“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
- Robert Browning
We came into the year with lofty goals . . . to win everything through the Group IV State Meet; finish as one of the top three teams at the Meet of Champions; and obtain the number one ranking in South Jersey. Yes, we reached. But we did more than just reach. We worked long and hard; we rallied around each other, creating a great team atmosphere; and, in doing these things, we made our team better . . . we made ourselves better.
It is true that our reach exceeded our grasp. However, by reaching, we achieved a lot . . . more than all but five previous Cherokee teams. We won our 2nd consecutive Burlington County Championship the week after winning the South Jersey Open for the first time since 1998. We then came back the next week with our biggest win of the season, knocking off top-ranked Cherry Hill East on a tiebreaker to win the Olympic Conference Championship. We followed those victories with a string of high finishes through the State Championship Season – 2nd in the South Jersey Group 4 Sectionals, 3rd in the Group 4 State Meet and 7th at the State Meet of Champions. We finished off the year, running as the Evesham Harriers club team, by placing 10th in the Nike Northeast Regional Championship, a meet bringing together the best teams from New Jersey through Maine. We may not have hit all of our goals but, by reaching, we accomplished some great things.
Of course it didn’t hurt that we had two of the top runners in the state on our squad: two time County Champion and two time All-South Jersey selection, junior, Nick Falk, and Burlington County Runner of the year, junior, Jack Shea, who was selected to the All-South Jersey and All-State Teams and whose 6th place finish at the State Meet of Champions in 15:46 was the top individual accomplishment of the season. Behind those two came a consistently strong group of athletes – two seniors (Mike Zurzolo and Steve Gravlin), one junior (Brendan Falzone) and two sophomores (Justin Kelly and Brandon Marks). Together, these seven runners became one of the top teams in history of Cherokee Cross Country.
And it wasn’t just the varsity seven that accomplished a lot. The entire team worked long and hard, and it showed in the improvement evident in our JV results. Of course “JV” is a misleading descriptor. It was more like a second varsity squad and the athletes in that group proved it emphatically at the County Open Class Race where they took seven of the top nine spots: Cam Wilburn 1st, Mike Iannotta 2nd, David Jackson 3rd, Jon Conn 4th, Kevin Bookwalter 6th, Dan Schwartz 7th and Matt Smith 9th. With all of those runners returning, and only two graduating seniors in the top 7, next year could be the best year in the history of the program.
The importance of strong leaders cannot be overestimated in the success of a team. We were fortunate, this year, to have two excellent team captains, Mike Zurzolo and Steve Gravlin. Their loyalty and devotion to the program has been an inspiration to all of us. Through their words, Mike and Steve have helped keep everyone on task and properly focused. It is their deeds, however, that have truly led the way. They both live the lifestyle. They continue to do the right things day in and day out, through good times and tough times. They handle success with grace and meet failure with renewed determination. Thank you Mike and Steve for all you have given to the Cherokee Cross Country Program. Please know that, whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are, and will always be, a part of it . . .
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
- T.S. Eliot
To accomplish great things, it is necessary to go beyond where you have been before. There is risk involved. But, for those of you who return next year, we need to take that risk and find out what we are capable of. As your coaches, our goals for you are high. We know this is the best returning group of runners Cherokee has ever seen and we want to find out just what that means. At the varsity level, we have set our sights on winning everything in the state, including the Meet of Champions. Moreover, we want our “JV” squad to be one of the top “Varsity” teams in South Jersey. It goes without saying that this will require a huge commitment on your part. All of you need to set your own goals high and then work harder than ever to reach them. Together, let’s find out how far one can go!
Thank you . . .
Thank you managers – Daulton Hopkins, Al Panaccio, Robbie Curley, David Osterhout, Michael McShane and Naledge Brown. You were a tremendous help at workouts and meets. We are sorry to lose you as managers during track season, but happy to have you back as athletes.
Thank you parents for the support you provide. It may not be said often enough but your sons . . . and their coaches . . . truly appreciate it.
Thank you, Mrs. Zurzolo, for being an awesome booster club president!
Thank you, Mr. Agnew, for being an athletic director that truly appreciates Cross Country!
Thank you, Mr. Smyth, for all the great photos and for keeping the website up to date!
Most of all, thank you athletes for your hard work and dedication. As your coaches, we feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with such great young men. We are proud of you!