“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

- Muhammad Ali


Just as Ali said…well, almost…the races were won far away from witnesses, out there on the trails and roads and fields, long before we went to the starting line. 


Some people out there may actually think that Cherokee makes it look easy.  We’ve had a good amount of success and it may occur to some that, perhaps, there is a secret that we have discovered…and if they could only know that secret….


Actually, there is a secret.  It is called “hard work”.  …Ok, it’s really not that much of a secret.  It’s just that some people accept it easier than others.  We have been fortunate, over the years, to have many individuals who fully accept the importance of hard work.  It has become a tradition at Cherokee to do all that is necessary to be successful.  It is not easy…despite how it may look to an outsider.  It requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice, and you, the members of Cherokee Cross Country 2005, have made that sacrifice.  You dedicated yourselves to your summer training.  You worked hard all season long.  You raced with courage and spirit.  You earned your success! 


This season, the success was even sweeter, as it wasn’t totally expected.  We were in a rebuilding year after graduating six of our top eight runners, and we found ourselves counting on a number of individuals with little varsity experience.  We did not know how they would respond. 


As it turned out, we need not have been concerned.  Here’s what happened…


On Sunday, June 19th, the summer training for the 2005 season officially began.  Yersak, McLaughlin, Maneval, Dolan, McFadden and Candy had graduated.  Only three runners returned who had run under 18:00 minutes at Holmdel Park, the site of the state championships.  Our work was cut out for us …but we were determined.


During the week of August 16th to the 21st, Cherokee runners attended the RunningWorks Cross Country Camp in the Poconos.  Six days devoted to becoming a better runner…and, for some, a better GaGa player!


On August 23rd, we met at 8:00 AM for the first official day of practice.  Thanks to the fine leadership of our seniors, the team came in with a strong base established over 10 weeks of good, progressive summer training.


On September 3rd, the Courier Post issued its season preview article.  Cherokee began the season ranked 3rd in South Jersey, behind two other Group 4 teams – Triton and Washington Township.


On Saturday, September 10th, we headed up to Holmdel Park for our first workout on the state course.  It was a good reminder of how difficult Holmdel is and what it takes to run it successfully.


On Tuesday, September 13th, we opened our season with an easy win over Pennsauken High School at the Gloucester County College B course.  Newcomer, Ryan Lutz, earned Runner of the Meet honors as the first “First Year Runner” across the line!


On the morning of Saturday, September 17th, the 10th annual Cherokee Challenge got underway.  With 1500 competitors from 75 different schools, the Challenge is the 2nd largest meet in the state behind the Shore Coaches Invitational.  The Cherokee runners fared well against the strong competition, led by sophomore champion, Alex Yersak.  Greg Bredeck, Vinny Marziano, Will Andes, and Rich Nelson medaled in the senior race.  Mike Medvec and Colin Cunningham won awards in the junior race.  Kevin Schickling, along with Yersak, medaled in the sophomore competition.  And, Marc Saccomanno and Rob Roselli picked up hardware in the freshman race.  The meet proved costly, however, as team leader, Marziano, suffered a calf injury that would continue to plague him for the rest of the season; and senior, Mike Brown, newly returned from a bout with mono, sustained a season-ending injury.


On Wednesday, September 21st, the team’s dual meet record improved to 2 wins and 0 losses with an 18-46 victory over Eastern High School on the GCC – A course.  Newcomer, Graham Davis improved his time from the Pennsauken Meet by 3:19 (!!) to earn Runner of the Meet honors.


On Saturday, September 21st, we headed back to GCC for the 2nd Annual South Jersey Shoot-out, consisting of 3 varsity races – the 5-6-7 man race, the 3-4 man race, and the 1-2 man race, and a JV race.  Steve McCarroll showed that he was back from an early season injury as he moved up throughout the race to finish 2nd in the JV competition.  The highlight of the varsity competitions was the 1-2 finish by Will Andes and Rich Nelson in the 3-4 man race, sparking the team to victory for the 2nd year in a row.


The team improved to 4 and 0 on Tuesday, September 27th with wins over Cherry Hill East and, district rival, Shawnee.  Hardworking junior, Mike Medvec, recorded his first sub-18 minute clocking and finished 11th overall to spark the victory.


The team traveled to Holmdel Park on Saturday, October 1st, to run in the Shore Coaches Invitational and get their first feel for racing on the state championship course.  Marc Saccomanno turned in a fine performance to finish 11th in a freshman field of over 200 runners.  Rob Roselli was not far behind with his own strong performance for 25th place.  Alex Yersak and Rich Nelson provided the highlights in the varsity competition with Alex moving to number 11 on the All-Time Cherokee Holmdel List and Rich dropping his course PR by 40 seconds.  Despite these two strong efforts, we finished in 4th with 147 points, 10 behind rival Washington Township, whom we would face 10 days later for the division championship.


 On Monday, October 3rd, Washington Township replaced Triton as South Jersey’s number one team in the Courier Post Poll.  They would be the 2nd of 5 teams to hold the number one spot during the course of the season.


On the 6th of October, three freshmen and three sophomores competed in the Burlington County Frosh/Soph Meet at the Rancocas Valley Sports Complex.  While all six ran well, Liam Eells got the nod for Runner of the Meet with his first sub-20 5k.


Strong winds and rain greeted the team on Saturday, October 8th as we arrived for the South Jersey Open at Delsea High School.  With the varsity resting in preparation for the Washington Township dual meet, it was up to the JV and freshmen runners to provide the highlights.  Colin Cunningham, returning from injury, led the way with a decisive victory in the JV race (an early indication of why he would be running varsity at the end of the season).  Ocean City won the division 3 Varsity Race over Washington Township, which resulted in their move to the number one spot in the next Courier Post Poll that Monday.


On Tuesday, October 11th, we faced the first serious threat to our dual meet win streak in several years when we lined up against Washington Township and Lenape on the GCC – A course.  Washington Township returned 6 strong runners from a team that had won the Olympic Conference Meet in 2004 and had beaten us 10 days earlier at Holmdel.  We were ready for the challenge.  Sparked by the return of senior leader, Vinny Marziano, we soundly defeated the Minutemen by a score of 20 to 36.  While it felt good to run well and win, we knew not to get overly confident…Washington Township would be back.


The following Saturday, October 15th, while the varsity team traveled to Holmdel for a workout in preparation for the state meet, the rest of the team competed in the South Jersey Hall of Fame Class Meet.  Marc Saccomanno, Rob Roselli and Sean Hartnett ran strong races to place 3rd, 5th and 8th in the freshman race while Ryan Lutz led the sophomore contingent with his 4th place finish.  All four are new runners with a lot of potential for the future.


Having not lost to a Burlington County team in 8 years, our streak was on the line on October 21st, at the Burlington County Championships.  Moorestown had been running very well.  An off race by us would give them the championship.  Once again, the team responded, placing 6 runners between 2nd and 18th, with a 7th in at 29, for a comfortable victory.  In addition to the fine varsity effort, the Combined Class Race which followed was dominated by Cherokee runners.  Steve McCarroll ran a full 1:49 faster than his time from last year to earn Runner of the Meet honors while first year senior, Ryan Elliott, had his best race of the season, just missing a sub-20 minute clocking.


The South Jersey Frosh/Soph Meet was next for the team on Monday, October 24th at GCC.  Although this was their 3rd race in 9 days, the guys still gave it their best effort.  Liam Eells PRed at 19:32 and newcomer, Geoff Schellack, ran tough to set a course PR and earn Runner of the Meet honors.


On Friday, October 28th, the varsity put together perhaps their best team effort of the year to dominate the Olympic Conference Meet with 27 points.  Runner of the Meet, Greg Bredeck, led a 1-2-3 sweep with Alex Yersak and Rich Nelson close behind.  With Will Andes taking a needed break, it was Vinny Marziano and Colin Cunningham who stepped into the 4-5 spots, finishing 10th and 11th respectively.  Matt Applegate, a top 7 varsity runner on any other team, demonstrated his ability with a terrific win in the JV race and a new PR at 17:35.  Matt earned Co-Runner of the Meet honors along with Greg.


On Monday, October 31st, we moved into the 2nd position in the Courier Post Poll, behind Ocean City.  Sectional rivals, Triton, Washington Township and Mainland occupied the 3rd, 4th and 7th spots.  In five days we would face them all on the course at Delsea.


On Wednesday, November 2nd, the team traveled to Pennypacker Park for the Haddonfield Invitational.  Traditionally, the team is divided into two with Shak coaching one group and Cal coaching the other.  The 5th running of this rivalry ended the same as the previous four…with a Cal loss!  Shak’s Princeton Tigers, led by Mike Medvec’s 1st place finish, defeated Cal’s Salisbury Sea Gulls by a score of 25-30.  Joe Foley earned Runner of the Meet honors with his first sub-18 minute clocking.





On Saturday, November 5th, we lined up for the first round of the state championships – the South Jersey Group 4 Sectionals.  It was an unseasonably warm day – sunny and 74 – a factor that would prove unfortunate for our squad.  High expectations led to fast starts and tense racing.  Although we got our first ever 1-2 finish in the Sectionals (Alex Yersak and Greg Bredeck), the rest of our runners succumbed to the heat and fast pace, fading over the last mile.  The result was a disappointing 2nd place finish behind Washington Township, who ran very well.  Instead of dwelling on the negative, each runner set his sights on doing better at the State Meet and Meet of Champions. 


The weather was cooler on Saturday, November 12th, for the State Group 4 Championships …and so was our team.  We raced better than the week before with outstanding performances coming from Rich Nelson and Kevin Schickling (Holmdel PRs of 21 and 41 seconds respectively!).  Despite the improvement, we missed the final automatic qualifying spot for the Meet of Champions by nine points with our 4th place finish.  Fortunately, we qualified as a wildcard with Washington Township right behind us in 5th.  This marked our 9th straight trip to the Meet of Champions.


With one race to go, we still had a couple of goals to achieve when we arrived back at Holmdel for the Meet of Champions on Saturday, November 19th.  We needed to beat Washington Township and Moorestown to secure the Courier Post Cup (#1 team in South Jersey), and we wanted to extend our streak of trips to the MOC awards podium (top 6) to nine straight years.  Compiling the results from the Group State Meets into one, we would be 7th.  It was simple… we needed a better race to make the podium and insure a win over our South Jersey rivals.  Everyone seemed focused but not too tense.  That was good.  Now, we needed to keep our composure and race as we were capable.  As the runners crossed the finish line, it was clear that the team had run well.  However, Washington Township had also run a good one.  Greg Bredeck became only the 5th Cherokee runner ever to break 16:20 at Holmdel, finishing far in front of Township’s first man.  But, would that be enough to offset the strong pack finish by the Washington Township squad?  Will Andes had a great race with a 36 second PR and a sub-17 clocking.  That certainly helped but, still, was it enough?  …Then, Colin Cunningham passed several runners down the homestretch and that proved to be the difference.  When the results were announced, Cherokee was 6th with 188 points, Don Bosco Prep was 7th with 189 points and Washington Township was 8th with 190 points.   Up front, CBA established a new 5 man average record of 16:15. 


On Sunday, November 20th, Greg Bredeck was selected to the All-South Jersey Team for the 3rd time…a feat accomplished over the years by only a handful of area runners.  Along with Greg, sophomore, Alex Yersak, was selected to the team, giving him the opportunity to eventually join Greg as a three time All-South Jersey runner.  Both Greg and Alex were also selected to the First Team All-County, while Rich Nelson and Will Andes made the 2nd Team.


On Wednesday, November 23rd, the official notification came in the Courier Post as the Cherokee squad was honored with a full page spread for, once again, ending the season as the number one team in South Jersey.  This was the 5th time in the past nine years that we had won the Cup.  Oh…and, in those other four years…we were 2nd.  What a great tribute to this team that they could, with limited experience, uphold the outstanding tradition of Cherokee Cross Country so well!








Thanks parents…for being such great fans.  The support and encouragement you give to your sons really helps!


Thanks Mr. Schramm and Mr. Benedetto.  Not many schools can boast an A.D. and an Assistant A.D. who are both former track coaches.  It helps to know that the efforts of the cross country team are appreciated by the administration.


As always, thank you Mr. Smyth.  You not only run the website and take the photos but…what would we do without the pretzels?!!


Thanks to the members of the Booster Club who put this dinner together, and to those who helped out at the Cherokee Challenge.




To this year’s seniors:


Thanks for making this such a great season!  The leadership you provided was the key ingredient to our success.  No doubt, your athletic contributions were significant.  However, it was your example to the rest of the team that will have a lasting effect on our program.  You showed us what it means to be dedicated, determined and loyal.  The team was important to you…more so than your own accomplishments.  For that, we thank you.  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:


Just as it was last year, we do not have the best returning team on paper.  And…just as it was this season, we expect to be the best team on the course.  Plan on it! …Figure out your role in it…Make it happen! 


          “A dream is just a dream.  A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”

                                                                                                                                                          - Harvey Mackay -



Thanks to all of you – seniors and underclassmen – for an outstanding season!  We are proud to be your coaches.