Friday, August 30, 2019

Jackie Henderson Memorial Invitational

The Jackie Henderson Memorial Invitational will be limited to 45 teams this year.
The first 45 teams registered on will be allowed into the meet.
Coach Ibarra

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Starting blocks for 800m.

If you fast forward to 1:24, you can see the competitors hammer down their blocks for the start of the 1956 Olympic 800m final. I am not sure when they started and stopped using blocks but certainly interesting to see the start of an 800m race with blocks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Catching up with Bellarmine coach Patrick McCrystle...

You can check out my updated interview with Coach McCrystle at this link which was posted TODAY:

Since a lot of visitors to this blog are new, I am going to repost some past interviews with coaches and athletes that are still pertinent to this current cross country season.  I will start with the coach of the top-ranked boys' NorCal team, Pat McCrystle of Bellarmine HS.  This interview was originally posted on October 6th, 2008.
Today's interview is with Bellarmine Cross Country coach Patrick McCrystle (pictured here standing far right). Coach McCrystle ran for one of the best coaches in CA, Jesuit's Walt Lange and is now continuing the legacy of another CA coaching icon, Terry Ward. His current Bellarmine team is ranked #1 in CCS and is ready to start league competition in the tough WCAL.

1) How did you get your start in running?
I started running track my sophomore year at Jesuit High School Sacramento. I played football, basketball, and baseball my first year in HS, and football and basketball my sophomore year, but my PE teacher—Walt Lange—talked me into coming out for track, and I loved it because in football and baseball so many guys on the team didn’t work very hard, and if we didn’t win it seemed very frustrating to have worked hard but have the outcome rest on people who hadn’t worked very hard, but in track you HAD to work hard or it would be pretty clear you were slacking, and at J-High the distance runners were tough. So, I just decided to give cross country a try. My dad had given me a book called The Worlds of Brutus Hamilton when I was in 8th grade, all about the famous Cal distance coach, but of course I wanted to be like the guys on TV…looking back, I wish I had read it and been mature enough to go out for XC my freshmen year, because I could have used those two years of training!

2) You ran for one of the most decorated coaches in California, Jesuit's Walt Lange. From your experience under his tutelage, what are some of the reasons for his successl?

Walt is successful for several reasons, but one of the biggest, I believe, is his understanding of the ‘big picture.’ He looks at each athlete on his team as an opportunity for improvement, and he trains them with that in mind. Of course, many other coaches do that as well, but Walt develops training sessions with the whole season in mind, looking at how he can get the most out of each of his teams near the end of the season. The Sac-Joaquin Section has championships at 4 levels (Frosh, Soph, JV and Varsity; why can’t other sections do that? What a great way to build up interest in the sport!), and if one researches the J-High records at those levels one would find tremendous success for the Marauders, because Walt is not focusing on one level or group of runners.

Walt also understands distance running very well, and neither under or over-trains his teams, in my opinion. Also, Jesuit HS is the sort of school that has tremendous school spirit, and most of the students want to be a part of the athletic program, so he gets a lot of eager and motivated students out for cross country. And, perhaps the secret weapon for J-High is the American River Parkway, endless miles of dirt trails going in both directions away from J-High, running along the banks of the American River, linking up with several big parks that have enormous, flat, well-maintained grass fields. Jesuit runners never have to run on concrete!

3) You started out as a hurdler (I believe) and eventually moved to the 800 recording a 1:50.70 during high school. How did that transition come about?
I was a triple jumper and hurdler my sophomore year, but Walt put me in the 400 a few times, and then told me I should run the 800, and that I should come out for cross country, too. So I did, though the actual moment that sold me both on track as well as longer races happened at Arcadia. We had a miler named Pedro Reyes (4:06.01/2nd 1600 1980 state meet…who also started as a 400 man) who was running the 1600 at Arcadia, and Walt asked me to run the 400 on a Distance Medley team, which would be anchored by Pedro (4:17 that night, his third sub-4:20 1600 in 24 hours!) I weighed about 100 pounds and couldn’t have been more than 5’2”, but I got the baton, put my head down and tucked in behind some huge guy from LA and Pr’ed by 2 seconds. We finished 4th and received a medal and Pedro was my hero and all I wanted to do was run after that. I kept running hurdles and triple jumping and running the 400 and 1600 in dual meets, depending on what the other team’s strengths were, but the 800 was my event for the big meets.

4) How long have you been at teaching/coaching at Bellarmine? Any other coaching experiences?

I started teaching English at Bellarmine in 1989. I have been teaching History here since 1990. I also taught at Jesuit High Sacramento from 1986-1988, and at Mitty for one year (1997-98), so 19 years teaching at three Catholic schools. I coached football and track at Jesuit for two years, and soccer at Bellarmine for 9 years and Mitty for 1…I am proud that all 9 years I was in the soccer program at BCP, we won section soccer championships, though I was the JV coach. I coached track at BCP for three years in the early ‘90s, and I am the head track coach as of this year. I do consider myself more of a teacher than a coach; I teach World Cultures, AP European History and Conflict in the Modern World.

5) Tell us a little about Terry Ward and what he has meant to Bellarmine HS.
Well, for over 30 years Terry is and has been an ambassador both for the sport of distance running as well as Ignatian education (he is a graduate of SI in San Francisco and taught and coached at SI before coming to BCP.) In my experience, one of Terry’s finest qualities is his wonderful kindness and acceptance of all people. I always marvel at Terry when we are at meets together; everybody—EVERYBODY—knows Terry, and he knows everyone, and more than that he always has something kind to say and remembers something personal about the person. I have tried—and largely failed—to emulate that. As a coach, Terry was extremely flexible in how he coached his charges. He understood that some athletes require more miles while some need periodic breaks. I learned a lot from him in that regard, and having coached under both Terry and Walt Lange, I think it says something about me that my teams have never come close to their success…perhaps I am a poor student!

6) How do you attract so many runners to run cross country? What is the size of this year's team?
This year we have 134 runners on the team. Obviously the size of Bellarmine contributes to that; we have somewhere around 1600 students, all boys of course, one of the biggest schools in the CCS, so how could we NOT have a huge team? But, beyond that, I think our numbers are a result of the three other coaches on staff: Dave Barone, Casey McCullough, and Richard Nevle. All three are truly excellent, and popular, teachers here at Bellarmine, so we are in constant contact with the student body, encouraging students to come out for the team. The average Bellarmine student is a fairly motivated young man, looking to get involved, and at Bellarmine there is a least one sport each season that is ‘no-cut’ so that any student who wants to compete in athletics can have the chance. Cross Country is that sport in the Fall, though we call it ‘self-cut’ because anyone who comes to practice every day can be on the team, but they have to come to practice every day. That policy has worked out for us well; Kyle Tuttle ’07 ran a 9:48 1600 time trial his freshman cross country season, and a 9:48 3200 in the WCAL track finals his senior year. He just showed up to practice every day and did what he was asked.

We also try to make the sport fun, especially by running off campus as much as possible, including yearly ‘mystery runs’—the athletes don’t know where we are going, and we run somewhere we have never run before. Our next mystery run is October 15th. This year we have relied on Senior and Junior leadership to interact even more with the young runners, hoping to inspire them to become leaders themselves, while also making them feel more a part of the team. On some recovery days this year we have played ultimate Frisbee, and we always have the beginning of the season pot luck, during which we encourage parents to come to as many events—including practices—as they can, which increases the amount of food that shows up at meets and workouts, which makes the runners happy too! Maybe not the most inspiring list, but I think it all adds up to a big roster every year.

7) Tell us a little about what you want your runners to accomplish during the summer.
Summer running is a real conundrum for me. Chad Evans, the outstanding coach at SI, gave me a line I use all the time: the three most important words in cross country are June, July, and August. And I agree with that; no runner will maximize his or her potential without putting in the miles over the summer. But, at Bellarmine, like at all schools, I have many student-athletes who have varied interests, and during the summer they have opportunities to explore those interests in ways they cannot during the school year because of academic responsibilities. So, I encourage them to go to music camp and space camp and Boy Scout Camp and everything else that will enrich their lives. At Bellarmine, we are blessed to have immersion trips that take students to El Salvador and Guatemala during the summer, and many of our students travel with Amigos de las Americas, and this summer one of our better runners actually worked with the Sisters of Charity (Mother Theresa’s order) in India…how am I going to say no to opportunities like that? I WANT them to do those things! So, I say run when you are here. As far as the running goes, we take it easy in general. 40+ mile weeks for our better runners, though if their bodies can handle more, then I encourage them to add in long runs when possible. We do absolutely zero quality work, nothing until late August. In the end, I wish our guys ran more during the summer but I am happy with the sorts of things most of them do in lieu of running, so on balance it all works out.

8) What training areas do you primarily use for your practices?
Running around Bellarmine is horrible. We are bound by the Alameda, I-880, the SJ airport, the Cal train tracks and Taylor Street…nothing but pavement and traffic in every direction. We do have two city parks close by, and we use them quite often. But we go to Rancho San Antonio once a week, Alum Rock once a week, and the Los Gatos Creek Trail once a week. We also use Quicksilver Park during the season. The highlights of the season, though, are the weekend runs we do at the Forest of Nicene Marks State Park in Aptos, Rio Del Mar beach and my personal favorite, Waddell Creek State Beach, where we run up into Big Basin State Park. Of course, this means buses 4 days a week, so thank heavens for our outstanding AD’s office and maintenance crew.

9) Your team competes in the WCAL which is an incredibly competitive league for many sports. How does competing in this league prepare your team for CCS and beyond?
Well, it prepares me because the other coaches are excellent coaches and even better people; I have to try to keep up with them! And, much of what I have learned has come from them…thanks especially to Al Berran at SI! We know that every year our League is going to be very competitive on all four levels, and that all seven schools will field competitive teams on all four levels, so we will have to be mentally focused at all three of our League meets or we will be beaten soundly. Ironically, I think it may hurt us as much as help us at CCS. Of course it helps in that we have run three intense races, but I also think it can take a lot out of us. Our three League meets happen on three Wednesdays, run every other week over a five week period. We are pretty ‘run out’ by the end of that, and I wish our League would change that so that we could be fresher at the end of the season. Also, in trying to prepare for our League Championship (which counts for ½ the team total), we choose not to go to meets like Mt. Sac, which I think would help us prepare for State.

10) From your experience as a competitor and coach, what does it take to be a successful distance runner?
I believe that successful distance running requires many things, but for me the absolute ‘musts’ are consistency and discipline. Runners must run consistently for a long period in order to build the cardio-vascular fitness that can then be fine-tuned. I don’t think four days a week will do it. And, so many intangible items inhibit or boost one’s running that discipline is huge. Runners must live a healthy life, obviously staying away from alcohol and drugs, but also incorporating healthy foods into their diet and getting the hours of sleep that their body—and mind—needs. They must limit the time they spend in front of a video game console or IM screen on the computer; do your homework and go to bed, that’s my coaching credo!! In addition to those two things, I think having like-minded teammates is key, because a season of running long and hard on your own can be emotionally draining, while sharing the challenge of hard training with teammates not only enhances the experience but can push a student-athlete way beyond what they may have perceived as their limits.

11) Rumor is that you are quite adept at figuring out team scores as cross country races progress and before the results are even announced. How does one acquire such a skill?
Uhm, you have been talking to Sean Laughlin! Wasting countless hours as a kid calculating baseball stats without a calculator in competition against my brother Timothy; trying to figure out 1600 relay splits in my head; luck.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks to you Albert for running your site. I am a fan, because anything that celebrates the sport of running is a boon. I love coaching these young people, and I truly believe a positive athletic experience can help them to realize their potential as humans, which is why I wish we could attract even more kids away from computers and video games and out on trails…and anything which shines a light on our sport helps that. While simply running on your team should be enough as an intrinsic reward, I feel the sport could use some more positive publicity. I wish we had better places to train and race, or perhaps I should say more places to train and race. And, it is an honor to work with and compete against so many other wonderful people, all these great coaches in Northern California. Other than that, thanks for asking and go Red Sox!!

Thank you very much for your time Patrick! AJC

Monday, August 26, 2019

Pre-Season section previews

You can check out previews for all the sections in California at this link:

You can also check out the countdown of all the top teams in California which includes several Northern California teams:

Friday, August 23, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

2019 NCS Division V pre-season Cross Country rankings (boys and girls)

You can check out the divisions for the upcoming season at this LINK. The lone team that dropped down from Division IV is Cardinal Newman.

Due to the air quality last year, this division's races were not contested. At the state meet, the Lick-Wilmerding boys finished in 2nd place followed by Rincon Valley Christian in 4th, University in 8th and Head-Royce in 10th place. For the girls, the Lick-Wilmerding team won their first state title followed by University in 5th place, Branson in 8th place, Head-Royce in 9th place and St. Joseph Notre Dame in 10th place. It was a great showing once again for the section despite many teams not having the opportunity to race for several weeks.

For this coming season, the race for the team title appears to be wide open. Multiple teams will have an opportunity at the section title provided they did their summer running and are able to add depth to their strong front runners.

Lick-Wilmerding scored a 2nd place finish at the state meet and return potentially one of the best runners in this division in rising sophomore Alex Mader (4:28.76/9:29.63). They return 4 from last year's state meet and have displayed excellent depth as one of the largest division V teams in this section.

Head-Royce had an excellent 2018 season and had one of the tightest packs in this division. They finished in 10th place at the state and will return 5 members from that team.

The University boys won their first state championship in 2017. They battled through injury issues last year and finished in 8th place at the state meet. Lead runner Charlie Kennedy (1:56.40/4:26.54) made a spectacular return in the spring and performed extremely well during this past Track and Field season.

Rincon Valley Christian had their best season ever under the leadership of veteran coach, Harry Skandera. They finished in 4th place at the state meet and return some very strong runners (Brady English and Simon Peterson) from that team. Last spring, Rincon Valley Christian closed it's doors after four decades as they graduated their final class of seniors. It looks like another school (Victory Christian Academy) has taken it's place but we where those RVC runners attend this fall is still a mystery.

Other teams that will be in the mix are Stuart HallCollege Prep and St. Joseph Notre Dame. All three schools have done well in the past and shouldn't be counted out as contenders for the state meet.

The race for the individual title should come down to a battle between College Prep senior Jacob Lehmann-Duke (4:27.56/9:28.22), Lick-Wilmerding sophomore Alex Mader (4:28.76/9:29.63) and Rincon Valley Christian junior Brady English (4:32.27/9:53.00). University senior Charlie Kennedy will also be in contention and would be quite a threat if there is a sprint for the individual title.

Division V Boys (Top 5 Advance to State)
1) Lick-Wilmerding-Strong 2nd place finish at last year's state meet.
2) Head Royce-Very solid team that will be looking to improve their state meet finish from '18.
3) University-Some heavy losses due to graduation but do not count them out.
4) Rincon Valley Christian-Actually this school is closed but don't count them out just yet.
5) Stuart Hall-Sold team in BCL West will be looking to qualify to another state meet.
On the bubble: Branson, College PrepSt. Joseph ND

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2018 state meet time:

Jacob Lehmann-Duke (8) College Prep 16:16.0
Alex Mader (12) Lick-Wilmerding 16.21.6
Brady English (17) Rincon Valley Christian 16:29.5
Simon Peterson (16) Rincon Valley Christian 16:45.9
Jack Vanden Heuvel (27) Healdsburg 16:50.1

Despite not racing for a few weeks, the Lick-Wilmerding girls won their first state XC title in 2018 They edged out St. Margarets by 6 points (97 to 103) as the Tartans just missed winning two state titles following their boy's victorious effort.

This coming season, L-W will return 7 of their 8 top runners and should be considered as the favorites. They will be led by Mira Terdiman (2:23.39/5:08.39) and Maya Lacamp (2:16.53/5:09.70).

Their main competition should come from the top team out of the BCL East, the Head-Royce Jayhawks. They have one advantage over the Lick-Wilmerding Tigers in that they return their top 8 runners. They also have a strong duo upfront with Kaya Hano (2:26.77/5:09.69/11:29.98) and Ona Ortiz-Guteman (2:24.63/5:12.90/11:17.01).

University will more than keep Lick-Wilmerding and Head-Royce honest as they have been one of the strongest teams in the state. Coach Carin Marrs has maintained and built on the success established by past coach Jim Tracy. They finished in 5th place at the state meet last year and will be looking to improve on that finish.

The rest of the contending teams should include St. Joseph Notre Dame (10th at 2018 state meet), Marin Academy, Urban and Branson (8th at 2018 state meet). 

Individually, all the girls mentioned above will be vying for a top finish but the individual favorite should be St. Helena junior, Harper McClain (2:24.79/5:01.04/10:29.68). She has not competed in Cross Country so far in high school but considering her track success this past spring, I think it's pretty clear that she will be tearing it up this fall.

Division V Girls (Top 6 Advance to State)
1) Lick-Wilmerding-Defending their first-ever state XC title.
2) Head Royce-Return their top 8 runners from 2018 season.
3) University-Solid top 3 team that will be in contention once again.
4) St. Joseph ND-Solid competitive program led by veteran coach, Tony Fong
5) Marin Academy-One of the surprises from the 2018 season that will be in the hunt once again.
6) Urban-Resides in the always tough BCL West which may elevate their girls to contention.
On the bubble: Branson, Convent & Stuart Hall

Top 5 returning individuals, (place) and 2018 state meet time:

Mira Terdiman (12) Lick-Wilmerding 19:17.3
Kaya Hano (16) Head-Royce 19:36.8
Ona Ortiz (21) Head-Royce 19:42.2
Caitlin Evers (29) Branson 19:51.6
Maya Lacamp (30) Lick-Wilmerding 19:55.9

2019 State XC Meet auto team qualifiers

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Note from Lowell Invitational Meet Director Andy Leong

Apologies to teams that were rejected from the San Francisco/Lowell Invitational.  San Francisco Rec and Park has put a cap on the numbers of runners I can have so I cannot let any other schools in the meet. At this point, the meet is full.

Andy Leong
Meet Director
Lowell Invitational

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

CCS Time Comparisons have been posted!

What do you think? Accurate? What teams are under-ranked? Who will be the biggest surprise? Are the Bellarmine boys and Carlmont girls the best teams for each sex?

Monday, August 05, 2019

2019 pre-season cross country rankings

You can check out California MileSplit's countdown to the top California teams at the following link:

For those of you familiar with Tully Runners, you can go to their site and check out their pre-season team and individual rankings for the pre-season. There is one NorCal girls team that made their top 30 list. There are two NorCal boys teams that made the top 30 list as well. As far as individuals, one NorCal girl and boy made the list and can you name them without looking them up?

I will post the NCS Division V pre-season rankings next followed by the Top NorCal teams and individuals. In the meantime, please feel free to comment on any of the above in the comment section below.

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