This year’s seniors were in 5th grade in the fall of 2000, while the Cherokee Cross Country Team was busy winning its 4th consecutive Group 4 State Championship … 


The class of 2008 has come a long way since that fall . . . and so has the Cherokee Cross Country Program.  Six conference championships, five county championships, two Courier Post Cups, six trips to the Meet of Champions…quite a record of success over the past six years.  However, although many great competitors came through the program in those years, no one was able to lead the team to another state title…until now.  Behind the leadership of senior captains, Steve McCarroll, Kevin Schickling and Alex Yersak, the 2007 Cherokee Cross Country team enjoyed one of its finest years  . . . an undefeated dual meet season . . . a District Championship . . . a Burlington County Championship . . . an Olympic Conference Championship . . . a South Jersey Group 4 Championship . . . and, yes . . . a State Group 4 Championship. 


“The greatest discovery is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”

                        - William James


A NEW ATTITUDE:  It was obvious early on that this season would be something special.  From the first summer run to the last race, the attitude on this team was exceptional . . . and that made all the difference.  You are all to be commended for showing such determination, dedication and character.  Through your hard work and perseverance, each of you has contributed to the success we have enjoyed this year . . ..


It was a season of vast improvements.  Josh Ungerleider started things off on September 15th, earning Athlete of the Meet honors at the Cherokee Challenge for his one minute and 28 second improvement over his time from last year.  It was also good to see senior, Ryan Lutz, racing with the team after a year’s absence.


On September 19th, Kevin (Ted) Schickling provided a preview of the fine season he was about to have, finishing 2nd in our first dual meet – against Cherry Hill East (and West) – only two seconds behind team leader, Alex Yersak. 


Evan Stone returned to competition in a big way, after recovering from a stress fracture, with an impressive win in the JV race at the South Jersey Shootout on September 22nd.  In the same meet, Ryan McNair and Steve McCarroll ran great races finishing 9th and 10th in the Varsity 3-4 competition.


On September 25th, it was Chris Applegate’s turn to show what he could do.  With a big finishing kick, Yaps sprinted by the top Washington Township runner to finish second to teammate, Alex Yersak by a mere 4 seconds.


The team’s trip to the First Annual Ocean State Cross Country Invitational in East Greenwich, RI, on September 29th, proved worthwhile with two individual champions and one team championship.  Alex Yersak began his competitive season in earnest with a convincing win over a strong field in the Varsity Championship Race.  Not to be outdone, Ryan McNair topped the JV field and led three teammates - Rob Roselli, Josh Ungerleider and Steve McCarrol – to a sweep of the first four places as the team scored a mere 19 points in a dominating win.




Ryan Bobb and Mike Czuba took center stage on Thursday, October 4th at the Burlington County Frosh/Soph Meet.  Ryan, the team’s lone freshman, ran his most competitive race of the year to earn a medal with his 7th place finish.  Mike showed a true competitive spirit with his overly aggressive start but still hung on for a strong 12th place finish in the sophomore race.


On October 6th, the team traveled to Holmdel Park for the Annual Shore Coaches Invitational.  Sean Hartnett earned Athlete of the Meet honors with his aggressive racing style and a sizable PR on the tough Holmdel course.  Even without Ted running (due to SATs), the team finished a strong second behind perennial power CBA. 


The Lenape District Meet, on October 9th, finished off the undefeated dual meet season for the team.  Alex and Ted looked strong, taking the top two spots.  But, it was Marc Saccomanno’s thrilling sprint win over Bonner of Shawnee that highlighted the team victory.


On Saturday, October 13th, minus six of the top eight runners, the team competed in the South Jersey Open, finishing 6th in the varsity race and 3rd in the JV.  Kyle Smith’s first sub 18 minute performance (17:28!) was a highlight, along with Ted’s 8th place finish and first good race on the Delsea course.  Also setting new 5k PR’s were Steve Burkholder, Steve McCarroll, Frankie Devine, Doug Baals, Tyler Mauro and Ryan Bobb.


On Friday, October 20th, the team won its 10th County Championship in the last 13 years, with a convincing 31 point victory over a strong Moorestown team.  Despite some confusion on the course, Alex Yersak became the first two-time county champion in school history while Kevin Schickling finished close behind in 3rd.  Steve Burkholder closed well to finish 3rd for the team in 11th place overall with Chris Applegate right behind.  Marc Saccomanno earned Athlete of the Meet honors with his strong run, finishing in 15th as the team’s 5th man.


Clouds, wind, rain and a muddy (altered) course greeted the runners at the Olympic Conference Meet on October 26th.  With perhaps our best team race of the year, we crushed the rest of the conference with a low score of 30 points.  Alex Yersak added to his list of impressive accomplishments with his second conference title in two years (once again, the first Cherokee runner to do so).  Kevin Schickling ran another great race to finish 3rd.  The “JV” competition featured a great family feud between the McCarroll brothers with Matt edging older brother Steve by three seconds for the win. Eight of the next ten runners were from Cherokee, including first year runner, Tyler Mauro, with his best race of the year in 10th.  Although forced to run in the JV competition, this group is one good varsity squad!


The annual coaching duel at the Haddonfield Invitational on November 1st took on a new look with first year volunteer coach, Jeff Thompson, added to the mix.  Through seven years, Coach Shak was undefeated against Coach Cal.  That would not change in year eight, with Shak’s team defeating Cal’s by two points.  However, Coach Thompson, apparently not understanding the “Respect Your Elders” axiom, took the overall victory by a significant 5 point margin.  Shak and Cal chalked it up to beginners luck while Coach Thompson wondered aloud if people would finally begin to recognize him as the real brains behind the Cherokee Cross Country Machine!  With seven runners resting up for the Sectional Championship, the team still had eight runners under 17:30, including Frankie Devine with his first sub 18 minute clocking!


On Saturday, November 3rd, Alex Yersak and Kevin Schickling finished 1st and 2nd to lead the team to our first Sectional Championship in seven years.  In the process, Alex did something no one else has ever done . . . win three South Jersey Group 4 titles in a row.  With all seven runners moving well over the last mile, the team turned what looked like a close race, mid-way, into a 38 point victory. 


The first annual Freshman & JV State Championship was held at Thompson Park in Jamesburg on Wednesday, November 7th.  Matt McCarroll led the charge with a great race, taking the individual victory in 16:50.  Steve McCarroll, Rob Roselli, Kyle Smith and Ian Foley all finished between 9th and 24th to complete the scoring for the team.  Our second place showing behind CBA proved the depth of this year’s team and gave us cause for optimism as we considered the strong group we would return next year.  Overlooked in the post-race celebration was junior, Adam Henriksen.  While his time and place were nothing to draw attention, the fact that he was running at all was admirable.  In July, Adam was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease affecting his kidneys.  He was prescribed some serious medication which made running much more difficult.  To his credit, Adam continued training and racing even though it was extremely hard for him to do so.  With the will of a champion, Adam ran each race, giving everything he had.  While his times were not impressive, his determination, dedication and focus were.  All season long, Adam was an inspiration to each of us . . . showing us, daily, the meaning of true courage.


Things got off to a rocky start at the Group 4 State Meet on November 10th.  Sean Hartnett was sick the morning of the race and unable to take the line.  Fortunately, Matt McCarroll, fresh off of his victory on Wednesday, came prepared to race.  After a slow start that saw the team well back at the mile, everyone got busy chasing down the competition.  By the end, with five runners between 7th and 42nd, we won our first state title in seven years in convincing fashion, 42 points ahead of runner-up, Old Bridge.  Filling in at the last minute, Matt McCarroll aided the cause as our 6th man by finishing in front of the 5th runner from Old Bridge.  While good races were run by all, Steve Burkholder showed the biggest improvement from Shore Coaches, dropping a minute and 25 seconds.  The post-race mood was optimistic as we considered our chances for a title at the Meet of Champions in one week.


A lot can change in one week.  The optimism we felt leaving Holmdel after the group meet had slowly faded due to health concerns.  Alex’s allergies were giving him problems and Ted had spent three days out of school with the flu.  Still, both were back and ready to give it their best shot as we arrived at Holmdel on November 17th.  As the race began, it became obvious that both Alex and Ted were not at their best.  In addition, Sean Hartnett had gotten sick again right before the race and was way back in the pack.  By the finish, we were well back, finishing in 9th place, with only Ryan McNair running faster than the week before.  More importantly . . . where was Sean?  Unknown to us, Sean had blacked out during the race and was being treated by the paramedics who eventually took him to the hospital.  Hours later, after numerous tests came back normal, Sean was allowed to leave with his parents, dehydration and depletion the suspected cause of his collapse.  The mood was somber and all of us were quite disappointed.  However, while it did not end as we had hoped, it was still a great season with a lot to be proud of.  In a few days, the sting of this race would fade, replaced by the fond memories of an exceptional season.


The Cherokee Cross Country Team was finished for the year.  However, the Cherokee Running Club had one race to go.  On November 24th at Bowdoin Park near Poughkeepsie, NY, the Cherokee RC took to the line for the first annual Nike Northeast Regional Team Championship.  With 20 of the top teams from Maine to Pennsylvania in the field, and an exceptionally challenging course on which to run, the team’s task was not an easy one.  When Ted fell early in the race and became part of the course for a few runners behind him, things did not look good.  However, several team members were on their way to good performances, led for one last time by Alex Yersak in 17th place.  Chris Applegate, 45th; Steve Burkholder,60th; Ryan McNair, 68th; and Matt McCarroll, 69th; all finished in a 25 second span to secure a 9th place team finish.  Top 10 in the Northeast Region . . . a fine way to finish the season!



To Ryan and Tyler:  In a short time, you have each contributed to the continued success of the Cherokee Cross Country Program through your hard work and dedication.   

To our senior captains, Steve, Kevin and Alex:  We can’t over-emphasize the importance of your leadership this year.  Through your words and your actions you guided this team each step of the way.  Your focus on team goals and your dedication and hard work made each of you a great example to your teammates.  Without your leadership, none of our successes would have been possible. 

To all of our seniors:  Whatever we accomplish in the coming years, please know that you are, and will always be, a part of it.  Thank you.




“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” – Thomas Jefferson


You now know what it takes to be a championship team . . . dedication, commitment, hard work, faith in yourself and your teammates . . . and dreams.  Where do you see yourself next year?  Where do you see this team?  What are you willing to do to make it happen?  The future is up to you.  Set your goals high!   With 14 returning runners who have already broken the 18 minute barrier, next year has the potential to be the best season in the history of Cherokee Cross Country.  It is now up to each of you to turn that potential into reality.


“Make a success of living by seeing the goal and aiming for it unswervingly.”

 – Cecil B. DeMille


Thank you parents for your continued support!


Thank you Mr. Schramm, our AD, and Mr. Bennedetto, or Assistant AD.  Not too many schools have an administration that understands this sport.  We feel fortunate.


Thank you Mr. Smyth for the photos, the website . . . and the pretzels!


Most of all, thank you athletes of the 2007 Cherokee Cross Country Team for a truly memorable season.  You made our job enjoyable!  We are proud to be your coaches.