On November 26th, 2022, the weather cooperated more than usual at the Nike Cross Country Regional Championships in Bowdoin Park, Wappingers Falls, NY! In the past, rain and cold winds blew down the Hudson River, which borders the park, and provided a "chilling" experience for the runners! This, in 2018:
Years ago, "FootLocker" (now sponsored by Champs) was THE premier meet of the Cross Country season here in the Northeast. The top athletes from New England and the Middle Atlantic states converged on Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx of New York City to race the 5K course and qualify for the Nationals! Usually, over 200 runners toed the line hoping to win a trip to "Nats!" Cherokee's Marc Pelerin placed 9th in 2000 and did not advance but, in 2001, he placed 6th and advanced to the big race (then) in Orlando, Florida! Shawn Wilson did the same in 2014, advancing to the Nationals in San Diego, California! In addition, Keith Krieger placed 13th in 2002, and Justin Kelly placed 16th in 2017 but neither advanced.
Since 2004, Nike introduced their new "Nike Team Regionals" competition, and later allowed the top 5 individuals in each Region to qualify as well, for their Nationals in Portland, OR. Several times, now, excellent teams and individuals from Cherokee have gone to the Nike Regionals but failed to qualify!
Some question the rational behind this choice: "Champs Nationals" is in a sunny and dry park, with cool breezes wafting in from the ocean, in San Dieo, California, while "Nike Nationals" is on a golf course in the usually rainy Pacific Northwest; muddy, and in a low area and a drainage basin, as well! Let's vote on this next year!
However the vote goes, it has to be better than this year's Nike Northeast Regionals in New York State . . . which, from now on, will be known as "The Plague Year!" Of the eight athletes who went to the Regionals, seven came down with the Flu just before or just after the race! Clearly, as the results indicate, Cherokee was sick!
The Ironman of the bunch? . . . The only one who managed to stave off the flu and run pretty well on the toughest course of the year: Sophomore Anthony DiBatista!
"The Ironman" oxidized and completely broke down?! Only a few days after Regionals, Anthony Batista, earlier named "The Ironman" because he survived the powerful flu that felled 7 of the 8 athletes that traveled to the Nike Regionals, was reported to have been bedded by the same flu! Eight for eight . . . some record!
Our photographer was unavailable and New York, MileSplit did not cover the meet (blocked by Nike?)! Nike posted hundreds of pictures of the Boys and Girls races but none captured any of Cherokee's runners. Hurumph! Any parents have pictures?
Wait! Wait! Green tops and black bottoms?! A spotter with the U.S. Cyber Command, who usually "spots" small Russian targets in the Ukraine, turned his attention to Bowdoin Park and claims at least one Cherokee runner is in this picture! This remains unverified!
Official results at: NXR, 2022.
Coach Shaklee received the following message from a friend:
"There was a guy on Jeopardy last night from Wrappingers Falls, NY and he pronounced the name "Rapinger," with a silent W and S! Next year you can sound like a real native!"
"Thanks! I expect Cherokee will be there and I'll pronounce the name correctly!"
Well, yes, the team is going to suffer a blow when our Seniors graduate but their performances and their leadership will leave a lasting legacy! Thinking back, our photographer dug into his records to see when he first saw them in action: some, pretty far back; others, not so far!
Some time ago, we read a Sports Psychologist in The Inquirer arguing ". . . sports are worth it, and sports are a terrific arena for parents to teach their kids life skills . . . goal-setting . . . helping kids learn the mental skills to handle their emotions. . . often helping socially-shy kids to interact and make friends for life! Sports is a terrific place for developing self-discipline in regard to practice and scholarship; and to learn delayed gratification and that you can't always get what you want. It's a great place to learn how to be part of a team, to work towards a common goal, to learn how to deal with an authority figure like a coach, which is kind of like a boss. . . . You can't script it. That's the beauty of sport. How do you cope with that?"
As you review your Cross Country season, what do you think of that?! Was it worth it?! Anything missing?
On November 29, 2022, the team met for the last time as the Cherokee 2022 Cross Country Team at an Awards dinner in their honor at the Ramblewood Country Club in Mt. Laurel! This year, the Cherokee Cross Country and Track and Field Alumni Association and the Cherokee XC Parents Booster Club sponsored a move from the school cafeteria to Ramblewood to show their appreciation for the hard work the athletes performed and the success they achieved!
Ever since Coach Shaklee took over the Cross Country team at Cherokee, some 30 years ago, long before many of today's parents were teenagers, ; < ) , the Boys' Team held their Awards Dinners in the school cafeteria. Then, it was a more intimate affair with parents bringing their best appetizers, entrees and desserts -- sharing and bragging about their gourmet expertise -- while the coaches remembered and honored the achievements of the team!
The cafeteria was decorated with balloons and streamers and, after pictures became available, the windows of the cafeteria were decorated with poster paper covered with prints (to take home)! Videos, pictures, and the coaches themselves recalled the team's successes and wished the Seniors well, while everyone looked forward to the following year!
Some of that has been lost in our hectic lives! For quite a while, though still in the cafeteria, the dinner was catered (thank you, Booster Club parents!) and the pictures were passed along as digital prints, but the coaches continued to honor the work and achievements of their teams, bid farewell to their graduating Seniors, and, hopefully, convince the remaining runners that they can work harder and achieve more than those before them!
This year, 2022, another page was turned in the history of the Team Banquet! With the support of Cherokee's CC and Track and Field Alumni Association and the Cherokee XC Parent's Booster Club, the program was moved to a near-by Country Club and, with Coaches Shaklee and Thompson as hosts, it went off as well as it ever has!
Congratulations to the team in general for an excellent season and to the specific award winners! Stop back for additional information, pictures and possible videos! All of the pictures are available on the District's Google site. Here are some from the banquet that "focus" on the athletes and coaches. (Remember, our photograher told you he wasn't an indoor photographer . . . maybe next year, lunch on the lawn?!)
In his remarks, Coach Shaklee listed an unusual number of Team and Individual Achievements by his athletes in 2022, and that list is summarized HERE!
After the Meet of Champions, the team was selected the 3rd best in all of New Jersey (1st Non-Public)!
On December 8, 2022, NJ.MileSplit announced the 2022 Cross Country NJ MileSplit All-State Team Selections and Cherokee figured prominently but unsurprisingly! On the First Team, they selected both Patrick Ditmars and Nick Kuenkel!
At the same time, they announced the All-Group Teams and selected Conor Jacob for the Second Team!
Finally, they selected Nick Kuenkel the Junior of the Year!
Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
On December 11, 2022, NJ.com announced their Boys Cross-Country All-State Teams, 2022 and they followed MileSplit's lead. They, too, ranked Cherokee 3rd in the state; they selected Patrick and Nick to their top All-State and All-Group 4 teams; and they chose Conor for their 2nd Team All-Group 4!
Details at: NJ.com.