Cherokee Cross Country Pictures, 2022, Page III

"The Bigs!"

Cherokee is having their issues with one or another Varsity runner out with sickness or injury, and only one legitimate 5K race under their belts, but October marks the beginning of "The Bigs:" Shore Coaches, the South Jersey Open and the County Open! Now is the time to "step up!" GO CHIEFS!

Last year we made several points that we repeat here --

~~ 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: Preview! ~~

Thoughts from last year! When he heard that several of Cherokee's athletes might have gone out too fast in their races, a 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!

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?! (Talk to Patrick and Nick?!)

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!

~~ NJ.MileSplit and STJTCA Team Ranking: Week 3 ~~

On September 28th, 2022, NJ.MileSplit posted their Team Ranking for Week 3 and gave the Cherokee guys even more to work for at the up-coming Shore Coaches Invitational! BUT, looking over the weather reports, we hope we have a team of Mudders for the meet! The reports vary a tad but, generally, they suggest substantial RAIN will be the word of the day!

MileSplit missed the results of yesterday's blistering Batch Meet at RV, so all they had to go on was last week's Batch Meet and, what seems like a long time ago, a decent performance at OCP! In last week's ranking, Cherokee dropped from 7th place to 9th, and this week another drop from 9th to 11th! Shore Coaches was supposed to be the meet where Cherokee stepped-up and moved-up in the ranking but racing on an already damaged course, ruined by thousands of footsteps throughout the morning races, will be not piece-of-cake!

Let's see who the tough guys are! Let's see who prepares well, physically and mentally! Let's see who can get through it well, without whining . . . indeed, without a negative word about the weather! GO CHEROKEE!

MileSplit's 3rd week ranking: NJ.MileSplit.

The NJTCA website seems to have been taken over by gremlins or idiots because, once again, they've listed Cherokee as # 1 over Haddonfield! We appreciate the suggestion but, judging from their performance at Bowdoin, Haddonfield is at this time superior. Maybe later?!

The SJTCA 3rd week polling: SJ Track.

~~ Batch Meet # 3 ~~

On September 28th, 2022, the entire team bussed over to Rancocas Valley's Sports Complex for Batch Meet # 3 and, once again, in preparation for the up-coming Shore Coaches Invitational, Coach Shaklee had a special tempo run planned for his athletes.

Our photographer arrived fashionable late, only minutes before the race began, and found his cameras didn't want to cooperate! He cannibalized his two matching cameras, switching lens, batteries, memory cards, etc. and managed to get one working if only for a bit. If your picture is somewhat blurred, or isn't here at all, (or on the District's Google site), look forward to some great pictures in the pouring rain up at Holmdel! Yes, our photographer is expected to shoot at Shore Coaches . . . assuming his mother lets him! Come on, Mom . . . ple-e-e-z-z-e don't let me!


Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV
Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV
Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV Batch 2, RV

~~ 47th Shore Coaches Invitational ~~

On October 1st, 2022, a delightful Fall day with a light breeze fluttering the leaves as they sparkled in the sunshine . . . WHAT?! WHERE WERE YOU?! LET'S START OVER!

October 1, 2022, we would later learn, was in the middle of a five-day deluge that eventually dropped about five inches of rain on the state's championship course in Holmdel, NJ! That said, we were relatively lucky at the Shore Coaches Invitational because the rain lessened on the afternoon that Cherokee's teams raced and the course held-up pretty well!

Coach Shaklee sent his analysis of the event:

"The weather was not the greatest as the team traveled up to Holmdel Park for the first important invitational of the year, the Shore Coaches Invitational: Mid to low 50s, overcast, windy and damp with occasional rain (at its peak during the JV race). This was the one opportunity for the team to race on the State Championship course prior to the Groups in November and the boys made the most of it!

"With only two Freshmen running, Cherokee did not get a team score but both Chief athletes ran well! Rory Carroll, in his first race after only recently joining the team, went out aggressively and held on to place 41st in a field of 184 runners! Luke Ehly took 80th with his best race to date! [OK, let's get this straight! Rory comes out recently, has HIS FIRST RACE at the insanely difficult State Championship Course and LIVES! If he isn't "Athlete of the Meet," he has to be "Survivor of the Meet!" GO RORY! . . . Psst, is he still out? Is someone being sued for child abuse?]

"The Varsity went next and it was a chance to see what we could do with Conor Jacob finally in the line-up. The first three - Nick Kuenkel, Patrick Ditmars and Conor - did not disappoint as they took 1st, 5th and 8th in a field of 170 runners! Nick covered all the moves throughout the race and made one of his own over the last 200 meters to stop the clock in a very fast 15:56! That time makes Nick the 6th fastest Cherokee runner All-Time on the Holmdel course!

"Although Patrick finished the race disappointed, it was only due to his high expectations! While it may not have been his best race, it was still a course PR by three seconds - 16:05 - and not only got him 5th in the A race but put him 9th in the merge of all the races throughout the day! It also makes Patrick the 7th fastest Cherokee runner ever on the Holmdel lay-out and he is sure to improve on that by season's end!

"Running his first race of the year, Conor showed that he is ready for a good season! His time of 16:22 was only 3-seconds shy of what he ran at the Meet of Champions last year and it was 64 seconds faster than his Shore Coaches race from last year! His time was good for 9th in the A race and 14th in the merge!

"Bobby Poplau and Liam Tindall, completed the scoring for the team and, with their 31st and 35th place finishes, secured a 9-point victory over Westfield, who came into the meet ranked second in the state! Although Bobby was a few seconds shy of his Holmdel PR, he did run 36-seconds faster this year than he did last year at Shore Coaches!

"Liam's first race on the Holmdel 5K lay-out was a very good one! His 17:24 time is one of the fastest ever run at Shore Coaches by a Cherokee sophomore! As he gains more varsity race experience, he will, no doubt, race even faster in the up-coming Championship season!

"All in all, the boys raced tough against ranked competition and took 1st and the A-race Championship Trophy! Outstanding!

"The JV team also had some very good results, led by senior, Danny Hassall, who, despite the adverse conditions, ran 45-seconds faster than his Shore Coaches race from last year to place 7th in 17:59! Behind Danny, Ben Weiner - 13th, Anthony (One-Shoe) DiBatista - 14th, Joe Hough - 18th and Enzo Corona - 19th, scored a low 71 points to finish 2nd to a very strong Westfield squad in a field of 21 teams!

"Next up, the team will complete in the South Jersey Open at Dream Park next Saturday. It will be an opportunity for our "second" varsity squad (holding out the top five) to see what they can do against some top South Jersey competition!"

Once again, Coach Shaklee noted a number of runners who could have been selected as the Athlete of the Meet! So many have improved so much through the Summer and early Fall, the choice is a fantastic opportunity to recognize quite a few athletes but, clearly, Nick Kuenkel stood out above them all! Nick is, then, our well-deserving Athlete of the Meet! GO NICK!

Nick Kuenkel

Reuben Frank of Comcast and NBC Sports, continues to write his blog for the SJTCA and he put Cherokee's win into historical perspective! See SJ Track Blog. Mr. Franks' article can be found on our server at Frank 61. (Working on this security thing!)

On October 3rd, 2022, the New Jersey XC/TF Coaches Association named Nick Kuenkel (for the second time) one of seven selected state-wide Performers of the Week in Cross Country! Details at: NJXCTFCA.

An insane amount on details on the meet, including videos of the finish line, are at: NJ.MileSplit.

The District paid thousands to dress their XC athletes in the finest equipment available but here the Varsity proudly displays their trophy in . . .? They're all dressed up to hit The "Fast Food Intersection from Heaven:" I-195 and CR537, where a half-dozen fast-food places offer all the wonders of the world and there's no dress code!


Our photographer took a bunch of not-so-great-in-the-rain pics, gave them a quick PhotoShop, and sent them on their way! In addition, he stole the low-res pictures of his friends at NJ.MileSplit, did some minor PhotoShopping again, and sent them all to be posted on the District's Google site. Still, here are a few of his from the early part of the races:

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~~ NJ.MileSplit and SJTCA Team Ranking: Week 4 ~~

On October 4, 2022, NJ.MileSplit posted their Team Ranking for Week 4 and, based on Cherokee's performance at Shore Coaches, the team's state rank jumped from 11th to 3rd, behind CBA and Union Catholic, two schools that can draw their athletes from anywhere on the planet! GO CHIEFS! Details at: NJ.MileSplit.

Related to this, Cherokee's Nick Kuenkel was selected the "Athlete of the Week" by the voters at NJ.MileSplit! GO NICK!

Similarly, the SJTCA posted their Team Ranking for Week 4 and kept Cherokee at Number 1 on their list, with Haddonfield in 2nd! Not sure when we'll see Haddonfield again in the same race (probably not until the MOC) but we hope it'll be a humdinger! GO CHIEFS! Details at: SJ Track.

~~ Friday Feature at NJ. MileSplit ~~

On October 7, 2022, Jim Lambert, one of the few gurus of New Jersey XC and Track and Field, featured Nick Kuenkel in his "Friday Feature at NJ.MileSplit! The article and the attached video/interview show more smiles and public speaking from Nick since his two-time Middle School victory in the Cherokee Challenge, 2018 and 2019! Check them out:

Nick's Interview after Shore Coaches, 2022

Nick's Interview after second Cherokee Challenge Middle School Victory, 2019

While on the subject of recognition, produced a list of "Cross-country: Top 10 NJ runners at the Midseason Mark" that included both Nick Kuenkel and Patrick Ditmars. No sparkling interviews, however! Top 10.

~~ SJ Open ~~

On October 8, 2022, the "South Jersey Track Coaches Association" sponsored the long-running SJ Open and, while Coach Shaklee and the top five Varsity runners sat out this one, many of Cherokee's Freshmen and Junior Varsity participated and raced well!

Here's what Coach Shaklee had to say:

"The team competed in the South Jersey Open at Dream Park on Saturday, October 8th. With the team's top five runners not racing, it was a chance for others on the team to step up and show what they are capable of. What they showed was that they are a very good VARSITY squad in their own right.

"The team finished 2nd in the 'Varsity Division 3 Championship,' behind South Jersey's 6th ranked team, Cherry Hill East. In the process they beat both Washington Township and Clearview (South Jersey's 8th and 12th ranked teams)! Not only did they beat those teams but they put seven runners in before Washington Township's 5th man and 6 runners in before Clearview's 3rd!

"The team was led by sophomores, Anthony DiBatista and Ben Weiner, who have been running well all year! They finished 12th and 13th and both established new 5K PR's! Behind them, Luke Reistle, Joe Hough, Andrew Free and Enzo Corona all packed in between 18th and 27th!

"In the 'Junior Varsity' competition, Matteo Evola led the team, placing 2nd with a time that would have gotten him 20th in the Varsity race! Julian Hatch was not far behind in 5th place with his first sub-18:00 clocking of the year! Others setting new 5K PR's were Myron Paes, Rocco Clifford (by almost a minute and a half!), Nimai Kumar, Shawon Sarker and Liam Deimler!

"Next up, the Burlington County Championships on Friday, October 14th!"

The coaches selected Logan Bromley as the Athlete of the Meet while highlighting "his first victory in his high school career and of the season!" GO LOGAN!

Logan Bromley

Offical details at: NJ.MileSplit.

Our photographer was at the meet and his Cherokee pictures are available at the District's Google site. While here, check out a few selected pictures below!

Varsity 5

"We're here to cheer!" (Not sure about Patrick.)

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~~ NJ.MileSplit and SJTCA Team Ranking: Week 5 ~~

On October 12th, 2022, NJ.MileSplit posted their Team Ranking for Week 5.5 and, Cherokee remains 3rd in the state listing the results of the SJ Open. Scheduling made the early Tuesday voting necessary but, clearly, a victory at the Burlington County Open will strengthen that 3rd place vote. NJ.MileSplit ranking list at: NJ.MileSplit. In addition, the SJTCA kept Cherokee in 1st place in their Rankings for Week 5! Their list is at: SJ Track GO CHEROKEE!

~~ Burlington County Open Championships ~~

JV Start

On October 14th, 2022, the team returned to Willingboro's Millcreek Park for the Burlington County Open Championships and continued a decades-long supremacy of the event! Coach Shaklee had this to say about his team's performance:

"It was a nice afternoon that greeted the team as we returned to Millcreek Park for the first time since 2019. The site has hosted most of the county championships over the years but was unavailable during the COVID years. Despite the burrs that seemed to be everywhere, it was good to be back!

"This event has been dominated by the Cherokee boys over the past 34 years! Cherokee won its first county title in 1988 when Coach Joe Schram's team defeated runner-up Shawnee (coached by a young Shak) by a few points! Since that first win, Cherokee won 23 titles in 34 attempts coming into this year's race, including the last 8 . . . no pressure.

"The first event, the Junior Varsity competition, gave an indication of the relative strength of the Cherokee team in relation to the other county schools. Cherokee won the team title with 16 points (15 is the fewest a team can score) led by Luke Reistle's dominant individual win! Luke led three other teammates, Joe Hough, Matteo Evola and Enzo Corona, to a sweep of the top 4 spots! Cherokee also put three other runners in the top 10 as Julian Hatch, Logan Bromley and Ethan Weisenberg took places 6th, 7th and 8th! In addition, three other athletes - Brett Yagiello, Myron Paes, Tate Midora - medaled, placing 13th, 14th and 20th! It was also interesting to note that Cherokee had the top senior - Joe Hough; the top junior - Luke Reistle; the top sophomore - Enzo Corona and the top freshman - Logan Bromley in the event!

"The Varsity squad was up next, and despite missing senior, Conor Jacob (who will be back in action at the conference meet), the team was ready to continue the tradition. There were some good runners who were contending for the top spot but both Nick Kuenkel and Patrick Ditmars were ready! They stayed with the front group until about a half-mile to go and then pulled away to finish 1st and 2nd! Nick remains undefeated for the season (and is Cherokee's 12th individual County Champion) and Patrick, although 2nd, is also having a great year! They both appear ready for the big meets coming up in November!

"Bobby Poplau was the team's 3rd man, in 7th place! Bobby is getting better with every competition and, as compared to the Shore Coaches meet two weeks ago, he closed the gap on Nick and Patrick by quite a bit!

"Sophomore, Liam Tindall, continued his excellent season with a strong 10th place showing! Like Bobby, Liam is improving each time on the course and both he and Bobby will be ready to do their part through the remaining championship competitions!

"Our 5th, 6th and 7th runners were all running Varsity for the first time and they did remarkably well despite their lack of experience at this level. Senior, Danny Hassall, finished well to take 18th with sophomores, Anthony DiBatista and Ben Weiner right behind him in 19th and 21st! The result was a resounding team victory (the 9th in a row and the 24th in the past 35 years) with 38 points, 26 ahead of runner-up Lenape!

"Next up, the team will attempt to win its 7th Conference title in the past 8 years this week at Dream Park!"

The coaches selected Danny Hassall as the Runner of the Meet and included these comments: "Running in his first Varsity championship, Danny made the most of it! He finished as our 5th man in 18th place helping us secure our 9th consecutive County Championship! Danny finished 20 seconds in front of runner-up Lenape's 5th man and 27 seconds in front of Cinnaminson's 4th man! Honorable mention goes to the trio of Anthony DiBatista, Ben Weiner and Luke Reistle! Anthony and Ben, running in the Varsity race, were the team's 6th and 7th finishers but both were faster than Lenape's 5th man and Cinnaminson's 4th! Luke dominated the JV race, winning by 19 seconds and also running faster than Lenape's 5th man Varsity and Cinnaminson's 4th!" GO DANNY!

Dan Hassall

Reuben Frank of Comcast and NBC Sports, continues to write his blog for the SJTCA and he wrote an informative article at: SJ Track Blog. Mr. Franks' article can be found on our server at Frank 63.

Details at: NJ.MileSplit.

This for grins: An athlete from another school who knew our photographer from RunningWorks asked him, "Why are my pictures so bad?" Our photographer replied, "I'm not a plastic surgeon!" Keep that in mind when you speak to our photographer! ;<)

Our photographer took a bunch of pics at the meet -- and blew a bunch more! -- and he whimsically selected just a few to post here. The remainder are available on the District's Google site!

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JV Start

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