There is more in us than we know.  If we can

be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our

lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.”


                                                                Kurt Hahn

                                                                Founder, Outward Bound


One of the great things about cross country is that it truly offers us insight into ourselves.  It allows us to see the “more” that is in all of us.  In practice, on the racecourse, and in the daily sacrifices we make, cross country helps define who we are. 




Through cross country, you have learned things about yourself that few people are ever privileged to discover because you have tested yourself over and over again.  Every time you stepped to the starting line, another test began.  At that moment, you knew that the next sixteen-plus minutes were all up to you, and that they would require all of your focus, determination and courage.  Conquering your fears and doubts, harnessing the power of your will, and overcoming the desire to just stop and make it go away, you did what your peers dared not: you challenge yourself to the very core of your being.  On those occasions -- whether you won or lost, whether you overcame your fears or gave in to them, whether you found the strength within you or succumbed to the doubts -- you learned something about yourself.  Over time, you will come to know that there is more in you than you thought.  Always remember that…and never settle for less.





The Cherokee Cross Country Team of 2003 was unwilling to settle for less.  It began with a summer in which, as a team, we logged more miles than any other Cherokee team in any other summer.  The results of this effort did not go unnoticed.  While we expected to field a strong varsity team, the commitment and dedication shown by every one resulted in a year in which we had one of our deepest squads ever.  A look back at the season makes this clear …


On September 16th, at Gloucester County College, we showed the depth of this year’s team with a dominating win over district rival, Shawnee, 19-42.  We held out two of our top runners but still managed to take 8 of the top 10 spots, led by Tom Yersak’s victory.  Paul McFadden earned runner of the meet honors with his PR on the GCC course and a strong 5th place finish.


On September 17th, the Newark Star Ledger published the first poll of the season, which found us ranked 5th in the state.


On September 20th, Tom Yersak and Greg Bredeck led the team to a fine showing at our home meet, the Cherokee Challenge.  Tom earned “Runner of the Meet” honors with his outstanding time of 10:05 on a course that was soft and muddy.  Greg was equally impressive as he moved up one spot from his 2nd place finish in last year’s frosh race, to win the sophomore championship.  Junior Jeff Mullen showed the biggest improvement, running over a minute faster than last year, while senior Jason Becker ran well in his first race back from injuries that had sidelined him for much of the summer.


On September 24th, while keeping several of the top runners out of competition to train, we soundly defeated a usually strong Eastern team, 15-49.  “Runner of the Meet” Will Andes, placed 4th with his first sub-18 minute 5k, as he joined Nick Freeman, Greg Bredeck, Paul McFadden, Matt Dolan and Steve Brown in a sweep of the first 6 places.


On Thursday, September 25th, 15 team members, along with 14 from the girls team, boarded a charter bus bound for North Carolina to compete in the Great American Cross Country Festival.  Several movies later we arrived at the Town Place Suites in Carey.  After checking out the course with a shake out run on Friday, we arrived back at the course for the competition on Saturday morning.  The varsity squad ran well to finish 2nd in the competitive Seeded Invitational race, behind Kings of Ohio.  James Maneval was selected as the “Runner of the Meet” for his fine performance, which found him finishing as Cherokee’s 3rd man.  The JV squad finished 8th out of more than 25 teams, led by Will Andes.  The trip was not only successful, but also fun.  Everyone decided that we should do it again next year … and make it more fun by running in the Championship Race!


On September 30th, we improved our dual meet record to 4 wins and 0 losses with easy wins over Washington Township and Lenape.  Rich Nelson was the star of the day (and “Runner of the Meet”) with his 50 second improvement over his time on the GCC – B course earlier in the season.  Rich’s time of 17:25 was a 5k PR. 


On Saturday, October 4th, we made the trek to Holmdel Park for the Shore Coaches Invitational.  The trip proved worthwhile as both the Varsity and JV teams came away with wins and the freshman squad placed 11th out of 29 teams.  Sean McLaughlin earned “Runner of the Meet” honors with his tremendous finish from the tennis courts and his Holmdel PR of 16:34.6.  Greg Bredeck turned in an outstanding sophomore time of 16:38.4 and Tom Yersak made it three under 17:00 with his 16:44.8.  James Maneval and Nick Freeman also PR’d on the course and came close to the 17 minute barrier.  In the JV race, Rich Nelson – 1st, Matt Dolan – 4th, Will Andes – 5th and Steve Brown – 13th gave Cherokee a great start, while Vinny Marziano, showing a glimpse of the improvement yet to come, ran strong to secure the win with his 36th place finish.  Brandon Smith led the freshmen while finishing 14th.


On Wednesday, October 8th, we finished our 7th straight undefeated dual meet season with a shut out of Cherry Hill East.  Matt Dolan was the “Runner of the Meet” off of his 17:36 PR.  It was just another in a long line of great efforts by Matt throughout the season.  This day also saw the return of senior captain, Kevin Cuneo.  After months of rehab following knee surgery, Kevin defied the doctor’s predictions of a December/January return and made it back for the cross country season.  Kevin’s determination was an inspiration to us all.


On Thursday, October 9th, we had a very successful day at the Burlington County Freshman-Sophomore Championships.  All 5 of our freshmen, and the two sophomores who ran, earned medals.  Brandon Smith finished 4th leading the freshmen and earning “Runner of the Meet” honors.  Nick Forrester – 12th, Don Bosworth – 13th, Zach Viggiano – 15th and Joe Foley – 18th followed closely behind.  In the sophomore race, Mike Brown ran a strong race to place 8th while Casey Bordash took home the 23rd place medal.


On Saturday, October 11th, the team divided, with the varsity heading to Van Cortlandt Park for the Manhattan Invitational, and the rest of the team staying in the area for the South Jersey Open.  Both groups were successful.  The varsity squad put 5 runners in the top 20 to win their race with 69 points.  Mike Candy had his best race of the season, finishing 19th, and earning “Runner of the Meet” honors.  At the South Jersey Open, Cherokee dominated the JV race as Rich Nelson, Matt Dolan, Steve Brown and Will Andes swept the first four places.  Three other Cherokee runners finished in the top 25: Vinny Marziano – 11th, Jeff Mullen – 17th and Eric Sczepanski – 25th.  The freshman team placed 5th led by Brandon Smith’s 17th place finish and Zach Viggiano’s best race of the year to finish 32nd.


On October 20th, after a week off from competition, the freshmen and sophomores headed back to Delsea for the South Jersey Frosh/Soph Meet.  Although resting sophomore standout, Greg Bredeck, Cherokee still looked strong with Will Andes and Vinny Marziano sharing “Runner of the Meet” honors with their best races of the season to date.  Will placed 3rd, with a 5k PR of 17:29 while Vinny dipped under 18:00 for the first time, finishing 11th in 17:53.  In the freshman race, Joe Foley had his best race of the year, finishing 47th in 11:53, 26 seconds faster than his time on the same course a week earlier.


On October 24th, we won our 3rd straight Burlington County Championship, and our 6th in the last 7 years.  Tom Yersak – 2nd, and Greg Bredeck – 3rd, continued their string of fine races with Greg getting the nod for “Runner of the Meet.”  James Maneval, Nick Freeman and Mike Candy all placed in the top 10 as well.  In the open race, Cherokee had the distinction of having the first freshman – Brandon Smith, the first sophomore – Rich Nelson, the first junior – Matt Dolan, and the first senior – Eric Sczepanski.


On October 31st, we showed that Cherokee had two good varsity teams by placing 4th in the Olympic Conference Championships while holding out our top 6 runners.  Paul McFadden, Matt Dolan, Rich Nelson, Vinny Marziano and Steve Brown finished between 12th and 29th with only a 31 second spread, as we came within 14 points of winning the meet.  Paul’s performance earned him first team All-Conference honors, while Matt, Rich, Vinny and Steve made the second team.  In the JV race, Brett Wintermute improved his time by 1:15 to earn runner of the meet honors.


On Tuesday, November 4th, a windy, overcast day, the varsity 7 gave a preview of the upcoming track season in a 3200 meter time trial on the track.  Tom Yersak, Sean McLaughlin, Nick Freeman, Greg Bredeck, James Maneval and Mike Candy all finished between 9:47 and 9:59 with Paul McFadden dipping under his PR with a time of 10:25.  It should be an interesting spring!


On November 5th, the season came to a close for everyone but the top 7 runners with our first trip to the Haddonfield Invitational.  We continued the ongoing intra-squad rivalry known as the Cherokee Challenge II by dividing the team in two (Nova, coached by Shak and Duke, coached by Cal) and competing against ourselves.  The manufactured rivalry turned out to be necessary as the rest of the teams were no match for Cherokee.  Rich Nelson, Matt Dolan, Vinny Marziano, Will Andes, Steve Brown and Brandon Smith took 6 of the top 7 spots to lead the way.  Kevin Cuneo dropped over a minute to grab the “Runner of the Meet” title, with Ian Mitchell also improving by over a minute.   Once again, the Shak-coached Nova team came through for the win over Cal’s Duke squad!


The state championship rounds began on Saturday, November 8th, with the South Jersey Sectionals held at Delsea High School.  With two of the top 5 teams in the Northeast Region in our race – Mainland and Toms River North – we were forced to settle for 3rd place and our 10th straight trip to the Group 4 State Meet.  “Runner of the Meet,” Tom Yersak, once again led the way with his fastest 5k ever - 16:00, good for 8th place, with Greg Bredeck right behind him in 9th.


The following Saturday, November 15th, at the Group 4 State Meet, we were faced with the same two opponents and several other very strong teams.  Even with four PR’s on the course (Yersak, Bredeck, Freeman and McFadden), New Jersey’s #4 ranked team, Ridgewood, knocked us out of the 3rd automatic qualifying spot by a narrow margin (121 to 128).  Fortunately, we earned the top wildcard spot to reach the Meet of Champions for the 7th consecutive year.  Nick Freeman’s first sub-17:00 clocking on the tough Holmdel course earned him “Runner of the Meet” honors.


On Friday, November 21st, we headed back up to Holmdel for a pre-meet run at the course before going to the Red Roof Inn in Tinton Falls for the night.  At 11:45AM the following day, we toed the line for the New Jersey State Meet of Champions.  16 minutes and 33.2 seconds later, Sean McLaughlin crossed the finish line in 29th place, our first finisher.  Sean’s time was a new PR by a second.  Tom Yersak and Greg Bredeck followed close behind in 38th and 44th place, while James Maneval came through with another solid effort to finish as our 4th man.  It was Paul McFadden, however, who made the biggest jump (a 17 second PR) to take the “Runner of the Meet” award.  When it was over, we found ourselves in 5th place, becoming the only team in the state to finish in the top 6 at the Meet of Champions in each of the past 7 years.


On Sunday, November 23rd, Tom Yersak, Greg Bredeck and Sean McLaughlin were named to the 12 man All-South Jersey Team by the South Jersey Track Coaches Association.  Coach Shak was informed later that day that the same three were selected to the 7 man All-County Team.


On Saturday, November 29th, five members of the team competed in the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships at Van Cortland Park in New York.  The highlight of the meet was Greg Bredeck’s victory in the sophomore race in 16:49, which earned him “Runner of the Meet” honors.  Running in the seeded race, Tom Yersak and Sean McLaughlin also had solid races finishing 64th and 81st respectively, out of 241 finishers.  In the junior race, Mike Candy placed 31st while James Maneval was 57th in a field of 292 runners.


On Sunday, November 30th, preparations for the 2004 cross country season began.




…Yes, a look back makes it clear that this team did not settle for less.  While some goals may have eluded us, it was not from lack of effort or conviction.  The character of this team is a direct reflection of the fine character of each of you.  Thank you for another great season.






Brett Wintermute, you came a long way in one season!  We’re glad you finally made the decision to join us, and only wish you had done so earlier.  You’ll be happy to know … IT’S TRACK TIME!


Jason Becker, in your two seasons of cross country, you have had more than your share of injuries.  It has been inspiring to see you deal with that adversity in such a positive way – never getting down or giving in, always staying positive.  Your great attitude has helped to make us all better. 


Eric Sczepanski, your sense of humor, while sometimes a bit strange, has often helped to lighten the stress level in what can be a very difficult sport.  We thank you for that, and for the increased level of commitment you have made this year.  Get ready for a good senior track season! 


Kevin Cuneo, you have helped this program so much through your example.  You have always worked hard and you have always handled your successes and failures with maturity and with class.  The determination and courage you have shown in your return from injury this year has inspired us all.  Thank you for that, and for the leadership you have shown. 


Nick Freeman, you are a great example of what this sport is all about.  You are the workingman’s runner!  Your achievements stem from your willingness to outwork other athletes.  Thanks for the leadership you have provided this season.  But, even more, thanks for showing your teammates what can be accomplished through hard work and determination.  That example will make us better next year and for years to come.


To all of you, please remember that, whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are, and will always be, a part of it.





To those who are returning:  Think about the tradition that is Cherokee Cross Country.  Now, let’s get ready to add the next chapter … the best one yet!  Let’s make some history next year!  Set your goals high and dedicate yourself to achieving them.  Remember, there is more in us than we know!  Find it in yourself and then…never settle for less.