The Championship Season began with last month's County and Conference Championships and now, after two meets for Freshmen and Junior Varsity team members -- the Haddonfield Sub-Varsity Invitational at Pennypacker Park (October 29th) and the Colonial Conference JV-FROSH Championships at Rowan College at Gloucester (Nov 4th) -- the Varsity squad moves into a series of state championship races where they need to qualify in the race to move on. The first is the South Jersey Sectional Championships at Delsea Regional High School (November 8th) where, if they finish among the top five teams in their Group IV race, they advance to the New Jersey State Group Championship at Holmdel Park (November 15th)! At Groups, again they need to finish among the top five schools in their race to advance to the Meet of Champions (November 22nd)! GO CHEROKEE!
Last year, the team qualified for the NJ State Group Championships by finishing 3rd in the NJ State Sectional Championships and this year's team, after impressive performances at the County Open and the Conference Championships, is expected to perform even better! ON TO HOLMDEL, CHEROKEE!
On October 29, 2014, the team traveled to Pennypacker Park for the Haddonfield Sub-Varsity Invitational. Typically, this meet is the last opportunity for runners not going to Sectionals to run their final PR's of the season, and the park provides a great opportunity for very fast times as the trails are well-groomed and flat as can be. It is, however, something else . . . an intra-team competition!
But first, in the Freshman race, Joe Falk led the way with his 3rd place finish and his first sub-18 clocking. Brandon Marks finished right behind Joe, holding on well after an overly aggressive start to PR at 18:00 . . . oh, but to be one second faster! Mike Iannotta and Matt Smith both knocked more than a minute off of their previous 5K bests to place 5th and 8th, giving Cherokee four of the first eight finishers! Matt Morgan dropped over 50 seconds from his best time to place 16th, while Jon Conn, Naledge Brown and Matt Zeitz all improved by well over a minute each!
In the first JV race, Noah Gil and Ty Kurzawa, in 18th and 19th, both dipped under 18:00 with Noah getting the nod at the line, and Brendan Falzone and Pritesh Prajapati not far behind in 21st and 24th. In the second JV race, Derek Gotshall, 21st, finished strong, and went under 20:00 for the first time, as he edged a fast improving Josh Annandsingh, 24th. Behind them, Pat Mahoney and Chris Monteleone both set personal bests as well.
The Runner of the Meet award went to Josh Annandsingh who lopped a whopping 1:58 off of his previous best 5K! Having never run under 21, Josh not only did that, but also broke the 20:00 barrier as well! GO JOSH!
The Intra-Team race has been contested for just over ten years and the score at race time stood: Coach Shaklee, 9 wins; Coach Callinan, 1 win! (Coach Thompson won a fluke race back in 2007 but neither Shaklee nor Callinan remember that!) A week before the race the coaches pick runners one after the other and build their teams. No medals or trophies are awarded but each coach and team values the bragging rights that go to the winners!
This year, the results showed Coach Callinan's team taking the win over Coach Shaklee's squad by a score of 61 to 76! Missing runners may have affected the race as Coach Callinan was missing his projected 7th man, Mike Algarra, while Coach Shaklee was without his projected 5th and 6th runners, Matt Powell and AJ Kostyo. Regardless, thanks to the fine racing of his guys, Coach Callinan gets bragging rights until next year!
Details at: NJRunners/MileSplit
On November 4, 2014, the team traveled to the Olympic Conference JV Championship at Rowan College at Gloucester: the Varsity squad to continue training for Saturday's Sectional Championships and the rest of the guys to race! For most of the JV and Freshmen, it was their last chance this season to race but for a few it was a final opportunity to compete for the last slot in the Varsity 7 that are racing on Saturday!
Top contenders for this slot included Sophomore Brendan Falzone, who had been struggling with a knee issue for several weeks, and two very good Freshmen, Brandon Marks and Joe Falk!
In the race, Cherokee placed seven runners in the top twenty, led by Sophomore Brendan Falzone's 2nd place finish in the field of 135! Freshman, Brandon Marks, finished right behind him in 3rd, with fellow Freshman, Joe Falk, not far back in 8th. Senior Noah Gil was 10th, with Junior Pritesh Prajapati, 12th; Freshman, Matt Smith, 16th; and Junior Ty Kurzawa, 18th!
In recognition of his impressive finish, Coach Shaklee named Brendan Falzone the Runner of the Meet and a member of the Varsity 7 that will compete on Saturday! GO BRENDAN!
Race details at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
On November 8, 2014, the team returned to Delsea Regional High School for the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV Sectional Championship where, in the Shaklee/Callinan era, Cherokee has written an impressive history: six sectional championships (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2011) and five individual championships won by three runners: Marc Pelerin (2001); Alex Yersak (2005, 2006, 2007); and Shawn Wilson (2012)! This year, no one expected Cherokee to win Sectionals as both Cherry Hill East and Kingsway Regional had powerful, highly-ranked teams but, if everyone ran up to expectations, a 3rd place finish was well within their range!
Not everything came out as set-up on paper -- when does it?! -- but one expectation was met: the team ran tough, took 3rd and, for the 19th time in the past 20 years, advanced to the NJSIAA State Group IV Championhips at Holmdel the following week! GO CHEROKEE!
Sophomore, Nick Falk, ran his best race yet to place 8th in the field of 126 runners with a new 5K PR; and another Sophomore, Jack Shea, also ran a 5K PR to finish as the team's 2nd finisher in 14th place! Senior, Justin DeTone was next in 22nd place, while Freshman, Justin Kelly, and Junior, Steve Gravlin, both ran their best races to date to complete the team scoring for Cherokee.
There were several great performances but the coach named Justin Kelly the Runner of the Meet for "stepping up" at exactly the right time, dropping his time an impressive 42 seconds from what he ran at the Conference Championships and filling an important gap that developed when one team member faltered! GO JUSTIN!
Details at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
On November 15, 2014, a cold and fairly windy day, the team returned to New Jersey's extraordinary championship cross country site, Holmdel Park, for the NJSIAA State Group Championship . . . and their performance was outstanding!
All seven Chiefs ran faster than they had a month earlier at the Shore Coaches Meet! Nick Falk dropped 25 seconds; Jack Shea dropped 15 seconds; Justin DeTone dropped 8 seconds; Mike Zurzolo dropped 27 seconds; Steve Gravlin dropped an amazing 60 seconds; Brendan Falzone, dropped 26 seconds; and even though Justin Kelly ran the 2 mile Freshman race at Shore Coaches, his average time was faster on Saturday for a full 3.1!
Record Books. Jack Shea's time puts him at #16 on the All-Time Cherokee list while Nick Falk's time is a new Cherokee Sophomore record, surpassing the 16:29.7 run by Marc Pelerin in 1999, and it puts him at #10 on the All-Time list! Cherokee is a young team with only one senior and they placed higher than "the experts" predicted and finished with two Sophomores advancing to the Meet of Champions! GO CHEROKEE!
Only twenty teams from the entire state advanced to the Meet of Champions but Nick and Jack advanced as individuals because of the quality of their runs. Next Saturday they return to Holmdel to see if they can knock a few more seconds off of their already impressive times! GO NICK! GO JACK!
The coach named Steve Gravlin as the Runner of the Meet! Steve dropped his PR time at Holmdel by a full minute and finished tough enough to catch several runners in the homestretch! GO STEVE!
On-line details at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
Did you notice which guys broke the photographer's "rule" on the way out? No, wait, we found one! Do you think that kid looks as tall when he stands alone?. . . just wonderin'.
On November 22, 2014, another cold and breezy day -- come on, it's late November! -- Cherokee's Varsity team returned to the state's championship course, Holmdel Park, for the NJSIAA State Meet of Champions! This time, however, only two of the team actually competed, Sophomores Nick Falk and Jack Shea, while the rest acted in a support capacity! Nick and Jack advanced to the MOC as "wildcard individuals" (only two of ten individuals advanced in this way) because of the quality of their runs at the Group States Championships, and they proved they belonged with the best!
At that level of excellence, from week to week, staying within ten seconds of your best is considered reasonable but both individuals finished their seasons with PR's on the course! Nick chipped more than 2 seconds off his PR from last week, finishing 37th in 16:27; while Jack dropped more than 5 seconds off last week's PR, finishing 43rd in 16:34!
Their times and places made them the 3rd and 5th fastest sophomores in the entire state! Additionally, Nick broke his own Cherokee Sophomore Record, first set last week at Groups, but stays at #10 on the All-Time Cherokee records, while Jack, with his PR, moves up from #16 to #14 All-Time! GO NICK! GO JACK!
Surprise announcement from the coach: both Nick and Jack were named Runners of the Meet! Wow! GO NICK! GO JACK!
For the first time in Cherokee history, the website staff selected the "Snotface Picture of the Year," naming Nick Falk's picture below for the honor! The vote was 27 to 1 with the single vote going to another Nick picture! Congratulations to the photographer and to Nick!
Meet details at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
NJRunners did a Final Course Ranking for 2014 -- a list of the top finishing times in major meets this year at Holmdel -- and, among the Varsity 7, Nick Falk ranked 58th (tied with 2 others) at 16:27; Jack Shea ranked 68th (tied with 3 others) at 16:34; Justin DeTone ranked 152nd (tied with 4 others) at 17:02; Justin Kelly ranked 300th (tied with 5 others) at 17:29; Steve Gravlin ranked 318th (tied with 3 others) at 17:31; Mike Zurzolo ranked 325th (tied with 5 others) at 17:32; and Brendan Falzone ranked 643rd (tied with 5 others) at 18:15! The list included 2,856 finishers! See list at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
On December 2, 2014, Cherokee's Cross Country team held its annual awards dinner at the school. There the team, coaches, families and friends, enjoyed a meal together, applauded the accomplishments of the team this season, and bid farewell to the graduating seniors. Besides the meal provided by the parents, the highlight of the evening was the Coaches' awards, including the Most Improved, Most Valuable, and the Unsung Hero. Coach Shaklee's remarks were not recorded but his written message is here.
--- The following Coaches' awards were announced by Coaches Shaklee and Callinan:
--- In addition, Nick Falk was named to the All-South Jersey Team by the South Jersey Track Coaches Association; to the All-Conference, 1st Team by the Olympic Conference Coaches; and the All-County Team by the Burlington County Times. Also, Jack Shea and Justin DeTone were named to the All-Conference, 2nd Team and the All-County Team.
--- The Burlington County Times named Nick Falk their Runner of the Year at the same time they named him to their All-County Team. Can't remember when a Sophomore was selected as the "Runner of the Year" but it's safe to say it's very unusual! Again, also named to the All-County Team were Jack Shea -- yo, that's another Sophomore! -- and Justin DeTone, Cherokee's Old Man on the team! Their newspaper report can be found at: BCT on Runner of the Year and All-County.
--- The team cleverly invited Jon Falk, retired photographer from the Philadelphia Daily News, to the banquet as long as he brought his camera! Here's a bunch of his work from the occasion! THANKS Mr. FALK!
And for grins, using an App from Nike, we have the season PR's for the Varsity Team!
Finally, we bid a fond farewell to our graduating seniors as they begin to fade from our view (sadness in Mudville!):
On December 3, 2014, some members of the team as well as parents attended the 35th Annual Cross Country Awards Banquet at Auletto's Ballroom in fashionable Almonesson, New Jersey. There, two of our team members were honored. Justin DeTone received the first Scholar-Athlete Award noting his academic and athletic excellence and demonstrating, once again, that he is not just another pretty face on the team; and after a long list of athletic achievements was read, Nick Falk was named to the All-South Jersey Cross Country Team! Justin got some money with his award and everyone -- especially his parents -- is encouraging Nick to go for both Runner of the Year and Scholar-Athlete next year! GO JUSTIN! GO NICK!
These pictures were taken at random by Cherokee's volunteer photographers, John Falk and RunningWorksPics!
~ ~ Congratulations to everyone, and thanks for all your efforts this season! ~ ~