"Victory isn't defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can truthfully say, 'I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,' then you're a winner."

Wolfgang Schadler


The above quote sums up what we hope you will take away from this season:  Do your best in whatever you do.  Steve Prefontaine, America’s greatest distance runner, once said:  “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  He understood that athletics has much more to do with character and personal accomplishment than it does with winning and losing.  In any given race, there can be only one official winner.  However, everyone is capable of giving their best.  And, everyone who does, wins.    

Many of you made the commitment to give nothing less than your best from the beginning of the summer through the last competition.  You have made our job, as coaches, an easy and enjoyable one.  Moreover, as fellow runners who know how difficult this is, we respect and admire what you have accomplished this year.



In July the summer runs begin in earnest.  It is good to see so many teammates showing up on a regular basis, working hard and getting ready for the season to come.  After nine years spent reloading, we are finally faced with a year of rebuilding.  It will be a test of character for all of us.  Hard work will be our only salvation.


On August 15th, 18 members of the team arrive at Camp Canadensis for a week of cross country camp.  Running, learning, playing and – for some – dancing…it is a great way to bond together as a team and prepare for the challenges ahead.


On August 22nd, daily practice begins at school.  With only three returnees from last year’s top 7, and a young contingent behind them, we know it will be a challenging season.  We find out soon that it will be even more challenging as junior, Steve McCarroll – expected to be a top seven runner for us – is out indefinitely due to injury.  One of the hardest working guys on the team, Steve continues to attend daily practice, biking instead of running, and showing, through his example, what it means to be dedicated to the team.  We look forward to having him back in the line-up.  We also know that we will prepare the best we can, race as competitively as possible, and be satisfied with the results our work produces.


For the first time in many years we schedule a scrimmage.  Given the youth and inexperience of our squad, it seems appropriate to get some racing experience before the real season began.  On Thursday, August 31st, we travel to Pennypacker Park for a practice meet with Haddon Township, Kingsway and Maple Shade.  Freshman, Steve Burkholder, and first year sophomore, Chris Applegate are our first runners across the line in 2nd and 3rd, giving us hope that the inexperience of our team will not hold us back this season.  We feel a little better as we contemplate our first (and most difficult) meet against our district rivals less than two weeks away.


The Lenape District has finally decided that there should be annual competition among the four district schools.  The First Annual District Cross Country Meet is on our schedule for Tuesday, September 12th.  A tough way to start the year!  While Lenape is down, Shawnee has several returning varsity runners and Seneca returns everyone from last year’s team.  With a nine year dual meet streak on the line, we know that we will need a perfect race to pull it off.  The sunny, warm conditions make it even more imperative that we run a smart race.  One minute after the starting gun is fired; the coaches know we are in trouble.  The youthful enthusiasm of our inexperienced squad is evident as six Cherokee runners are in front of Shawnee’s third man and Seneca’s second.  Can they hold on and overcome this aggressive mistake in the sun and heat?  The answer is yes and no.  Although fading over the last half of the race, the team holds it together enough to beat Shawnee.  Unfortunately, the nine year dual meet streak comes to a halt against Seneca who runs a tough, smart race to hand us our first defeat since a loss to Highland in October of 1996.  In defeat, Alex Yersak has given us a taste of victory with his convincing 40 second win and Colin Cunningham earns Athlete of the Meet honors for his strong 4th place finish.


On Saturday, September 16th, the 11th Annual Cherokee Challenge takes center stage.  From a meet that began with several local teams and less than 500 total runners, this event has grown into one of the biggest meets in the state, this year boasting 1700 finishers in 10 races and celebrity athletes such as American record holder, Bob Kennedy, in attendance.  The freshmen show their strength with Steve Burkholder, Matt McCarroll, Ian Foley, Kyle Smith and Frankie Devine all finishing among the top 33 in a field of 220 runners.  Sophomore, Sean Hartnett shows the first glimpse of his fine season to come with a two minute improvement over his freshman year race.  In doing so, he takes Athlete of the Meet honors.


Wednesday, September 20th, brings our next dual meet against an improved Cherry Hill East team.  Rebounding from the early loss to Seneca, the team responds with a strong effort to handily put away the Cougars.  Freshman, Steve Burkholder, earns Athlete of the Meet honors with a performance that sees him finish as the team’s 2nd man behind Alex Yersak.  It is also to be the last race of the season for freshman, Kyle Smith, who has been trying to run through knee problems that have plagued him from the start of the season.  As disappointed as we are to see his season cut short, we know it is in his best interest and we also know that he has the ability to be good in the future, once the knee problem subsides.


As we prepare to defend our title at the 3rd Annual South Jersey Shootout on September 23rd, we know it will be an extremely difficult task as we will be without Alex Yersak who is sick at home.  The meet features an interesting format in which a team’s 5-6-7 runners compete in one race, the 3-4 runners in a second race, and the 1-2 runners in a third.  Things start well for us as Kevin Schickling, returning from injury, holds on to win the first race.  Behind him, freshman, Matt McCarroll, earns Athlete of the Meet honors both for his fine 7th place performance and for his aggressive “get out of my way” attitude at the finish!  Chris Applegate continues to show improvement as he finishes 3rd in the 3-4 race to keep us in contention.  However, it is not to be as Haddon Heights leads four other teams past us in the final race and we finish in 6th.


In our next race, a dual against both Washington Township and Eastern on September 26th, we are able to survive the inevitable mid-season letdown.  Our relatively slim victory over a determined Township team is, in part, due to Athlete of the Meet, Mike Medvec, who drops his time on the course by a half a minute to finish in 7th as our 4th man.


Mike Medvec is also the man of the hour the next Saturday, September 30th, as he is the main force in the organization and running of the First Annual Chuck Eells Memorial 5k Road Race.  Mike, with some help from teammates and parents, puts on the event as a show of support for teammate and friend, Liam Eells, and as a tribute to his beloved father who succumbed to ALS after a lengthy battle.  The race proceeds are to go to the Charles E. Eells Children’s Scholarship Fund and, with practically the entire team entered in the race, the event is a huge success!  More than any race of the season, this event makes us proud to be the coaches of the Cherokee Cross Country Team. 


While we rest some runners, others take to the course on Wednesday, October 4th, in our final dual meet of the season against Pennsuaken.  Sean Hartnett leads the way with his first place finish while Kyle Miller shows the biggest improvement, a 37 second drop, to earn Athlete of the Meet honors. First year runner, Scott Woodmansee, continues to show improvement with a solid 9th place finish.  We do not find out until latter that it will be Scott’s last race of the season, forced to the sideline pending tests to determine the cause of unexplained chest pains.   As with Kyle Smith, we are disappointed to lose Scott but we are optimistic that he will be back next season better than ever.


A windy day and a damp course greet us on Saturday, October 7th, as we arrive at Holmdel Park – site of the New Jersey State Meet – for the Shore Coaches Invitational.  Alex Yersak gets things started with his 4th place finish, a 20 second course PR to move to number six on the all-time Cherokee Holmdel list.  With Colin Cunningham out of the line-up and our varsity-freshmen running in the freshmen race, the varsity team settles for a 6th place finish.  In the JV race, Ryan McNair, in his first race back from injury, leads the team in 23rd place out of 243 finishers.  Evan Stone also runs a strong race to finish right behind Ryan in 26th.  In the freshman race, Steve Burkholder and Matt McCarroll lead the way finishing 2nd and 3rd out of 259 runners, with Ian Foley and Frank Devine not far back in 22nd and 25th.  Frankie’s “Athlete of the Meet” performance is particularly impressive as he ran his best race of the year, a fitting tribute to his grandfather who passed away the previous day.


A week later, On October 14th, we arrive at Delsea High School for the South Jersey Open.  Frank Devine and Mike Czuba, our two entrants in the freshman race, both run well to start things off for us.  In the JV race which follows, we showed our strength – placing five runners between 4th and 12th to win the team championship.  Rob Roselli – 4th earns Athlete of the Meet honors, while Brenden Burke – 6th, Ryan McNair – 10th, Evan Stone – 11th and Kyle Miller – 12th all also run well.  All five of these runners show the potential to be among Cherokee’s top seven next year.  In the same race, brand new runner, Josh Ungerleider, clocks in at 19:22 for 49th in a field of over 160 runners.  It is Josh’s first time under 20:00!  The highlight of the varsity race is Alex Yersak’s dominating victory.  Running in second place until the final 1200 meters, Alex breaks it open for a commanding 19 second win.  Chris Applegate continues his steady improvement to place 11th with his first sub 17 minute clocking.


As we prepare to take the line for the Burlington County Championships on Friday, October 20th, the specter of nine previous championship teams is with us…perhaps haunting us.  Seneca has already beaten us once this year and Shawnee has come on in recent weeks to enter the meet as the favorite.  Tradition is on our side but, alone, can not win the race for us.  Alex Yersak, as usual, does his part – becoming only the third County Champion in school history.  Athlete of the Meet, Chris Applegate, keeps moving up the entire race to finish in 8th and continues his climb into the realm of South Jersey’s best runners.  Steve Burkholder, Matt McCarroll and Mike Medvec finish 16th, 18th and 21st to complete our scoring at 64 points.  Unfortunately, it is five points too many to claim the victory.  Instead, the win goes to district rival, Shawnee with 59 points while Seneca squeaks by us with 63 for second.  A new county streak begins next year!  In the open race that follows, Cherokee dominates the county!  With 9 of the first 12 finishers, including the top freshman, Ian Foley, the top sophomore, Sean Hartnett, the top junior, Kevin Schickling, and the 4th senior, Joe Foley, it is a devastating display of power and a harbinger of county championships to come.


The following Monday, October 23rd, a small group of freshmen and sophomores head to Gloucester County College, on a very windy day, for the South Jersey Frosh-Soph Meet.  While there are several notable performances, including Ryan McNair’s 6th place finish in the sophomore race, the two that stand out are Ian Foley’s strong finish to grab the 3rd place trophy in the freshman race; and Adam Henriksen’s first sub 19:00 clocking in less than ideal conditions.  For their efforts, Ian and Adam earn co-Athlete of the Meet honors.


That Friday, October 27th, perfect conditions are on tap for the Olympic Conference Championship Meet back at Gloucester County College.  Fifty degrees overcast and still, it is a day for running fast…and we do.  Alex Yersak runs patiently through the first half of the race before pulling away for a convincing victory, a new course record of 15:58 and Athlete of the Meet honors.  Behind him, the entire varsity squad runs their fastest times of the season, including a notable improvement by Sean Hartnett, who finishes as our 5th man.  As fast as we run, Shawnee runs faster, and we finish in 2nd place in the team scoring.  In the JV race the results, once again, show the dominance of the Cherokee program, with eight runners in the top 12, led by Kevin Schickling’s 28 second victory in 17:10.  Brenden Burke – 2nd, Rob Roselli – 4th, Ryan McNair – 5th and Marc Saccomanno – 7th all finish at 17:50 or better to set the tone for next year’s championship team.


The Haddonfield Invitational on November 1st, takes on greater significance as the coaching dual between undefeated Coach Shak and winless Coach Cal.  For six years in a row, beginning with something called the Cherokee Challenge II (a late season inter-squad dual run on the Challenge course) in 2000; the two coaches have divided up the non-sectional team and coached their respective squads against each other (Truth is, they both want everyone to run well!).  After six meetings, the record going into this race is 6 and 0 in favor of Coach Shak.  Would this be the year that Cal’s squad turns the tide?................In a word…no.  The Shak-led St. Joe’s Hawks, paced by individual winner, Sean Hartnett (3rd overall), defeat the Cal-led LaSalle Explorers, paced by second place finisher, Brenden Burke (5th overall), by a score of 36 to 42.  Other notable performances in the upperclassman race come from Evan Stone and Kyle Miller who both join the Sub 18:00 clubs, thus insuring varsity status.  Only three Cherokee runners are entered in the freshman race and they all run well.  Ian Foley is especially impressive.  As was the case for Frankie Devine at the Shore Coaches Meet, Ian is dealing with the recent death of his grandfather and, showing true character, maintains his composure, focuses better than ever, and wins the race with his fastest time of the year.  Grandfather would be proud.  Behind Ian, Frankie battles hard to earn a top 10 finish with his best time ever and Mike Czuba goes out very aggressively and holds on impressively for a top 20 finish and a new PR.  Brenden Burke and Ian Foley share Athlete of the Meet honors…and Shak moves to 7 and 0.


A sunny, breezy, cool day greets the runners on Saturday, November 4th, as they line up for the start of the South Jersey Group 4 Sectional Championship Race.  Although not favored, we know that a good race will put us in the title hunt.  Athlete of the Meet, Alex Yersak, does his part, repeating as Sectional Champion (the first junior to accomplish that feat in the history of the SJ Group 4 Sectional).  Behind Alex, however, things begin to unravel.  Chris Applegate claims a top 10 finish with another strong race and Colin Cunningham holds on for a top 20 finish.  But, it is 27 seconds and 29 places later that Steve Burkholder crosses the line as our 4th man, with Kevin Schickling, Mike Medvec and Matt McCarroll all following within the next 8 seconds.  Unfortunately, the gap from three to four has done its damage and we come away disappointed with our 4th place finish.  Still, we have qualified for the Group 4 State Meet for the 12th year in a row and we will have a shot at redemption at Holmdel Park.


With unseasonably warm, humid conditions and a bit of a breeze, the State Group 4 Race on Saturday, November 11th, will not be a day for records (as Craig Forys finds out in his failed attempt at the Holmdel record).  Weather, however, is something that everyone has to deal with equally, and we are not interested in times…just place.  From the first check point, a thousand meters in, it already appears that things are not going well.  A check at the mile and the two mile mark confirms this analysis…we are running just “ok” through four runners and there is a big gap back to 5-6-7.  By the finish the gap has grown even bigger.  With Alex Yersak – 8th, Chris Applegate – 31st, Kevin Schickling – 41st and Colin Cunningham – 55th across the line, we wait 53 seconds, while 55 runners cross, before Steve Burkholder, struggling with a side stitch, finishes in 111th place to finally end the scoring.  The mood is somber as we wait for the results, wondering if we have even finished in the top 10.  When it is announced that Cherokee is 5th, ahead of the three teams that beat us last week, the shock is evident in the eyes of both coaches!  Later we find that our team time has landed us the final wildcard spot and, somehow, someway…we are going back to the Meet of Champions!  A lesson is learned:  Sometimes success is a matter of continuing to give your best when things are not going well…never give up!  Kevin Schickling earns the Athlete of the Meet award for setting a Holmdel PR on a day not suited to fast running.   


One to go…Saturday, November 18th, is a time of reflection for seniors, Colin Cunningham and Mike Medvec, as they prepare for their final high school cross country race.  Along with fellow senior, Joe Foley, they have been a part of a fine tradition and they will be missed next year.  But now there is a race to run.  The gun sounds and the best teams and best runners in the state begin the charge to the woods.  It is good to, once again, be among the elite of New Jersey.  In a field so deep, it is practically impossible to know how the team has done until the results are announced.  Our big gap is still there, but has moved from 4-5 to 2-3, largely due to the outstanding race run by sophomore, Chris Applegate who, as Athlete of the Meet, knocks 32 seconds off of his Holmdel PR.  Chris is South Jersey’s 9th finisher in 39th place, moving to number 12 on the All-time Cherokee Holmdel List.  Ahead of him, Alex Yersak is finishing off his outstanding season with a 22nd place finish and a time only two seconds off of his best.  In the team scoring, we finish 9th and are the 3rd South Jersey team.  As we take the long bus ride back to school, thoughts turn to next year and accomplishments yet to come.


On Sunday, November 19th, Alex Yersak is selected to the 1st Team All-South Jersey for the second year in a row.  Chris Applegate is named to the 2nd Team All-South Jersey.  Later, both Alex and Chris are named to the All-Burlington County Team.


On November 22nd, the final South Jersey Cross Country Rankings are published in the Courier Post.  We move up from 7th to finish the year in 3rd.  In a decade, the team has never finished out of the top three.


On Saturday, November 25th, Alex Yersak, Chris Applegate and Steve Burkholder compete in the Footlocker Northeast Cross Country Championships at fabled Van Cortlandt Park in New York.  Steve places 16th in the freshman race, the 3rd New Jersey finisher, while Chris finishes 8th in the sophomore race, also the 3rd New Jersey runner.  Alex, running in the seeded race which brings together the best runners from 11 states plus the District of Columbia, finishes in 66th place with a time a bit faster than his brother’s from two years previous.  Alex is the 10th New Jersey runner across the line, beating the 2nd and 3rd place finishers from the NJ Meet of Champions.


Cherokee Cross Country 2006 is over. 


Our deep appreciation goes out to the seniors, Mike, Joe and Colin.  Thank you for all you have contributed to the program.  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:  The future of this team is now in your hands.  The potential within you is great.  Set your goals high.  Strive to be the best you can be.  Encourage your teammates…work together…help each other…do your part to make this program a success.  It will not be easy but….it will be worth it.


“If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement.”

-          Hsun-tzu


Meet of Champions 2007, here we come!




Thanks to all of you who have played a part in the success of Cherokee Cross Country…parents, booster club members, our team manager, Mia Volpe, Mr. Schramm – our AD (and former cross country coach), Mr. Bennedetto – our Assistant AD (and former track coach), and the school and district administration.  We appreciate the support!


In particular, thanks to Mr. Smyth for the great job he does with the photography and the website.  It really helps to have such a great record of each event.  Years from now the images Mr. Smyth has given to us will remind us of our Glory Days! 


Most of all, thanks to you – the members of the 2006 Cherokee Cross Country Team – for a great season!  We are proud to be your coaches.


Coach Shak & Coach Cal