5 Comets competed at CCS Trials on Saturday May 19th at Gilroy High School. CCS Trials sees the 32 best athletes from the CCS, competing for spots at CCS Finals. Only 8 athletes advance to finals in lane events, and 12 advance to finals in field events.
For the 2nd year in a row, Charli Chircop advanced to CCS Finals in the girls discus. Her best throw was 107-6, which earned her entrance into CCS Finals as the 12th and final qualifier in the event. Valeria Cortez competed in the girls discus as well, placing 19th with a throw of 103-2.
In the girls Shot Put, Alejandra Ceron placed 20th with a throw of 33-3. With that final competition completed, Alejandra’s career at James Lick is over. She leaves the school with much to be proud of, namely the school record in the Shot Put, a mark of 35-8.75.
Natalie Rem placed 25th in the girls triple jump with a best of 32-10. Natalie was the 3rd best freshmen girl at CCS Trials and in fact, of the 24 girls to beat her, 12 were seniors. Natalie is poised to do big things for the Comets for years to come.
The career of Cody Huoch ended with a 20th place finish at CCS in the 300 hurdles. Cody ran 42.84. Cody had an exceptional career for James Lick especially considering he did not join track until his junior year. Cody ends his career as the #3 300 hurdler in school history and the only one on record to compete at CCS.
Alejandra will be competing for De Anza college in track and field next season while Cody will compete at San Jose City College.
Charli gets one final competition at CCS Finals on May 25th.
In 2014, I came on alongside a few other JL coaches to become the head coach of the James Lick track team. Early into the season, I was introduced to coach Jonathan Vela, an alumni of Prospect HS and Fresno State, who had been working as a coach for the JV football team. He offered to work with the throwers on the team, and after speaking with him, I was very eager to have him join our staff. At the time, I was only a 20 year old coach, one of many coaches brought into to fill the coaching void at JL, utterly obsessed with building the program, and helping JL succeed as a school. I knew very little about what building the program would entail, but I knew for certain that it would require coaches who could build the right team culture, and train athletes to the best of their abilities.
For this reason, I was very excited to gain a coach in throws, the area I myself was least confident in coaching. In a short time watching Coach Vela’s results, I knew that we had a legitimate throws coach. I could not have known then, that we had just added a coach who would transform our throws program completely, (especially on the girls side). The CCS has over 150 member schools. Many of those schools have outstanding throws coaches, but only one has 3 different girls throwers who qualified for the CCS top 8 meet this year.
Valeria Cortez and Charli Chircop both qualified for the prestigious meet in the Discus, and Alejandra Ceron qualified in the Shot Put. The CCS Top 8 meet has been contested for decades, and these three are the first lady Comets on record to compete in throwing events at the meet.
Valeria and Charli both thew decent marks, though not close to their PRs. Valeria threw the disc 96-11, and Charli threw 94-1. The big result for the team came in the girls Shot Put. Alejandra had been the last girl admitted into the meet at 33-4, ranked 20th/20 girls. Her very first throw of the meet went for a massive PR of 35-8.75, establishing a school record and helping her to a 6th place finish. This makes her the first Comet to score at the Top 8 meet since Joe Amendt in 1988. In fact, Alejandra is the first female Comet to score at the Top 8 meet in school history. The accomplishment puts her in elite company, the only Comets ever to score at the CCS top 8 meet are Henry Barba, Joe Amendt, and now Alejandra Ceron. Henry and Joe both were double champions of the Top 8 meet, Henry in 100/200 and Joe in the 800/1600 but we’ll happily take the 6th place performance from Alejandra!
Alejandra’s mark is just the latest in a very impressive progression under the tutelage of coach Vela. The story of the girls track team is similar to the story of the girls XC team. Many of JL’s greatest achievements on the boys side came in the first 25 years of the school’s participation in track (1950-1975). This includes the school records in boys Shot Put and boys discus.
Dan Lloyd holds the Shot Put school record with a toss of 59-9 in 1972, a few years later a Comet named Webster threw 56-0.5, and Bill Pabst threw 51-0.5 in 1969. These 3 marks stand as the best Shot Put marks in school history by quite a margin. For reference, the CCS Top 8 meet was won this year with a toss of 51-0.25 by Mountain View’s Owen Mountford.
The top 2 discus marks in school history belong to James McGhee 159-9, and Bill Pabst 149-7, both achieved in 1969. (As always, these records are based on my research of results and communication with former JL coaches and athletes, if you have any more information about past teams, please feel free to contact me).
So while the best boys marks in school history were set in the 60s and 70s, girls were not even allowed to compete until the mid 70s. Even so, Kathy Shelby’s Shot Put school record of 34-0 was set in 1975. A few years later a Comet named Dwyer threw 89-5 in the discus to set a school record that stood until 2002. A Comet named Ward threw 96-6 that year, a standout mark in an era of overall weak teams for the Comets.
Before 2013, one Comet girl had thrown above 90 feet in discus, and one Comet girl had thrown over 32 feet in the Shot Put. In 2014, coach Vela helped Robert Rios to a massive improvement in the boys Shot Put, from 35-10 the year before, to a WVAL title in 40-3. The next year Robert threw 43-2 to win the WVAL title again, and move into 8th on the school’s all time Shot Put list.
While the boys are not throwing close to the marks of JL’s glory days in throws, the Comets of today under Vela are building up year by year, in pursuit of excellence. This is the first year that Coach Vela has had 3 boys over 100 feet in the discus for example. Given the team’s steady improvement, the team could be a force in years to come, the way that girls throwers already are.
In that 2015 season, we had two very talented freshmen join the team in Alejandra and Charli. They both showed great ability, throwing the Shot Put in the 23 foot range,and the discus in the high 50s, with essentially no prior training. By the end of that season, Alejandra threw 29-6 for Shot Put and 75-8 for Discus, while Charli threw 27-11 and 76-2. Alejandra qualified for BVAL championships as a freshmen. Charli lost most of her Sophomore year to injury, but did throw PRS of 29-1 and 79-4. Alejandra progressed to 31-9.5 in Shot Put which put her #2 on the all time list, and gave her and Coach Vela the firm goal of trying to break the school record of 34 feet. Alejandra also threw 90-10 in the girls discus to become the 2nd lady Comet to throw 90 feet in school history.
2016 saw the addition of Valeria Cortez, just to add to the riches of Vela’s dynamic duo. Valeria was as good in Shot Put as Alejandra and Charli were when they were freshmen, but better in discus. At her first HS meet she threw 25- 5 in the Shot Put and 65-10 in the discus. By the end of the season Valeria would beat both Alejandra and Charli’s freshmen marks, throwing 31-1 in the Shot Put (#5 all time at the time) and at BVAL Championships, threw a school record 99- 9.5 to make CCS trials.
The girls have reached even greater heights this season. Alejandra opened the season with a toss of 32-3 for a new PR. Charli opened her season by breaking the 80 foot barrier, and 90 foot barrier in discus with a throw of 95-11, followed by a cracking of the 30 foot barrier in the Shot Put. This years team is the first JL team ever to have 3 girls above 90 feet in discus, and 3 girls above 30 feet in the Shot Put.
A few weeks into the season, Valeria threw over 100 feet to extend her school record. The record was then taken by Charli when she threw 103-2, and then taken back by Valeria’s recent toss of 106-2. Charli and Valeria threw 32-7 and 32-5 in the Shot Put around the same time that Alejandra threw 33-4 to move ever closer to her coveted school record.
The top 8 meet would be the venue for the achievement, her mark of 35-8.75 a PR by over 2 feet. Alejandra is now ranked #2 across the entire BVAL, and should be a lock to make CCS Trials. She is also now ranked 8th in the CCS as a whole. A top 12 performance at CCS trials would advance her to CCS finals, which no Comet has qualified for since Ruth Lebeau in 2008. Valeria and Charli are currently ranked 3rd and 4th in the BVAL in the discus, putting them in an excellent position to make CCS trials as well.
The throws team is in great hands under Coach Vela and the fruits of the teams labor are paying off in this regard. With the girls 6-0 on the season, it’s been clear that James Lick is the best girls throws team in the WVAL, but it may be the very best girls throws team in the entire BVAL at this point.
The team’s three-headed monster in throws will lead the team against Del Mar next week, as the team will try to cinch it’s second consecutive undefeated season.
The team will then begin its championship season with WVAL finals. The girls will be pursuing a 1st place finish to hopefully clinch a 2nd West Valley Division championship in a row. The boys will be hard pressed to win their own title, (Independence will clinch the boys title with 2nd place at WVAL finals) but they will attempt to beat Del Mar and earn a 6-1 record, and then will try to place 1st at WVAL finals regardless of final standing.
As we look ahead at 2017, I thought those of you who read this blog might be interested in a little background about the current coaching staff of James Lick Track.
A little background:
As discussed at length, we are very much trying to build our program to the heights of JLTFs great programs of the past, and beyond. The earlier James Lick coaches such as Keith Antes, Carlos Saldivar, and George Carty, produced very successful athletes over their decades of coaching at James Lick.
Today we use their success as both an inspiration, and a bar to measure ourselves against. James Lick’s academics and athletics have fallen considerably from the school’s heyday, but I for one believe with enough dedication we can restore the school to its former glory, and give the east side a greater sense of pride in their local schools in general.
This is basically the 4th year that this staff has been in place with myself as the head coach since 2014. Coach Jonathan Vela came on in the same season to work with the throwers. We also had coach Juan Trejo and Ricardo Flores on that staff, working largely with the boys team. In this first year, I coached only the girls in all non throwing events.
In 2015, our staff consisted of Coach Vela in boys and girls throws, and myself in boys and girls everything else with the help of coach John Quasarano (now the head XC coach at Roberto Cruz Leadership Academy).
In 2016, Coach Steven Nichols replaced John Quasarano, and handled sprints, horizontal jumps, and hurdles for the team. This year we have added coach Christopher Turner to our staff, and he will be coaching horizontal jumps and working with Coach Steve who’ll focus on sprints and relays going forward.
Without further ado, in order of juniority:
Coach Christopher Turner Horizontal Jumps :
This is Coach Turner’s first year coaching track for the Comets. It is his 5th year coaching Track and Field, and his most recent experience was as the head coach of Yuma HS in Arizona. He competed collegiately at Binghamton university, competing in the 400 and the horizontal jumps.
He sites his proudest achievement as coaching several athletes to the Arizona State Meet. Notably, he coached two separate athletes to 3rd place finishes in horizontal jumps at the State Meet.
David Stiles long jumped 21-10 as a senior at the State meet for Coach Turner, a huge improvement on a PR of 19-1 from his junior year. On the girls side, he coached Michelle Watson from a 32 foot triple jump best as a junior, to a 35 foot triple jump best as a senior.
Coach Turner’s jumps experience is something we’re very excited to add to our staff. Boys jumps managed only 1 point at WVAL finals in 2016, and we’ll need big improvement in that area if we are to achieve our goal of a WVAL title.
Coach Steven Nichols Sprints/Relays:
This is Coach Steve’s 2nd year coaching track for the Comets. Steve competed from Homestead High School in Cupertino, and graduated in 2002. He then competed at De Anza college, focusing on the 100/200 as well as long jump and relays.
Steve has been coaching sprints for 10 years now, and has experience coaching at some of the top schools in the area, most recently Adrian Wilcox High School.
In Steve’s first year coaching sprints for the Comets, we had a very young sprints team that accomplished a lot despite their inexperience. With any program, it takes time to build top level competitive athletes, but the team as a whole took a big step forward. 9 boys ran under 13 seconds for the 100m dash in Steve’s first year, nearly doubling the amount of boys who accomplished in the previous year. The same went for the 60 second barrier in the 400, 9 athletes cracked that number compared to only 5 in 2015.
The girls team also ran the 2nd best 4×100 time in school history, and earned a 2nd place finish at WVAL finals, their best finish in over a decade. Coach Steve has expressed enthusiasm in the potential of Sophomore Jose Limon, who ran 24.22 for the 200, and 55.28 for the 400 last season, despite not joining Track until April.
I feel confident that our sprints are well attended to thanks to Coach Steve.
Coach Jonathan VelaThrows :
This is Coach Velas 4th season coaching track for the Comets and he is also the Head coach of the JV football team. Coach Vela graduated from Prospect High School and competed at Fresno State in both football and Track after that.
In the 35+ years of league finals records I’ve assembled prior to Coach Vela’s arrival, the Comets had only 2 league or division titles in throws, both in the Shot Put.
Coach Vela however, has coached a WVAL champion in each of his first 3 seasons coaching, including the first throws champion in school history on the girls side.
Robert Rios won back to back Shot Put titles for the boys in 2014 and 2015, throwing 43-2 which currently stands as the 8th best boys Shot Put mark on record for the team. He qualified for CCS trials in the Shot Put in 2015 as well. In 2016, Alejandra Ceron won the WVAL title in the girls discus, with teammate Valeria Cortez finishing 2nd. Then at BVAL championships, Valeria threw 99-9.50 to qualify for CCS trials and establish a new school record in the girls discus.
While the boys history is very rich for the Comets despite the huge amount of missing data, the girls records are far less high quality. Coach Vela has already greatly improved the Comets throws achievements list in just 3 seasons. Girl athletes coached by coach Vela hold 3 of the Top 10 spots on both of James Lick’s all time throws list. This includes namely Valiera’s school record in the girls discus and Alejandra Ceron’s #2 Shot Put placing of 31-9.
Girls throws was the teams strongest area last year and very well may be again. In order to achieve this years goal of a double WVAL championship, the team will be leaning heavily on their girl throwers, and looking to the boys throwers to step up and provide a good chunk of points for the team. Coach Vela’s leadership will be huge towards this goal.
Coach Benny Reeves Distance/Hurdles/High Jump
I ran 4 years of cross country at James Lick and graduated in 2011. I then went on to run 2 years at De Anza College. I competed in a variety of distances and even ran a few 4x400s legs for the team, but my primary event was the 3000m steeplechase.
I’ve long been a student of distance running and this is my area of speciality, though I did work with the hurdlers several times a week as Steeple work.
I am the first coach in quite a few years to head both the XC team and track team at James Lick, and I think this year long consistency has gone a long way towards building the distance program.
I’m proud of a lot of the different strides forward that the distance team has taken since I’ve been here. Daniela Camacho breaking the school record in all 3 distance events in 2015 made for a standout season. I’m also very proud of the increased depth of the distance team. From 2004-2013, the 10 seasons before I came on as coach, only 5 Comet boys broke the 5 minute barrier in the 1600. Past Comet teams have had such strength that breaking 5 minutes would not even qualify you for the teams top 3 Frosh/Soph boys.
In 2014, I did not coach boys distance, and in all honesty the fact that James Lick’s fastest distance times at WVAL finals that season were 5:30 in the 1600 and 12:08 in the 3200 frustrated me immensely.
In 2016, we had 5 different boys run under 5 minutes for the 1600, and 4 run under 11 minutes for the 3200. The James Lick teams of the past continue inspire myself and my distance runners, and we continue to work towards emulating their success every season. This season we are aiming for the goal of having 3 different Comet boys under 4:40 for the 1600, a feat which would have been a solid accomplishment during virtually any James Lick track era.
Coming off a STAL championship and 2nd place finish at BVAL Finals in cross country, I expect the boys distance team to carry the team as much as possible towards our goal of a WVAL title. At many duals, we will be aiming to take home all 27 available points in distance events, to make up for some of our developing areas.
In hurdles the team has made improvements each year, and we do well in the event at dual meets because half of the WVAL teams have no hurdles coach. Replacing the void left by Andrea Ortiz will be huge to repeating as WVAL champions on the girls side.
On the boys side, hurdles will likely be a critical event in the struggle to claw a WVAL title away from reigning champion Independence HS, a team that dominated in hurdles last year thanks to standout senior Anthony Ho.
This is year 4 of our program building for track. In the 5 years previous to myself and coach Vela coming on as coaches, the team went a combined 0-69-1. In the 3 years since we have gone 2-12, 10-4, and then 12-2 for a combined 24-18 record.
The students are the #1 reason for the turn around in track. Their ability to commit themselves, recruit, and compete, is what has taken James Lick from the cellar of the WVAL, to the pinnacle of it. We as coaches will do the best we can to make sure that the Comets get more improvement from their hard work, than our rival schools foster in their athletes.
JLTF had a strong finish to the season with day 2 of WVAL Finals. The Lady Comets finished 3rd with 91 points to seal a 2nd place league finish. The Boys scored 51 Points for 5th to clinch a 4th place finish in the standings.
The Meet began with the field events. Charli Chircop was able to score 6th place in the girls discus, while Elyse Elder was able to get 7th in the girls long jump, events where no girl scored for the team over the last 5 years. The most impressive field performance by far however, was Robert Rios winning his second WVAL league championship with a best of 43’2. This beats Robert previous PR of 41’11 showing that he is hitting his top form at the right time. The throw moves him onto 8th on the school’s top 10 list in the event.
Both 4×100 teams ran big seasons bests at the beginning of the running events. The boys ran 46.69 for 5th, breaking 47 for the first time in 7 years. The girls made BVAL championships with a 4th place finish in 55.04.
Karan Singh lost a battle with Jason Morrow in the 1600, but took 2nd in a PR of 4:39.91. Nathan Bernardo had a PR of 4:52.19 for 7th place, giving the comets two scorers in the 1600 for the first time in 10 years.
The hurdling duo of Maria Mendoza and Andre Ortiz scored 5th and 6th in the 100 hurdles and will both be returning next year. The team’s most impressive running performance was Paloma Contreras taking the league title in the 400 with a PR of 1:02.54. Paloma came into this week with a best of 1:03.75, ran 1:03.34 in trials on wednesday then another PR to move onto 3rd on the school’s top 10 list. Cierra Gutierrez took 8th in the 400 to add a second scorer.
Davion Thomas ran a brilliant PR of 11.69 in the 100m to place 4th and qualify for BVAL championships. Davion has worked hard this season to go from 12.20 on March 7th, to 11.69 2 months later.
The girl’s 800 was the team’s best event with 14 points scored. Daniela Camacho lead the scorers with a 2:27.64 for 2nd place. This gives Daniela the final school distance record, and is a 5 second PR. Paloma managed to place 6th only 20 minutes after her 400. Brianna Flores took 7th in a PR of 2:46, and Daisy Nava ran a big pr of 2:48 for 8th. This is the first time in school history the lady comets have had 4 girls score in the same event at league finals.
The boys 800 held big PRs for Inteus Castro-Lopez 2:26 and Jesus Deloya: 2:18. Karan had a tough race to place 6th and score in all 3 distance events with the placing.
The girls 300 hurdles has been an area of strength all year and two girls were able to qualify for BVAL champs, with Andrea placing 3rd in 51.26 and Maria taking 4th in a PR of 51.28. Andrea followed this up by scoring a point in the 200 despite her fatigue. Davion qualified for BVAL in the 200 as well finishing 4th with a time of 23.97. The girls 3200 had two scorers, Daniela in 4th at 12:34, and Brianna with a PR in 13:46.
The days ended with epic runs in the 4×400. The girls 4×400 had been ranked 2nd but lost 2 members of the A team before the race. Daniela immediately after her 3200, and Daisy had to step in and run. Despite the substitutions the Comets battled their way to 4th place on the back of Paloma’s dominant anchor leg, the team will go after the school record at BVAL championships this thursday.
The boy’s 4×400 was similarly exciting. The boys were ranked 7th but ran an 11 second seasons best of 3:40.13 the team’s best 4×400 time in over 6 years. Bith relays demonstrated the tremendous strength of teammwork the comets have demonstrated all year.
Following the meet I was approached by multiple coaches who commented that the JL track team was wonderfully friendly and supportive and really stood out this season. Nothing could make me prouder of this year’s crop of Comets who’ve pushed JL into a transition, both in competition and culture. We will be looking to build on the groundwork laid by this year’s seniors next season, and are excited to see what the future holds. The 11 comets who made BVAL championships will compete thursday May 14th at Mt. Pleasant high school in pursuit of the first BVAL champs points scored by JL in 6 years.