Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

                                                                                                                                     - Confucius


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 last year.


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, Kyle?


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 race debut.


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 Venanzi. 


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 Marc Saccomanno, Kyle Smith and Kyle Miller all still out, we decided to run only 5 in the varsity race, thereby allowing Ryan Bobb, Evans Stone and Frankie 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 Burkholder.  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 Marc 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, Steve 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 and Zach 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 Freshman/Sophomore Championships.  Dave Wallace, Marc Moorhouse and Andrew 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 Ungerleider3, Adam Henriksen 4 and Kyle Miller – 6), 4 of the top 13 juniors (Kyle Smith – 4, Mike 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 County 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, Marc 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 Ungerleider and Mike Palmieri gave us 5 of the top 10 finishers.  However, it was junior, Mike 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 Henriksen gave 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, Mike Palmieri, 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 runner.


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 November 8th.  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 straight title.


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, Ryan McNair, Sean 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.   


It is the surmounting of difficulties that makes heroes.

- Louis Kossuth





Chris, Sean, 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 be successful. 


And remember . . . whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are, and will always be, a part of it.  Thank you.




If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.

-      William Arthur Ward


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!


With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are possible

-      Sir 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 support!


Above all, thank you athletes for another great season!


Coach Shak, Coach Cal, Coach Thompson