This year’s seniors were in 5th grade in the fall of 2000, while the Cherokee Cross Country Team was busy winning its 4th consecutive Group 4 State Championship …
The class of 2008 has come a long way since that fall . . . and so has the Cherokee Cross Country Program. Six conference championships, five county championships, two Courier Post Cups, six trips to the Meet of Champions…quite a record of success over the past six years. However, although many great competitors came through the program in those years, no one was able to lead the team to another state title…until now. Behind the leadership of senior captains, Steve McCarroll, Kevin Schickling and Alex Yersak, the 2007 Cherokee Cross Country team enjoyed one of its finest years . . . an undefeated dual meet season . . . a District Championship . . . a Burlington County Championship . . . an Olympic Conference Championship . . . a South Jersey Group 4 Championship . . . and, yes . . . a State Group 4 Championship.
“The greatest discovery is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”
- William James
A NEW ATTITUDE: It was obvious early on that this season would be something special. From the first summer run to the last race, the attitude on this team was exceptional . . . and that made all the difference. You are all to be commended for showing such determination, dedication and character. Through your hard work and perseverance, each of you has contributed to the success we have enjoyed this year . . ..
It was a season of vast improvements. Josh Ungerleider started things off on September 15th, earning Athlete of the Meet honors at the Cherokee Challenge for his one minute and 28 second improvement over his time from last year. It was also good to see senior, Ryan Lutz, racing with the team after a year’s absence.
On September 19th, Kevin (Ted) Schickling provided a preview of the fine season he was about to have, finishing 2nd in our first dual meet – against Cherry Hill East (and West) – only two seconds behind team leader, Alex Yersak.
Evan Stone returned to competition in a big way, after recovering from a stress fracture, with an impressive win in the JV race at the South Jersey Shootout on September 22nd. In the same meet, Ryan McNair and Steve McCarroll ran great races finishing 9th and 10th in the Varsity 3-4 competition.
On September 25th, it was Chris Applegate’s turn to show what he could do. With a big finishing kick, Yaps sprinted by the top Washington Township runner to finish second to teammate, Alex Yersak by a mere 4 seconds.
The team’s trip to the First Annual Ocean State Cross
Country Invitational in
Ryan Bobb and Mike Czuba took center stage on Thursday, October 4th at the Burlington County Frosh/Soph Meet. Ryan, the team’s lone freshman, ran his most competitive race of the year to earn a medal with his 7th place finish. Mike showed a true competitive spirit with his overly aggressive start but still hung on for a strong 12th place finish in the sophomore race.
On October 6th, the team traveled to
The Lenape District Meet, on October 9th, finished off the undefeated dual meet season for the team. Alex and Ted looked strong, taking the top two spots. But, it was Marc Saccomanno’s thrilling sprint win over Bonner of Shawnee that highlighted the team victory.
On Saturday, October 13th, minus six of the top eight runners, the team competed in the South Jersey Open, finishing 6th in the varsity race and 3rd in the JV. Kyle Smith’s first sub 18 minute performance (17:28!) was a highlight, along with Ted’s 8th place finish and first good race on the Delsea course. Also setting new 5k PR’s were Steve Burkholder, Steve McCarroll, Frankie Devine, Doug Baals, Tyler Mauro and Ryan Bobb.
On Friday, October 20th, the team won its
Clouds, wind, rain and a muddy (altered) course greeted the runners at the Olympic Conference Meet on October 26th. With perhaps our best team race of the year, we crushed the rest of the conference with a low score of 30 points. Alex Yersak added to his list of impressive accomplishments with his second conference title in two years (once again, the first Cherokee runner to do so). Kevin Schickling ran another great race to finish 3rd. The “JV” competition featured a great family feud between the McCarroll brothers with Matt edging older brother Steve by three seconds for the win. Eight of the next ten runners were from Cherokee, including first year runner, Tyler Mauro, with his best race of the year in 10th. Although forced to run in the JV competition, this group is one good varsity squad!
The annual coaching duel at the Haddonfield Invitational on November
1st took on a new look with first year volunteer coach, Jeff Thompson, added to the mix. Through seven years, Coach Shak was undefeated against
On Saturday, November 3rd, Alex Yersak and Kevin Schickling finished 1st and 2nd to lead the team to our first Sectional Championship in seven years. In the process, Alex did something no one else has ever done . . . win three South Jersey Group 4 titles in a row. With all seven runners moving well over the last mile, the team turned what looked like a close race, mid-way, into a 38 point victory.
The first annual Freshman & JV State Championship was
Things got off to a rocky start at the Group 4 State Meet on
November 10th. Sean Hartnett was sick the morning of
the race and unable to take the line.
Fortunately, Matt McCarroll,
fresh off of his victory on Wednesday, came prepared to race. After a slow start that saw the team well
back at the mile, everyone got busy chasing down the competition. By the end, with five runners between 7th
and 42nd, we won our first state title in seven years in convincing
fashion, 42 points ahead of runner-up,
A lot can change in one week. The optimism we felt leaving Holmdel after the group meet had slowly faded due to health concerns. Alex’s allergies were giving him problems and Ted had spent three days out of school with the flu. Still, both were back and ready to give it their best shot as we arrived at Holmdel on November 17th. As the race began, it became obvious that both Alex and Ted were not at their best. In addition, Sean Hartnett had gotten sick again right before the race and was way back in the pack. By the finish, we were well back, finishing in 9th place, with only Ryan McNair running faster than the week before. More importantly . . . where was Sean? Unknown to us, Sean had blacked out during the race and was being treated by the paramedics who eventually took him to the hospital. Hours later, after numerous tests came back normal, Sean was allowed to leave with his parents, dehydration and depletion the suspected cause of his collapse. The mood was somber and all of us were quite disappointed. However, while it did not end as we had hoped, it was still a great season with a lot to be proud of. In a few days, the sting of this race would fade, replaced by the fond memories of an exceptional season.
The Cherokee Cross Country Team was finished for the
year. However, the Cherokee Running Club
had one race to go. On November 24th
To Ryan and Tyler: In a short time, you have each contributed to the continued success of the Cherokee Cross Country Program through your hard work and dedication.
To our senior captains, Steve, Kevin and Alex: We can’t over-emphasize the importance of your leadership this year. Through your words and your actions you guided this team each step of the way. Your focus on team goals and your dedication and hard work made each of you a great example to your teammates. Without your leadership, none of our successes would have been possible.
To all of our seniors: Whatever we accomplish in the coming years, please know that you are, and will always be, a part of it. Thank you.
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” – Thomas Jefferson
You now know what it takes to be a championship team . . . dedication, commitment, hard work, faith in yourself and your teammates . . . and dreams. Where do you see yourself next year? Where do you see this team? What are you willing to do to make it happen? The future is up to you. Set your goals high! With 14 returning runners who have already broken the 18 minute barrier, next year has the potential to be the best season in the history of Cherokee Cross Country. It is now up to each of you to turn that potential into reality.
“Make a success of living by seeing the goal and aiming for it unswervingly.”
– Cecil B. DeMille
Thank you parents for your continued support!
Thank you Mr. Schramm, our AD, and Mr. Bennedetto, or Assistant AD. Not too many schools have an administration that understands this sport. We feel fortunate.
Thank you Mr. Smyth for the photos, the website . . . and the pretzels!
Most of all, thank you athletes of the 2007 Cherokee Cross Country Team for a truly memorable season. You made our job enjoyable! We are proud to be your coaches.