Charli Chircop became just the 25th member of James Lick High School to make section finals with her performance at CCS trials last week. Charli qualified for CCS finals after throwing a new PR and school record of 109-at CCS trials. She entered the final ranked 12th, and competed well to place 10th at 104-7.
This means all 4 girls who competed at CCS this year, placed better than their ranking in every competition, a very positive trend that the team will look to continue in future seasons. A 10th place finish at CCS finals is a very impressive performance for Charli as a junior. She missed all but one week of her Sophomore season due to a knee injury. Her PR entering the season was 79 feet. Coach Vela’s tremendous coaching saw her improve 30 feet from a borderline to BVAL qualifier, to a CCS finals qualifier.
The season ends for the team on a strong note, and with the school year now over for James Lick, it is time for many of the team’s athletes to take a well deserved rest.
A full recap of the team’s season, as well as news about my new “East Side Running/Track Club” will be coming soon.
The BVAL At CCS
The CCS meet is special because of the fact that the best athletes from all 8 CCS track leagues come together to compete. That means strong athletes from schools as far south as King City HS of the MTAL clash with team’s as far north as Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. As a result, some of the best athletes in the entire State compete for victories at CCS finals.
The most impressive CCS performance from a BVAL athlete might have been from Maya Cook of Branham. Maya was a double CCS champion, winning the 100/200 and helped the Branham team to a 2nd place performance in the 4×100. The Bruins came in 2nd overall on the girl’s side, scoring 38.50 points to Mountain View’s 42 points.
Right behind Branham was Silver Creek at 38 points for 3rd as a team. They were lead by standout athletes Jazlynn Shearer and Arianna Fisher. Jazlynn won the girls 100 hurdles in 14. 69, and took 2nd in the triple jump at 39-0. Arianna won the triple jump in a very impressive jump of 40-7.
Jorge Estrella of Andrew Hill really emerged this season as the top distance runner in the BVAL. In XC, He, Zack Walker of Willow Glen, and Julian Adam of Westmont were frequently battling it out for victories. Estrella narrowly missed winning the CCS title in the 1600, running 4:14.76 and leading with only 80 meters to go before being run down by Alex Scales of Bellarmine. Jason Gomez of Westmont also narrowly lost a victory to scales, coming in 2nd in the 800 in 1:52.37 to Scales’ 1:52.34. Santa Teresa placed 6th on the boys side to be the highest placing BVAL team (and the #2 public school) at CCS finals.
The meet was a high quality display of many high quality athletes. As I said earlier, a full JL season recap will follow this post soon.
It was a very hot day at Gilroy High School on Saturday May 20th for the CCS (Central Coast Section) semifinals competition. The CCS is made up of 8 different leagues in track, with roughly 150 member schools. These days, qualification works in the following format:
Each of the 8 leagues has their own league championship which serves as a qualifying meet. Each league advances a certain number of athletes to CCS trials, these numbers are based on the size of the league. The BVAL is the largest league at 24 schools, so the top 8 athletes from BVAL finals advance to CCS. The WCAL (West Catholic Athletic league, containing teams like Bellarmine and Valley Christian) gets 6 CCS qualifications. The same goes for the SCVAL (teams like Los Gatos and Palo Alto). The smaller leagues like the SCCAL (Santa Cruz Athletic League) only get two CCS qualifiers.
Altogether, 32 athletes compete at CCS trials in each event. It is possible for an event to have more than 32, in the rare case that an athlete achieved the CCS qualifying mark/time in their event without achieving the necessary place at their league finals, though this is very rare. Some league are stronger than others even with the adjustments for population, so some CCS qualifications are stronger than others. In any case, hundreds and in some cases thousands of athletes in the CCS alone contest each event every season, and being one of the final 32 athletes competing at CCS trials is a tremendous honor.
According to my records, over the many years of James Lick track, the Comets have had 120 different CCS competitions from 69 different athletes. Several of the Comets this year deserve distinction however.
The meet began with the Girl’s Shot Put. Alejandra Ceron and Valeria Cortez both competed, the 5th and 6th James Lick Shot Put competitions at the section meet (the 2nd and 3rd on the girls side). Alejandra threw 34-2 and Valeria threw 32-11. This is the first time that two James Lick Shot Put throwers made CCS in the same year. Alejandra placed 18th and Valeria placed 23rd, solid mid-pack placings for both girls. They entered the meet ranked 19th and 25th respectively, so both out performed their rank slightly. In the field events and distance events, the top 12 athletes advance to CCS Finals on May 26th, while in the lane events, the top 8 do the same.
Valeria went from the Shot Put to the 100 hurdles. She competed very well here, placing 19th in 16.93, running into a headwind. Valeria’s PR of 16.75 would likely not have been wind legal if the WVD meet had a wind gauge. This is her 2nd ever sub 17 second clocking, and the fact that she ran it into a headwind is a very encouraging end to her season. She qualified in the event after not coming close to CCS last year. She was ranked 25th entering the meet, so her 19th place performance exceeded expectations.
Arlet competed in the 800 next, and many distance runners were wilting in the cloudless 90+ degree heat. Arlet competed very well however, running 2:29.06 to place 25th overall. She was ranked last in her heat and 29th overall, but immediately put herself in the middle of the pack, and beat several girls from her heat. The last 100 meters saw her very close to a PR and school record, but she struggled over the final stretch, a very impressive end to her season in my book considering how much time was spent battling injury this season.
The Girls discus was the final event for the team on the day. It has been the team’s best event all season. The team scored 62/63 possible dual meet points in the girls discus this West Valley season. They swept the WVD finals with a 1-2-3 performance, and added a 7th place scoring as well. They placed 3rd, 4th and 8th at BVAL finals to send 4 girls to CCS in the same event for the first time in school history. Very few teams can boast 3 athletes in a single event at CCS trials. Essentially 3 of the top 32 athletes out of over 600 CCS athletes this year, go to James Lick.
Alejandra Ceron managed a small PR of 95-11, placing 26th. Another good performance considering she entered ranked 30th. Valeria Cortez was the team’s lone CCS qualifier last year, placing 22nd in the girls discus with a throw of 99-5. She improved upon that performance, throwing 105-4 for 18th place. Valeria is the first Comet athlete in school history on either side to compete in 3 different individual events at the sectional meet. She placed 18th in the girls discus, 19th in the 100 hurdles and 23rd in the Shot Put, an asset to any team, Valeria is quite clearly our strongest overall athlete for her versatility.
The performance of the day came from Charli Chircop however. Entered at 18th after a PR of 106-0 last week, Charli began her competition poorly with a throw out of sector. Her 2nd throw was better, though still not near her best, landing around 83 feet. Her 3rd throw was fantastic, a toss of 108-8 to take the school record from Valeria by 4 inches. She improved on the record with her 4th and final throw of 109-4. Charli would need every inch of this throw as girls continued to compete. When all was said and done, Charli sat in 12th place with her 109-4 toss, the final qualification spot for CCS finals was hers. 13th place had a best throw of 109-3.
Charli has improved her discus PR by nearly 30 feet this system, a testament to Coach Vela and how much he has grown as a coach over the past 4 seasons as well.
Charli will compete next Friday at Gilroy HS at CCS Finals, the first Comet since Ruth Lebeau in 2008 (Ruth advanced to the State Meet in the triple jump that year). Charli will be the 26th Comet to compete at CCS finals and only the 4th girl to do so.
Very proud of her season.
A recap of her performance at CCS finals will follow soon.
If you have an interest in reading a general recap of the meet, citing particularly impressive performances from other schools at CCS finals, please comment indicating this. I’d be happy to do so, just not sure how interested you readers are in the general quality of the meet.
The James Lick Track team saw some 14 athletes get their first competition of the season at the Los Gatos All-Comers meet on February 25th. The team will open their official season next Saturday at the Willow Glen Invitational. This all comers meet was a good chance for the team to get their feet wet, and to get some early season competition in a low-key setting. Despite the peak of the season being two months away, the Comets saw some very strong performances.
The 4×100 team of Hadji Yono-Cruz, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Chris Okoro ran a 47.98. Last season, it took the team until mid April to run under 48 seconds for the sprint relay, so this early season start is encouraging. Based on this start, the Comets should work their way down to 46 seconds and perhaps even 45 seconds this season.No James Lick team has run under 46 seconds for the 4×100 since 2002.
The most impressive performer of the day for the team was Jose Limon. Jose joined Track with only 5 weeks left in the season last year, but proceeded to make BVAL champs as a freshmen in the 400m regardless. His strong work ethic has shown over the past few months, and paid dividends at the all-comers meet. Jose ran 11.97 for the 100m dash, smashing his PR of 12.31 and becoming only the 2nd Comet to officially break 12 for the 100m dash in the past 7 seasons. He followed this up with a strong showing in the 60m dash, running 7.47 and winning his heat in both races. We believe Jose’s future is in the 200/400 but this great improvement to his start and top speed will aid him greatly.
Hadji also ran a PR in the 100, notching a time of 12.45 compared to a previous best of 12.68. Hadji also long jumped 18-3, only 2 inches off his PR from a year ago, and scratched on a much bigger jump, showing that he is ready for a big breakthrough soon. Misael Herrera was less than a tenth of a second off his 100m dash PR and Chris Okoro is well ahead of his starting point from last season as well. This was a strong showing for the sprint group, despite the fact that many of the teams potential top sprinters were not attending the meet.
In the throws, the team got off to a very strong start as well. Valeria Cortez and Alejandra Ceron both threw in the high 20s in the Shot Put, and Daniel Medina threw 33-7 in the boys Shot Put. All 3 are well ahead of their early season meets a year ago. This is even more clear in the discus. Valeria ended last season with a school record of 99-9.50 after starting the season at 66 feet. She threw 97-1 at the all comers meet, indicating the Comets may have their first ever 100 foot discus girl within the week. Alejandra also threw her PR of 90 feet with an 84 foot toss. Daniel missed his PR by less than a foot throwing 92-8.
The team will be looking for girls throws to continue their dominance from last season, and for boys throws to step up to help overcome tough opponents like Yerba Buena and Independence.
The hurdlers at the meet also started off their season strong. Gustavo Aguilera ran 10.78 for the 65m hurdles, compared to a previous PR of 11.75, despite a very poor first hurdle. David Bejines ran 11.84 for his first ever hurdles race. This solid start shows that in a WVAL that was very weak in hurdles a year ago, David may be a very useful asset to the team. Valeria ran 11.30 for the 60 hurdles as well, the fastest time on record for the team in the event.
The distance team only had 4 members compete. Hugo Marquez ran 2:32 for the 800, just weeks after running 2:49 at the teams time trial. Hugo is building towards being a key future contributor to the distance team. Azael Zamora ran the 5000 and turned in a 17:34 performance. This is 16 seconds better than the time Azael ran at the end of last track season, meaning he is likely already in better shape than ever as well. Arlet Miranda turned in a similar performance, running 20:20 for the 5000, compared to a PR of 20:46 from the end of last season.
The official meets are just days away. Very soon these Comets will be joined by many others at the Willow Glen Invitational on March 4th, and then at San Jose High on March 8th for the first dual meet of the season.
The team will run a mini meet on Wednesday to practice dual meets and give a final test run to all athletes.
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.