When Rollie Geiger of NC State said, "Cross Country is like poker . . . you have to be holding five good cards all the time," he wasn't thinking about Cherokee's victory 0n October 16th, at the 2009 Burlington County Open, but he could have!
Every year is seems, practically everyone thinks Cherokee is the odds-on favorite to win the County Open -- they have done so eleven times in the last 14 years! -- but this year Cherokee faced some very strong competition, especially from sister-schools Shawnee and Lenape! This year, Shawnee had the front runners -- indeed, their runners took 1st, 2nd and 4th in the race -- and Lenape certainly had the depth to get their top five across the finish line before Cherokee could do so. It all depended on Cherokee's ability to run as a tight pack . . . something they have trained all year to do!
Steve Burkholder, the team's "front runner," was Cherokee's first finisher in 3rd place in a field of 103 runners. Behind him, racing closely together, Cherokee put six more runners among the top twenty-three to secure a narrow victory! Matt McCarroll took 8th and Josh Perez took 9th; then Ryan Bobb followed in 14th; with Aiden Lynch and Greg Malloy close behind in 17th and 19th, and Kyle Smith in 23rd! The final results: Cherokee at 51; Lenape at 61; Shawnee at 63! That's definitely holding more than five good cards!
. . . And Cherokee now holds another record of 12 victories in 15 years!
After the Varsity competition, an Open Class race featured the next level of Cherokee runners. In the Senior Class competition, Frank Devine took 1st overall and won the Senior competition! Also among the Seniors, Alberto Redaelli finished in 2nd, Mike Palmieri took 4th, and Mike Czuba took 9th. Erik Birkhead took 5th among the Juniors, with Justin Domingo in 11th, and Lou DiGeambeardino in 13th!
In the Sophomore competition, Matt Venanzi took 1st, with Bill Hornung close behind in 2nd! Other top Sophomores for Cherokee were Andrew Yang in 8th, and Jeremy Morgan in 10th. In the Freshman race, Matt Decker finished 5th out of 64 runners in the race!
There were several deserving candidates for Runner of the Meet recognition, but Josh Perez was selected, not because the coach felt guilty for calling him "Josh Evans" in his interview with the reporter from the Burlington County Times, but because he raced aggressively from start to finish, improving his time significantly over last year, and because this was the first time that he was in Cherokee's top three! GO JOSH!
Reuben Frank of the Burlington County Times had this to say about the event: Inexperienced Chiefs Win Third Straight Crown. (By the way, remember to welcome the fleet-footed "Josh Evans" to the team!) Read Reuben Frank regularly at Burlington County Times.
Results at: Ed Colona, or MileSplit,NJ.
It was a rainy and dark day, and picture-taking was difficult. This became even more so when, at the finish line just after the 4th man finished, the dreaded "Error 99" message appeared on the camera and it stopped functioning! According to the manual, the code means, "Too ugly to photograph" . . . OK, I made that up . . . but there are no Varsity finish line pictures after Burk! The camera was fixed in time for the Open Class Race.
Open Class Race
Simply stated, on October 24, 2009, at the Olympic Conference Championships, the team -- looking spiffy in their new Nike uniforms -- came through again! Although they were missing Senior Kyle Smith from the top seven, the other six runners stepped it up, and Senior Frank Devine filled-in nicely in the seventh spot!
In the Championship Race, the team's top performer, Steve Burkholder, continued to improve, finishing 3rd in his best race to date! Sophomore, Aiden Lynch had his best race as well! Taking it out quickly and staying near the front the entire way, he finished in 12th in 16:54, one second behind Cherokee's second man, highly-dependable Matt McCarroll! Matt, too, deserves special mention because, after coming back from a summer injury, he is the team's consistent "Number Two Man!"
Through three runners, crosstown rivals at Shawnee were in the lead but Josh Perez in 16th, and Ryan Bobb in 18th, finished ahead of Shawnee's fourth man and completed the team scoring! Then, Greg Malloy in 32nd, and Frank Devine in 33rd, helped to displace the top five runners from other teams, further insuring the team's victory!
Definitely another full team effort!
In the Junior Varsity competition, Cherokee placed five runners among the top thirteen finishers! Alberto Redaelli led the squad in 5th place, followed by Bill Hornung in 7th, Matt Venanzi in 8th, Mike Palmieri in 10th, and Eric Birkhead in 13th!
Aiden Lynch was named the Runner of the Meet because of his aggressive attitude throughout the race! He had his best start of the season, and stayed in the mix, challenging his opponents and his teammates, through the entire race! GO AIDEN!
Details at: Ed Colona, or at MileSplit, NJ.
Junior Varsity Race
The news was slow to reach "sports central" here in Marlton. Perhaps the mighty Cooper River flooded its banks? Perhaps the great Cherry Hill Mountain Range blocked all but the most intrepid news-carriers? Perhaps Coach Cal somehow blocked the information from being disseminated? Perhaps . . .. But that is over, the news is out, the issue has been decided . . .!
On October 29, 2009, Cherokee's "Sub-Varsity" runners looked forward to running the Haddonfield Invitational because it is viewed by many as their last chance to run on a flat, fast course and set a new season PR! But, for at least nine years, it has been something else: the only intra-squad contest of the year, and a unique opportunity for coaches and athletes to win year-long bragging rights!
Typically, the team is divided into two groups -- one advised by Coach Shaklee, the other advised by Coach Callinan -- with each competing against the other for the "real championship." The other teams in the race are mere "window dressing," generally ignored as the intra-squad battle unfolds.
On paper, Coach Cal's team seemed to have a slight upper hand, and Vegas odds-makers leaned in their direction: in alphabetical order, Mike Czuba, Frank Devine, Justin Domingo, Mike Palmieri, Freddy Rasmussen (Freshman), Dave Wallace, and Andrew Yang. But Coach Shaklee's squad had great potential for an upset: in alphabetical order, Matt Adams, Erik Birkhead, Matt Decker (Freshman), Lou DiGeambeardino, Bill Hornung, Ryan Merrigan, Jeremy Morgan, and Alberto Redaelli.
Unlike previous years when the outcome seemed obvious by the Two-Mile Bridge, this year's competition went down to the end! Coach Shaklee's guys -- Hornung and Redaelli -- surprised on-lookers and took 1st and 2nd! But, they were closely followed by three of Coach Cal's runners -- Palmieri, Devine, and Czuba in 3rd, 4th and 5th! Then Shaklee's squad put two across -- Birkhead and Morgan in 6th and 7th! Cal's man -- Justin Domingo -- followed in 8th to keep it very close! Shaklee's Ryan Merrigan took 9th; and Cal's Yang and Wallace followed in 10th and 11th. Then Shaklee's Adams and DiGeambeardino swept in to take the 12th and 13th places!
The Freshman contest was more problematic as Coach Shaklee's runner, Matt "The Pathfinder" Decker, well out in front with a group of race leaders, took a wrong turn, and they created their own course for over a half-mile through some very rugged woods! Coach Cal's last runner -- Rasmussen -- finished behind Decker but he at least stayed on the course! Coach Cal called for proper adjudication but, before a Supreme Court justice could be contacted, the results were published without counting the Freshmen, and Coach Shaklee's team was declared the winner!
Haddonfield Invitational Intra-team Record: Coach Shaklee, 8 wins; Coach Thompson, 1 win (a fluke back in 2007); Coach Callinan, 0 wins!
In addition to this important Intra-team news, PR's were recorded by Bill Hornung, Alberto Redaelli, Mike Palmieri, Mike Czuba, Erik Birkhead, Jeremy Morgan, Justin Domingo, Ryan Merrigan, Matt Adams, and Freddy Rasmuessen! GO DUDES!
Two athletes were named Runners of the Meet: Bill Hornung and Jeremy Morgan! Bill had his absolute best race of the year, staying competitive from start to finish, and moving up throughout the race! He finished 3rd overall in the race and 1st among Cherokee runners! Jeremy improved every race this year, and in this race, he dropped more than two minutes off what he ran last year! GO BILL! GO JEREMY!
Results at: Ed Colona, or at MileSplit, NJ.