greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we
They say that adversity builds character. If that is so, then in a season in which
just about everything that could possibly happen – did, we most certainly built
some serious character. From
injuries to illnesses, from floods to postponed state meets, we experienced it
all. By the time of the team
collision at the Meet of Champions, enough had gone wrong to somehow make that
incident feel like the fitting end to a long strange season. And yet, in reflection, the above quote
from Confucius rings true for this team . . . we kept getting back up. In doing so, we accomplished much of
which to be proud . . ..
As always, the season began, not in September, but in late June
with the start of the summer conditioning program. It was great to see such a strong
turn-out from the incoming freshman class . . . 13 runners . . . 12 more than
By the time we left for RunningWorks Camp on August
18th, the first of what was to become a seemingly endless line of
injuries was already upon us.
Senior, Kyle Miller, was on
the shelf with a broken toe and, therefore, got to experience camp in a
different way than the rest of the team . . . from the deep end of the
pool. Enjoy those pool workouts,
Before the first meet, we had another senior, Marc
Saccomanno, out due to injury. Marc had trained well over the summer
and looked ready for a great season until a persistent I.T. band problem forced
him to take some time off. Although
he worked hard at rehabbing, it would be a long time before Marc would make his
Our first dual meet came on September 17th at
Gloucester County College’s B Course, against two teams, Cherry Hill
East and Washington Township, who would both finish the year ranked in the
top 10 in South Jersey. Not an easy start! However, we were up to the task. With Steve Burkholder and
Chris Applegate finishing in
2nd and 3rd, and Sean Hartnett, Kyle Smith, Ryan McNair and Matt
McCarroll, not far behind, sweeping places five through
eight, we won surprisingly easily against the two strong teams. It was an optimistic start to the year.
Kyle earned Athlete of the Meet
honors by moving seamlessly into our already strong front pack with his first
sub 17 minute clocking on any cross country course. Senior, Evan Stone, also started off the year
with a strong showing as the team’s 7th man. Unfortunately, and unknown to us at the
time, Evan’s season would soon be cut short by a stress fracture, adding to that
long line of team injuries.
The weather cooperated once again for the 13th annual Cherokee
Challenge on Saturday, September 20th. Steve Burkholder again led the way with
his excellent 9:55 clocking in the loaded junior race. However, it was the freshmen who gave us
a first glimpse of what they will bring to this team for the next few
years. The trio of Aiden Lynch, Matt Venanzi and Billy Hornung all ran well to give us 3
in the top 18 of a field of 245 runners.
For his stellar performance, Aiden earned Athlete of the Meet honors
although that honor could also have gone to sophomore, Ryan Bobb, who improved his time from
last year by a minute and a half!
We were missing Kyle Smith
who was home ill. Later, we would
find out that Kyle broke his toe in a freak flip-flop accident over the weekend
and would be out of commission for several weeks. Two Kyles with broken toes , on the same
team, in the same year, and neither running related?! What was going on?
On September 21st, the injuries, the illnesses, the
setbacks suddenly became a lot less important and we were reminded of the things
that truly matter in life. 2008
Cherokee graduate, former runner and cross country team manager, Tim Frantz, lost his long fight with
cancer. Tim was an exceptional
young man who battled his disease with grace and dignity, and showed us on a
daily basis the meaning of true courage.
He will be missed but never forgotten.
When we took to the course for our 2nd dual meet, against
Pennsauken, on September
24th, we held out some runners to rest for the upcoming Ocean
State Meet. Frankie Devine used the meet as an
opportunity to pick up his first individual win and earn Athlete of the Meet
honors while breaking 18:00 for the first time on the challenging GCC – A
course. Newcomer, Josh Perez, showed a glimpse of the
talent we would see later in the season with his 4th place finish in
18:35 after only a week and a half of training.
On Friday, September 26th, we departed
via charter bus for Rhode Island, with the entire team onboard, in route to
Greenwich for the Ocean State Invitational. Saturday’s weather forecast was not good
and, unfortunately, for once the weathermen got it right. During the varsity race, a light rain
was falling on the already soaked course.
By the time the JV race began, the rain was coming down hard and the
puddles were growing. Despite the
weather, Athlete of the Meet, Ryan
Bobb, turned in a terrific performance with his 7th place
finish. Not bad for a guy who got
84th in the freshman race last year! Speaking of the freshman race . . . does
anybody have a snorkel? The word
“deluge” seems quite appropriate to describe the conditions for this one. Aiden Lynch didn’t let it bother him as he
led the team with his 5th place finish. The trio of Dave Wallace, Andrew Moorhouse and Andrew
Yang also did a nice job of ignoring the rain and closing
the gap on our first three of Lynch,
Billy Hornung and Matt
After a week of drying out, we headed to Holmdel Park on October 4th, for
the Shore Coaches Invitational and an opportunity to run on the state
championship course. With
Smith and Kyle Miller all still out, we decided to run only
5 in the varsity race, thereby allowing Ryan Bobb, Evans Stone and
Devine to run at the front of the JV race. With Matt McCarroll not feeling well, this was a risky
plan and, when the gun went off, it became clear that Matt was in worse shape
than we realized. Indeed, the
diagnosis a few days later would put him on the sidelines for weeks, adding to
the team woes. The varsity squad
still managed a 3rd place finish with course PR’s by Sean Hartnett, Ryan McNair and Steve
Sprinter/Hurdler, Mike Palmieri, out to get
in shape for track, earned Athlete of the Meet honors for setting a 5k PR on the
toughest course yet. He would go on
to improve on that time throughout the season, making the coaching staff think
that, perhaps, the 800 Meter Run should be added to Mike’s list of track
events! Freshman, Aiden Lynch, also had a banner day,
running with the leaders in the freshman race and finishing in 2nd
place, only a few steps behind the winner.
Having won our division championship every year since
1997, we felt the weight of that win-streak as we lined-up for our final dual
meet against Eastern and district rival, Lenape on October 8th. Eastern had skipped the Shore Coaches
Meet in preparation for this dual, and Lenape was improving with every
meet. Lenape’s top two runners,
Ryan Garvin, the Shore Coaches Champion, and Hayes Ranier, an up-and-coming
sophomore, were both running well and were a threat to sweep the top two
places. With Matt
McCarroll out, Kyle
Smith and Kyle Miller both still on the shelf, and
Saccomanno only back running a tempo run in trainers, it
was imperative that we get good races from our remaining runners and crucial
that we not allow Lenape a 1-2 finish.
With 600 meters to go in the race, we had Eastern put away (and would win
20 to 35) but we were in trouble against Lenape. Garvin and Ranier were leading and
Lenape’s 6th man was in front of Frankie Devine who was
running as our number five. A quick
calculation at that point had Lenape in front by a score of 27 to 29. It was simple, our first runner,
Burkholder, would have to beat one of the Lenape runners
and Frankie would need to beat their
6th man, thereby reversing the score. We let the team know the situation as
they ran by and, to their credit, they responded! Frankie did his job, passing Lenape’s
6th and Burk earned Athlete of the Meet honors by going above and
beyond, winning the race, to make the final score – Cherokee 26, Lenape 29. We dodged a bullet!
Beautiful weather greeted us as we arrived at Delsea High School on Saturday, October
11th, for the South Jersey Open. With the varsity runners sitting out, it
was a chance for others to shine . . . and they did just that. Ryan Bobb and Adam
Henriksen impressed in the JV race with times that were
2:18 and 2:12 faster than what they ran on the same course last year. It was especially good to see Adam
finally PR after all he had been through.
Diagnosed with a kidney disease in July of 2007, the drug therapy he had
undergone sapped his energy and made running more torturous than normal. Rather than quit, Adam stuck with it,
enduring an extremely difficult year of training and racing. Still on medication, but a more
manageable dosage, Adam has made a remarkable turn-around. Ryan and Adam, along with Evan Stone, Frankie Devine and Mike Palmieri, all
finished among the top 22 runners to score an impressive 30 point victory over
runner-up, Kingsway. In the
freshman race, the team, running without Aiden Lynch and Andrew Moorhouse, managed a
4th place finish, led by Athlete of the Meet, Billy Hornung, who finished second in
the field of 141 runners. Matt Venanzi – 4th, gave us
a solid 1-2 and Dave Wallace, Mark
Moorhouse and Albert Ptaszenski
completed the scoring. Albert’s
performance was particularly impressive as he knocked a minute and 19 seconds
off of his Cherokee Challenge time from only three weeks earlier. Behind Albert, Matt Adams improved 27 seconds, Jeremy Morgan - 42 seconds, Mark Morace - 1 minute and 19 seconds
Roether – 2 minutes and 23 seconds!
On October 14th, we took a number of athletes to the
Rancocas Valley Sports Complex to compete in the Burlington County
Dave Wallace, Marc Moorhouse
Yang medaled in the freshman race while newcomers, Greg Malloy and Kyle Cook took home medals in the
sophomore race. However, it was Jeremy Morgan, knocking off more than a
minute from his South Jersey Open time performance only 3 days earlier, who
earned Athlete of the Meet honors.
The Burlington County Meet begins the championship season each year and,
when we arrived at Millcreek Park on Friday, October
17th, we were prepared for a battle. Moorestown and Cinnaminson were both
ranked in the top 5 in South Jersey. They, along with Lenape and Shawnee,
made this a very difficult field.
Although we were still without Matt McCarroll and Kyle Smith (who was using the JV race
as a tempo run), we were happy to have Marc Saccomanno back
in the varsity line-up and Kyle Miller racing as well. It turned out to be a good omen. With Marc earning Athlete of the Meet
honors for his 15th place finish, we put 5 runners in the top 15 to
beat runner-up, Moorestown, by 37 points,
securing our 10th county championship in the past 12 years. In the open race, which followed, we had
3 of the top 6 seniors (Josh Ungerleider – 3, Adam Henriksen – 4 and Kyle Miller – 6), 4 of
the top 13 juniors (Kyle Smith – 4,
Palmieri – 5,
Josh Perez – 6 and Mike
Czuba – 13), 2 of the top 18 sophomores, (Greg Malloy – 10 and Kyle Cook – 18) and 6 of the top 16 freshmen (Aiden Lynch – 1, Billy Hornung – 2, Matt Venanzi – 5, Andrew
Yang – 13, Mark
Moorhouse – 14 and Dave Wallace
– 16). All-in-all, a pretty good
day for the Cherokee program!
The South Jersey Freshman/Sophomore Meet on October
20th was somewhat of a let-down following the euphoria of the
Championship. The lone exception was Zach
Roether, who had his best race of the year to garner
Athlete of the Meet honors.
While some years we hold runners out of the Conference Meet to rest for
Sectionals, with two weeks between the two meets this year, we decided to load
up for the Olympic Conference Championship on October
24th. With Kyle Smith back in the varsity line-up
we were only a Matt McCarroll away
from the complete top seven.
Gaining confidence from the County Open victory, we were ready to run . . .
and it showed. With a 32 second gap
from our first finisher, Chris
Applegate, in 4th, to our 5th finisher,
Saccomanno, in 17th, we scored a mere 43 points,
half that of runner-up, Washington Township. In his return to varsity, Kyle ran a
solid race, dipping under 17:00 as our 6th man, and freshman, Aiden Lynch, continued to impress with
his best race of the year at 17:19.
In the JV race, Frank Devine,
Ryan Bobb, Josh Perez, Josh
Mike Palmieri gave us 5 of the
top 10 finishers. However, it was
Czuba, who earned Athlete of the Meet honors for his PR
performance. First year runner, Greg Malloy, also continued to impress
with yet another PR run.
The Haddonfield Invitational on October 30th, not only
served as an opportunity to run on a flat, fast course, but also as the venue
for the coaching rematch of Thompson versus Cal versus Shak. After last year’s second place finish
behind the incredibly lucky Thomson Team, Shak was out for revenge. Cal, of course, was hoping to put an end to
his impressive string of 8 losses.
In the end, Shak got his revenge and Cal extended his losing streak to 9. Final score: Team Shak – 69, Team Thompy – 78,
Team Cal – 84. Frankie Devine, Aiden Lynch, Ryan Bobb, Billy Hornung,
Josh Perez, Mike Palmieri,
Kyle Miller and Adam
us 8 runners under 17:00 with freshman, Matt Venanzi, just missing at
18:02. Adam’s 17:52 clocking marked
his first foray under 18:00 and earned him a share of Athlete of the Meet
honors. The other share of that
honor went to freshman, Dave
Wallace, who PRed by over a minute.
Among the others who set personal records was junior sprinter,
Alex Walker, who dropped
his best by over a minute as well. Like his fellow sprinter,
Alex’s commitment to running cross country as preparation for track should
pay dividends this spring. Not to
be overlooked was the debut race of freshman, Jason Hays. Jason had spent the better part of the
season on crutches with a stress fracture and had been back to training for less
than two weeks. His performance off
of very little work showed that he has some real potential as a distance
On Thursday, November 6th, we received another sobering
reminder to keep athletics in perspective and to treasure our family and
friends. Evan Stone, our teammate and friend, lost
his father to cancer after a prolonged illness. His father, Bill Stone, was often seen arriving at meets
via motorcycle to cheer on his son and the entire Cherokee team. He was a good man who was always there
for his children. As coaches, it
made us proud to see so many of Evan’s teammates at the service to pay their
respects and support their friend during a difficult time.
The Freshman and JV State Championship at Thompson Park on November 5th,
marked the end of the competitive season for most of the team. Perhaps the upcoming four day weekend
had us distracted, or perhaps it was just one race too many. Whatever the reason, we were definitely
not on our game. Josh Perez and Kyle
Miller were the
exceptions as they both ran solid races with Josh earning Athlete of the Meet
honors for his 20th place finish in a field of over 300 runners. After a late start to the season, Josh
improved steadily, showing that he has the ability to be a real factor on the
varsity squad next year. With good
performances in his last two races, Kyle demonstrated that he is back and will
be ready for a good senior track season.
After a good county meet and a better conference meet, we were expecting
great things as we prepared for the South Jersey Group 4 Sectionals on
With Matt McCarroll set to
make his return to action, we anticipated our first race of the year with our
entire top seven on the line.
Realizing that we would be without Marc Saccomanno
dampened our enthusiasm a bit but we still went in expecting a repeat
victory. Unfortunately, it was not
to be. Toms River North ran a
strong team race and we were not at our best. Steve Burkholder did his part, securing 5th
place with a good finish. Behind
him, however, we were too spread-out.
Our gap from one to four, which was only 15 seconds at the Olympic
Conference Meet, was 51 seconds, resulting in a 9 point loss to TRN. Matt McCarroll did all
he could in his first race back since Shore Coaches, finishing only three
seconds behind Kyle Smith, our
4th man, to earn Athlete of the Meet honors. Our disappointment turned to
resolve. We would go to the Group 4
State Meet determined to beat Toms River North and contend for a 2nd
On Wednesday, November 12th, nine brave
individuals chose to extend their racing season with a two mile time trial
to christen the new track. The
overcast, calm weather made for good racing conditions despite the temperature
in the low 40s. Running a patient,
steady race and finishing with a strong kick, Kyle Miller came from behind to claim
the victory, passing 3200 meters @ 10:36.8 and finishing the full 2 miles @
10:39.7 to establish two records on the new surface. Behind Kyle, four other runners dipped
under 11:00 for the 3200 meter distance, Josh Ungerleider, freshman Billy Hornung, Ryan Bobb and Adam Henriksen.
On Friday, November 14th,
we loaded into the rental van and began our trip up to our hotel near Holmdel .
. . but we didn’t get there until the next day! A strange thing happened as we headed up
Route 537. We received word that,
due to the threat of day-long thunderstorms, Saturday’s meet had been postponed
until Sunday, a first in the history of the state meet. After a u-turn, a run at Lenape High School (for a change
of scenery), a return to Cherokee and a good night’s
sleep, we were on our way again.
The challenging radio game of name
the artist on the van ride helped to lighten the mood and everyone seemed
relaxed and ready. With Marc Saccomanno back in the line-up, it
would be our first race of the year in which our top seven runners toed the
line. On Sunday morning,
November 16th, we took the 15 minute ride to the park and met
the rest of the team there. While
we knew that the cool, windy conditions would affect the times, we didn’t
care. Our focus was on
competing. Chris Applegate got us off to a good start
with his 5th sub 17:00 Holmdel clocking and a 16th place
finish in the deep field, earning Athlete of the Meet honors. Behind him, Steve Burkholder was
running the best Holmdel race of his career to date, becoming only the
20th Cherokee runner to break the 17:00 barrier on the challenging
course. Behind Steve,
Hartnett and Matt McCarroll cut our
gap from the previous week . . . but not by enough. We easily beat Toms River North who
managed only an 8th place finish. However, we fell 8 points shy of topping
Old Bridge High School’s winning score.
Once again, we had to settle for second in a race we could have won. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge
that we had once again qualified for the State Meet of Champions. Our string of 12 consecutive appearances
in the most prestigious meet in the state is matched by only one other school .
. . perennial power, Christian Brothers Academy.
With two New Jersey teams ranked in the top 10
Nationally, and a couple more ranked regionally, we knew that, short of a
miracle, we would not win the State Meet of Champions, a race that brings
together the top 3 teams from each of the Group State Meets and two Wildcard
teams. Arriving at Holmdel Park on Saturday, November
22nd, our goal was to make the awards podium by placing in the
top six, something we had not done since 2005. We knew this was a challenging but
realistic goal and we were focused and ready to end the season on a positive
note. But as the runners exited the
woods at the 1000 meter mark, the coaches knew something had gone wrong. The entire team was running in the back
third of the field of 186 runners, completely out of contention. We would find out later that a collision
in the first 300 meters took down all seven runners, four of whom bore the scars
of spike wounds from runners behind them.
To their credit, six of the runners completed the race, all moving up a
good amount over the final two miles.
Chris Applegate, Steve
Burkholder, Sean Hartnett, Ryan McNair, Matt McCarroll and Kyle Smith all finished within 26
seconds of each other, our tightest pack of the year. Unfortunately, due to the collision, the
pack was too far back and we were only able to secure a 10th place
finish (the 12th consecutive top 10 finish for Cherokee Cross
Country). Although disappointed at
the team’s misfortune, the coaches were proud of the courageous way the athletes
handled the setback, reminding us, yet again, that our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.
is the surmounting of difficulties that makes
Adam, Ryan, Kyle, Marc, Evan and Josh: Working with you over the past few years
has been a privilege. Your hard
work and dedication to the team have allowed the great tradition of Cherokee
Cross Country to continue and thrive.
Your contributions to the program will be felt for years to come. We wish you the best in your future
athletic pursuits and in life. Take
the lessons you have learned as a Cherokee runner and apply them to all that you
do. We have no doubt that you will
And remember . . . whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are,
and will always be, a part of it.
you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become
The seniors have made their contributions to the program and have left it
in your hands. It’s up to you to
continue the tradition of Cherokee Cross Country. Today we begin preparing for the 2009
season. It starts with your
imagination. Dare to dream . . .
and then work hard to make that dream a reality. Success is the sum of small efforts
repeated day in and day out. Make
the commitment to be the best runner you can be and, then, begin working on it
each day. Together, there is no
limit to what we can accomplish!
Thank you for your hard work and dedication over the past few
months. Now let’s get focused on
making next year the best season yet!
ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are
T. F. Buxton
Thanks to our athletic director, Mr. Schramm, and the Cherokee
administration for their support.
Thank you, Mr. Smyth, for capturing the season in
pictures, for the great website, and for the pretzels!
Thank you parents for all that you do. We really appreciate your
Above all, thank you athletes for another great season!
Coach Shak, Coach Cal, Coach