isn't defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can truthfully
say, 'I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,' then you're a
The above quote sums up what we
hope you will take away from this season:
Do your best in whatever you do.
Many of you made the commitment to give nothing less than your best from the beginning of the summer through the last competition. You have made our job, as coaches, an easy and enjoyable one. Moreover, as fellow runners who know how difficult this is, we respect and admire what you have accomplished this year.
In July the summer runs begin in earnest. It is good to see so many teammates showing up on a regular basis, working hard and getting ready for the season to come. After nine years spent reloading, we are finally faced with a year of rebuilding. It will be a test of character for all of us. Hard work will be our only salvation.
On August 15th,
18 members of the team arrive at
On August 22nd, daily practice begins at school. With only three returnees from last year’s top 7, and a young contingent behind them, we know it will be a challenging season. We find out soon that it will be even more challenging as junior, Steve McCarroll – expected to be a top seven runner for us – is out indefinitely due to injury. One of the hardest working guys on the team, Steve continues to attend daily practice, biking instead of running, and showing, through his example, what it means to be dedicated to the team. We look forward to having him back in the line-up. We also know that we will prepare the best we can, race as competitively as possible, and be satisfied with the results our work produces.
For the first time in many
years we schedule a scrimmage. Given the
youth and inexperience of our squad, it seems appropriate to get some racing
experience before the real season began.
On Thursday, August 31st, we travel to
The Lenape District has
finally decided that there should be annual competition among the four district
schools. The First Annual District Cross
Country Meet is on our schedule for Tuesday, September 12th. A tough way to start the year! While Lenape is down,
On Saturday, September 16th, the 11th Annual Cherokee Challenge takes center stage. From a meet that began with several local teams and less than 500 total runners, this event has grown into one of the biggest meets in the state, this year boasting 1700 finishers in 10 races and celebrity athletes such as American record holder, Bob Kennedy, in attendance. The freshmen show their strength with Steve Burkholder, Matt McCarroll, Ian Foley, Kyle Smith and Frankie Devine all finishing among the top 33 in a field of 220 runners. Sophomore, Sean Hartnett shows the first glimpse of his fine season to come with a two minute improvement over his freshman year race. In doing so, he takes Athlete of the Meet honors.
Wednesday, September 20th, brings our next dual meet against an improved Cherry Hill East team. Rebounding from the early loss to Seneca, the team responds with a strong effort to handily put away the Cougars. Freshman, Steve Burkholder, earns Athlete of the Meet honors with a performance that sees him finish as the team’s 2nd man behind Alex Yersak. It is also to be the last race of the season for freshman, Kyle Smith, who has been trying to run through knee problems that have plagued him from the start of the season. As disappointed as we are to see his season cut short, we know it is in his best interest and we also know that he has the ability to be good in the future, once the knee problem subsides.
As we prepare to defend our
title at the 3rd Annual South Jersey Shootout on September 23rd,
we know it will be an extremely difficult task as we will be without Alex Yersak who is sick at home. The meet features an interesting format in
which a team’s 5-6-7 runners compete in one race, the 3-4 runners in a second
race, and the 1-2 runners in a third.
Things start well for us as Kevin
Schickling, returning from injury, holds on to win the first race. Behind him, freshman, Matt McCarroll, earns Athlete of the Meet honors both for his fine 7th
place performance and for his aggressive “get out of my way” attitude at the
finish! Chris Applegate continues to show improvement as he finishes 3rd
in the 3-4 race to keep us in contention.
However, it is not to be as
In our next race, a dual
Mike Medvec is also the man of the hour the next Saturday, September 30th, as he is the main force in the organization and running of the First Annual Chuck Eells Memorial 5k Road Race. Mike, with some help from teammates and parents, puts on the event as a show of support for teammate and friend, Liam Eells, and as a tribute to his beloved father who succumbed to ALS after a lengthy battle. The race proceeds are to go to the Charles E. Eells Children’s Scholarship Fund and, with practically the entire team entered in the race, the event is a huge success! More than any race of the season, this event makes us proud to be the coaches of the Cherokee Cross Country Team.
While we rest some runners, others take to the course on Wednesday, October 4th, in our final dual meet of the season against Pennsuaken. Sean Hartnett leads the way with his first place finish while Kyle Miller shows the biggest improvement, a 37 second drop, to earn Athlete of the Meet honors. First year runner, Scott Woodmansee, continues to show improvement with a solid 9th place finish. We do not find out until latter that it will be Scott’s last race of the season, forced to the sideline pending tests to determine the cause of unexplained chest pains. As with Kyle Smith, we are disappointed to lose Scott but we are optimistic that he will be back next season better than ever.
A windy day and a damp course
greet us on Saturday, October 7th, as we arrive at
A week later, On October
14th, we arrive at
we prepare to take the line for the Burlington County Championships on Friday, October
20th, the specter of nine previous championship teams is with
us…perhaps haunting us. Seneca has
already beaten us once this year and
following Monday, October 23rd, a small group of freshmen and
sophomores head to
Friday, October 27th, perfect conditions are on tap for the
Olympic Conference Championship Meet back at
Haddonfield Invitational on November 1st, takes on greater
significance as the coaching dual
between undefeated Coach Shak and winless
sunny, breezy, cool day greets the runners on Saturday, November 4th,
as they line up for the start of the South Jersey Group 4 Sectional
Championship Race. Although not favored,
we know that a good race will put us in the title hunt. Athlete of the Meet, Alex Yersak, does his part, repeating as Sectional Champion (the
first junior to accomplish that feat in the history of the SJ Group 4
Sectional). Behind Alex, however, things begin to unravel. Chris
Applegate claims a top 10 finish with another strong race and Colin Cunningham holds on for a top 20
finish. But, it is 27 seconds and 29
places later that Steve Burkholder crosses
the line as our 4th man, with Kevin
Schickling, Mike Medvec and Matt
McCarroll all following within the next 8 seconds. Unfortunately, the gap from three to four has
done its damage and we come away disappointed with our 4th place
finish. Still, we have qualified for the
Group 4 State Meet for the 12th year in a row and we will have a
shot at redemption at
With unseasonably warm, humid conditions and a bit of a breeze, the State Group 4 Race on Saturday, November 11th, will not be a day for records (as Craig Forys finds out in his failed attempt at the Holmdel record). Weather, however, is something that everyone has to deal with equally, and we are not interested in times…just place. From the first check point, a thousand meters in, it already appears that things are not going well. A check at the mile and the two mile mark confirms this analysis…we are running just “ok” through four runners and there is a big gap back to 5-6-7. By the finish the gap has grown even bigger. With Alex Yersak – 8th, Chris Applegate – 31st, Kevin Schickling – 41st and Colin Cunningham – 55th across the line, we wait 53 seconds, while 55 runners cross, before Steve Burkholder, struggling with a side stitch, finishes in 111th place to finally end the scoring. The mood is somber as we wait for the results, wondering if we have even finished in the top 10. When it is announced that Cherokee is 5th, ahead of the three teams that beat us last week, the shock is evident in the eyes of both coaches! Later we find that our team time has landed us the final wildcard spot and, somehow, someway…we are going back to the Meet of Champions! A lesson is learned: Sometimes success is a matter of continuing to give your best when things are not going well…never give up! Kevin Schickling earns the Athlete of the Meet award for setting a Holmdel PR on a day not suited to fast running.
One to go…Saturday, November
18th, is a time of reflection for seniors, Colin Cunningham and Mike
Medvec, as they prepare for their final high school cross country
race. Along with fellow senior, Joe Foley, they have been a part of a
fine tradition and they will be missed next year. But now there is a race to run. The gun sounds and the best teams and best
runners in the state begin the charge to the woods. It is good to, once again, be among the elite
On Sunday, November 19th, Alex Yersak is selected to the 1st Team All-South Jersey for the second year in a row. Chris Applegate is named to the 2nd Team All-South Jersey. Later, both Alex and Chris are named to the All-Burlington County Team.
On November 22nd, the final South Jersey Cross Country Rankings are published in the Courier Post. We move up from 7th to finish the year in 3rd. In a decade, the team has never finished out of the top three.
On Saturday, November 25th,
Alex Yersak, Chris Applegate and Steve Burkholder compete in the
Footlocker Northeast Cross Country Championships at fabled Van Cortlandt Park
Cherokee Cross Country 2006 is over.
Our deep appreciation goes out to the seniors, Mike, Joe and Colin. Thank you for all you have contributed to the program. Please know that, whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are, and will always be, a part of it.
To those who are returning: The future of this team is now in your hands. The potential within you is great. Set your goals high. Strive to be the best you can be. Encourage your teammates…work together…help each other…do your part to make this program a success. It will not be easy but….it will be worth it.
“If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement.”
Meet of Champions 2007, here we come!
Thanks to all of you who have played a part in the success of Cherokee Cross Country…parents, booster club members, our team manager, Mia Volpe, Mr. Schramm – our AD (and former cross country coach), Mr. Bennedetto – our Assistant AD (and former track coach), and the school and district administration. We appreciate the support!
In particular, thanks to Mr. Smyth for the great job he does with the photography and the website. It really helps to have such a great record of each event. Years from now the images Mr. Smyth has given to us will remind us of our Glory Days!
Most of all, thanks to you – the members of the 2006 Cherokee Cross Country Team – for a great season! We are proud to be your coaches.
Coach Shak &