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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Valeria Cortez won the 100 hurdle final by a wide margin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boys: 

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

Girls: 

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

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

Valeria Cortez: 33 points

Arlet Miranda: 20 points

Marquise Nelson: 16.5

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

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

Rodolf Ocampo: 16.5

Salvador Lopez: 11

Raven Alcantara: 10

Mark Orpia: 10

Jerricho Habon: 7.5

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

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Comets Fly High at Day 1 of Division Finals

Day 1 of ST (‘B’) Division finals kicked off on Thursday April 18th at Lincoln High School. The meet serves as the final determinant of standings in the division. Day 1 is trials in all lane events, with the top 8 athletes advancing to finals on Saturday. The top 8 athletes in each event score points for their teams in the following format:

1st place: 10 points

2nd place: 8 Points

3rd place: 6 points

4th place: 5 points

5th place: 4 points

6th place: 3 points

7th place: 2 points

8th place: 1 points.

The final point totals at division finals help solidify the standings for the regular season. In addition, the top 5 athletes in each final advance to BVAL Championships in 2 weeks (the CCS qualifying meet).

Most events were only trials on Thursday but the Comets did well in a few different finals.  The meet began with the pole vault for example. Mark Orpia managed a full foot PR of 10-6 to take 2nd place overall. Rodolf Ocampo was 3rd in 10-0 even. Last year, these two placed 4th and 5th with jumps of 8-6 and 8-0, to become the first vaulters from James Lick in a long time. Both have come along way, as both are now over the 10 foot barrier. Adrian DeLaRosa tied for 6th with a vault of 8-0.

The next event to take place was the boys high jump. Salvdor Lopez had an off day, only clearing 5-4 and tied for 6th, unfortunately out of the qualification for BVALS. Josh Merin tied with Sal in what was a PR for him, going 5-4 as well. Erik Olsvold went 5-2 in the event as well.

Meanwhile, the Girls discus was won by Valeria Cortez with a best of 111-11. This was the 2nd consecutive division championship in the girls discus for Valeria, and the 4th division championship of her career (she has two titles in the 100 hurdles). Valeria will certainly leave James Lick as one of the most decorated athletes in school history, with a shot at a 3rd consecutive division title in the girls 100 hurdles on Saturday.

Marquise Nelson was 2nd with the 2nd best throw of her career, 87-4. This 1-2 punch will advance to BVALs looking for even more. In the boys Shot Put, Nathan Rios managed 8th place with a huge PR of 34-0 (previous best 31-10).

The running events began with the girls 1600. Arlet Miranda placed 5th in 5:45, the 4th BVAL qualification of her career in the 1600. Ruth Rodriguez also ran, clocking in at 6:41, the 2nd best time of her career.

In the 100 hurdles, the Comets advanced two athletes to the final on Saturday. Valeria ran a seasons best 17.01 and enters the final as the #1 ranked athlete by a wide margin. Yesenia Martinez is ranked 5th entering the final with a time of 19.28.

On the boys side, the Comets also advanced two hurdlers to the final. Rodolf  ran a PR of 17.09 and is ranked 3rd entering the final. Josh managed a huge PR of 19.30 and is ranked 6th for the final on Saturday. Dekota Castro-Lopez also competed, running a PR of 21.70.

In the girls 400, Yeimili Adame ran a PR by more than a second, clocking in at 1:05.65 to place 2nd in her heat. Despite placing 2nd in her heat, Yeimili actually ran the 2nd best time of the day between the 3 heats. She will enter the final as the #4 seed because she did not win her heat, but figures to have a great shot at making BVALS. Estefani Herrera ran a PR of 1:17.34 in the event as well.

On the boys side, Misael Herrera made the 2nd division final of his career, placing 7th overall with the 2nd best time of his career (54.86). A big PR in the final could see him advance to BVAL Champs. He is ranked 7th entering the final. Angel Guerrero alos competed, running 59.56.

The 100m dash saw multiple false starts which hindered some of the times. Even so, Marquise managed a small PR of 14.19. Chantrea Thach ran the 2nd best time of her career as well (15.54). After missing the final narrowly last year, Raven Alcantara ran 11.81 to qualify for this one as the #6 seed). Geo Campos ran 12.10 to place 10th and Jordan Laguna also competed for the Comets.

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Raven Alcantara getting out in the 100m dash

The final field event of the day was the boys triple jump, where Raven, Jordan and Jamie Vong represented the team. Jamie and Jordan both scored points in the final, with Jamie taking 7th in 37-1 and Jordan taking 8th in 36-8.25.

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Jamie Vong on the final phase of his triple jump 

All 3 lady Comets in the 800 advanced to the final on Saturday and with strong performances to boot. Arlet took 2nd in her heat at 2:35, losing only to Hannah Gehrt, the #1 seed in the event. Arlet’s time was the 2nd best time on the day, so she enters the final as the #3 seed (since she was nota  heat winner). Mya Hammond ran a massive PR of 2:49.41 and is the #9 seed entering the final, putting her in a position to score. Mya’s previous best was 2:57, but her strong sprint times indicated she was ready for a big breakthrough in the 400/800. Ashley Preciado also advanced to the final running 2:51.62 for a seasons best, putting her ranked 11th for the final on Saturday.

Erik Olsvold ran the 800 knowing it would be the final race of his career since he will not be able to attend the final on Saturday. Erik went all-out , running a new PR of 2:05.90 in the event. It was by far the 2nd best time of the day, but unfortunately Erik’s distance season will end here. Jerricho Habon comfortably made the final, coasting to 7th overall in 2:13.47.

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Erik Olsvold in the 800 on his way to a PR

In the girls 300 hurdles, all 3 Comets made the finals. Valeria placed 4th overall in 54.41. Yeimili ran a new PR of 56.24 to place 5th and Arlet ran 56.64 for 6th. On the boys side, Rodolf and Mark head to the final ranked 3rd and 4th with PRS of 45.46 and 45.50.

In the girls 200, Mya ran a 2nd big PR of the day, running 29.89 for the event, the only Comet to break 30 seconds this season. Chantrea also ran a big PR, running under 33 seconds for the first time to clock in at 32.64. On the boys side, Raven made the final as the #8 seed with a new PR of 24.04. Misael matched his PR of 24.56 and Angel competed as well though he was not close to his PR.

The final event of the day was the final of the boys 3200. Two Comets scored points for the team. Melvin Estrada ran a seasons best 11:02 for 7th place and Brandon Cruz ran a PR of 11:07 for 8th.

The Majority of the finals will take place on Saturday, but with 4 finals finished on the girls side, and 5 finals finished on the boys side, here are the team scores so far:

Boys: 

  1. Pioneer 83 points
  2. Lincoln 29 points
  3. James Lick 27 points
  4. Prospect 24 points
  5. Sobrato 15 points
  6. Piedmont Hills 11 points
  7. Live Oak 6 Points
  8. Oak Grove 0 points

Girls: 

  1. Lincoln 25 Points
  2. James Lick 22 Points
  3. Pioneer 18 points
  4. Sobrato 20 points
  5. Oak Grove 15 Points
  6. Piedmont Hills 15 points
  7. Live Oak 6 points
  8. Prospect 6 points

 

If the current positions hold, the Comets are likely to move up in the standings on the girls side and Pioneer is in danger of losing their division title on the girls side are going 7-0 in the regular season.

The final day of Division finals will kick off at 11 AM on Saturday April 20th. Athletes who make BVALS champs will then have spring break to train hard for an even bigger meet.

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comets Suffer First Loss of Season at Pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-Benny Reeves

 

 

Comets Begin Season with Willow Glen Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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The frosh/soph girls before the race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jamie on his big PR jump 

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

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

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

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Valeria releasing the discus on her meet winning throw. 

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

IMG_6276
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

 

West Valley Division Finals Preview: Which Comets Can win Titles?

The regular season is over, and every track team in the CCS is rocketing towards their league championships. Our biggest Competitive goal as a team was to try to go a combined 14-0, and to win both West Valley division titles as a result. While division finals are still ahead, dual meets are weighted more heavily than finals in our league, making it unlikely we will win the boys title. The girls need only finish 2nd at WV finals next week to clinch their 2nd consecutive championship. The boys would not only need to finish 1st, but they would need Independence to finish 3rd or lower to win the title.

We are overall happy with the way that our boys competed this season however. Ending the WV season with a 1st place finish at West Valley Division finals would mean alot to the team on several counts. James Lick has been in the West Valley Division since 1997. In the 20 seasons since, at West Valley finals, the boys finished 1st in 2000, and the girls finished in 1st last year. Never have the Comets won the WV meet on both sides simultaneously. Pulling this feet off on the boys side would also be a small form of compensation for the loss against Indy earlier in the season.

Based on the rankings of the BVAL this season, this is how WV finals would shake out in terms of team scores if every athlete matches their season best:

Girls 

 

WVD Finals Simulation (Girls) 

Event Del Mar Gunderson Independence James Lick Live Oak Overfelt San Jose Yerba Buena Points Scored
4×100

6

2

5

1

8

3

4

10

39

1600

3

0

3

13

14

3

0

4

39

100 hurdles

0

0

3

14

0

11

0

11

39

400

9

0

1

0

4

0

23

2

39

100

8

0

2

0

8

0

17

4

39

800

0

0

0

12

5

4

15

3

39

300h

0

0

5

9

0

10

5

10

39

200

3

0

0

0

0

9

21

6

39

3200

0

0

3

10

16

1

0

9

39

4×400

6

1

4

5

8

3

10

2

39

High Jump

4

0

3

8

2

7

0

15

39

Long Jump

4

0

6

3

8

12

0

6

39

Triple Jump

0

0

3

10

13

3

0

10

39

Shot

6

0

3

23

0

6

0

1

39

Disc

13

0

2

24

0

0

0

0

39

 DM  G  IND  JL  LO  OV  SJ  YB

62

3

43

132

86

72

95

93

585

0

Boys 

WVD Finals Simulation (Boys) 

Event Del Mar Gunderson Independence James Lick Live Oak Overfelt San Jose Yerba Buena Points Scored
4×100

4

8

10

6

1

5

2

3

39

1600

9

0

3

24

0

3

0

0

39

110h

3

0

13

8

10

0

0

5

39

400

6

18

5

7

0

3

0

0

39

100

0

11

13

4

0

5

6

0

39

800

6

3

2

23

4

1

0

0

39

300h

2

0

14

14

5

0

0

4

39

200

0

12

12

1

0

8

6

0

39

3200

9

0

1

19

0

10

0

0

39

4×400

8

10

5

6

3

2

1

4

39

High Jump

12

0

8

9

0

4

0

6

39

Long Jump

0

0

25

2

0

0

0

12

39

Triple Jump

0

0

11

11

0

3

0

14

39

Shot

0

6

14

9

10

0

0

0

39

Disc

1

0

16

6

10

6

0

0

39

 DM  G  IND  JL  LO  OV  SJ  YB

60

68

152

149

43

50

15

48

585

0

0

The simulations do not take into account exactly what events athletes will do as the program is not yet completed, but it nonetheless provides a solid idea of what the meet may look like. The simulation has the girls team winning comfortably, lead on by the monumental 47 point performance by the lady throwers. They will in all likelihood come very close to scoring 50 points between the two trowing events at finals, and a 1-2-3 sweep in the discus is very achievable for the team.

The boys simulation indicates a two-team battle, with Independence at 152 points, and the Comets at 149. The meet should be a close battle on many fronts. On both sides, the Comets will look to do the best they can, and do what they’ve done well in all season.

The team finished 13-1, the best combined record on record for the team. A 7 point loss to Indy was a crushing blow to the team, but the season should be measured as a success for the dramatic improvement of the boys team.

There were 4 events on the boys side, and 2 events on the girls side, that the Comets won at every dual meet this season. That was not the case in any event last season. The boys never lost in the 300 hurdles, or in any of the 3 distance events. The girls never lost in either throwing event. In fact, opposing teams scored only 1 point against the Comets all season in the girls discus.

Last year, despite a first place finish on the girls side at WV finals, the team had only one individual champion, Alejandra Ceron in the girls discus. The team is aiming for at least 5 individual titles this season, and going undefeated in these 6 events sets the team up toa accomplish the goal.

The teams strongest event groups in order, as measured by percentage of available dual meet points are as follows.

  1. Girls Throws 96%
  2. Boys Distance 90%
  3. Boys Hurdles 84%
  4. Girls Hurdles 79%
  5. Boys Throws 71%
  6. Girls Jumps 66%
  7. Girls Distance 60%
  8. Boys Jumps 55%
  9. Boys Relays 50%
  10. Boys Sprints 48%
  11. Girls Relays 35%
  12. Girls Sprints 32%

The girls team went 7-0 in large part thanks to the consistent dominance of the girl throwers. The girls sprint team was a weakness for the squad this year. Grades hit the team hard, with the two top sprinters for the team being lost early. This coupled with a smaller girls team than in 2016, made the repeat undefeated season a huge accomplishment in it of itself.  The team also saw a number of improvements in different areas competitively.

Last year, the girls throwers were very strong, scoring 86% of dual meet points. That number jumped to 96% an extremely difficult number to hit in any division. The boys distance team had a dominant season as well, after taking 74% of points last year, they jumped to 90% this year. The most improved group was the boys throwers, who went fro 42% last season, to 71% this year. Boys sprints also saw a 10% jump despite the loss of top sprinter Jose Limon to start the season. Next year the boys sprint team should leap forward with a healthy Jose.

Another measure of team success is the individual point scorers list. The school has no record of dual meet points from the past. I have however kept track of points scored in the 4 years I’ve been coaching. The highest point total any Comet in those 4 years has accumulated, was the 114 points scored by Karan Singh in 2015. Valeria Cortez is poised to better that mark. Maria Mendoza, Arlet Miranda and Andrea Ortiz have all succeeded in scoring 100 points in a single season, but Valeria is the first Comet on record to score 100 points before West valley finals. She currently sits at 105 points, and is ranked to place 1st in discus, 2nd in Shot Put and the 100h, as well as 3rd in the 300 hurdles. That performance would give her a point total of 137 points, a mark which would be difficult to better.

IMG_2367
Ace Medina knocking the high jump bar down

 

Potential champs 

Girls Shot/Disc 

The team should be able to capture individual tiles in both girls throwing events. Alejandra Ceron is the favorite in the girls Shot Put. Her PR of 35-8.75 is more than 2 feet ahead of the #2 ranked girl. That girl happens to be Valeria Cortez. Valeria is ranked #1 in the discus throw at 106-2. Her nearest competitor is teammate Charli Chircop at 103-2. Alejandra is ranked 3rd at 93-5. Whatever Comet has the better day should capture the girls discus title.  

Girls 800 

Arlet Miranda narrowly missed winning the 800 last year as a freshmen. Arlet was battling neck and neck to the finish line with Lydia Ma of Independence before falling with 10 meters left n the race when her spike caught in the track. Arlet struggled with injury this season, but recent performances indicate she is ready to make a run at her PR, and a title in the event. Her primary competition figures to be San Jose’s best 800m runner Chloe, Roth. She beat Arlet on the line at the Firebird Relays in 2:35, a strong time. Chloe is a strong 400m runner, and Arlet will look to take her speed out of the equation by making the race a test of endurance.

Girls 100h

Valeria is currently ranked 1st in the WVD in the 100 hurdles. She recently ran a PR of 17.40, into the and headwind of our home track. Middle school teammate Chrizna Milanes of Overfelt has a better PR (16.80) but struggles with inconsistency. A perfect race by Valeria could see her upsetting the reigning champ on her home track.

Boys 300 hurdles 

Gustavo Aguilera and Cody Huoch were ranked 1 and 2 in the division for the 300 hurdles until very recently. Julio Santillan of Independence ran 44.25 at the CCS top 8 meet to take over the WV lead. When the 3 hurdlers went head to head in our dual meet, the race was thrilling. Cody won in 44.75, with Gustavo second in 44.76 and Julio 3rd in 44.79. The rematch at finals should be equally thrilling. The fact that the team didn’t lose this event once in dual meets will mean little if the Comets fail to come away with the title in the event. We think both boys are ready to run under 44 seconds in the event, though Julio may well be as well. It should be a very exciting race.

Boys 800 

This event is another undefeated one for the team this season. Nathan Bernardo has run 2:07 and Erik Olsvold has run 2:08 for the two fastest times in the division so far. There are threats in runners like Chris Solorzano from Del Mar who has run 2:08 as well, but I think both Nathan and Erik are ready to go 1-2 in the event, with some PRS as well.

Boys 1600 

Azael Zamora has the WVD leading time at 4:40.90. Erik is right behind him at 4:41.46 and Nathan is 3rd at 4:47. Chris from Del Mar, and Jesse Cruz from Overfelt should help make things interesting for the Comets, but I think Erik and Azael are both ready to go under 4:40 and I’m not sure any other boy in the division is. Azael should be very motivated having taken 2nd at least years 1600 final by only .01.

Boys 3200 

Erik and Azael are ranked 1st and 2nd though the wildcard in the race is Jesse from Overfelt. Last year, Jesse beat all Comets and ran the best WVD time of the season at BVAL champs, clocking 10:13. Jesse only began racing recently due to grade issues earlier in the season, but should figure to be the teams biggest challenge to winning the 3200 title.

Boys 4×400

At the beginning of the season, we were actively aiming for a title in this event as well. The loss of Jose Limon put a big hit on the teams title hopes, but an outside shot remains. Gunderson has two boys at 52 seconds in the open 400, no one else has a boy under 55. One team does have 3 boys at 55 seconds however and that is James Lick. Erik, Nathan and Gustavo have all run 55 seconds for the open 400. Misael Herrera has brought his PR down to 56.48. In the team can split their laps in the high 54-low 55 range, they should have a very good chance at taking down Gunderson (and hopefully cracking the 3:40 barrier).

The team will be aiming to score as many points, set as many PRs and send as many athletes to BVAL championships as possible.

The meet begins on Wednesday March 3rd at Overfelt with trials of all lane events. The day will also see finals of the girl High Jump, girls Triple Jump, girls Shot Put, Boys Discus, Boys Long Jump, Boys 3200 and Girls 1600. All other finals will take place on Friday.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for recaps of WVD finals!

-Benny Reeves

 

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

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

 

IMG_2349.JPG
Nathan Bernardo anchoring the 4×400 team after receiving the baton from Gustavo Aguilera. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

 

James Lick Cross Country 2016 Season Summary

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.

-Benny Reeves

What The Comets Overcome When They “Make CCS”

 

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The team running up the North Rim Trail in the rain 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other 6 leagues include:

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

The Southern Conference includes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

-Benny Reeves

 

Comets Have Historic Day at STAL #3

The Comets took to Montgomery Hill for their 3rd league meet of the season on Wednesday October 5th. This matchup was highly anticipated, as the first Montgomery meet of the season, as a matchup with STAL powerhouse Pioneer high school.

For a course history of Montgomery Hill, read here first: 

https://coachbennyreeves.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/jlxc-history-montgomery-hill-time-trial-recap/Th

Montgomery Hill is now the signature course of the BVAL and the Comets began racing on the course during the final years of the James Lick boy’s last great era. As such, the course holds immense significance for the ability to compare within the BVAL. After two weeks of hard work, the Comets were ready to show the benefits of their training.

The day got off to a bizarre start. Due to a mix-up, the Frosh/Soph boys were pointed in the wrong direction on the course in two separate areas. Every Frosh/Soph Boy ran the middle school course of 2.06 miles, instead of the high school 2.74 mile version. As every boy ran this version of the course, the places were allowed to stand as legitimate. Pioneer is the team to go through on the boys side in the STAL. Not only are they the 2014 and 2015 Varsity boys STAL champs, but their reserve and Frosh/Soph teams have already showed tremendous depth. At STAL 2, Pioneer had their top 5 Frosh/Soph boys in the top 11 overall, while the Comets #1 Frosh/Soph Boy was Mark in 22nd place.

The team was not able to defeat the Mustangs, but they did give them a much more difficult fight than anticipated. Pioneer boys took places 1-4 overall, but Comet runners Vincent Giglio, Mark Orpia, and Nien Tran came in 5th, 7th and 11th. Rudy Peterson and Jerricho Habon rounded out the team’s scoring 5. Melvin Estrada and Hugo Marquez rounded out the team overall.

The Varsity girl’s had no trouble going the correct way, and Arlet Miranda lead the group in 19:16, a huge PR and the 2nd best James Lick girls time in school history to finish 5th overall. After missing time to work on her grades, Maria Mendoza ran 21:50, a strong improvement on the 22:52 she ran at STAL 1. Daisy Nava ran a 20 second PR of 22:38 to be the team’s 3rd girl, though the absence of Milka Perez hurt the team overall. Denisse Calixto and Belen Sanchez rounded out the scoring in 24: 14 and 24:55 respectively, with Analilia Regla finishing in 25:05 a PR by more than 1:30. The team ran a team time of 112:53 (1:52:53) better than the 113:53 that they opened last season’s first Montgomery meet with. While the team is trending in the right direction, they too were unable to defeat the Pioneer Mustangs.

 

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Varsity Girls Left to Right: Arlet Miranda, Maria Mendoza, Belen Sanchez, Analilia Regla, Daisy Nava, Denisse Calixto

The Varsity Boys were next up on the ledger, but before detailing their race it’s important to contextualize this team’s drive.

No team has come to represent the rebirth of JLXCTF more than this group of athletes. I began coaching 4 years ago, and the varsity team of 2013 had very little running experience. While there were dedicated athletes like Karan Singh, Nathan Bernardo and Gustavo Aguilera, the team was a long way from being competitive within the BVAL, let alone the STAL specifically. Our best team that season at Montgomery hill was 94: 56 (1:34:56). A far cry from the school record of 81:48 (1:21:48) ran in 2003 by a team that went 7-0 in the MHAL (‘A’ division). Nathan ran 19:17 as a freshmen at Montgomery Hill, while Gustavo Aguilera ran 27:00. While their times were not even particularly impressive frosh/soph times, both boys showed an indomitable spirit and desire to improve themselves, that would help lay the foundation for the team culture we have now.

We were moved down to the WVAL after this season, in part because our rapidly improving girl’s team was listed as 0-7 on the league standings sheet, while their correct record should have been listed at 4-3. I remember Nathan asking after this if we could get back into the STAL if we ran fast enough, and more so, if we might potentially win a league championship one day. Myself, then fellow JLXC coach, John Quasarano,and the students on the team felt that we deserved to remain in the STAL. We set out with the goal of proving this, and I as a first year coach, was very determined to try to “outcoach” other coaches, and help my athletes develop at a faster rate than the athletes are larger, more financially advantaged schools.

In setting out to coach the best I could, I began to compile the all time list available on this site. Having a father who ran at James Lick, and having run at James Lick myself, lead me to understand the great tradition of JLXC. In compiling these lists however, I began to truly understand the depth and power of James Lick’s tradition in general, and our goal’s began to shift. We wanted a team that was inclusive of all athletes regardless of ability level. A place where anyone who wanted to run XC/Track, would be able to do so with the unmitigated support of their coaches and teammates. The positive attitude of athletes like Daniela Camacho, Brianna Flores, Mario Perez, and Oscar Sanchez helped ensure this was the case.

From a competitive standpoint, we wanted to eventually restore James Lick’s status as a powerhouse not just within the WVAL, not just within the BVAL,  but within the CCS. The reality is James Lick is not the same school that it was during much of it’s athletic glory days. The population is lower, the demographics have shifted, and the wallet’s are thinner. We are consistently one of the smallest school’s in the BVAL, currently 4th smallest, and the smallest of any team in the STAL for Cross country. We are consistently one of the poorest schools in the BVAL. Educational data from 2013/2014 showed that 80% of James Lick’s students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Only Overfelt had  a greater percentage of students from “low income” households. In comparison, STAL schools from the south side, Leigh, Branham and Pioneer have only 7%, 14% and 26% of students qualifying for the same program.

While this is not a direct factor on athletic or academic success, the ability to live comfortably affords one the ability to focus on tasks such as school and sports with greater rigor. This is exemplified by athletes like Maria Mendoza, who qualified for CCS last year as a junior, but is struggling to find time to practice between the fact that she is busy applying for college, taking care of school work, and working two jobs to help support her family.

James Lick’s rate of sending students to college is among the lowest in Santa Clara Country. Ultimately our goal in attempting to restore the program’s competitive success, was to demonstrate that Comets, and east-siders everywhere are capable of success regardless of the limitations set upon them. The idea was, if a small poor school from the East Side, could compete with the large rich schools of the West side, and do so with a class and sportsmanship that defied people’s assumptions about what the “kids from the hood” were like, we could in our small way, raise our school/community consciousness and work towards our fellow east siders achieving more than they thought they could. The Comets understand their status as societal and athletic underdogs, and the team is using this as chip on their shoulder, rather than as another reason to be discouraged.

These goals, however idealistic, were a long way from coming to fruition. 94:56 is a long way from 81:48. In the 2013 season when we ran our 94:56, we had only one boy run under 19 minutes. While Nathan’s 19:17 was a promising freshmen time, there was little indication that team would be competitive outside of the WVAL any time soon. There were 3 runners who ran under 16 minutes at Montgomery from the STAL when the Comets ran 94:56,and all 3 had been running under 16 since their freshmen year. For the team to begin to approach it’s long term goals, athletes like Nathan would have to wok very hard to move the program forward each year. The 2014 WVAL Championship by the girls had the team moving back to the STAL for the 2015 season, a year removed from when the Varsity boys were only a 94 minute team. While Nathan and Gustavo remained from freshmen year, they’d been joined by fellow distance runners along the way, all buying into the cause that we have been toiling towards for the last four years.

In those four years, the team has come along way towards their goals, and it showed in the matchup with Pioneer. Nathan Bernardo lead the team with a PR of 15:52, tied for the 2nd best time in school history on the course, placing second overall, narrowly holding off Pioneer’s fastest runner. Erik Olsvold was close behind at 15:57, becoming just the 4th Comet in school history to break the 16 minute barrier at Montgomery Hill, just seconds after Nathan became the 3rd. Azael Zamora placed 7th overall in 16:26, an off race by his standards. Inteus Castro-Lopez, 16:40, Gustavo Aguilera, 16:53 and Gustavo Parra, 16:57 came in 9th, 11th and 12th respectively to round out the team. The Comets had all 6 of their runners in before Pioneer had their 3rd. The dominant team showing yielded a team time of exactly 81:48, tying the school record in the highly symbolic victory over a strong Pioneer team. The Varsity boys move to 5-0 with this victory, and take another step towards winning the STAL championship. This would be only the 8th James Lick league championship in any sport since the year 2000, and the first championship not to come from the ‘C’ league.

The girls JV race, as well as the reserve races followed up the Varsity Boys with some strong performances as well. Camilla Hernandez continues to flash strong potential, running 25:19 on her first try on the course, a very promising young time. Heck, that’s faster than Gustavo A’s first try as a freshmen and he ran 16:53 today! Susie Peterson and Aliana Santos were not far behind, running solid JV times. Valerie Flores narowly dipped under the 30 minuter barrier for the course, running 29:53. Diana Romero ran 30:28 a huge PR from her 31:51 a year ago. Ashley Preciado also continues to develop, running 30:59 better than her previous league race best of 33:04 just 2 weeks ago. Brittany Salazar and Ally Floreza ended the girl’s race with league race bests as well, running 32:42 and 34:15 respectively.

The reserve boys have been a source of strength for the team in the past decade, and are beginning to round  into form as well. David Bejines placed 3rd overall in 19:32, a minute faster than his 20:33 STAL previous best. Isaak Herrera and Austin Swank ran 20:49 and 20:50, very strong times for the first Montgomery meet of the season. Manuel Villalobos ran 21:52 a league race best by more than 2 minutes. Daniel Portillo ran a league race best as well, finishing in 23:39 while Kevin Bach finished in 23:45 to finish the Comets day.

With 3 league races in the books, the Comets will finish up the STAL season with meets at Montgomery Hill both of the next two Thursdays, and will head to Crystal Springs this Saturday for their final invitational of the season. Crystal Springs will allow the team to compare themselves against many of the best teams in the CCS.

Thank you for reading, especially if you hung in there while I got all sociological.

-Benny Reeves

 

 

A Brief History of James Lick Track

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Daniela Camacho, James Lick School Record Holder in the 800, 1600 and 3200  (Left) Now Competing For De Anza college. Arlet Miranda, Freshmen and heir apparent to Daniela’s records (right).

 

With only one dual meet remaining in the season before the team heads to WVAL finals, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the rich history of James Lick Track in order to better contextualize the success of this years team.

James Lick began competing in Track and Field very soon after it was founded in 1950. The low number of schools in the area helped ensure James Lick was abundant in talent. By 1954 the team was winning league championships in Cross Country in the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) and producing great athletes in Track and field. This was before the BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) or the CCS (Central Coast Section) were in existence.

The team produced multiple championships, with athletes like Ray Russ in the 880 yard run (804 meters) and Henry Aguilar in the 120 (109 meters) yard hurdles winning not just the SCVAL, but the entire NCS (North Coast Section) title in their events. Records of times and marks throughout much of James Lick’s history are scarce, making the All Time lists I have complied only mostly completed. In order to compare the athletes of JL history to the athletes of today, all marks achieved in yard events have been converted to their metric-event equivalents. Ray Russ’ 880 time of 1:55.7 for example converts to a 1:55.24 800 time which still stands as the 3rd best time on record in school history. Henry Aguilar’s 14.90 converted 110 hurdle time is still the school record.

The CCS was formed in 1965, the same year that James Lick and several other schools formed the MHAL (Mount Hamilton Athletic League). During the 60s and 70s James Lick demonstrated incredible depth, with several of James Lick’s best ever marks achieved during this era. Dave Pike’s long jump record of 22-6.50, Dan Lloyd’s school record 59-9.50 Shot Put throw, and James McGhee’s school record 159-9 Discus throw were set during these years.

As more and more schools popped up around San Jose, the STAL (Santa Teresa Athletic League) and the WVAL (West Valley Athletic League) were formed. At this time the leagues were purely geographical, with the MHAL being the east side league, the STAL the south league, and the WVAL the western league. The foundation of more schools nearby James Lick, such as Independence and Piedmont , began to make a dent in James Lick’s Track and Field depth, as more and more students piled into other schools. Even so, the best athletes of James Lick in the late 70s and 80s were phenomenal, and 1975 marked the start of girls competition in the MHAL.

The 3200 school record of 9:26 (converted from a 2 mile time) set by Joe Salazar, and Peter Moreno’s outstanding 50-1 Triple jump were both set in 1976. The CCS has existed now over 50 years and with hundreds of athletes contesting the triple jump every year, Moreno’s mark still stands as the 3rd best in CCS history. The mid and late 80s saw two more JL greats. School record holder and double CCS champion Henry Barba ran 10.69 for the 100, and 21.57 for the 200 in 1985. Joe Amendt won 4 straight MHAL titles over 800 meters, from 1985 to 1988, eventually running a time of 1:50.75 for a school record and still 4th best time in CCS history. Joe also ran what stands as the converted school 1600 record of 4:18.49. By the early 1990s however, as James Lick began to suffer academically, more and more students chose Private schools or other local choices. This severely weakened the strength of the Cross Country and Track Teams, with much of James Lick’s would be talent turning elsewhere.

The early years of girls competition in the 70s and 80s had some strong marks, but the girls team never achieved the success of their male counterparts. A few years after girls were allowed to compete, the team produced very little athlete turnout on the girls side. Kathy Shelby’s school record 34 foot Shot put throw and Joan Jacobs school sprint records of 12.26 and 25.44 (again converted from yard events) were set in these early years. Again it should be noted that records were not well kept in this time, so records are based on what I could verify.

In the very late 1980s and 1990s, as James Lick declined, more and more schools opened around San Jose. As the CCS grew, and sought more organization, leagues began to experiment with Power league structures, where teams would move up or down between leagues of varied competition level based on ability.

In 1996 the BVAl was formed, with the MHAL, STAL, and WVAL coming together to form the biggest “Super League” in the CCS, with 24 total teams.  The MHAL served as the ‘A’ league, the STAL the ‘B’ League and the WVAL the ‘C’ League. While some great marks were set in the 90s, including a school record in the 100 hurdles by Jamalia English of 15.51, James Lick was getting weaker by the year as more and more students flocked to schools that were performing better academically.

James Lick Track was immediately placed in the WVAL (C League) in 1996, and has been there ever since, along with most of the school’s sports. By this time, James Lick was not competitive in Track and Field at all anymore, with a few standout athletes not being able to help the team finish better than last place on the girls side, and 6th on the boys side in the weakest league of the BVAL in it’s first ever year.

In short, James Lick Track has struggled in the entire BVAL era (1996 on). The girls history, having never been strong as a team, saw several record breaking performances in the 2000s despite team struggles. These included a school record in the girls Discus by Ward in 2002 of 96-6 and outstanding girls Jumps records by Ruth Lebeau, 17-5.50 for long jump and 37-5 for Triple jump.

In 2009 The Track team was on the verge of folding with only 12 athletes on the entire team between boys and girls combined. Coach turnover was high, with soccer coach Ray Iniguez, school teacher Ms. Everet, and off campus coach Juan Trejo all stepping in to ensure the team at the very least existed. Over the course of 5 seasons from 2009-2013 the team did not win a single meet, going a combined 0-70 during this span.

In 2013 I came on as the Head Coach for Cross Country (along with Coach John Quasarano) and Track, having graduated from James Lick in 2011. It is a testament of the extent to which Track was not emphasized at James Lick in the early 2000s that I ran Cross Country all four years without ever participating in Track until college. I hoped dearly that we could gradually improve the fortunes of the team, and perhaps in a few years have a winning record. I was thrilled in my first season to be joined by throws Coach Jon Vela, who shared my ambitions for the team and obsession with fostering improvement.

What myself and Coach Vela, along with Coaches Juan Trejo and Ricardo Flores experienced was a student body which has blown away all expectations put on them. Despite the reputation James Lick has amassed in some circles regarded as an “at risk” school full of gang bangers or delinquents, the team has overcome the struggles of much of the BVAL era. As fall coaches (Vela coaching football), myself and Coach Vela are able to put a greater emphasis on recruiting athletes from within James Lick’s student body to come out and try Track and Field and this was the first step to success. The team of 2014 grew from 12 total athletes to 25. With this increase came the end to the team’s long losing streaks, and an encouraging breath of air along with it. The graduating class of 2015 was a truly special group of athletes. Team members such as Daniela Camacho, Paloma Contreras, Mario Perez, Karan Singh, Brianna Flores, and Robert Rios were instrumental in recruiting many of their friends and teammates from other sports to Track and,  with it came far greater success.

Prior to 2015, myself, Coach Vela and Coach Q discussed the teams prospects. Our number one priority is always that every athlete improves as much as possible, but we also set the goal of finishing with a winning record on both sides for a combined winning record. At the time this was a very ambitious goal, having gone just 1-6 on both sides the year before, with the last winning record on other side being the 4-3 record of the boys in 2002. In fact, in the entire BVAL era, from 1996 to 2014 the Lady Comets Track team had NEVER had a winning record even once. The best combined record was the 7-7 team of 2001, when the boys went 5-2 and the girls 2-5.

The Team collectively demonstrated that they were ready to change that. the team of 2015 finished a combined 10-4, with the Varsity girls achieving the first winning record on record in school history (1975-2015) and definitely the first winning record in the BVAl era.  The rapid turn around of the program speaks to the very hard working group of student athletes on the Comet Track team. James Lick still has limitations. We are still considered academically “at risk” we are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, but despite these limitations, the Track Team’s size spiked from 25 athletes in 2014, to 44 athletes in 2015.

The great 2015 JLTf renaissance boasted the school’s best girls team in the BVAL era and likely the best one in school history. Daniela set school records in all three distance events, and Andrea Ortiz set the school record in the 300 hurdles. The most commendable thing about the group of athletes who have turned JLTF around however isn’t the way that they compete, but the way they cohere. At WVAL finals last year, I had the immense pleasure of being told by multiple coaches that the James Lick Track team stood out for their remarkably welcoming and supportive treatment of their teammates and opponents. The Sportsmanship demonstrated by the team shows that the group of athletes we currently have aren’t weighed down by the perceptions of outsiders, or the limitations placed upon them.

Another measure of the 2015 team’s success was the number of athletes sent to BVAL Championships. This is a meet contested by all 3 of the BVALS leagues, with the top 4 athletes at WVAL Finals, the top 5 athletes at STAL Finals and the top 7 athletes at MHAL finals qualifying for the meet. For much of the 2000s, only a handful of athletes from JL would attend BVAL champs, with the highest number of the 2000s being 5 individual athletes in 2003. In 2015 however the team sent 9 individuals and 3 relay teams for a total of 16 athletes at BVAL champs.

The foundations set by the team of 2015 have set the team on the course for success for years to come. When a program is truly successful, it’ll have special years with special graduating classes, but it will continue to be successful even when it loses strong athletes because it has a system that works and a tradition of success. This is illustrated by many of the strong teams around the CCS such as Los Gatos, Lynbrook and local powerhouse Mt. Pleasant. The James Lick Track team is not yet a CCS power, nor  a BVAL power, but only a few years ago it was the weakest team in the WVAL, and it is now arguably the best.

The team of 2015 was unquestionably the best team of the BVAL era (effectively the modern era or JLTF) with it’s 10-4 combined record. Despite the loss of the Top 3 Point scorers on the boys side, and the loss of school record holders and League champions on the girls side, the 2016 team has already improved upon the 2015 season standing at 11-1 with a highly anticipated dual vs YB remaining.

With the girls team at 6-0, they are on the verge of the first league championship in school history. This is amazing even in the C league when one considers that only 2 years ago the team had never even had a winning season in the BVAL era. The addition of experienced coach Steve Nichols in Sprints and Jumps has been huge in maintaining the team’s growth.

The team will need to throw down their best performances to defeat the also undefeated Yerba Buena warriors on their home turf, but the heart and determination the 2016 Track team has shown time and time again will surely serve them well. I count myself as extremely lucky for having a group of student athletes so determined to better the reputation and standing of their school.

On behalf of my coaching staff Thank you for your support of the James Lick Track Team and stay tuned for Final Dual Meet recap and WVAL finals preview coming soon.

All time list:

http://www.xcstats.com/track_all_time.php?school_id=1097

More can be found under Track History:

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