The coaches knew the team was at a disadvantage without one of the team's top Varsity runners, Nick Kuenkel, available for the Burlington County (Open) Championship and they were very excited to see the guys step-up and win both the Varsity and the Junior Varsity competition! But, as the state meets loomed, things were not going to get easier! Before the State SJ Sectionals, however, they had another obstacle to deal with -- the Olympic Conference Championships -- and this one was likely to be far more difficult! GO CHIEFS!
On October 20, 2021, the team returned to DREAM Park for the 14-team Olympic Conference Championships and, ho hum, won another championship on both the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels!
Coach Shaklee sent the following comments on the meet:
"We were happy to win the Olympic Conference meet this year after finishing a close second to Cherry Hill East last year. This was our sixth Olympic Conference title in the last seven years!
"Lately, we've been racing without Nick Kuenkel, one of our top runners who is out due to injury. We hope to have him back in the line-up for Sectionals.
"Despite that, we still put together a nice pack with just a 46 second spread from one to six! Patrick Ditmars finished second with a quick time of 15:57. Patrick's previous best time at Dream Park came at Sectionals last year when he ran 16:54 so this was a big improvement! He is also only the second Cherokee runner to break 16:00 at Dream Park, behind 2020 grad, Ethan Wechsler, who holds the course record of 15:13!
"Behind Patrick, our second through sixth runners were very tightly packed: Joe Natoli - 5th, Bradley Popler - 6th, Conor Jacob - 8th, Bobby Poplau - 12th and Tommy Bromley - 14th! Only 18 seconds separated the six of them as Joe finished in 16:25 and Tommy in 16:43! All of them established new 5K PRs in the process! In addition, Sophomore Andrew Free, our 7th man, also set a new personal best in 24th place at 17:18!
"We also had some nice performances in the JV competition which we won with a low score of 22 points! We had nine of the first twelve finishers in the race and eleven of the first seventeen! Sophomore Matteo Evola, led the way in 2nd place with a new 5K PR of 17:29. Others in the top seventeen were: Joe Hough - 3rd, Luke Reistle - 4th, Lucas Hatch - 5th, Zach Ciabattoni - 8th, Danny Hassall - 9th, Josh Pawlik - 10th, Liam Tindell - 11th, Evan Pawlik - 12th, Julian Hatch - 15th and Enzo Corona - 17th! Of those eleven, eight are underclassmen, including three freshmen, so things look good for the future!"
Reuben Frank reported on Cherokee's victory in his blog, SJ Track Blog: From the Backstretch and wrote, "Billy Clewell edges Patrick Ditmars for individual title; Cherokee races to team title at Olympic Conference Championships!!!". (Ho hum, back to 3 exclamation points!) The article is copied on our server at Frank's Blog.
Further details at: NJ.MileSplit
These and other pictures from the meet are at Google.
~~ Varsity ~~
~~ Junior Varsity ~~
On October 20, 2021, the SJTCA announced their team rankings and, once again for Cherokee, nothing changed. Overall, Cherokee's outstanding performance at the BC Open cemented their position on the South Jersey list, 2nd behind Haddonfield. See SJ Top 20.
Also on October 20, 2021, NJ.MileSplit issued their team rankings for Week 6 (competition before October 20th) and Cherokee remained in 9th place, with Haddonfield still the only other SJ team in the Top 10. See NJ Top 20.
On October 22, 2021, NJ.com issued their team rankings and, while we haven't paid much attention to their rankings, it's obvious Cherokee's Uncle Sugar had something to do with the current rankings! They have Cherokee at 5th . . . ahead of CBA! Maybe they know something we don't? . . . maybe after the Meet of Champions?! So, anyway, they say it's North Hunterdon, Ridge, Union Catholic, Haddonfield, Cherokee and then CBA! Statewide ranking is nutty because there are so many variables but check it out at NJ.com's Top 20.
On October 27, 2021, NJ.MileSplit issued their team rankings for Week 7 (competition before October 25th) and Cherokee moved from 9th to 8th place as a result of their performance at the Olympic Conference Championships! Haddonfield remained in 5th and the only other team in the Top 10! See the list at: NJ.MileSplit.
Also on October 27, 2021, the SJTCA announced their team rankings and, once again for Cherokee, nothing changed. Overall, Cherokee's outstanding performance at the Olympic Conference Championships cemented their position on the South Jersey list, 2nd behind Haddonfield. See SJ Top 20.
From Coach Shaklee:
"The Boys and Girls Cross Country and Track programs have instituted a new weekly award, the Chief of the Week! This goes to one deserving candidate from the boys and the girls programs each week. The criteria is not simply athletic performance, although that is certainly a consideration. It really is for the individual who is doing the right things throughout the week and representing what we are looking for in terms of character, work ethic, attitude, etc.
"The inaugural award for the boys program was given yesterday at practice to senior, Joe Natoli, who has distinguished himself not just over the past week but over the past several months with his determination, his dedication to the team and his great work ethic! Joe was out of shape coming into Spring Track last March and was determined to make an impact this fall in Cross Country. So, he began a slow, steady build-up, making sure not to do too much too soon so as to avoid injury. By the end of the spring, he was beginning to get into shape which set him up for his summer training. He followed the schedule all summer and came into the Cross Country season in the best shape of his life! Since the start of the season, he has continued to train steadily and he has continued to improve. His performance at the Olympic Conference Meet last week was a reflection of how far he has brought himself since last March! He was the team's second finisher and set a new 5K PR of 16:25 to finish in 5th place (overall)! This is a credit to Joe's dedication and discipline! He is an example to others of what they can achieve when they put your mind to it and stay focused over a long period of time!"
Back in 2019, we wrote that the Haddonfield Sub-Varsity Invitational had a special meaning to Cherokee Cross Country and we repeat that here: "A bit of history here: In the past, the Haddonfield meet was a final and great opportunity for Sub-Varsity and Freshmen runners to end their seasons! The course was an ideal PR location because it was flat, fast and firm! Perhaps, more important, 19 years ago Coach Shaklee and Coach Callinan (now relaxing at Central Administration) increased the competitiveness of the meet by setting-up a unique intramural contest that continues to this day! For the record, by 2018, Coach Shaklee's teams won the contest 11 times, Coach Callinan's teams won 2 times, and Coach Thompson's teams won 3 times! (No one seems to know what happened those other years!) This year (2018), two evenly divided Cherokee teams stepped up to the start line and the tradition continued! The results now stand at: Shaklee, 11; Thompson, 4; and Callinan, forever at 2!"
In 2020, the meet was canceled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic but it was restored this year! Coach Shaklee passed along his thoughts on this year's (2021) competition:
"The Haddonfield Sub-Varsity Meet, the last race of the season for all but the Varsity Seven, was held yesterday, November 2, 2021, at Pennypacker Park and was a great way to end the season for the team! Despite the damp, cold conditions, 28 of the 30 Cherokee runners in both the A and B races established new 5K PR's!
"In the A race, the team was led by Matteo Evola and Aiden Dickinson who finished first and second, and both broke 17:00 for the first time! Andrew Free, Joe Hough, Luke Reistle, Lucas Hatch and Jameson Crozier took places 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11 to give Cherokee seven of the first eleven spots and a team score of 23 points which would have beat the rest of the field if they combined into one team! Four of the five PR'ed while Jameson was only two seconds off his best! Of those PR's, Lucas' was the most significant as he broke 18:00 for the first time, smashing it by 38 seconds and PR-ing by 44 seconds! In addition to Lucas, there were five other runners who also broke 18:00 for the first time! Those were Danny Hassall, 15th and Zach Ciabattoni, 16th, both at 17:40; Liam Tindall, 18th - in 17:47, and Josh Pawlik, 23rd and Evan Pawlik, 24th in 17:56 and 17:57! Other PR's in the A race were recorded by Julian Hatch, 29th; Ethan Weisenberg, 42nd; Enzo Corona, 47th and Tate Midora, 50th! For Ethan and Tate, it was their first time under 19:00 with Ethan at 18:46 and Tate at 18:58!
"In the B race, Cherokee was perhaps even more impressive as all 13 runners set new PR's! The charge was led by Anthony DiBatista, Nate Meyer, Nick Campbell and Ben Weiner who swept the first four places! Nimai Kumar was the team's 5th man in the B race, finishing in 8th place with a big PR of his own! All five of those athletes broke the 20:00 barrier for the first time with Anthony showing the biggest improvement of the five with a 1:31 PR! Myron Paes was next in 11th place with a 58-second PR, which put him under 21:00 for the first time! Certainly one of the most impressive performances was turned in by Cherokee's next finisher, Mike Dinella who PR'ed by an incredible 3:13! Mike's time was over eight minutes faster than his first 5K of the season! The other runners in the B race for Cherokee were Anthony Perez, 15th; Noah Prate, 18th; Akshath Thavanai, 19th; Jack Delaney, 27th; Tyler Newton, 38th and Josh Lowery, 50th, all of whom set new PR's!
"In the much-anticipated match-up between Team Thompson and Team Shaklee . . . well, let's say it lived up to the hype! It was a back-and-forth battle with lead changes happening throughout the race! Ultimately, however, it was the better coached team that prevailed (Ouch!) . . . Team Shak coming in with a winning low score of 173 to the 178 recorded by Team Thompson! With all the excitement the event produced, there is already talk of next year's competition with Coach Thompson vowing to return to his winning ways!"
Side-note: Anyone else notice the different white and black socks worn by the twins Josh and Evan Pawlik? Now all we have to do is figure out who wore what?!
For the record, as of November, 2021, the results now stand at: Shaklee, 12; Thompson, 4; and Callinan, forever at 2! Congratulations to Coach Shaklee and the men of Team Shak on their hard-fought victory! GO TEAM!
You can view all of the team's results at Google docs. Use the tabs at the bottom of the page to choose which meet to view.
For the official results, view NJ.MileSplit.
Reuben Frank reported on Cherokee's performance in his blog, SJ Track Blog: From the Backstretch and wrote, "With top group resting, Cherokee's Matteo Evola, Aiden Dickinson go 1 - 2 at Haddonfield Invitational!!!". (More 3 exclamation points?) The article is copied on our server at Frank's Blog.
November 3, 2021 . . BREAKING NEWS! . . . COACH THOMPSON DEMANDS A RE-COUNT! According to representatives close to Coach Thompson, the official results from the meet were inappropriately announced by the Central Record, a newspaper which they argue has a "dubious history," instead of the required Superintendent of Schools, and Coach Thompson is demanding that the race be re-run or, at the very least, an official recount be made from the official record! Coach Shaklee ridiculed the demand, noting the disgruntled attitude of his Assistant Coach as he seeks to unseat the long-time Head Coach, but he indicated that he would not block an official recount at NJ.MileSplit! Coach Shaklee ended his remarks by shouting, "You go for it, Trumper!
November 4, 2021 . . . BREAKING NEWS UPDATE! . . . ATTORNEYS FOR COACH THOMPSON REQUEST A COMPROMISE! Coach Thompson's legal representatives, attorneys from the Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe, met with the Superintendent of Schools and requested a compromise in the dispute now referred to as "History V Loser." . . . "Although the Sub-Varsity competition has a (now) 20 year history and Coach Shaklee won twelve of those meets -- Coach Thompson is willing to accept that number -- Coach Thompson argues that in the previous 8-year Head-to-Head competition, both he and Coach Shaklee have a matching score: 4 - 4! Coach Shaklee will, for historical accuracy, be allowed to keep the total number of 12 (as of 2021) but the record should also indicate that, in the Head-to-Head competition between the two, the numbers are 4 - 4." The Superintendent has chosen to "take this under advisement" and will offer an opinion sometime before next year's competition.
These and other pictures from the Haddonfield meet are at Google.
This week, the coaches selected Ethan Weisenberg as the Chief of the Week!"
From Coach Shaklee: Ethan is a perfect example of what it means to be a dedicated member of the team. Ethan always does his training, always enters it in Strava and always does all the little things correctly - strength, stretching, drills, rolling out and icing to stay healthy, etc. While Ethan is not a top 7 runner for us, he is every bit as important to the program! His attitude, and the example he sets, is what this sport and this team is all about! Work hard, stay focused, do all the little thing correctly and, in doing so, achieve at your highest level! THANKS ETHAN! GO ETHAN!.
On October 30, 2021, NJ.com issued their team rankings for week 8 and Cherokee fell from 5th to 6th, moving behind CBA after their Shore Conference victory this week. Haddonfield remained at 4th behind North Hunterdon, Union and Ridge. See the list at: NJ.com.
On November 3, 2021, NJ.MileSplit issued their team rankings for Week 8 (competition through November 3rd) and Cherokee moved from 8th to 7th place largely as a result of their performance at the Olympic Conference Championships (and maybe Cherokee's showing at the Haddonfield Sub-Varsity Invitational, as well!)! Haddonfield remained in 5th and the only other team in the Top 10! See the list at: NJ.MileSplit.
Also on November 3, 2021, the SJTCA announced their team rankings and, once again for Cherokee, nothing changed. Overall, Cherokee's outstanding performance at the Olympic Conference Championships cemented their position on the South Jersey list, 2nd behind Haddonfield. See SJ Top 20.