Cherokee Cross Country Pictures, 2011, Page III

The State Championships

The early part of the Championship Season ended with Cherokee's Varsity winning the American Division, the Olympic Conference, and the Burlington County Championships! Now they move into a series of state championship races where they need to qualify among the top five teams in the race to move on: the South Jersey Sectional Championships, the New Jersey State Group Championships, and the State Meet of Champions! GO CHEROKEE!

NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional Championships

Trained by his grandparents who are said to have danced on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," (look it up, kids!) Shawn Wilson naturally gravitates towards the cameras! Apparently that's what was happening at the start of the South Jersey Sectional Championships when Shawn made a sharp right-hand turn about 150 meters into the race and sprinted towards a group of photographers! No kidding . . . check out the pictures! Happily, he soon heard the gentle calls of Coach Shaklee and returned to the course!

Wilson's turn to the cameras Wilson's turn to the cameras Coach is calling Coach is calling Wilson's back on track

Despite this added excitement at the beginning of the race, and the high-pressure prediction by all the desk-bound experts that Cherokee was the easy favorite in the race, the Chiefs fared well in the South Jersey Group IV championships, taking home 1st place for the 7th time in the school's history!

Shawn Wilson has been an outstanding first man all season and he continued as that on Saturday running a strong race to finish 2nd behind cross-town rival Connor Herr of Shawnee! Those two have developed a great rivalry that will continue through the state championship series! At the same time, Aiden Lynch just keeps getting better! His impressive 4th place finish was one of the keys for Cherokee's victory! After a series of injury issues in the past, he showed what he is capable of when healthy and training! Matt Venanzi continued as the Chiefs' consistent 3rd man as he finished in front of every other team's 3rd runner!

Mike Lowinger overcame some stomach problems during the race to finish strong and beat the 4th runner from every other team! Billy Hornung continued his road back from injury, getting better each race and, as Cherokee's 5th man for the first time this season, he topped the 5th runner from all other teams! Behind him, Matt Decker did the same great job he's been doing all year as the Chief's 6th man, beating his counterpart from ever other team! Finally, Phillip-Robert Cerria ran a strong race as Cherokee's 7th man after being asked to fill-in for Jeremy Morgan at the last minute. Jeremy has an achilles strain and, as a result, was unable to race.

A few historical details: this was the Chief's 18th consecutive year advancing to the Group IV State Meet, the longest record of its kind among public schools in New Jersey! In addition, Shawn Wilson' time of 15:33 was the 2nd fastest by a Cherokee runner on the course behind Keith Krieger's 15:22 in 2002; and Aiden Lynch's time of 16:02 was the 5th fastest time on the all-time Cherokee list behind, Krieger, Wilson, Alex Yersak (15:58 in 2006) and Tom Yersak (16:00 in 2003)!

The coaches selected Billy Hornung as the Runner of the Meet! Billy had his best race since returning from injury and, as Cherokee's critical 5th man, he closed the gap on the first four! GO BILLY!

Details at: NJRunners.

I love running! Lynch at start Venanzi and Lowinger at start Wilson at 1 - 1/4 mile Wilson at 1 - 1/4 mile Lynch at 1 - 1/4 mile
Venanzi at 1 - 1/4 mile Lowinger at 1 - 1/4 mile Hornung at 1 - 1/4 mile Decker at 1 - 1/4 mile Cerria at 1 - 1/4 mile Wilson at finish
Lynch at finsih Venanzi at finish Lowinger at finish Hornung at finish Decker at finish PRC at finish

NJSIAA New Jersey State Group Championships

On November 12, 2010, just before the New Jersey State Group Championships, Junior Shawn Wilson was seen wearing a T-shirt that proudly proclaimed "Who Says Soccer Players Can't Run!" We are sure the producer of the shirt meant to write, ". . . Former Soccer Players . . ." as two of our top performers, Shawn Wilson and Mike Lowinger are FORMER soccer players who wisely switched to Cross Country and excelled beyond all expectations! Seeing that, NO ONE says former soccer players can't run!

Who Says Soccer Players Can't Run!

On the competition, the team finished a hugely-disappointing 10th in the Group IV State Championship race! After a great season in which they won Division, County, Conference and Sectional championships, it was a tough way to end the year . . . that is for all but one runner.

Shawn Wilson will continue his outstanding season after placing 2nd in the highly competitive Group IV field of 148 runners! Shawn's time of 16:03 tied him for the 3rd fastest time of the day out of all six races and easily qualified him for the upcoming State Meet of Champions! In addition, with his performance, Shawn became the 3rd fastest runner in Cherokee history on the state championship course at Holmdel, trailing only Marc Pelerin who won the Meet of Champions in 2001 and Keith Krieger who placed 2nd at the Meet of Champions in 2002! Shawn also evened the score with district rival, Connor Herr of Shawnee at two wins each, setting the stage for a fifth and deciding meeting at the Meet of Champions!

Although the team did not advance, two Chiefs had notable performances: Aiden Lynch and Mike Lowinger. While it was not Aiden's best race, he still became only the 23rd Cherokee runner to break 17:00 at Holmdel Park, the site of the state championships since 1979. His time of 16:50 puts him 18th on the list! In addition, Mike Lowinger ran a solid race, finishing closer to his sectional time than any other runner on the team. Mike's performance puts him at 43rd on the all-time Cherokee Holmdel list!

Former soccer player, Mike Lowinger, was named the Runner of the Meet as he was the only one on the team to finish close to the time he ran at the South Jersey Sectionals the previous week! Had the other members of the team been able to do the same, the entire team would have qualified for the Meet of Champions! GO MIKE!

Details at: NJRunners.

Team warming-up Shawn Wilson before mile Shawn Wilson before mile Aiden Lynch before mile Aiden Lynch before mile Matt Venanzi before mile
Matt Venanzi before mile Mike Lowinger before mile Mike Lowinger before mile PRC and Bill Hornung before mile PRC and Bill Hornung before mile Shawn Wilson after two miles
Shawn Wilson after two miles Shawn Wilson after two miles Shawn Wilson after two miles Mike Lowinger after two miles Mike Lowinger after two miles Matt Venanzi after two miles
Matt Decker after two miles Matt Decker after two miles PRC after two miles Billy Hornung after two miles

New Jersey State Meet of Champions

There's bad news and good news from Shawn Wilson's appearance at the New Jersey State Meet of Champions on November 19, 2011! The bad news is that Shawn was wearing a new shirt. Wait, shouldn't that be good news? It was, after all, his lucky Ireland Soccer shirt!

Shawn Wilson in Ireland Soccer

Whatever, it definitely brought him good luck on this day and maybe he should wear it to the Footlocker Regional . . . and maybe to the next SAT session!

Well, maybe it wasn't all good luck but he did run an incredible race on the state's championship course at Holmdel! In a event that included all of the top runners in the entire state -- all groups, all sections, public and non-public -- Shawn finished in 5th place in a field of 181 runners! Shawn's time of 15:45 was the second fastest time ever run by a Cherokee runner on the state's championship course, and only one second behind that of Marc Pelerin who won the Meet of Champions in 2001! In addition, Shawn's performance puts him at #8 on the all-time South Jersey list . . . all of this in only his first season running cross country! Yikes!

OK, so who's the Runner of the Meet? Hmmmmmmmm . . .. Let's say Shawn Wilson . . . whadda ya think?!

Lynch, Lowinger and Wilson warm-up Old guys warm-up Lynch, Lowinger and Wilson warm-up Going out, after tennis courts 2nd at 2 mile mark 2nd before the tennis courts
2nd before the tennis courts 2nd before the tennis courts finish line finish line Top 20 on awards stage Top returnees on awards stage
Stern Wilson on awards stage Interview with NJRunners

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