On November 3, 2018, the team returned to Delsea High School for the NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional Group IV Championships and brought home the 2nd place trophy!
Going into the race, the team's situation looking much darker than it had only a week ago.
Coach Shaklee addressed the results of the meet this way:
"We knew we were not at full strength going into Sectionals, missing Chris Spisak and Mike Gavio from our top five! Like last year, we also knew how good Kingsway was and that we would need an outstanding team race to contend with them.
A number of our guys ran very well but it was not enough to take the win and we had to settle for 2nd place! Ethan Wechsler continued his terrific season with another individual victory, making him the 3rd consecutive South Jersey Group IV Champion from Cherokee, following Jack Shea in 2016 and Justin Kelly in 2017! Ethan's time of 15:46 was the fastest time of the day out of all the races! GO ETHAN!
Cherokee's 2nd man, Chase Miller, had his best race of the season to take the runner-up spot!" GO CHASE!
Reuben Frank, writing on the SJTCA's web-blog, didn't compose an expected five-exclamation point headline applauding Ethan's success but he did remark on the 1 - 2 finish by Ethan and Chase: 'Wechsler and Miller became the first teammates to go 1-2 in the South Jersey Group IV boys race since 2007, when Cherokee seniors Alex Yersak and Kevin Schickling ran 16:01 and 16:08 to go 1-2 on the same course! . . . The last time two underclassmen from the same team went 1-2 in the S.J.- IV race was 1994, when Jay Wassell and Nick Noguer of Highland did it racing at Kingsway.'
Coach Shaklee continued: "Tyler Jackson, Dylan Odud and David Jackson all ran their best races of the year, finishing 21st, 24th and 25th to complete our scoring, with Brett Shea right behind them in 26th!
Tyler, Dylan and David were particularly impressive! All season, David struggled with injury and illness but he really ran tough on Saturday to finish as our 5th man! Prior to the meet, Tyler and Dylan were our 8th and 9th runners on paper and only got into the meet because Chris Spisak and Mike Gavio were unable to run. Stepping up, they ran awesome races to finish as our 3rd and 4th men, enabling us to take 2nd and advance to the Group IV State Meet for the 23rd time in the last 24 years! GO TYLER! GO DYLAN! GO DAVID!
With a good race at the Group States meet, we feel we have a great shot to advance to the Meet of Champions!"
Looking at the overall situation, selecting the Runner of the Meet was exceptionally difficult! Do you go with the guys who finished 1st or 2nd, highlighting their gutsy performances and the points they won for the team, or do you select any of the others who also stepped-up, passed two team members who were having trouble, and crossed the line as the 3rd, 4th or 5th finishers on the team?! The coaches picked all of them but, when pressed, they selected David Jackson, highlighting his repeated bouts with injuries and sickness and the way he overcame all of them to score important points for the team! GO DAVID!
Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
On November 11, 2018, the team returned to the state championship course at Holmdel Park for the NJSIAA Group State Championships and brought home the 3rd place trophy and the 1st place individual medal!
Coach Shaklee discussed the race afterwards:
"The guys had our best team race of the year!
Despite the cold, windy conditions and the muddy course, all seven Cherokee runners ran well! Junior Ethan Wechsler set the tone with his commanding victory, becoming Cherokee's fourth Group 4 State Champion after Joe Halin in 1999, Marc Pelerin in 2001, and Shawn Wilson in 2012! Ethan ran with the lead group from the start and made a strong move shortly after the 2 mile mark to break it open and build a 10-second gap on 2nd place by the finish! GO ETHAN!
Behind him, Junior Chase Miller was also having a great race as he took 5th in 16:28, moving him to #14 on the All-Time Cherokee Holmdel List! GO CHASE! Sophomore Brett Shea came through with his best race of the year, finishing strong over the 2nd half of the race to become only the 32nd Cherokee runner to run sub-17 at Holmdel! Brett is now tied for 28th on the All-Time Cherokee Holmdel List with 2018 grad, Brandon Marks. GO BRETT!
Sophomore Dylan Odud was next with another strong race, once again finishing as the team's 4th man! His time of 17:17 in his first time racing Holmdel was more than impressive! GO DYLAN!
Senior team captain David Jackson was just a step behind him with a Holmdel PR of his own to complete the scoring, while both Sophomore Nico Grilli and Junior Tyler Jackson ran well as the team's 6th and 7th men! In fact, Nico was the fastest 6th man of the day out of all races and Tyler was the fastest 7th man of the day! GO DAVID! GO NICO! GO TYLER!
The team is ready to come back next Saturday for the Meet of Champions and lay down another strong team race!" GO CHIEFS!
Once again, the coaches were faced with the almost impossible problem of selecting the Runner of the Meet in a race where all seven team members ran incredibly well. It's a good problem but nonetheless, still a problem. This time they couldn't overlook the guy who placed 1st in the race and became the State GP 4 Champion! (Sounds cool, doesn't it?!) Congratulations to the champion and Runner of the Meet, Ethan Wechsler! GO ETHAN!
While Reuben Frank, writing for the SJTCA web, gave some attention to Cherokee's amazing record at the State Group Championships, he apparently took Ethan's race lightly when he used only three exclamation points on his headline this week!!!!! See his blog article at Frank Blog: From the Backstretch.
Details at: NJ.MileSplit. See the GP 4 race video at: NJ.MileSplit GP IV race. Also, see Ethan's "wildly exuberant" post-race interview at: NJ.MileSplit Interview.
The following pictures were, for historical purposes, gleaned from MileSplit photographers, Tom Smith and Toby (MaroonNews), and David Gard of NJ.com. Still looking for shy Brett Shea and Ty Jackson! ; < )
On November 14, 2018, NJ.MileSplit posted their currect Holmdel Park All-Time Lists that included both Boys and Girls All-Time Individual Lists and All-Time Team Lists. The boys' individual list is bone-chilling as it lists 160 guys who have run under 16:00 on the Holmdel course! The All-Time Team list has Cherokee at 7th-best on the course! Of course, these kinds of lists are only interesting to truly compulsive individuals who "live and breathe" obscure stats and details . . . hardly any distance runners apply here! See lists: NJ.MileSplit.
On November 17, 2018, the state hosted the greatest meet of the season -- well, after the Cherokee Challenge, of course -- at their championship course in Holmdel, the 47th NJSIAA Meet of Champions!
There's lot to put together before a full report can be made but, in the meantime, enjoy the following picture that seems to capture the essence of the event and of Cross Country in general! Well, maybe the girls but we meant the sign! Props to MileSplit too!
Coach Shaklee reported the following:
"We ended the regular season on Saturday at the State Meet of Champions with a 6th place team finish, our first podium appearance since 2005 when we also placed 6th. We were, however, just a little disappointed that, except for Ethan, we did not run quite as well as we had at the Group 4 State Meet. But, with a team that had no one on it who had run in the Meet of Champions prior, it was good to see that we kept our composure and didn't blow-up under the pressure of the meet!
Ethan Wechsler ran his best race of the season, knocking 12 seconds off of his winning time at the Group 4 State Meet to finish 4th, the highest finish at the Meet of Champions by a Cherokee runner since Keith Krieger finished 2nd in 2002! Ethan's time of 15:56 (on a course slowed by water and mud) made him the 5th Cherokee runner to break the 16:00 mark at Holmdel: Marc Pelerin - 15:44 in 2001; Keith Krieger - 15:46 in 2002; Shawn Wilson - 15:40 in 2012; and Jack Shea - 15:46 in 2015! Ethan's performance earned him another Runner of the Meet award . . . GO ETHAN!, not to mention South Jersey Runner of the Year . . . more on that later!
Behind Ethan, the others -- Chase Miller, Brett Shea, Dylan Odud, David Jackson, Mike Gavio and Nico Grilli -- were off just a little from their times the previous week. However, they all ran tough and no one gave up! In doing so, we were able to sneak onto the podium by the smallest of margins - 3 points over 7th place Westfield!"
(Editor's aside: Perhaps to illustrate how important every individual is on the team, only 13 points separated the 4th and the 7th teams in the race, and only 10 separated the 4th team from the 6th! Do the math: how many runners did each, especially the 3rd, 4th and 5th Cherokee runners who finished in large groups, have to pass for the team to finish in 4th?! It's not just the 5th man who is critically important!)
"The team will travel to Wappinger Falls, NY this week to run in the Nike Northeast Regional meet at Bowdoin Park!" GO CHEROKEE!
Official results at: NJ.MileSplit . . . and Ethan moved into the big time on Reuben Frank's SJTCA web blog when Mr. Frank gave his headline FIVE EXCLAMATION POINTS: Frank Blog: From the Backstretch! Oh, Mama!
Here are some pictures from a MileSplit photographer at the finish line (Hey, where's Brett?!) and another, showing only the top guys, at the Mile/Two Mile point!
Then, there's our regular photographer using a back-up camera that refused to adjust to changing light conditions! . . . AND THEN, there are the three Cherokee runners -- you know who you are! -- who, on their return trip, choose "the road not taken" and our photographer missed two of them!
On November 23, 2018, the team traveled to Bowdoin Park, in busling Wappingers Falls, New York, for the NXR Northeast Regionals. The goal: to qualify for Nike's National Meet in Oregon, but, if that's not possible, to lay the groundwork for a second attempt in 2019! At this writing, the only concern is the failure to locate an Olive Garden within a reasonable driving distance to the park! Really, a diner?! Several do not seem happy!
Post-race, outside sources suggest the lack of a near-by Olive Garden and dinner at that diner, had a lot to do with the team's performance at the NXR Northeast Regionals. But let's hear from Coach Shaklee on the subject:
"The team was pretty beat heading into the Nike Northeast Regional Meet after three hard races, the previous three Saturdays - Sectionals, Group 4 States, and the State Meet of Champions. As a result, the meet did not go very well for us. Ethan Wechsler had a shot at a qualifying spot but he was clearly feeling the effects of all the hard races over the past few weeks. He still fought hard the whole way and ended up 17th to earn 3rd Team All-Northeast Region. Chase Miller was next, about 20 seconds behind Ethan with another solid race. Behind Chase, Brett Shea, Dylan Odud and David Jackson, completed the scoring for the team as we finished 10th in the field of 33 teams!
Earlier in the day, Ty Jackson and Bobby Hackney competed in the Open Green Race. Ty ran a strong race and had a great kick, passing six runners in the last 150 meters to place 7th! His time would have seen him finish as our 4th runner had he been in the championship race! Bobby was running very well until hit by a severe cramp at the bottom of the hill with 3/4 of a mile to go. He held on the best he could and still managed to finish 22nd with a time equal to our 5th man in the championship race!
Ty Jackson earned Runner of the Meet honors for his strong race and incredible finishing kick!" GO TY!
Something to think about: nine out of the top ten on the team this year will be back next year and will compete at the NXR Northeast Regionals. What can be done to insure these athletes are ready to compete at their highest level at the meet? Doctors? Therapists? Psychologists? GO CHEROKEE!
Meet details at: Runnerspace. Some bogus stuff: there's a limited access video of the race (have to join/pay Runnerspace!) but, if past practice prevails, some free pictures may appear soon. NY.MileSplit also has details from the meet, including some pretty weak pictures! NY.MileSplit.
Our photographer was unavailable for the meet. To punish him, he was ordered to study the 750 pictures on MileSplit and save (and edit to improve) any that show even a tiny piece of a Cherokee runner! Here are his discoveries! Remember those puzzle books when you were a kid? Search carefully for the five sometimes-hidden Cherokee runners that he found in the pictures! ; < )
Coach Shaklee, who, we're told but haven't verified, won the coveted Karsh Award, named after the great photographer, Karsch of Ottawa, and he offered one of his creations from the Nike Regional Meet this weekend. Others who would like to offer their pictures from the meet are encouraged to send them to the coach! GO SHAK!
On December 4, 2018, Cherokee coaches, Shaklee and Thompson and a group of Cherokee athletes traveled to Auletto's Ballroom for the 39th Annual SJTCA Cross Country Awards Banquet to support two team members who were named to the "All-South Jersey Team" -- Ethan Wechsler and Chase Miller -- and Ethan, again, who was named "Runner of the Year!" GO ETHAN! GO CHASE!
Over the years, quite a few of Cherokee's athletes were named to the "All-South Jersey Team" (get on that, will you, Coach Shaklee?!) and five were named to the team three times during their highly-successful Cross Country careers: Marc Pelerin, Keith Krieger, Greg Bredeck, Alex Yersak, and Nick Falk! By itself, that's a big deal! Earlier, only 7 runners from all of South Jersey were selected and, recently, that number was raised to 12 . . . the top 12 runners in all of South Jersey! Beyond that, however, was the selection of the Runner of the Year, the best of the best in all of South Jersey! Now, that's a very BIG DEAL!
For Cherokee, that history began in 2001 when the first of five (one selected twice, making that six!) of our athletes was named, the Runner of the Year, Marc Pelerin, 2001! The following year, 2002, Keith Krieger was named, and two years later in 2004, Tom Yersak received the honor! Then, in 2011 and 2012, Shawn Wilson was named, and he was the last until this year when Ethan Wechsler earned that recognition as the best in South Jersey!
In addition to the SJTCA award to Ethan, NJ.MileSplit named him to their All-State Team, 1st Team! Details at: NJ.MileSplit All-State Team.
A final piece of information on the season is the last team ranking by NJ.MileSplit and the SJTCA, posted after the Meet of Champions. For NJ.MileSplit, before Sectionals, Cherokee was ranked 3rd in the state behind CBA and Haddonfield. After Sectionals, Cherokee dropped to 6th place behind CBA, Haddonfield, Westfield, Kingsway and Mendham; and after Groups, Cherokee remained at 6th with Kingsway moving to 2nd and Haddonfield to third! All NJ.MileSplit lists at: NJ.MileSplit.
For the SJTCA, after Sectionals, Cherokee dropped to 3rd in South Jersey behind Haddonfield Memorial and Kingsway High School and remained there through the end of the season: SJTCA Final Ranking Poll. Both organizations used the results at the Meet of Champions to determine their final rankings: for NJ.MileSplit, Cherokee was ranked 6th in the state behind CBA, Haddonfield, Kingsway, West Windsor Plainsboro South, and Mendham. Perhaps as a reminder, and to illustrate what could have been, only 10 points separated the 4th from the 6th place finishers!
Pictures from the event are posted on NJ.MileSplit. Here are some that focus largely on our Cherokee athletes but, first, who picked Ethan's tie-boutonniere combo?! Stylin' dude!
On December 6, 2018, the Burlington County Times named Ethan Wechsler the Times' "Runner of the Year" and selected Chase Miller and Brett Shea as members of their 5-man "All-Burlington County Cross Country Team". Their article on Ethan is at Burlington County Times, Runner of the Year and copied here at BCT, Runner of the Year, PDF. The Times also included these three decent "mug shots" of the guys provided by Cherokee HS:
In their picture "captions," the Times said the following about Chase and Brett:
"Cherokee junior Chase Miller was the Burlington County's ultimate wing man, joining Ethan Wechsler at the front of the county's best cross country program. Miller was second in the Olympic Conference championships, fifth in the NJSIAA Group 4 race and 30th in the Meet of Champions."
"Cherokee sophomore Brett Shea: Few runners could be counted on for better consistency than Brett Shea. An integral part of the county's top cross country program, Shea finished fifth in the Burlington County Open, seventh in the Olympic Conference championships and 26th in the Group 4 state race."
On December 7, 2018, The Marlton Sun named Ethan Wechsler the Sun's "Runner of the Year!" Their article by Lawrence Ryan naming Ethan is available at: Marlton Sun. Also available at: Marlton Sun at ccctf.
The article also included several pictures from their earlier article on Ethan and this new one:
On December 11, 2018, Cherokee team members, coaches, parents, family and friends met at school to enjoy a meal together, to recognize the team for all they accomplished this season, and to 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, the Unsung Hero, and the Most Valuable! Coach Shaklee's remarks were not recorded but much of what he said is here.
--- The following Coaches' Awards were announced by Coaches Shaklee and Thompson:
This year the team says goodbye to four graduating Seniors: Aatish Gupta, (Captain) David Jackson, Mike Moraschi and Tyler Ortiz, and we still see them as the mere babies they were back in 2015!
Our regular photographer was unavailable but several parents sent the following from the event. (Thanks!) They include pictures of Cherokee's Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen: the team's manager, Matt Monteleone; the Coaches' Award winners; the All-County 1st and 2nd Teams; the All-Conference 1st and 2nd Teams; and the All-South Jersey Team!
Soon after the Cross Country season ended, the Lenape District announced two prestiguous awards involving members of the team: Junior Ethan Wechsler and Assistant Coach Jeffrey Thompson!
Ethan was recognized by the Lenape Board of Education for his running achievements throughout the season and awarded the "Lenape District Pride Award" at a recent meeting of the Board!
Always careful that he presents the sophisticated image that every Physics teacher should, Mr. Thompson is often recognized for the care he gives to his professional appearance and, recently, he and former Track Coach John McMichael were named the "Best Dressed on Campus" by the District's "Order of Sartorial Splendor"!
Congratulations to all three award winners!