On September 16, 2017, most of the team traveled to Rowan University for the South Jersey Shootout, a uniquely scored meet that featured two Varsity races: one with the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th runners; and a second with the 3rd, 2nd and 1st runners. In addition, there were races for JV and Freshmen runners.
The day started well for Cherokee as just about every freshman raced competitively! The squad finished 2nd in the 13 team field, 1 point behind Kingsway, even without Nico Grilli, one of Cherokee's top freshmen! Brett Shea led the team with a commanding 10 second win over runner up . . . wait for it . . . teammate, Dylan Odud! Both Shea and Odud ran outstanding races worthy of Runner of the Meet status! Cherokee's 3rd man, Ian Bialy was only 13 seconds behind Odud and finished with a strong kick to secure 6th place and also stake claim to Runner of the Meet! Bryan Lafferty was next for the Chiefs in 19th, and Adam Kromish was just one second and one place behind him in 20th . . . his best race by far, and another claim to Runner of the Meet honors!
Next up was the JV race. With numerous people out due to injury and other reasons, Cherokee ran only nine athletes and expectations were not high. However, the boys exceed expectations, placing 3rd in the team competition behind only the Kingsway's A and B teams, and in front of the 31 other squads in the 34 team race! Taha Rana emphatically added his name to the list of Runner of the Meet candidates with a brave effort that saw him out very fast, leading at the mile, and holding on for an excellent 2nd place finish! His time was the 3rd fastest Cherokee time of the day, and that includes the varsity races! Tyler Ortiz and Matt Morgan both ran strong races to finish among the medalists in 13th and 15th. Aathi Anandan and Matt Campbell rounded out the scoring for the team in 32nd and 33rd, while Zac Miller, in only his second 5K race, dropped almost 2 minutes from his previous effort to also fall into the running for Runner of the Meet.
While the Varsity 4-5-6-7 race didn't go as well as the team hoped, Mike Gavio managed to place 12th out of 146 finishers. The Varsity 1-2-3 race went better with Jon Conn setting a new 5K PR (by a lot) while finishing 8th and also putting his name in contention for Runner of the Meet. Not far behind him, Matt Smith also turned in a nice performance, finishing 19th and knocking a second off of his previous 5K best. Together, the varsity squad finished a respectable 7th even with most of the top seven not running.
So, who's the Runner of the Meet? (While some might think that making the choice from among a number of outstanding performances is tough on the coaches, it's a "problem" that all coaches would like to have weekly!) Coaches Shaklee and Thompson finally chose Brett Shea as the Runner of the Meet. "Brett," they said, "ran a smart but aggressive race. He got out well and gradually rolled up to the front of the pack by the 800m mark. Once he took the lead, he kept the pressure on and gradually pulled away from the field. He looked like a seasoned professional, not a freshman running his 2nd high school race!" GO BRETT!
During the Freshman race, our photographer had a bit of excitement when his primary camera crashed! Apparently, the camera "swooned" when it saw Brett Shea leading the race with a mile to go! CRASH! . . . *%$@#^%*@#% . . .. Fortunately, Mae Kellert, MileSplit's chief photographer near the finish line, provided her pictures of the Freshman race! Also, our photographer had a back-up camera in his car and he was able to get action shots of the rest of the team's races!
On September 26, 2017, most of the team traveled to Rowan University for the Olympic Conference Batch Meet # 2. Over 40 years ago, when Coach Shaklee was a boy racing at Cherry Hill High School East, teams routinely raced as many as eleven intra-conference dual meets a season -- usually Tuesday and Thursday -- and then raced at one of the big invitational meets on Saturday . . . an insane schedule for serious cross country runners! Over the years, after vigorous complaints, the dual meets were compressed into four "Batch Meets" a season, and now there are only two. Today, the coach sees them as an unnecessary and annoying disruption of the training schedule. As a result, the team jogged through the race as they prepared for the upcoming Carlisle Invitational (PA) and the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel, the state championship course.
The highlight of the meet was the appearance of our photographer who captured The Chiefs as they moseyed around the course! Oh . . . and brought some pretzels! Go Photographer!
Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
On September 29 - 31, 2017, the team took their annual overnight trip, this time to exotic Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the 25th Annual Carlisle Invitational! There they lived and dined in 5-star splendor . . . (OK, that's a real example of fake news) and enjoyed some of the recreational opportunities available in the town!
On race day, the team did "pretty well" but still demonstrated a need for improvement before they hit "The Bigs!" In the Championship race, Cherokee's 7-man Varsity was made up of five guys who had yet to race the 5K this year . . . a late "rust buster!" Still, they finished 4th in a very competitive field! Justin Kelly suffered from allergies and wasn't at his best but he still managed to run well enough to get 9th in a very strong field! As Coach Shaklee reported, "Justin never has a bad race. Even when he's not 100%, he still races tough!" Behind him, Chris Spisak continued to show himself as one of the top underclassmen in the state: 10th in that field was quite an accomplishment for a sophomore! Chase Miller, Jon Conn and David Jackson completed the scoring for the Chiefs. Coach Shaklee noted that "It was the first 5K of the year for both Miller and Jackson because both missed training over the past few weeks due to injury or illness. They should improve quite a bit in the coming weeks." Jon Conn, coming off of his 16:49 PR at the SJ Shootout, ran another good one, finishing in 16:50 as Cherokee's 4th man! Seniors, Brandon Marks, racing for the first time since returning from injury that curtailed his training through August and September, and Matt Smith were Cherokee's 6th and 7th men.
The JV squad also finished 4th, led by sophomore, Ethan Wechsler, who ran an outstanding race to finish 1st with an excellent time of 16:37! Had he been in the varsity race, Ethan would have been Cherokee's 3rd finisher and the team would have finished 3rd as a team! Behind Wechsler, Mike Moraschi, 24th (with a 5K PR), Mike Iannotta, 32nd, Mike Gavio, 46th, and Matt Morgan, 68th, completed Cherokee's scoring. There were 44 teams and 524 finishers in the race, so 4th was a nice accomplishment!
The Freshman team competed without two of their top three runners - Brett Shea, sidelined with a tendon injury, and Nico Grilli, out for the past few weeks with a stress reaction. Even without those two, the team still managed to finish 4th in the field of 18 teams and 186 finishers. Dylan Odud ran a very strong race to place 2nd in 17:12, making him Cherokee's 7th fastest of the day out of all three races! "Dylan just keeps getting better each week," said Coach Shaklee, "and I expect him to contend for a spot on the Varsity squad going into the championship season! Ian Bialy, 19th, Brian Lafferty, 42nd, Adam Kromish, 62nd and Milo Barkow, 88th, completed Cherokee's scoring.
The coaches selected Ethan Wechsler as the Runner of the Meet! "Over the past few weeks, Eathan showed improved focus in practice and that seemed to pay off at Carlisle! He ran sensibly in the beginning of the race, moved up through the first mile, took the lead by the halfway point and then just powered away from the field! It was great to see his hard work in practice pay off! For that, he really deserved recognition as the Runner of the Meet!" GO ETHAN!
Not all was racing and training over the weekend. On Saturday night, the team traveled to the Carlisle Sports Emporium where they engaged in Go-Cart Racing, Laser Tag, Arcade Games and Miniature Golf. The only casualty was Mike Moraschi who fell and cut his chin playing laser tag. A quick trip to the ER and some glue did the trick there! GO MIKE!
Race details at: PA.MileSplit. Our photographer was unavailable but he lifted (and edited) race pictures from the PA.MileSplit website. Alas, not everyone was pictured.
On October 7, 2017, select members of the team traveled to the state's championship course at Holmdel for the Shore Coaches Invitational. Basically, the team went into the meet looking for good efforts from those who were racing. Besides the fact that it is the most difficult course in the region and the weather was unusually hot and humid, there were some notable performances!
In the freshman race, Dylan Odud survived a bad start that saw him well behind the leaders to move up over the course of the race and take 7th in a field of 251! Ian Bialy, Bryan Lafferty, Brett Shea, Milo Barkow and Brian Stillwagon were our other finishers as the team placed 8th in the 24 team field!
The highlight of the Varsity race was Matt Smith's sub-18 performance on the very difficult course and challenging weather conditions! Matt became just the 74th Cherokee runner to break 18 at Holmdel in the 43 year history of the program with his 17:54 finish in 46th place! Course PR's were also set by Mike Gavio, who showed significant improvement over last week's race at Carlisle, and Mike Iannotta! The JV race saw Matt Morgan and Bobby Hackney finish as the team's top 2 runners with solid races.
The coaches selected Matt Smith as the Runner of the Meet for his strong race that added his name to Cherokee's Sub-18 Performances at Holmdel list! There's a second list that records Cherokee's Sub-18 PR's at Holmdel and we hope to see Matt improve that PR at Groups! GO MATT!
Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
Hey, what's with Dylan? Someone reported he yelled: "No pictures! . . . my hair's a mess!" ;< )
On October 13, 2017 -- old "lucky" Friday, the 13th -- the team returned to Mill Creek Park in Willingboro for the Burlington County Cross Country Invitational, the first of the season's championship meets. Luck, however, had little to do with it as Cherokee's runners ran well and won both the Varsity and the Open races!
Historically, Cherokee Varsity has practically "owned" the county championship! This year was their 4th win in a row and their 17th in the past 23 years!
The Varsity squad ran well but, as usual, Coach Shaklee believes there is still significant room for improvement! Senior Justin Kelly looked very comfortable, winning the race with a time 15 seconds faster than what he ran last year for 2nd. In addition, Justin's time was the 3rd fastest ever by a Cherokee runner on the course, behind Keith Krieger (15:43.0 in 2002) and Shawn Wilson (15:56.0 in 2012). It's clear, the coach said, Justin has more in him and he seems to be rounding into race shape just in time for the major championships!
Sophomore Chris Spisak continued his outstanding season with another strong race, finishing 2nd with what was the fastest time ever by a sophomore at Millcreek Park! Sophomore Ethan Wechsler showed that his excellent run to win the JV race at the Carlisle Invitational was no fluke as he ran another good one to finish 6th; while Sophomore Chase Miller turned in a solid effort in 11th! Looking ahead, these three sophomores should give Cherokee a strong front three next year!
Junior Jon Conn is probably the most consistent runner on the team this year and he again had a very good race to finish as Cherokee's 5th man in 12th place! Finally, both Senior Brandon Marks and Junior David Jackson have had issues that have limited their training but, despite that, they managed to finish 19th and 21st as Cherokee's 6th and 7th men!
The Chiefs also had some very good performances in the Open race where 13 of the first 16 finishers were Cherokee runners, including the top 6! (Check the results: 279 guys in the race and Cherokee took the top 6 places plus 13 of the top 16 places! Yikes!) Senior, Mike Iannotta, ran his best race to date and won the race! Mike's a great team leader who works very hard but has had his share of injuries in the past, and it was nice to see him take the gold medal in the race! Just behind Mike, Freshman, Brett Shea, also had his best race to date to finish in 2nd, just one second out of first! Behind Brett, Senior Matt Smith; Freshman Dylan Odud; Sophomore, Mike Gavio; and Junior, Mike Moraschi completed the 1-6 sweep! Also in the top 20 were: Sophomore Bobby Hackney - 8th; Freshman Ian Bialy - 9th; Sophomore Ty Jackson - 10th; Senior Joe Falk - 11th; Senior Matt Morgan - 14th; Freshman Bryan Lafferty - 15th; and Junior Tyler Ortiz - 16th. With three sophomores and four freshmen among the top fifteen in the Open race, and three sophomores in the top 11 of the Varsity race, the future looks bright for the Chiefs! GO CHEROKEE
The coaches had another tough time selecting the Runner of the Meet but they "went out on a limb" and awarded the honor to Mike Iannotta! GO MIKE! Mike is admired by the whole team because he works very hard and does all the little things -- stretching, strength drills, active release, etc. -- to overcome his injury issues! Also, in the race he won, he showed tremendous grit at the end when he fought off the challenge of teammate Brett Shea, who also ran great and could have been "Runner of the Meet" in his own right! Others in consideration for the honor were Justin Kelly, the County Champ!; Chris Spisak, the fastest Sophomore time ever at Mill Creek!; Ethan Wechsler, a 1:39 improvement from last year to get 6th!; and Ty Jackson, a 1:29 improvement from last year to get 10th in the class race!
Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
On October 20, 2017, 5K or 16404' 2.394".. . . Hmmmmm.