Cherokee Cross Country Pictures, 2021, Page III

"The Bigs!"

Based on fairly little data, Cherokee is ranked #2 in South Jersey and #5 in the state! But that's largely based on the reputations of the coaches and the returning runners! Cherokee had some nice times at the Cherokee Challenge but that's only a 2 mile race; and Cherokee looked good in the 5K at Ocean County but, even with the wet conditions, the course is still considered "fast" by most of New Jersey! October marks the beginning of "The Bigs:" Shore Coaches, SJ Open and the BC Open! Let's show them how really good you are! GO CHIEFS!

~~ Week Two Team Ranks by MileSplit and SJTCA ~~

On September 22, 2021, NJ.MileSplit announced the Top 20 State Team Rankings and Cherokee moved from 7th to 5th, behind Ridge, CBA, Union Catholic and North Hunterdon! According to MileSplit, the team advanced after they studied the merged results at the Battle of Ocean Park: "2nd in the merge at Battle at OCP with a 16:23 average. Nice 48 second split." Article at: NJ.MileSplit.

On the same day, the South Jersey Track Coaches Association announced their Cross Country Top 20 list and Cherokee remained at 2nd behind Haddonfield, followed by Highland, CH East and Ocean City! List at: SJTCA.

It's nice to get some recognition locally and statewide but they have a short memory: you're only as good as your last race and we'll see them all at Shore Coaches! GO CHIEFS!

~~ The Problem with Twins ~~

Our photographer raised an issue that has plagued the parents of twins since these first little treasures appeared many centuries ago: how to tell them apart?!

He is especially attuned to this "issue" because, to the great joy of his parents, he is an identical twin, and his mother frequently had trouble distinuguishing one of her beautiful babies from the other!


Her solution was to dress one in blue and the other in brown! Problem solved! When in doubt (or angry!), she just said both names, "Denny/Larry!"

But why is that on the cross country page of our website, you ask?!

Enter the Pawliks, Evan and Josh!

Obviously they have to wear the same uniforms but they could have different socks . . .? orange and white arm bands . . .? maybe tatoos on their foreheads?

Or maybe the photographer can post just one pic and identify "Evan/Josh?"


~~ Batch Meets #1 and #2 ~~

On September 29, 2021, while the majority of the team stayed home to train, a small group of team members returned to DREAM Park for the last of the Batch Meets, #2.

Coach Shaklee sent the following comments on both Batch Meets:

"For the two batch meets this season, the coaches decided to run the newer athletes and give them additional chances to compete while holding out some of the more senior athletes.

"In the First Batch Meet at Dream Park on September 21st, the team was led by a sophomore and two freshmen. Sophomore, Luke Reistle, was Cherokee's first finisher in 9th place with a new 5K PR of 18:44! Close behind Luke were freshmen, Liam Tindall, 10th in 18:54 and Zach Ciabattoni, 19th in 19:37! Both Liam and Zach performed extremely well in the first 5K of their high school careers! Another freshman, Enzo Corona, returning to running after two years off, also ran well with a 20:47 clocking! For most of the rest of the Cherokee squad, the first batch meet was simply a chance to experience what it's like to race 5K cross country. Now, with a number next to their names, they had a goal for the next time on the course!

"That next time was one week later on September 28th when the same group - minus Luke, Liam and Zach - returned to Dream Park for Batch Meet #2. The results were quite good! Of the 14 runners competing for Cherokee, 11 set new PR's . . . some by wide margins! Freshmen, Ben Weiner and Enzo Corona were the team's top 2 finishers in 15th and 16th place with PR's of 43 and 22 seconds! Not far behind, in 20th and 24th, were freshman, Tate Midora and junior, Nick Campbell with 60 and 35 second PR's, respectively! The most impressive improvements were shown by freshmen, Tyler Newton, 43rd with a 2:33 PR; Mike Dinella, 59th with a 3:44 PR; and Josh Lowery, 75th with a 2:24 PR! In addition, Myron Paes and Noah Prate each PR'd by over a minute, finishing in 41st and 42nd place, respectively, and Akshath Thavanai and Anthony Perez placed 41st and 49th respectively, each with new 5K PR's!

"Next, the team will head to the state's championship course at Holmdel Park on Saturday for the Shore Coaches Invitational!"

Details at: NJ.MileSplit.

Here are a few selected pictures and these and others are on the District's Google site.

Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2
Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2
Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2
Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2 Batch 2

~~ Week Three Team Ranks by SJTCA and NJ.MileSplit ~~

On September 29, 2021, the SJTCA announced their team rankings and nothing changed for Cherokee: Haddonfield in 1st, Cherokee in 2nd! In 3rd, Washington Township changed places with Cherry Hill East, with Highland in 5th place. Again, they didn't have a lot of new races to judge by but this Saturday's Shore Coaches, where practically everyone in the state races, will have a significant impact on the rankings! Stay tuned! List at: SJTCA.

NJ.MileSplit posted their team rankings and, largely because MileSplit didn't realize Handonfield held back their top runners a few weeks ago and raced the entire team this past week, Cherokee dropped from 5th to 6th place! Again, Saturday's performance will make all the difference when everyone who matters will race on the same course! Remember: "You're only as good as your last race!" GO CHIEFS! List at: NJ.MileSplit Rankings.

~~ When Does the Race Actually Begin? ~~

That's an odd question! It seems obvious . . . when the official fires the gun!

BANG! . . . and off you go . . . eager, optimistic, excited and, yes, filled with strength and adrenaline! You feel like you're flying and could easily rocket away from the pack!

But that's not where the race begins . . . not even close!

It begins in that last half of the race, or maybe the last mile, when everything is hurting! Oh Mama! Your arms and legs ache, your chest heaves . . . your will is breaking! You tell yourself you can't go on, you feel like slowing down, even walking, you dream of a quick release (like maybe a tree falling on your head and ending it all?) . . ..

It's an internal battle between you and your body and spirit! You fight to continue, to even win, but your body tells you it's hurting badly and your spirit begs you to quit!

It's so easy to listen to those internal voices begging you to quit but you're a CHAMPION! You've developed an unbreakable mentality deep within your body that says, "I'm not quitting!" every time those other voices say otherwise!

GO! . . . GO! . . . GO!

That night after the race, look in that mirror again . . . There's a real CHAMPION!


~~ The Fifth Man ~~

In 2013, Patrick Bendzick first published a short article on the importance of the 5th man on the team and, since then, it has been repeatedly re-printed and continues to be admired and debated by Cross Country runners and coaches. Check it out and see what you think!

Patrick Bendzick, I Am the Most Important Person on Your Team.

It's an interesting perspective and praiseworthy but it's somewhat "static." It assumes the 5th man will always be "the 5th Man," and the 1st man will always be 1st, the 2nd man will always be 2nd, etc. In fact, the roles change frequently. Often, one of the top guys has a bad day and falls off the pace, maybe the 3rd man. That's when the traditionally 4th man steps up and passes him, and the others do the same! The 5th man is now 4th and, by the end of the race, he may be 3rd and the 7th man may be 5th!

Here's a perspective to take into race day! You're not the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th man! You are RACING, and you are a CHAMPION! Plan on having a great day and plan on beating everyone in front of you! Yeah, it's unlikely but it's a bad thing to think you're doing OK when you see the expectant "Number whatever" guy in front of you! Some athletes see the appropriate-numbered guy in front of them and they pace themselves off of him instead of RACING, instead of working to beat him and the guys around him! Don't just "cover the course" satisfied you're in "your right place" . . . RACE LIKE A CHAMPION!


~~ Shore Coaches invitational ~~

On October 2, 2012, the team traveled to the State's Championship course at Holmdel Park for the 47th Annual Shore Coaches Invitational!

The meet was/is always hyped-up much more than it should be -- it's way too early in the season! -- by newspapers (in ancient times!) and Internet sports sites but it is interesting to see which teams have been working and which are likely to be serious competition by the end-of-the-season championship meets!

Teams from the area have an advantage over those that are not, especially those of us in the southern part of the state, because they can train there! For us "flatlanders," unaccustomed to hilly terrain, just looking at the course -- the brutal uphill start, the rollercoaster, the bowl, etc. -- can be psychologically damaging even before we tie on our racing flats! ; < )

Probably the most damaging aspect of the course is the mile-long, generally uphill start! Go out too slowly and find yourself stuck on the "rollercoaster," running in place while the leaders of the race get farther and farther away! Go out too fast and find yourself gasping for breath at the mile mark and often unable to finish the race in a timely manner! What's a guy to do?!

Here, Coach Shaklee is extremely sympathetic/knowledgeable! Back in his 40's, the coach decided to enter the USATF Senior National Cross County Championships at Holmdel Park! He was in decent condition but not to race some of the best Seniors in the country at Holmdel! Still, he knew the course through his coaching and he decided he had a chance to win! That is, until he flew through the start and the rollercoaster and got to the mile mark! Ask him to discuss how he felt!

Before that, let's see what the coach has to say about the team's performance at Shore Coaches:

"The Cherokee team had some mixed results on Saturday at the Shore Coaches Invitational.

"Things started well with the Freshman race as the team placed 3rd in a field of 19 teams and 288 finishers led by medalists, Liam Tindell - 11th, Zach Ciabattoni - 16th and Enzo Corona - 30th! Tate Midora - 46th and Ben Weiner - 54th, completed the scoring for the Chiefs with Anthony Perez and Anthony DiBatista running well as 6th and 7th men.

"The Varsity race went off at the warmest part of the day and the field went out aggressively! In the case of the Cherokee team . . . too aggressively! In particular, Patrick Ditmars and Nick Kuenkel were out very fast in just their first experience on the infamously difficult course! Both runners slowed over the second half of the race but Nick was also experiencing some dehydration issues and struggled just to get to the finish line. Patrick held it together for a 6th place finish to lead the team to 4th in a field of 23 teams, including six ranked in the Top-20 in the state! Bradley Popler (25th), Conor Jacob (30th), Joe Natoli (43rd) and Bobby Poplau (44th) completed the scoring for the team, all running good - if not spectacular - races.

"The JV team managed to place 2nd in a field of 17 teams led by Ben Hackney who moved up steadily throughout the race to finish in 3rd place with his best race to date! Long sprinter, Lucas Hatch, showed that he is also a pretty good distance runner with a strong race to take the 5th spot in the field of 260 runners, while Joe Hough ran well to finish close behind in 8th place. Andrew Free (11th) and Danny Hassall (21st) completed the scoring for the team while 6th man, Luke Reistle, ran well to take 23rd!

"Next up, the team will compete in the South Jersey Open on Saturday at Dream Park, minus the top 6 runners. It will be a chance for runners seven through thirteen to show that they are a strong Varsity team!"

** In 2016, the Shore Coaches Association set-up the first "Coaches' Race" and Supreme Coach Thompson entered the event! See the details on our 2016 webpage at:

[By the way, when he heard that several of Cherokee's athletes might have gone out too fast in their races, **, former GREAT at Villanova University, an Olympian, and a friend of Cherokee, remarked "Nothing ventured, nothing gained!" He applauded the athletes, noting that Shore Coaches isn't the State Championships and was exactly THE TIME to experiment . . . the athletes learned a lot about themselves! Great experience! GO CHEROKEE!]

Lots of information, plus videos from this year's meet, at: NJ.MileSplit.

Our photographer posted some of his pictures below but all of the pictures, including those taken by his friends at NJ.MileSplit, are on the District's Google site.

Flowers mark the spot 8/10th of a mile into the race, where many young runners begin a slow death!
"Help me, Mama."

death flowers


Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore
Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore


Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore
Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore

Junior Varsity

Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore
Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore Shore
Shore Shore Shore

~~ New Yorker Cartoon ~~

Obviously, the cartoonist hasn't seen the "ripped" men of Cherokee Cross Country or she wouldn't have presented this piece of social commentary! That said, there might be some point to this when they're training shirtless in February! ; < )

New Yorker shirtless

shirtless shirtless

~~ Week Four Team Ranks by SJTCA and NJ.MileSplit ~~

On October 6, 2021, the SJTCA announced their team rankings and, for Cherokee, nothing changed. Overall, Cherokee did well enough at Shore Coaches to hold their position on the South Jersey list but others changed slightly! Cherokee remained in 2nd behind Haddonfield, and Washington Township remained in 3rd. Cherry Hill East dropped to 5th behind Haddon Heights (who had a nice race at Shore)in 4th (formerly 6th)! SJ Top 20. On October 8, 2021, NJ.MileSplit made their pronouncement and, as expected, Cherokee fell from 6th to 9th with Haddonfield the only South Jersey team ahead of them: "Fourth in a competitive Varsity A race at Shore Coaches, averaged 17:26 at Holmdel." Remember, . . . your last race! NJ Top 20. GO CHIEFS!

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