For Cherokee, last year was something of an "off year." Although they won the American Division for the 10th straight year, they were forced to take 2nd in the Olympic Conference for the first time in 10 years, 3rd in Burlington County, 4th in Sectionals, 5th in Group States, and 9th in the Meet of Champions. It was a young team with only two returning Seniors in the top 10. This year, the Conference, County and Section are as challenging as they were last year but Cherokee has a significantly stronger group of runners! Led by Seniors Alex Yersak and Kevin "Ted" Schickling, and Junior Chris Applegate, with close support by a solid pack of experienced Juniors and Sophomores, the expectations for this team are much higher!
Recently, for example, in their pre-season evaluations, the Camden Courier-Post selected Cherokee as the #2 team in South Jersey, and Dave Welsh of the Haddonfield Running Company selected Cherokee as the #1 team! Obviously the pressure is on, especially when you look at the quality of Cross Country in South Jersey!
Following that team analysis, Steve Wood of the Courier-Post wrote an article on Cherokee's top runner: Alex Yersak, Yersak Faces Task of Finding His Rhythm.
(And while on interviews, Kevin Cranston, former Sports Reporter for the Courier-Post, interviewed Coach Shaklee for the Haddonfield Running Company's new cross country webpage. Click to read the Running Talk With Cherokee Coach Steve Shaklee).
To become champions, the distance team knows that training is a year-long activity: Cross Country is followed by Winter Track, and that is followed by Spring Track. Accepting that idea, as so many Cherokee runners have in the past, the team began its Cross Country training only a few weeks after the Spring Track Season ended. Through weight training and team runs, they built the physical foundation and the fraternal bonds so necessary for a sustained campaign throughout the season.
In late August, for the ninth year in a row, members of Cherokee's Cross Country team attended the extraordinary RunningWorks Cross Country Camp in Canadensis, Pennsylvania. There, twenty of them participated in a week-long program of training with top coaches and athletes from the Northeastern United States, and learned from Olympic great Marcus O'Sullivan and special guest speakers, Olympian Pascal Dobert and 5-time NCAA Champion Chris Solinsky.
The following pictures are of Cherokee coaches and athletes at camp. Some of the guys are not shown but you'll get to see them in the days that follow. As usual, demonstrating the highest standards of dignity and decorum, the dance pictures of Cherokee athletes were deleted. For a wider selection of pictures from camp, see RunningWorks Cross Country Camp Pictures, 2007.
On September 15th, 2007, Cherokee coaches, runners and parents hosted the 12th Annual Cherokee Challenge but many people were involved before then. The parents, for example, made all the plans for the concession stand and volunteered regularly for a variety of jobs. Indeed, on the Saturday before the meet, thirteen parents showed-up on Saturday afternoon to get the course in shape. . . .
. . . And then they were everywhere on race day: all over the course from the starting line to the finish line, playing the music, and feeding the hungry masses at the concession stand! Many thanks to all of those who helped in so many ways to make the Cherokee Challenge a success! Here are only a few in action . . .!
While the majority of the team played host to the visiting teams and helped to run the meet, a few of Cherokee's runners competed in the races. Coach Shaklee named Josh Ungerleider the "Runner of the Meet" after watching him drop a minute off his last year's time! GO JOSH! (These and other pictures of our runners are on the Cherokee Challenge page on this website.)
National Sports website editor, John Dye and his wife Donna covered the meet and here is a link to one part of their coverage, "Donna on the Side:" Dyestat Archive.
On September 19th, 2007, Cherokee ran its first dual meet of the season on Gloucester County College's A course. For years, Cherry Hill East, Coach Shaklee's alma mater, has focused on defeating the Cherokee team and this year, with a very strong squad, they seemed to have a great opportunity to reach that goal. But the East guys had an "off" day and Cherokee defeated them 17 - 44. Cherokee knows, however, that it's a long season and they'll see Cherry Hill East again before it's over!
Highlights of the meet include a strong showing by Cherokee's # 1 runner, Alex Yersak, and break-through races by several athletes, including Kevin "Ted" Schickling, named "Runner of the Meet" for dropping over 30 seconds from his PR on the GCC course -- GO TED! -- and Marc Saccomanno who also set a huge PR!
Dual Meet Record: 1 - 0.
On September 22nd, 2007, the team traveled to Gloucester County College for the Fourth Annual S.J. Shootout. Cherokee chose to compete in all the races but held-out its top Varsity runners, having them do a long run instead. In the Freshman race, newcomer Ryan Bobb took 18th out of 101 runners, finishing the Freshman 2.4 mile course in 14:38! The Cherokee highlight in the JV race was the 1st place finish for Evan Stone with Mike Czuba, Ryan Lutz, Taylor Munro and Adam Henriksen following among the top 25% of the 205 competitors in the race!
In the Varsity competition, Rob Roselli and Ian Foley finished 31st and 38th respectively in the "Stud Race;" Ryan McNair and Steve McCarroll took 9th and 10th in the "3 - 4" race; while Kyle Smith, Josh Ungerleider and Frank Devine took 11th, 14th and 17th in the "5 - 6 - 7" race.
Despite the unusual heat, many Cherokee athletes ran well -- McNair, McCarroll, Smith, Devine, and Czuba to mention a few -- but Evan Stone was named the "Runner of the Meet!" It was his first race back since suffering a stress fracture several months ago and he took 1st in the JV competition! GO EVAN!
On September 25th, 2007, Cherokee competed in a double-dual against Washington Township and Eastern Regional High Schools and won both! The team, again led by Alex Yersak in 1st place, overwhelmed their division opponents: 19 - 42 and 19 - 40 respectively!
Alex was closely followed by Chris Applegate who surged past a strong Washington Township opponent in the final 600m of the race and secured 2nd place! "Ted" Schickling took 4th place in the race, followed by Steve Burkholder, Sean Hartnett, Marc Saccomanno, and Matt McCarroll. All the Cherokee runners were among the top 12 in the race!
Chris Applegate was selected the "Runner of the Meet." In the final 600m of the race, Chris made up at least 40m on one of the top runners in South Jersey and secured 2nd place for Cherokee. GO CHRIS!
Those who witnessed the race will have to depend on their memories -- by the weekend, Chris will have made-up 200 . . . maybe 300m! -- because a technical glitch left us with no evidence/pictures.
Dual Meet Record: 3 - 0!
On September 29th, 2007, the team took a three-day trip to East Greenwich, Rhode Island for the Ocean State XC Invitational. On Friday before school, they did a training run; and in the afternoon after classes, they embarked on their journey.
Training run . . . classes . . . 6 hour ride . . . Rhode Island . . . Hampton Inn . . . Bertucci's . . . the day before the race was a long one!
On race day, the coaches went over early to inspect the course while parents, who supported the team on the trip in a hundred ways, set up the tent and provided drinks and food for the athletes. Two hours before the first race, the coaches brought the team to the site for pre-race warm-ups and course inspection.
Unlike many top courses, the one at Goddard Park is not very intimidating. Relatively flat overall, 1000m of open terrain at the start, then more than half the race on wide but sandy trails with four 40m to 60m rolling hills in the woods, one short 75m hill about 800m from the finish, and wide open from there. One observer described the trails as "softened by thousands of footsteps, horses' hoofs, and the rotting bodies of fallen runners" but that was an exaggeration!
In the Championship race against 15 other teams (122 finishers), Cherokee's Varsity finished a somewhat disappointing 3rd but the highlight of the race was the 1st place performance by Alex Yersak, crossing the line in 16:09! Alex was followed by Steve Burkholder, Chris Applegate, Kevin Schickling, Marc Saccomanno, Matt McCarroll and Sean Hartnett.
In the JV race against 23 other teams (301 finishers), Cherokee as a whole fared much better! Led by Ryan McNair in 1st place (17:45), the team took 2nd (Rob Roselli), 3rd (Josh Ungerleider), 4th (Steve McCarroll), 9th (Ian Foley), 11th (Kyle Smith), and 15th (Frank Devine)! They were followed by Evan Stone (36th), Mike Czuba (88th), Ryan Lutz (114th), Tyler Mauro (116th) and Adam Henriksen (172nd).
In the Freshmen 4K competition against 33 other teams, Cherokee had only one racer, Ryan Bobb who took 84th place out of 342 finishers!
The coaches selected Ryan McNair as the "Runner of the Meet!" Plagued by a variety of injuries, it was great to see Ryan run as everyone knew he could! GO RYAN!
Complete results at: Cool Running