When Charli Chircop hurled the discus 100-10 at CCS Finals, she signaled the end of not only her career, but of the 2018 track season (as far as James Lick is concerned). The 2018 season ending was very significant for me personally. It signified the end of my 5th year coaching, and also the end of my first year as a teacher. This blog will be a reflection on my first 5 years as a coach, and the growth of the cross country and track programs over the past 5 seasons.
The team has improved a lot over the past 5 seasons, that is especially demonstrated in track. If this years team faced the team of 2014 in a dual meet, assuming everyone matched their seasons bests, this would be the result:
Boys 2018: 116 Girls 2018: 102
Boys 2014: 19 Girls 2014: 25
I began coaching in fall of 2013. Alex Ponik, one of my coaches at James Lick, was stepping down as head coach. He offered me a position as an assistant coach, a job I was happy to accept. The day before school began for James Lick however, I was informed that our intended head coach would be unable to coach after all. As a result, I was forced to take the helm along with John Quasarano at the last moment.
That first year was tough. As a 20-year old, I lacked confidence in my own authority as a coach. Our top runner and team captain was Armando Aguilar. Armando and I were teammates just a few years before when I myself was team captain. We were also a very inexperienced team on the boys side. 5 of our 7 varsity boys had never run cross country before 2013. Only Armando had been a member of the varsity team before. This combined with our placement in the ‘B’ division, saw us finish with a 1-6 record on the varsity boys side. Honestly, we were lucky to even win 1 meet.
The huge bright side of that season was the varsity girls team. We pulled off a 4-3 season, the first winning season for the Lady Comet since 2009. Of the 24 BVAL teams, we finished in 15th place on the girls side at BVAL Finals. Our Combined team time was 117:28 (or 1:57:28). It was the first time the team had run under 2 hours at Crystal Springs in several years, giving us good hope for the future.
The boys however finished 20th. Our team was 97:09 (1:37:09). This was partly due to the fact that Armando was unable to finish the race, but in any case, a 20th place finish was not where we wanted to be. Seeing our BVAL places, and our inexperienced coaching staff, the BVAL moved us down to the ‘C’ division for the 2014 season.
That was my lowest moment as a coach so far, largely because I believed that we did not belong in the ‘C’ division. We were a young coaching staff and a young team, but I was very confident we could turn things around.
Track was a different season. I joined the track coaching staff along with Ricardo Flores, Juan Trejo and Ray Iniguez. At the time, James Lick track had not won a single dual meet in over 5 years. The Comets had not had a winning season since 2000, and the girls had not had one on record in school history (definitely not since 1996 when the BVAL began keeping records).
The setup that first year saw me in charge of the girls track team, while the other 3 coaches handled the boys team. We managed to eek out our first wins in years, which gave us cause to dream bigger for the future.
On a personal level, 2014 was my most important year as a coach. My goal has always been to help my athletes improve by as much as possible, and hope that wins and success will follow from great improvement. 2014 was when I first gained confidence in my ability to foster improvement in my athletes, thanks to the hard work of a few key athletes.
Daniela Camacho had run 5:49 for the 1600 as a freshmen, though she slowed down to 6:02 as a sophomore, (not an uncommon phenomenon among girl distance runners). That year as a junior, we managed to reverse that trend and Daniela ended the season at 5:43 for the 1600. She lowered her PR to 5:27 the next season, a mark which currently stands as our school record (though Arlet Miranda ran 5:31 this season so here’s hoping she will beat it next year).
Destiny Lopez was maybe the most important athlete towards helping me believe in my own training methods. Destiny had run track since freshmen year, and her PRs were 6:51 in the 1600 and 15:47 in the 3200. 2014 was her senior year, my only year coaching her. It was a trough process, but at division finals, she ran massive PRs, 6:31 for the 1600 and 14:11 for the 3200.
Our track team had 23 athletes in 2014 and we had our first wins in years. Most important to me personally, I felt that just like the James Lick teams of old, we could work hard and improve substantially in pursuit of bigger victories. Our goal for XC 2014 was simple, prove that it was a mistake to send us down to the ‘C’ division.
Our girls thrived in that goal. The team went 7-0 and won the division handily. At BVAL Finals, after placing 15th in 1:57:28 the year before, we finished in 8th place in 1:50:00. The 1:50:00 mark is the 2nd best team time in school history. The team of 1981 is the only team to have run faster, incidentally the only other girls championship team in school history. The boys team improved significantly as well, moving up from 20th place to 15th place, and running 6 minutes faster as a team.
The 2014 team will always be special to me because it was my first division championship as a coach. The more rapid improvement was in track and field. In 2015, we had our first winning season in over a decade. By 2016, a girls division title. In 2017 a 2nd girls title, followed by our move up the ‘B’ division. The success in track and field is in no small part thanks to the excellent coaches I’ve had the chance to work with. From Coach Vela who was by my side in track from the beginning, to coach Nichols, and Turner, and recently coach Raul Lopez. Every coach we’ve had in track has played a pivotal role in improving the team.
The most impressive team of my coaching career however was the 2016 XC team, my only boys title to date, and my only ‘B’ division championship team so far.
That team showed what the culmination of years of hard work could lead to. Team captain Nathan Bernardo did an exceptional job leading that team. Truth to be told, I had to miss many practices throughout the season but Nathan never let the team waver. He lead practice when I could not. All of the teams hard work paid off with the boys going 7-0 and placing 2nd at BVAL finals, only losing to the ‘A’ division champions Willow Glen.
Our team time of 1:25:19 was a respectable mark for James Lick in any era. While it is nowhere near the school record of 1:20:46, it was the 12th best team time in school history, and the best ever JL time at BVAL Finals.
After 5 years, I feel pretty good about where the program is at. We are solidly in the ‘B’ division in both cross country and track, and we have a very young team on both sides. Long term, coach Raul Lopez and myself will be looking to help take the program to the next level, eventually being a member of the ‘A’ division.
I’m proud that we’ve been able to outperform many schools that are larger than us, and better funded. We are currently the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL with a tick over 1100 students. The schools that are still consistently better than us have a few things in common. Some are outside of our control, such as larger enrollment and greater funds to draw from.
The most difficult discrepancy to overcome for us in my opinion is the lack of experience many of our athletes have. Our primary feeder schools are Joseph George and Shepard Middle School . Neither school had a track team this year. They often do not have cross country and when they do, it is not a substantial program. Willow Glen is consistently the best cross country team in the BVAL. This is in large part due to the amazing work of Coach Victor Santamaria, but every year, Willow Glen Middle School churns out multiple boys in the low 5 minute range in the 1600 and sometimes even some sub 5 minute boys.
The same is true of many of the schools we struggle to beat. Many of the top athletes in the area have been training for a long time. Our athletes have a lot of catching up to do. Azael Zamora just graduated with HS personal bests of 4:33 in the 1600 and 9:55 in the 3200. He did not join cross country until his sophomore year, and to that point he had never broken 6 minutes for the mile.
Long term, we are aiming to help ensure that some of our alumni will take on coaching positions at some our local middle schools to help athletics not just at James Lick, but throughout the east side as a whole.
I also hope to have more alumni join my coaching staff. Coach turnover has been an issue for us, and having a more consistent solidified coaching staff will help us improve.
We are not at the same level of James Lick’s greatest teams, but restoring the greatness of James Lick in XC and track has been my goal since I started coaching. We are not nearly there, but we are a lot closer than we were 5 years ago. I want to thank every Comet that has been apart of it, and everyone who actually reads my rambling with interest/support.
Best marks/times under me can all be found under the history section of the blog ^
The 2018 XC team will begin conditioning on June 18th at 9:30 A.M.
2018 was all about one thing for the James Lick Track Team: “Prove We Belong.” After spending all of the BVAL era (since 1996) in the ‘C’ division, 2018 marked the Comets first ever season in the ‘B’ division of the BVAL. Two consecutive girls division titles made the move warranted. I wanted to move up, but I’d be lying if I said that I was positive it was the right move. The 2018 ST division finals proved that the Comets are ready for this next step. The team outperformed their rankings all meet, with the girls ending the meet in 2nd place, and the boys in 5th.
After Day 1, the Comets were in 2nd place on the girls side, while the boys were in 5th. That was though after only 4 girls finals and 5 boys finals.
Day 2 of finals began with the girls discus. This had been the Comets best event all year, and the three headed monster of Valeria Cortez, Charli Chircop and Alejandra Ceron showed why. The girls combined for a 1-2-3 finish, with Valeria taking the division title with a throw of 109-0. Mariah Santos threw a 7 foot PR of 86-3 for 6th place. This meant that in a single event, the Comets combined for 27 points! This is one better than the total discus points from last year in the ‘C’ division. This is the most points in a single event from a league/division championship meet in school history for the Comets (based on my admittedly incomplete records). This will be a hard total to ever top. The only event where any team outscored the Lady Comets discus throwers, was the boys triple jump, where Evergreen combined for 31 points.
The great start to the meet got things rolling for the Comets, but more good things followed soon after. In the girls 4×100, the team of Lisbeth Galdamez, Justine Austria, Yeimili Adame and Natalie Rem combined to run 53.85 and finished in 6th place. This is the fastest James Lick 4×100 team on records in the 2000s. The fact that the team was made up of 3 sophomores and a freshmen bodes very well for the future.
The boys 4×100 team of Geovanny Campos, Jose Limon, Misael Herrera and Raven Alcantara had an equally strong performance. They ran 45.88 to take 5th place and book their ticket to BVAL finals next week. This is just the first time since 2002 that the Comets have run under 46 seconds for the 4×100. Like the girls, no member of the team is graduating.
The boys 1600 was next. Azael Zamora snatched 4 points for the team with a 5th place finish. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a seasons best 5:02.95 and Melvin Estrada finished his season in the event as well.
In the girls 100 hurdles, Valeria Cortez took home her 2nd division title in a row. After winning the ‘C’ division title in 2017, Valeria summoned up a strong run of 16.88, her 2nd best time ever to take home the victory. You don’t see too many athletes win titles in both the discus and the 100 hurdles. Valeria is in fact the first Comet to win two division titles in the same season since Ruth Lebeau in 2007. Hers wasn’t the only strong performance in the race however. Yesenia Martinez ran a PR of 18.43 and pulled off a 5th place finish in the process, meaning she will also compete at BVAL finals next week. Susie Peterson finished in 7th in 19.11, the 2nd best time of her career. The 16 points the Comets nabbed in the 100 hurdles was more than any other team.
The next Comet to compete was Natalie in the 100. She ran 13.73 for 7th place, the first Lady Comet to score at division finals in the 100 in years. Natalie also took 5th place in the gilrs triple jump, another BVAL qualification for the team. Kirsten Yutuc took 8th in a PR of 30-11. Lyndel was the 3rd jumper for the team, but she only managed a leap of 29 feet.
Salvador Lopez lead the Comets in boys long jump, going 17-8. Rodolf Ocampo also contested the event for the team. In the girls high jump, Yesenia and Lisbeth matched their PRS, doing 4-6 and 4-4 respectively. Yesenia managed 8th place with her performance adding another point to the team total. The final field event for the Comets was the boys Shot Put. Josh Garcia managed 5th place with a throw of 41-0. Daniel Medina ended his career at JL with a toss of 36-0. Josh Merin also competed for the team.
Arlet Miranda had to scratch the girls 800 due to injury concerns that are all too common for Arlet. On the boys side however, the team saw Erik Olsvold take 6th in 2:08.37 and Jerricho Habon ran a PR of 2:12.88. Erik has had a very strong end to the season. After injury took his 2017 XC season, Erik was not able to start running until March of this season. He made rapid improvement, and the 2:08 clocking is only 1 second off of his PR. Erik looks very much poised to rebound his senior year.
The girls 300 hurdles saw a PR for Kirsten. Kirsten took 3rd place in 51.80, just the 3rd girl in school history to run under 52 seconds for the event. Cody Huoch matched Kirsten with a 3rd place finish in the boys 300 hurdles. He ran 43.11, the 2nd best time of his career.
The girls 3200 was next. Belen Sanchez ended her season in fine fashion, running a massive 31 second PR of 13:15.40. She battled all the way in and managed 1 point for the team in 8th place. Ashley Preciado ran an 8 second PR of 13:41 as well. Jessica Cervantes contested the event for the 1st time, running 15:34.
The girls 4×400 team ended the meet battling their hearts off in a bid to make BVAL finals. The team had to settle for 6th place in a seasons best 4:34, but they put forward a great effort. With Arlet out due to injury, the team had few backup options. With all the pressure that stepping in for Arlet would entail, the Comets turned to none other than Valeria Cortez to run on the team. Valeria had never run the 400 before, but we knew going in that she was the kind of warrior we needed to give us a shot. Valeria ran with a ton of guts, managing a 71 second leg for the team, but the team finished .4 seconds behind Sobrato for the coveted 5th spot at BVAL finals.
The boys 4×400 ran their best race of the season by far as well. Sal, Cody, Lemon and Misael combined to run 3:40.74, the 2nd best James Lick 4×400 of this decade. They took 4th, meaning they will get the chance to try to run even faster at BVAL finals next week.
When all was said and done, the team scores were as follows:
James Lick 95
Oak Grove 32.5
James Lick 44
Oak Grove 37
It was a very successful meet for the team and a total of 17 Comets have earned themselves one more week of competition.
The team will take to BVAL Finals at Westmont on Thursday May 10th. The team will chase some final PRs, and will try to send as many athletes as possible to CCS Trials the following week.
The James Lick comets had their 7th and final dual meet of the 2018 season on Thursday April 26th at Oak Grove High School. The Comets ended the season on a winning streak, earning victories in all three divisions against the Eagles, a week after they did the same thing against the Sobrato Bulldogs.. Both the varsity boys and varsity girls end the season 3-4, for a combined 6-8 record for the Comets first ever season in the ‘B’ division. The frosh/soph boys end the season with a strong 5-2 record.
The meet began with the 4×100. Although the Eagles won both races, the Comets achieved huge season bests in both relays. The girls ran 54.28, better than our previous seasons best of 55.60. The boys ran 46.47, breaking 47 for the first time this season. The team of Salvador Lopez, Raven Alcantara, Jose Limon and Geovanny Campos achieved the feet. This is actually the fastest 4×100 time for the Comets this decade, and with the team being composed of 3 sophomores and a junior, big times are ahead down the road.
Azael Zamora and Erik Olsvold combined to go 1-2 in the 1600, with Erik running a seasons best 5:11. Brandon Cruz and Jerricho Habon went 1-2 in the frosh/soph version of the event. We did not run any of our best girls in the 1600, though Erika Camacho ran a sizable PR (Personal Record) of 7:31 to end her season.
Valeria Cortez took the win in the girls 100 hurdles in 17.62. With this victory, Valeria made it through the season 7-0 in the girls 100 hurdles. She is therfore the first James Lick Comet in history to go undefeated in an event for an entire season in the ‘B’ division. She did the same thing last year in the ‘C’ division, but the step up in competition makes the feet all the more impressive.
She lead a sweep, with Kirsten Yutuc and Yesenia Martinez taking 2nd and 3rd. Kirsten did so in a huge PR of 18.22. Susie Peterson ran a seasons best 19.44 in 4th place. A good battle was seen in the boys 110 hurdles, between Cody Huoch and Oak Grove’s Julius Jacroux. Julius won the battle in 16.51, with Cody 2nd in a PR of 16.59. Rodolf Ocampo took 3rd in a PR of 19.01. Jo-Jo Bradley, Luis Escamilla and Dakota Castro-Lopez swept the frosh/soph event with PRs of 20.47, 20.70 and 22.06 respectively.
Yeimili Adame and Justine Austria combined for a 1-2 finish in the girls 400. Aliana Santos ran a huge PR of 1:14.12 in 4th place. Misael Herrera and Salvador Lopez went 2-3 in the boys 400, both boys clocking in at 56 seconds for the lap. Melvin Estrada ran a PR of 1:00.27 in 5th.
The 100m saw some huge breakthroughs for the team, and the times were not srongly wind aided this time around. Natalie Rem took 3rd for the team in 13.67. Lisbeth Galdamez broke 14 for the first time, running a massive PR of 13.95. This is the first time in over a decade that two lady Comets on the same team have been under 14 seconds in the 100. Susie Peterson ran 14.99 for a PR as well. A whole host of PRs followed. Chantrea Thach ran 15.45 (15.99 previous best) Emily Jiminez ran 15.85 (16.65 previous best) Mariah Santos ran 16.29 (previous best 17.19). Regine Valecruz and Maria Sanchez ran PRs of 16.84 and 16.86.
The boys 100 was just as successful, Raven won the meet for the Comets in 11.79, a massive PR, just the 4th Comet this decade to run under 12 seconds in the 100. Geo became the 5th just a split second later, taking 3rd place in 11.97. This is also the first time in this decade that the team has had two Comets under 12 in the same season, and the fact that they’re both sophomores is very exciting. Coach Turner’s hard work with the teams sprinters is paying huge dividends. Chris Okoro ran a small PR of 12.71. Joshua Merin ran 12.81 to take 2nd in the frosh/soph boys 100 and Dakota ran a PR of 13.46 for 3rd.
Ashley Preciado and Belen Sanchez ran PRs of 2:48 and 2:49 in the 800 to seal a 1-2 finish for the team. Krystal Tran ran 3:13 for a full 9 second PR to end her season. Azael and Mark Orpia went 1-2 in the boys 800. Mark ran a 4 second PR of 2:17 for 2nd place. Jerricho and Brandon went 1-2 in the frosh/soph boys 800.
Kirsten took the win in the girls 300 hurdles, running 53.28, her best ever dual meet time. Susie ran a PR of 58.81 in 5th place. Cody won the boys 300 hurdles in 43.77, his best ever time in a dual meet. Rodolf took 3rd for the team. The frosh/soph boys swept the event. Jo-Jo and Luis both ran under 50 seconds for the first time, running 49.17 and 49.68 respectively. Dakota took 3rd for the team.
Natalie won the girls 200 in 29.36, the best time by a Comet this season. Lisbeth took 3rd for the team. Chantrea, Regine and Maria all ran PRs in the event as well. Misael took 2nd for the Comet boys in the 200. Isaak Herrera went out with a PR of 28.58. Azael ran a PR of 27.50. Jerricho took 2nd in the frosh/soph 200 in 26.97.
Belen and Ashley once again combined for a 1-2 finish with PRs to boot. They both ran under 14 minutes for the first time, clocking 13:46 and 13:49 respectively. Francine Estranero and Emely Lopez ran PRs of 16:05 and 16:17 to end their seasons. Melvin, Azy and Inteus Castro-Lopez combined to sweep the 3200, Melvin only narrowly missed his PR, running 10:56. Hugo Marquez ran a PR of 11:47 to win the frosh/soph 3200. Jerricho took 2nd for the team.
Oak Grove won the boys 4×400, but the Comets won the girls 4×400 to round out the running events.
For the first time all season, the Comets did not win the girls shot put. Oak Grove’s Talalelei Tuipala threw the Shot 36-9, a very strong mark. Alejandra Ceron and Valeria took 2nd and 3rd behind her. Lizbet Alonzo managed a small PR of 19-4. Josh Garcia won the boys Shot Put for the Comets in a tick over 40 feet. Josh Merin took 2nd in the frosh/soph shot put. Josh and Daniel combined for a 1-2 finish in the boys discus, while Oak Grove swept the frosh/soph discus. Valeria backed up her PR of 112-1 from a week ago, with her 2nd best throw ever, 110-8. Alejandra took 3rd place. The girls discus is the 2nd event that the lady Comets went undefeated in for the season. Charli Chircop and Valeria alternated victories all season in the event.
Kirsten and Lyndel Ventura took 2nd and 3rd for the Comets in the girls long jump. Natalie took 2nd for the Comets in the girls triple jump. Raven and Rodolph went 1-2 in the boys long jump. Cody and Sal went 1-2 in the boys triple jump. Sal netted a PR of 37-8.25. Raven also grabbed a PR, jumping 36-2.25 in 4th place.
Lisbeth and Yesenia tied for 2nd place at 4-4 for the lady Comets. Sal got a final PR in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5-2 to take 2nd place. Jo-Jo and Josh took 1st and 3rd in the frosh/soph high jump, matching their PRs of 5-0 and 4-10 respectively. Mark and Rodolf both cleared 8-0 in the boys pole vault to place 1st and 2nd as well.
When all was said and done, the meets final scores were as follows:
JL: 71 OG: 56
JL: 86 OG: 47
JL: 63 OG: 60
With the regular season over, the Comets look ahead at ST division finals. I am proud to say that we have achieved what we set out to do this season. After two consecutive ‘C’ division girls titles, this year was about proving that we belonged in the ‘B’ division. While a combined 6-8 record is not spectacular, it puts us solidly in the middle of the pack despite the fact that we are by far the smallest school in the division.
Division Finals will take place on Wednesday May 2nd and Friday May 4th at Evergreen High School. The Comets will send 3 athletes in each event to try to achieve some final PRs and earn points for the team. Wednesday will mostly be Prelims, with the top 8 athletes in sprints/hurdles advancing to finals on Friday.
Wednesday will also see finals in the girls 1600, boys 3200, girls long jump, boys triple jump, girls shot put, boys discus, and boys high jump. The pole vault will be held at Prospect HS the day before.
The top 8 athletes in each final will score points for their team, and the top 5 in each final (including relay teams) will advance to BVAL championships on May 10th.
I will do a division finals preview detailing where the Comets are ranked highly if I have time.
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 2017 BVAL Finals were held at Westmont High School on Thursday May 11th. All 3 BVAL divisions sent athletes to the meet, with all 24 schools being represented. The top 8 athletes in each event advance to CCS trials on Saturday May 20th, an accomplishment which is always worth striving for.
In 2016, the lone CCS qualification for the team was Valeria Cortez throwing 99-8 in the girls discus to place 6th place. The girls discus was again one of the first events, and the event did not disappoint for the team. Valeria threw a new PR (and school record) of 108-3, placing 3rd overall. Charli Chircop placed 4th in 106-0 a PR by almost 3 feet as well. Alejandra Ceron took 8th place in 94-4, giving the team 3 CCS qualifiers in just the girls discus.
Much of the school’s track/xc history is unavailable, but the section meet qualifiers are available virtually every year dating back to 1952. This is the 2nd time in school history that the Comets have had 3 CCS qualifiers in the same event. In 1975 the lady Comet throwers accomplished the same feet, sending 3 discus throwers to the CCS regional meet. This was just after girls competition became commonplace, and it was much easier to qualify back in those early years. Kathy Shelby was the team’s best thrower that year at 89 feet, while Alejandra was the final CCS qualifier this year at 94 feet.
Elyse Elder ended her high jump career for the Comets, clearing 4-3. It was a disappointing performance for Elyse who was battling illness, but nonetheles a very solid career for her as a Comet. Lyndel Ventura jumped a solid 14-2 in the long jump, and Cody Huoch went 38-9.50 in the boys triple jump, his 2nd best ever performance in the event.
The running events started with the girls 4×100. Despite the injuries and grade issues the girls sprint team battled this season, the team ran a seasons best of 56.32 to end their year. This is especially impressive given the loss of top sprinter Silvia Amaya to injury just minutes before the meet began.
The boys 4×100 had a very disappointing race. A collision on the first leg handoff due to missed timing resulted in the Comets being put out of the race early. The team went on to run 48.24, but looked to lose over 2 seconds due to the poor handoff (Youtube video will up soon).
Erik Olsvold ended his season strong by running a PR of 4:37.19 for the 1600. Azael Zamora ran 4:44.06 as well.
Valeria became the first Comet since Ruth Lebeau to qualify for CCS in two events by placing 6th in the girls 100 hurdles, running 17.19. Cody missed qualifying in the boys 110 hurdles by 1 place, taking 9th in 17.43. Gustavo Aguilera ran 55.27 to end his season in the 400, a solid performance as well.
Arlet fought through her injury plagued season to run 2:28.42 in the 800 for a new PR and a CCS qualification in a gritty performance. Arlet is the first outright CCS qualifier in a girls distance event in school history. Nathan Bernardo ended his season with a small PR of 2:07.85.
Kirsten Yutuc managed a small PR of 54.44 to end her season on a strong note in the 300 hurdles. Cody ran 44.59 to place 10th, a better final hurdle may have put him in a CCS qualifying spot, but he had an outstanding season overall considering it was his first season of track.
Kirsten jumped a PR of 29-10 in the girls triple jump, giving her two PRs on the day. Alejandra and Valeria placed 5th and 6th in the girls Shot Put to qualify for CCS. Valeria did so with a PR of 33-4. Charli threw 31-7 for 9th place. With her 6th place throw in Shot Put, Valeria is the first James Lick track athlete ever to qualify for CCS in 3 different individual events. She is rapidly building a case as one of he best Track athletes in school history on the girls side, if not overall.
Azael had a rough race in the 3200, running 10:45, well off of his PR. The girls 4×400 team ran a seasons best of 4:43 to end their season. The boys race was a let-down for the team. The team was in a position to compete for a CCS trials performance, but Gustavo suffered a calf cramp on the 2nd lap. This forced him to run a 60 second leg, 5 seconds off of his 55.27 open 400 from earlier in the meet. 3:41 was the last time in, meaning the team would have been very close to making CCS.
The team emerged from BVAL finals with a total of 7 CCS qualifications from 4 different athletes. These ladies will compete next week at Gilroy High School for CCS trials, in pursuit of some final PRs.
The James Lick Track Team hosted the final dual meet of the WVAL season on Wednesday, April 26th . The meet saw the team entering with a record of 5-1 on the boys side, and 6-0 on the girls side. It marked the final dual meet of the careers of the teams seniors, and was especially significant for Gustavo Aguilera and Nathan Bernardo, the only athletes on the team to have competed all 4 years in track. These two have special significance for me as these two (along with Juan Gutierrez who returned to track this year) were the only boys on the team who were on the team when I began coaching. They embody the turn-around of James Lick track more than anyone.
The meet began with the Del Mar girls winning the 4×100. The James Lick boys won the 4×100 in 46.71, just .03 off their season best despite poor handoffs on several legs. The team of Hadji Yono-Cruz, Cody Huoch, Misael Herrera and Ace Medina accomplished their 3rd victory of the season in the event.
Arlet Miranda won the girls 1600 in 6:00 her fastest dual meet time of the season. Belen Sanchez and Daisy Nava came in 3rd and 4th both in 6:22. Denisse Calixto competed on the home track for the final time but did not score for the team. The boys got their 7th 1600m victory of the season, with Erik Olsvold winning the event in 4:48.18. Nathan placed 3rd in 4:55.06. Inteus Castro-Lopez ran a PR of 5:01.59. Julian Delreal ran a PR of 5:42 and Osman Lopez ran his final race on the home track as well.
Despite typical headwinds, Valeria Cortez won the 100 hurdles in a small PR of 17.40. Kirsten Yutuc ran a PR of 19.87, and Susie Peterson finished in 19.90 to complete the sweep for the team. Cody Huoch and Jonathan Rodriguez finished 2nd and 3rd in the 110 Hurdles.
Justine Austria ran a strong race for the team to place 3rd in the 400, running 1:11.75. The boys event was a thrilling race, won by Gustavo Aguilera in a PR of 55.36. David Bejines ran a PR of 59.33 and Osiris Zamudio ran a PR of 1:03.42.
Silvia Amaya took 2nd for the team in the 100 in 14.69, a fairly strong time into the wind. Ace Medina and Cody Huoch went 1-2 in the boys 100, the best performance by the Comets in the event all season. Ace ran 12.09, a strong time considering the wind.
The 800m order was the same as in the 1600, with Arlet winning the event in 2:42, and Belen 3rd in 2:53, with Daisy just behind her. Nathan Bernardo won the boys event in 2:13 with Erik close behind in 2:14.
The girls 300 hurdles was another sweep for the Comets, with Valeria, Kirsten and Susie once again combining to accomplish the feat. Gustavo won the boys version of the event, and Jonathan took 3rd. Silvia placed 3rd for the team in the 200 and Aliana Santos placed 3rd, though the winds were very extreme at this point, hampering times. Ace won the boys 200, capturing the sprint double victory. He ran 24.60, narrowly missing his PR despite the wind. Misael Herrera placed 3rd in the 200.
Arlet won the girls 3200 to win the distance triple, while Valerie Flores scored her first points for the team by placing 2nd. Azael Zamora won the boys 3200 in a strong time of 10:46, while Inteus ran a PR to finish 2nd in 10:51. Mark Orpia ran a huge PR of 11:34 to go under 12 minutes for the first time, as did Melvin Estrada who ran 11:58. Hugo Marquez also ran a big PR of 12:02, narrowly missing the 12 minute barrier. Daniel Portillo ran a small PR of 13:02 to end the Comets day.
The Dons won both 4x400s, though the boys ran a seasons best 3:46.33 to finish 2nd.
The field events saw a number of strong performances for the team. In the girls long jump, Lyndel Ventura went a seasons best 14-6. Kirsten jumped a PR of 13-9.5 to finish 2nd and Elyse Elder went 13-5 for 3rd. Hadji placed 2nd in the boys long jump in 17-7. Kirsten got her first win in the triple jump with a PR of 29-4. Lyndel went 28-1 for 2nd, and Yaliza Cortez placed 3rd for the team in 26-6. Cody won the boys version of the event in a PR of 37-10 and Hadji placed 2nd in 36-6.25. Juan jumped a PR 36-3.
In her final home meet, Elyse went 4-8, a PR putting her within 2 inches of the school record. On the boys side, Ace got a new PR of 5-8 to finish 2nd. Jonathan placed 3rd in 5-4.
After her outstanding new PR of 35-8.75 at the Top 8 meet, Alejandra Ceron backed up her throw by tossing the Shot 35-0 and 34-7 to win the event. Valeria threw a new PR of 33-2. Mariah Santos threw a PR of 24-4 as did Ruth Rodriguez who threw 21-2. Audrey Nguy had a massive PR of 21-10, giving the team 3 freshmen girls above 21 feet to end the season. In the discus, Charli Chircop won the event with a throw of 101-0. Valeria was 2nd in 100-9 and Alejandra 3rd in 88-5. Ruth managed her 2nd PR of the day throwing 54- 9, as did Kiely Leal who threw 52-4.
Josh Garcia won the boys Shot Put in 37-8. Daniel Medina was 2nd, and Roger Alonzo was 3rd in a new PR of 34-4. Roger also got his first ever event win by taking the boys discus in 102-11. Alex Alonzo was 2nd in 101-0 in his final dual meet, and Daniel was 3rd in 99-11.
The team ends their regular season at this point, though a large number of Comets will advance to West Valley Division Finals next week at Overfelt. All 8 teams in the West Valley division will compete in the meet, with the top 8 in each event scoring points.
The Comets have the goal of finishing in 1st place on both sides of the meet. Dual Meets are weighed more heavily than Finals, but a 1st place finish would mean alot to the team regardless. The top 4 athletes will advance to BVAL Championships the following week.
The team will begin WV finals on Wednesday May 3rd and will hope to get PRS, BVAL qualifiers, points, and individual titles out of the meet (as well as a team title on the girls side).
I think it is important to understand our leagues and their structures, and to at least think about issues in education that spill into athletics, so if you take the time to read this whole ugly mess, thank you very sincerely.
This blog will be interesting to you if you want to better understand the BVAL, the CCS, how qualification works, and how the different CCS leagues stack up against each other. I will also include a lot of sociological analysis of the different leagues, and breakdown in my opinion, why certain leagues are strong and detail exactly what the Comets need to overcome to succeed, and compete against more advantaged schools and leagues.
Often times when talking about goals, we discuss “making CCS.” For our newer athletes, and for casual readers, the significance of this goal is unclear. This blog will serve as an explanation of what the CCS is, how it works, and how competitive it is.
All high schools in California operate under National and State rules. Our state governing body is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). Here is an explanation of the highest level of competition an athlete can advance to in high school cross country.
The Footlocker/Nike National Meets. There are two national meets these days, athletes may qualify for both/either and choose between them. The best athletes in the country are split between these two national meets. Generally speaking, Footlocker is the individual race, and Nike is the team race, but there is overlap. It is a strange system to say the least, having two separate same day national championships meet.
To qualify for the National meets, athletes compete at their Regional Meet. There are four regions, West, Midwest, Northeast and South. We of course find ourselves in the Western Region with 11 other States.
Only the very best athletes from the State Meet proceed to the regional meet. The State meet brings together competitors from each of the CIF’s 5 cross country divisions. In Cross Country, every team has a CIF (State) division based on population. Therefore, nowadays there is a CCS and State champion in each division, so 5 boys champs and 5 girls champs, both for teams and individuals.
The CCS is one of 10 sections in California. The CCS (Central Coast Section) covers schools from San Francisco to King City, roughly 150 total schools. Division 1 schools are the largest schools, with over 2,000 students, whereas Division 5 schools have less than 500 students. We are currently a division 3 school, though we are on the smaller end of D3. For division 3, the top 3 teams at CCS advance to the State Meet, as well as the top 5 individuals who are not on those 3 teams, provided these 5 individuals were in the top 14 overall. If you place 15th or lower in CCS D3 finals, your only chance to make State is as a team.
Only 8 Comet Athletes have ever made it to the State Meet (all boys). The State Meet was founded in 1987, and Joe Amendt was the first athlete to run at State for the Comets that very same year. No Comet has made State since 2005 when Erick Herrera qualified (James Lick was a D4 school that year).
James Lick has one CCS Cross Country team championship. The team of 1971 won the small schools race, the first year that CCS had divisions (just large schools and small schools). A few years later the CCS would move into 3 different divisions, and gradually grew into it’s 5 division format of today. Other sports have various numbers of divisions. In short, in cross country both CCS Finals and CIF (State) Finals both have 5 champions for each gender, one for each division.
In terms of the 10 State Sections, the CCS is among the upper middle of the pack in competitive success. The SS (Southern Section) is by far the best section, though it should be considering it consists of over 500 schools, while The SDS (San Diego Section) is the 2nd largest at roughly 200 schools. The CCS, SJS (Sac-Joaquin Section) NCS (North Coast Section) and CS (Central Section) are all very comparable in size, ranging from 140-170 schools. As logic dictates, there is a direct correlation between the size of a section and it’s competitive success. The Oakland and San Francisco Sections are the two smallest sections in the CIF, both comprising less than 20 schools. As a result they are virtually always the two weakest sections competitively by far.
Originally, James Lick was a member of the NCS. By the 1960s however, the CCS was formed, largely composed of schools in the Santa Clara Valley area. As the CCS grew, and more and more schools popped up under its jurisdiction, it moved to structure things more formally. The CCS now has a total of 3 Conferences (which don’t actually mean anything) and 3 ‘Power Leagues’ within each conference.
The strongest conference of the CCS in cross country and track is the Central Conference. The 3 leagues here in the Central Conference (Morgan Hill to Palo Alto) are:
WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) a 9 team private school league.
SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League) a 14 team public school league made up of schools from West-Side San Jose to Palo Alto, including Los Gatos and Saratoga. They use 2 divisions or smaller leagues, the ECAL (El Camino League, their ‘A’ division) and the DAL (De Anza League, their ‘B’ division).
BVAL (Blossom Valley Athletic League) 24 teams including Campbell, Central, South, and East Side San Jose, as well as Morgan Hill. It is the largest league in the CCS, and is the only one to use a 3 division format, MHAL/STAL/WVAL as discussed in other blogs.
The other 6 leagues include:
The PAL (17 school Peninsula Athletic League)
WBAL (13 school West Bay Athletic league) and the
PSAL (15 team Private School Athletic League, mainly small private or charter schools). These leagues make up the Norther Conference of the CCS.
The Southern Conference includes
The SCCAL (8 team Santa Cruz Athletic League)
The MBL (15 team Monterey Bay league). The MBL uses two smaller leagues, the “Gabilan” as an ‘A’ division and “Pacific” as a ‘B’ division
The MTAL (16 team Mission Trails Athletic League). This league is geographical with an Mission Trails Division division and a Coastal division, but has most of it’s strong teams in the Mission Trails Division.
In Track and Field for 2016, it was clear that the 3 strongest leagues were the SCVAL, WCAL, and the BVAL. While the BVAL lags far behind the far richer schools of the SCVAL and WCAL, it is considerably stronger than any of the other CCS leagues in regards to competitive times and marks, in large part because it has more schools than the other leagues. Just for comparison, the 10th fastest boy in the 100m dash in the WCAL and SCVAL ran under 11.30. The 10th fastest boy in the BVAL ran under 11.45. In no other league was the 10th fastest boy under 11.65.
In cross country things are a bit more spread out. The SCCAL (Santa Cruz County Athletic League) has some extremely strong runners. In particular, Aptos, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, produce top tier CCS runners every year. The Aptos’ girls team is the reigning D3 State Champion, and under coach Dan Gruber (arguably the best coach in the CCS) they may well win State again. CCS is essentially already locked up.
There are also strong runners in other leagues, King City in the MTAL has produced some outstanding runners over the past few seasons, though the WCAL and SCVAL are dominant overall. I often compare the BVAL, and James Lick specifically, against the SCVAL. The SCVAL being a public school league right next to us, but a highly competitive one at that, makes for interesting comparisons.
James Lick last season placed 13th in the BVAL on the boys side and 14th on the girls side. Considering we were the 2nd smallest school in the BVAL, and the 2nd poorest (based on percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch) this was a solid accomplishment, placing solidly in the middle of the 24 team league despite disadvantage. The majority of the school’s sports have losing records in the ‘C’ division by comparison.
In the SCVAL however, the teams would have finished 13th/14. Despite only being a 14 team public school league, the SCVAL is extremely strong, putting many other public school leagues to shame.
For example, in 2016 Kaylah Grant of Live Oak won the BVAL Championship meet in the 1600m run, in a very strong time of 5:11. 6th Place in the BVAL was 5:19, also a very high quality time. 6th Place in the SCVAL however was 5:08, faster than the BVAL winning time of Kaylah Grant.
Here is an article that my dad wrote for the Mercury News about the strength of the SCVAL in cross country.
As discussed in the article, the SCVAL has several advantages, one is large schools. The smallest school in the SCVAL, Saratoga, outnumbers James Lick by several hundred, and is the only D3 school in the SCVAL.
The SCVAL also has the benefit of a highly motivated student body in a good area to train. Many parks, such as Fremont Older and Rancho San Antonio are in close proximity to the SCVAL schools, and their highly driven students are very determined to stand out to colleges and take both academics and athletics seriously. Monta Vista, a top SCVAL school, ranked 11th in the entire State in academic rankings done by “U.S. News Best High School Rankings,” in 2015.
Lastly the SCVAL has the benefit of extremely capable and intelligent coaches. Gunn High School in Palo Alto’s current head coach is Patti Sue Plumer, Stanford Alumni and former American record holder in the 5000m run. Patti Sue has already coached several runners to huge success, last year Gillian Meeks of Gunn won the State Meet for division 2 in XC, and yet, the case could be made that she is not even the best coach in the SCVAL.
This area also has a number of very strong middle school programs. Students getting a head start on training can be very helpful. The primary feeder schools of James Lick are George and Shepherd, and this is the first time in the past decade that they both even had a cross country team in the same season, (no runners form either school advanced to the County meet however, the middle school equivalent of CCS). Evan Franco of Branham won the first three STAL meets of the 2016 season despite being a freshmen. Last year at Price Middle School, he ran 4:41 for the 1600m as an 8th grader. A middle school which develops athletes like Evan, helps schools that they feed like Branham to a large degree. Erik Olsvold, our top sophomore won STAL #4 in a fantastic time of 15:27, finally defeating Evan. The difference is Erik came in un-trained from Joseph George, running only 6:19 for the 1,600 as an 8th grader. Evan was able to run 16:13 in his very first STAL meet. As a freshman, Erik ran 18:14 and that was after a summer of training. The SCVAL schools have many schools like Price, sending already experienced athletes to high school, ready to be a factor from day one.
The last big factor contributing to SCVAL success is their financial status, despite being a public school league. It makes sense that private schools have a huge advantage in this regard. Bellarmine has its own private buses, enabling the team to run in awesome locations whenever they want, whereas the only bus we get all season is for our league finals meet. This advantage is also significant at wealthy public schools such as those in the SCVAL.
In my dad’s original article,he mentioned the fact that having financial flexibility affords one greater ability to succeed. This acknowledgement was ultimately deleted by the Mercury News.
It may be uncomfortable to acknowledge the systemic issues that affect academic and athletic success in our schools, but the simple reality is that they are present. I would make the case that this issue colors all others.
A student who is fortunate enough to not have to worry about money at home can afford to train and get enough sleep every night, without needing to work a job. Standing around for several hour shifts is not ideal for a distance runner’s recovery, nor is getting home late and having to do homework until 3 AM when they should be sleeping.
A recurring issue in James Lick athletics is students not being eligible to compete due to failure to “make grades.” Some of these students simply did not work hard enough or take agency of their education. Some of these students had no interest in taking their schooling seriously. Many however, had family issues which are not conducive to achievement, or need to work long hours to simply help make ends meet. The student who works until 9 PM, gets home at 10 PM, does homework until 1PM wakes up at 6PM and has to skip breakfast to walk to school for ‘0’ period on time, is necessarily going to have a hard time succeeding in school compared to someone who has less responsibility. Provided this student makes grades, they are then at disadvantage because of their tiring lifestyle and inadequate rest/nourishment. If this student fails to make grades, they will be lumped in as “another statistic” or a “screwup” just the same as the students who are genuinely unengaged or disinterested in school. It is also wrong in my opinion to label students who are “failing” as failures. Many students who are unengaged in school are uninterested due to a lack of guidance or inability to cope with difficult situations. This is true of students of all socio-economic backgrounds.
Some schools in our league have the luxury of a training room, with an athletic trainer and facilities designed to help athletes grow stronger and recover from injuries. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this, but I suspect virtually every school in the SCVAL has this advantage. Comparatively I’m not sure if we even have a school nurse.
Through academic struggles, James Lick has received labels such as “at risk” and in my 4 years coaching, I’ve heard young Comet athletes relay this type of message from 8th graders more times than I can count: “they said James Lick sucks, so they didn’t want to come here.” Through economic flexibility, a parent can spend time helping their student excel in pursuits such as cross country. The number of (expensive) running/track clubs on the West Side reflect this. Many parents at James Lick do not have the time to be invested in their students academic or athletic success. Using Maria Mendoza as an example, Maria qualified for CCS last year with a strong Crystal Springs time of 20:35. I’ve had to send letters home convincing her parents to let her continue running, because her family needs her to work two jobs to help make ends meet. Despite her status as a CCS qualifier in XC and a BVAL qualifier in Track, her family has never seen her compete. Not because they don’t care, but simply because they don’t have time with their own busy work schedules to make time for what they see as a luxury, but what could be for students like Maria, an outlet for success.
A student whose family is struggling is unlikely to have the ability to eat the healthy diet that a runner should ideally eat. It is far cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy a big mac, than it is to head to the store, buy meat, rice, vegetables, pasta etc. and prepare them each day.
When comparing the BVAL and SCVAL, a total of 38 schools, in the 2014/2015 school year, James Lick tied for 2nd most students that qualify for free and reduced lunch as a percentage of total students. At James Lick 78% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.Only 9/38 schools had more than 50% of students in this category, all 9 were BVAL schools. 8/9 were East Side schools.
15 schools had less than 20% of their students in this category, 9/14 total SCVAL schools are in this group however. There are only 4 schools in the SCVAL where more than 30% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These 4 schools finished 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th last year at SCVAL’s finals (again out of 14 teams) on the boys side. On the girls side they finished 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. On the girls side Saratoga finished in 14th, though one of the wealthiest schools in the SCVAL by a measure of free and reduced lunch percentile, they have 400 less students than any other SCVAL school.
A great way of comparing the schools and leagues of the CCS is through the “league finals combined results” provided by former Lynbrook coach Hank Lawson. Using a course conversion formula, he combines every ‘league finals’ meet from the CCS. Course conversions are done to equalize times to Crystal Springs. Course conversions are never fully accurate, but they give one a rough idea of where everyone stands.
Last year under the format, with 115 total boys teams combined, 5 of the top 10 schools in the CCS at league finals were from the WCAL. Bellarmine in 1st, and St. Francis in 2nd. 4 of the top 10 were from the SCVAL. The lone exception was top BVAL school Willow Glen, a perennial powerhouse under coach Santa Maria. The 2nd BVAL school was Lincoln at 31st. James Lick came in at 60th, solidly in the middle of the pack.
Contrary to the perception of some, struggles in communities like the East Side are not born out of a lack of work ethic, rather, they are the product of a system which is not entirely receptive to upward mobility. The majority of funding for public schools in California comes from property taxes of the surrounding area. A poor area necessarily produces less money in property taxes, and less funding for schools as a result.So while many students at James Lick struggle with the hardships that relative poverty create at home, they also receive less funding at school to help them rise above their circumstances. The case could be made that the students who need more school programs and strong school funding the most, receive the least of it. A poorer school cannot pay teachers and coaches as much as a wealthier school could.
I made less as a varsity head coach my first year at James Lick than a colleague of mine did as a JV assistant coach at Cupertino High School in the SCVAL. Teachers and coaches who accumulate a good reputation, are more likely to coach at the already successful SCVAL schools, where they can count on the already strong programs to provide them with a plethora of motivated student-athletes.
Students are asked to work hard and earn a better life for themselves. It is very possible to achieve success with enough hard work in our current education system, but the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity at attending a top college for example is inaccurate . The notion that our education system is a meritocracy is at best a false claim. I would call it a farce.
Schools like James Lick which have gained negative reputations, see a high percentage of potentially high-achieving students flee to other local schools or private schools as a an alternative. This phenomenon only drives school performance down further. Teacher turnover is a nationwide issue, and one that plagues poor schools to a far greater degree. When schools like James Lick perform poorly, they are subject to intervention, which only makes teachers desire to transfer greater. If teachers do not stay long enough to establish a rapport at a school to effectively teach students, students will not be educated as well as they could be. If students who are already struggling at home, do not have teachers who can teach them as well as students at richer schools, is it in any way surprising that rich schools would perform better academically than poor schools? That’s only one contributing factor. If top colleges heavily weigh AP (advanced placement) participation, and schools like James Lick cannot offer even close to the same number of AP classes as a school like Los Gatos, is it fair to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed? A Comet who wants to go to Stanford University does not have to work as hard as a typical student at Palo Alto high school, they have to work significantly harder (not even taking the potential of legacy enrollments into account.)
There are plenty of Comet success stories over the past few decades. Students who despite difficult living stations, worked hard, earned scholarships and achieved immense success in post high school life. Shawn Herrera, CEO of Mazda technologies is a good example of this type of former JLXC athlete. So is Paloma Contreras, currently attending Santa Clara University on a full academic scholarship (she could also run track for them if she chose).
It is very possible for a JLXC athlete to succeed in this system, but this system is not made for JLXC athletes. The fact that Paloma “made it” should be an inspiration to her fellow Comets who are striving to do the same. It should not however be an indictment of those who don’t “make it.”
Just this year, we had a strong JLXC athlete transfer to Piedmont Hills High School because their parents felt that Piedmont was simply a better school. No blame can be placed on a parent trying to do what is best for their child, and in this parent’s mind, what was best for their child wasn’t James Lick.
The reality is James Lick is not nearly as disadvantaged as some schools across the country. I myself was fortunate enough not to have to worry about having food on the table every day, and I was always allowed the unconditional support of my parents. These were huge factors on the moderate amount of XC success I achieved. We have many high achieving students on the team, cross country tends to produce mentally strong athletes after all. I have no doubt that students like Nathan Bernardo, and Azael Zamora (both have very high GPAs) will go on to college and be successful in whatever they pursue. I’m worried about athletes like Maria who have to fight so hard just to make it in our current system.
In a few days the James Lick Comets will run at BVAL Finals, and will work to run as fast as they can, earn PRs, and high places.
Come what may however, it bears remembering that when the Comets toe the line and tear up hills at league finals, they will carry more than simply the pain of cross country with them.
The most significant and historic Cross Country course in the bay area is without a doubt Crystal Springs in Belmont. Unlike other courses, the Crystal Spring’s course was specifically designed as a cross country course. The Course was founded in it’s 2.95 mile format in 1971, and shortly afterwards became a key course for the entire CCS. In 1973 James Lick ran it for the first time at the Crystal Springs Center meet. It served as the CCS regional meet course for region 3 which James Lick found itself in,beginning in 1975 so the Comets ran the course for the first tim in it’s very first year of existence. Athletes would have to run fast enough to qualify for CCS at their regional meets, making the regional meet a key point in the season, BVAL finals and other league finals have taken the place of regional meets and act as the modern day qualifying meet for CCS.
The Crystal Springs center meets are weekday meets run throughout the season at Crystal Springs for athletes to prepare for the big regional meet. The Crystal Springs invite, held on the 2nd Saturday of October, would follow a few years later. In 1973 CCS was held at Crystal Springs for the first time. CCS would be held at Crystal Springs every year from 1972-2000 with the exception of 1974 when it was at Helyer park. In the 2000s, the CCS committee began the process of alternating the CCS location between Crystal Springs in odd years, and Toro Park in even years. By this time however, the Comets were running Crystal Springs at BVAL finals every year, as well as the Crystal Springs invite or center meet.
The rich history of Crystal Springs make sit the team’s most impressive all time/ team list. The Comets have run at Crystal Springs virtually every year since 1971, now over 40 years of course history! Many years Crystal Springs was run 2-3 times by the Comets, and the full results from almost every race at Crystal Springs dating back to these early years are available online (wish that was the case for every course…) The Crystal Springs course status as a league finals/ CCS playoffs course, make it the number one course in the bay area for time comparisons and rankings.
The Course is made up entirely of dirt trails and is very undulating, with the first 2 miles being downhill overall, with small hills dispersed throughout the course. The final mile (.95 technically) is hilly, with athletes running up towards the finish line form the 2 mile mark. Despite it being a hilly course, its net downhill construction makes it a relatively fast course. In recent years it has become clear that a Varsity athlete should run 45-60 seconds slower at Crystal Springs, than they would for the shorter BVAL league meet courses (Montgomery and Alum Rock).
The Comets of today have a wealth of great times to shoot for, and new great times to achieve when they take to the Crystal Springs course for BVAL Finals and CCS Finals this year.
The Comets began running quality times on the course in 1973 when the began racing it. top runner on that team, Alvarado, ran 16:06, a time which despite it’s standing at 5:27 mile pace, is only the 17th best time for the Comets in school history at Crystal Springs. This team also ran the 3rd best team time in school, a phenomenal 1:22:25, an average of 16:29 a runner. This was all done at the Crystal Spring’s center meet.
A few years later, more strong additions would be made. The team of 1975 ran a strong team of 1:24:35, which stands at number 10 on the Comet list. They were lead by Joe Salazar however, who became the first Comet to run under 16 minutes on the course, running the school record of 15:21, 5:12 mile pace. Peter Munoz would break 16 a few years later, running 15:57 for a team that ran the 8th best team time in school history, 1:23:44. The team of 1977 ran the #2 team time in school history, 1:21:51 (81:51) at the Crystal Springs center meet.
The boys teams of the mid-late 1970s were very strong, but they were just a precursor to the teams of 1980 and 1981, likely the best boys teams in JLXC history. The team of 1980 ran a very strong 1:23:20 (83:20) for #6 on the school’s all time team list. This gave the team a 10th place finish at CCS finals. Rich Diaz lead the team with a 16:03 clocking, tied for 12th in school history, though many of the team’s runners would return for the 1981 season.
1981 in terms of competition, was probably JLXCs best season altogether. Both the boys and girls won the MHAL, the only time in school history that the boys and girls have won a league championship in the same season, and the only MHAL title in school history for the girls (one of only 2 total championships for the girls, the most recent coming in 2014). The girl’s team of 1981 ran whats stands as the school team time record by a large margin. Their time of 1:46:41 at the Crystal Springs invite in 1981 has never been seriously threatened, as the only time in school history the team ran under 1:50 (or 110:00 mins). The team’s top runners, Kim Willoughby in 20:10, Angie Silva in 20:27 and Betsy Whyer in 21:19 currently stand as #2, #4 and #9 respectively on the team’s all time list. The team of 81 was the only girls team in school history to have two girls run under 21 minutes at Crystal Springs in the same season.
The boys team of 1981 was equally impressive. Their team time of 1:20:46 (80:46) still stands as the team record. The team placed 4th as a team at CCS, though this team time nowadays would likely win CCS in division 3 in most seasons. Frank Munoz and Randy Pangelina ran 15:37 and 15:49 this season, 4th and 7th on the school’s all time list. Jim Saldivar also ran 16:16 for 19th place on the list. The team’s average of 16:09 a boy is outstanding. The 5th boy in CCS finals for the Comets that year ran 16:31, while the 7th ran 16:45. This outstanding team stands as the competitive apex of JLXC history, and the team that current Comet team’s look up to while striving to better themselves.
Greg Machado was a freshmen on the team of 1981, running 16:37 as the 6th boy, a few years later he would lead the team with a 15:33 #3 in school history. Unfortunately results from Crystal Springs are incomplete from 1982-1984 with no team times available in these years.
The teams of the late 1980s showed a lot of the strength of he early 80s teams as well. The team of 1986 ran 1:22:32 and the team of 1987 ran 1:22:25, 5th and 6th on the combined team list for the Comets. Joe Amendt tied Joe Salazar’s 15:21, giving two Comets a 5:12 mile pace at the top of the Crystal Springs list. Jim Strachan ran 16:06 for #14 on the school’s list in 1986 and Lanoura Goulart in 1988 ran 21:38 for #12 on the girl’s list.
The team experienced a bit of a dry spell during the very late 80’s and early 90’s. Even so, boy’s teams in this dry spell like the team of 1989 ran high quality team times like 1:27:08 (87:08) that the team of today is trying to return to. 1992 saw Armando Avilez run 16:06 to add his name to the school’s all time list, while Lorena Socarzano did the same on girl’s side running 21:32.
In 1996, Alberto Meza ran 15:53, #9 on the all time list, and was followed a few years later by Will Crane who ran 15:45. Crane is #5 on the school’s all time list, and the most recent Comet to break the 16 minute barrier at Crystal Springs. Emil Kayer ran 21:06 on the girl’s side during the same year, #8 on the school’s all time list. The 90’s and early 2000s had quality runners, but the depth of James Lick throughout 70’s and 80’s was fading as the school achieved it’s “at risk” status. On the boy’s all time team’s list 9/10 times were run in the 70’s and 80’s. The one exception is the 1:24:03 (84:03) of the team of 2000, 9th on the school’s list.
Only two additions to the boy’s all time list have been made since the year 2000, Ivan Navarro’s 16:09 in 2000, and Jose Gutierrez’ 16:00 in 2003. From 2006-2015 no Comet even ran under 17 minutes for Crystal Springs. The team times also weakened as a byproduct.
From 1973- 1989 the Comets ran under 90 minutes (on the boys side) as a team every year on record. Most years they ran under 87 minutes. The team failed to break 90 minutes for the first time in 1991, then again in 1995. In the early 2000s, the team constantly ran in the 85-87 minute time range, very respectable though unspectacular team times. A team time in this range is essentially a guarantee of a CCS spot, more than most sports at the school can claim right now.
Following the 2003 season however, the team fell fast. From a time of 86:14 (1:26:14) in 2003,the team did not break the 90 minute barrier again for 11 straight seasons.Finally in 2015, we were able to break the 90 minute barrier again, running 89:07 as a team at BVAL finals. This season, the Comets had it’s first runners break 17 minutes at Crystal Springs since 2005, Nathan Bernardo and Azael Zamora ran 16:45 and 16:48 at the Crystal Sprinsg invite to accomplish the feet, and the big meets are still ahead with the chance to run faster. This is why we are excited about the team of today, and feel we are moving in the right direction to restore JLXC to it’s former position of competitive success, without sacrificing team culture.
While the boys teams of the mid2000s-2010s were among the weakest in school history, the girl’s teams (which traditionally were never strong competitively) have seen rising success.
Kayla Matsuda ran the school record of 19:39 at Crystal Springs in 2008. On the girls’ all time team list, #1 belongs to the team of 1981, but all 9 other positions have been set since the 2000s. The 10th position is currently held by the team of 2005, at 2:00:16 (120:16) though this year’s team should kook them off, making all 10 positions sub 2 hour clockings.
The #2, #3 and #4 team times at Crystal Springs have been set the past 3 seasons. 1:50:00 in 2014, 1:50:27 in 2015, and 1:55:07 in 2013. The fact that 1:55:07 in 2013 is the 4th best team time in school history, shows that the team’s of the last few seasons are making the school’s history on the girl’s side stronger each passing season. The team will need to break into the 1:40s to be truly competitive throughout the CCS however. Christina Avalos ran 20:38 in 2022 for #7 on the school’s all time list. Daniela Camacho ran 20:33 in 2014 to put herself # 5 on the school’s all time list. In 2015 Maria Mendoza ran 20:35 for #6 and this year Arlet Miranda has already run 20:18 for #3.
With the Crystal Springs Invite just having past, and BVAL Finals at Crystal Springs just 3 weeks away, this is a chance to reflect on the team’s storied history on the course. The JLXC team of 2016 will work hard to try to improve it further, and know that Comets before them have set a high bar for success.
STAL #4 at Montgomery Hill will take place on Thursday October 13th, with STAL #5 a week later. The team is in it’s final phase of training now, readying themselves to run at their best at BVAL Finals (though Arlet and the varsity boys will work to peek for CCS 12 days later).
Thank you for reading, there is a chart of Crystal Springs by year below.
Below is a list of James Lick’s best times at Crystal Springs each year, taking the best team time in a season, and listing what its runners ran to achieve it.
Day one of WVAL Finals featured all prelims for lane events, as well as finals in two distance events and 5 field events between both genders.Only the top 8 athletes in each event move on to finals on friday, since the top 8 athletes in each event score points at league finals. The top 4 athletes in each event not only score, but qualify for BVAL championships next week. The meet started with great performances in the sprint hurdles. Andrea qualified for finals with a PR of 18.73, despite not being ranked in the top 8. Maria also PRd running 18.45 to advance herself. Susie Peterson ended her season with a PR of 20.39. Last year Maria ran 20.53 to qualify for finals, showing how much stronger the league is this year that Susie did not get in.
Hadji Yono-Cruz ran 19.32 for a strong PR and qualafied for finals on friday despite being ranked 10th. Sadly Hadji has a previous commitment and will have to miss the meet. Jon Rodriguez ended his season with a PR of 20.30. Gustavo Aguilera had a poor race by his standards and did not advance either.
Paloma Contreras showed why she is ranked #1 with a win in her heat of the 400 in PR fashion, 1:03.34. Cierra Gutierrez made finals with a 3 second pr of 1:07.59. Gabby Aguilar did not advance but ran a 2 second pr of 1:09.39. The boys performed strongly as well. Cesar Azevedo was ranked 9th, but is now ranked 5th after PRing to 55.36 to make finals. Gustavo Parra did not advance, but ran a solid PR of 57.38.
The girl’s did not have anyone compete in the 100. In the boy’s 100 however Davion Thomas advanced to finals with an official PR of .13, 11.78. He is ranked 5th for friday and has a good chance of making BVAl champs. Stanley Nguyen ended his season with a solid PR of 12.28. Ralph Sanchez battled injury but ran his race bravely regardless.
Meanwhile the jumpers were hard at work. Lyndel Ventura placed 3rd in triple jump with a leap of 29’10.25″ She clinches a spot at BVAL champs as a freshman in the process. Crystal Nguyen had a solid PR of 28’4.25″ to place 6th. Elyse Elder jumped inches from her pr. She did however manage to score a point in the high jump by clearing 4’3. Davion struggled in long jump,scratching all 3 attempts in an event he was expected to score highly in. Hadji jumped 16’11 to end his season.
No event was a more impressive showing for the team than the girl’s 300 hurdles. Andrea Ortiz came in ranked 7th and is ranked 2nd for fiday after winning her heat in a PR shattering 50.20. She takes the school record from teammate Maria Mendoza in the process. Maria remains ranked 3rd after winning her own heat in 51.80 to PR as well. The boy 300 hurdlers had a rough day, with Jon narrowly missing advancing, placing 9th in 49.01. Jesse Chircop looked poised to PR but came to a complete stop at the last hurdle,an issue he will work to fix for next season.
The 200s saw Gabby end her season with another PR of 31.09. Andrea also PR’d running 29.22 despite having just finished the 300 hurdles. Davion managed to again advance to finals as the #5 rank. He broke 24 for the first time for the event, clocking 23.99. Cesar also ran a PR in the event, running 25.94.
The throwers showed their mettle again with Pablo Segovia throwing a PR in Disc to score 8th in 98’8.5. Alex Alonzo ended his season with a PR of 78’8.5 as well. Isaac and RObert also competed. The girl’s shot was outstanding for the team. Alejandra Ceron threw 29’6.5″ A PR by 2 feet to place 3rd and qualify for BVAL champs. Charli Chircop placed 6th with a solid throw in 27’10. These freshmen girls will be a big factor in the league for years to come.
The meet came to a close with 2 heats of the girls 1600 as finals, and ythe boys 3200 final. Brianna Flores ended her 4 year career by winning the 1st heat in 6:13.65, an 11 second PR. Daniela Camacho placed 3rd in the fast jeat to qualify for BVAl champs in 5:29.55. A strong performance for both girls.
The boys 3200 had Karan Singh running 10:23.00 to move onto the school’s top 10 list in the event and place 3rd. Nathan Bernardo scored a point at 10:45, an 18 second PR. Hector Ramirez had a 7 second pr of 11:01, placing 12th, showing the league’s depth in the event. Guillermo Villalobos ended his season with a solid 11:30.
The Comets had a great day 1 overall and are looking ahead to Friday’s finals to far exceed last year’s combined point total of 63 points between the boys and girls. Stay tuned for finals results.