last year senior Devin Ary competed despite not doing track in previous years, he placed 4th in the 100, 2nd in the triple jump and 1st in the long jump at WVAL finals.

The 76ers did lose some very strong athletes however. Ivan Godinez was one athlete the Comets couldn’t beat last season. With him gone, Indy’s best runners Isiah Tulio, a sub 5 miler in his own right. Nonetheless, all 21 distance points Independence scored at WVAL finals last season were Ivan’s. Devin Ary’s 23 points are also gone. As are Anthony Ho’s 20 points from winning both the 110h and 300h. With Anthony gone, hurdles will be a critical event. The Comets will badly need to take victories there against a still strong Independence hurdles crew.

Independence is a balanced team up and down. In short, I think this will be the most competitive dual meet of my career so far as a coach, and it will have a good chance of determining the 2017 WVAL champion.

Yerba Buena: 

To get to the Independence dual meet undefeated however, we’ll first have to go through Yerba Buena first. Yerba Buena was the WVAL boys champion 3 years in a row before Indy unseated them last year. We fell to them in a close dual meet, 69-58, last season. 11 Points may sound like a comfortable victory, but just a switch in the 4×400 from a YB to a JL victory would make the score 64-63.

Yerba Buena was strong in sprints and jumps as well, tallying up the 2nd most points at WVAL finals. They lost the best sprinter in the BVAL in Anthony Richard to graduation however, and this loss alone could tip the scaled in the Comets favor. They have the top returning 300 hurdler in the WVAL, and have strong returners in the jumps and 400 as well. A weakness in throws makes them a bit vulnerable. Their recent track record shows they can also dig up strong athletes from nowhere, and this early season dual meet (2nd of the season) will be a huge test for the Comets. It’s been at least 10 years since James Lick beat YB in a dual meet on the boys side.

Live Oak: Live Oak has a very strong group of throwers which helped them to 92 points at WVAL finals last season. In particular, Brendan White is the reigning Shot Put champion, and finished 3rd in discus last year as well. Our dual meet against them last season was a very slim 67-59 victory. In addition to a strong returning group of throwers, Live Oak usually has a strong group of sprinters as well. The reigning WVAL champion in the 400, Damien Vasquez, is a senior now.

A weakness in distance and horizontal jumps held the team back last year, but their strong sprint corp mean they could find then athletes they need in jumps at any points. Live Oak is another strong team to watch.

 

Gunderson: Last year we opened the season against the Grizzlies and won by only 1 point. Gunderson typically boasts strong sprinters, and they also have a solid group of distance runners and throwers as well. Jose Alvarez returns as the WVAL champion in the 800, a title the Comets hope to win from him this season.

A lack of hurdlers gives the Comets a good area of focus against when they face Gunderson. Gunderson tallied a slightly higher point total than the Comets at WVAL finals last season, and if the team is to climb form a 4th place finish at WVAL finals, to a 1st place finish this season, they’ll need to beat out teams like Gunderson.

Others: The biggest threats to the Comets dominance in the distance events come from Del Mar and Overfelt in the form of Quinlan Daley, Chris Solorzano and Jesse Cruz. For reference, the only 3 runners of any WVAL track schools to run under 17 minutes at BVAL finals in Cross Country were Erik, Nathan, and Azael for James Lick. Quinlan from Del Mar ran 17:04 and Jesse from Overfelt ran 17:14.

As competition approaches, the Comets are gearing up to make a run at these ambitious goals, with their minds focused on training.

The team will participate in its first meet of the year with many athletes heading to the Los Gatos All comers meet this Saturday (unless it gets rained out). Rain or shine the team will see its first official competion on March 4th at the Willow Glen invitational.

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves