By now, even Cherokee's beginners should know how to deal with "race day." One key "rule:" plan to be early for everything! (BTW, that's not a bad "rule" for your entire life!) The coach will tell you when to be at school and you must plan on how long it will take you get out of bed, bathe, brush your teeth, eat an appropriate breakfast, etc. and get to school on time! If the bus leaves at a certain time and you're not there, the bus will leave without you (and the coach and the team will hold a grudge against you because you're important to the team)! The second "rule" is to chat with others about their pre-race plans! It's amazing what the more experienced runners know!
The night before, you prep by eating a normal meal that stresses carbohydrates but not "carbohydrate loading" . . . load nothing! -- maybe some spaghetti with marinara sauce, a salad, some bread, maybe just a few pieces of pizza, a reasonable dessert -- but don't pig out! Hydrate! Before bed, put your kit together: everything you imagine you'll need to be ready to race. Just in case, don't depend on the coach for anything: bring water, recovery bars, snacks, pins, etc. Check the weather and, if it's cool, consider "layering' because you can always remove extra layers but, if you don't have them and need them, you're out of luck! If rain is in the forecast, pack for it: don't be one of those losers who spends a rainy day in a wet t-shirt and shorts because he planned badly!
Sleep well! That's up to 8 hours and, when the bus leaves at 7:30 AM, it ain't easy getting there when you go to bed at 1:00 AM!
The morning of the race, breakfast should be timed properly and light: you never want to get to a starting line with a full or an empty stomach! If hours early, have a normal breakfast -- normal, not 3 Egg McMuffins! If you're up a little later but still hours before race time, maybe a bagel with jelly, cream cheese, a piece of fruit . . ..
At the course, learn the course THAT DAY! Yes, you may have been there before but changes happen and sometimes overnight. Focus on your race and not your opponents. Plan your race: have a decent start but don't try to be first at the 400m mark (no medals there!); work hills but don't sprint up the hills; take advantage of the downhills; on serpentine courses try to leave your opponents behind at every turn; RACE the course and don't just cover the miles; RACE THROUGH the finish line and don't get passed at the last moment, etc.
In the race, be tough but have fun! At the start, you'll be somewhat nervous, the adrenalin will be flowing, but you should be anticipating great things! Have confidence! You've been working really hard and now is the time to show others how you've improved . . . how really good you are! Enjoy it!
That said, if things aren't going as you expected, don't lose faith! Don't look at runners who may be pulling ahead, maybe far ahead of you, and lose faith in yourself! Instead, break the race down into smaller pieces: make it you against the three guys within 20 meters of you and pass them! Then look at the next three guys and go after them! Don't get depressed and quit! Keep your focus: you're RACING! You may not be in the top 10, 20 or 50 but you're still RACING to the finish! (And, just an aside, when our photographer takes your picture sometime during the race don't let him see a whipped dog . . . head up, arms swinging, knees lifting! RACE! ; < )
Afterwards, go home, look in that mirror again and be able to say, that's a champion in the making!
GO CHEROKEE! GO CHIEFS!
Today, August 29th, the team visited the Cathedral . . . the Louvre . . . Mecca . . . and the Taj Mahal . . . all rolled into one, a place that is almost sacred to serious runners in New Jersey: the Championship Course at Holmdel ParK!
In the late 1970's, each year, New Jersey's championship meets were held at different locations throughout the state, some were adequate but many were not! In 1979, New Jersey finally decided to make Holmdel Park the priority location for state championship meets and today's course, much rougher and less "groomed" than it is today was mapped out. To verify, ask anyone who coached in the 70's and 80's and is still around today: it was rough back in the day, and racing in the rain was absolutely insane!
Today, not so bad! The guys did a number of loops on various parts of the course to remind the experienced runners of the course and introduce the inexperienced to the course, while our photographer took a number of pictures to loosen-up his trigger finger! Some of his pictures are posted below and they and the rest (about 50 +) are posted on the District's Google site! Don't forget to tell your parents and grandparents where to find them and to thank the photographer for his magical efforts to make you look athletic! ; < )
On August 30th, practice as usual but then Coach Shaklee returned home for some made-up "tree drills!"
For years now, he has known the two monster oaks within feet of his house, and towering a hundred feet above, were both fabulous and frightening! If they ever got sick . . ..
That day came when one began losing its leaves and small branches! The solution, take it down . . . ! But by whom?!
"I can do it!" says Shak. "I climbed trees when I was a kid and I'll make 'Tree Drills' part of my routine leg exercises!"
"No, you can't!" says an old friend, "I've known you since you were a kid and you never climbed trees because you were afraid of heights! Besides, you'll kill yourself and the CC guys will be stuck doing 'strength drills' with Thompson every day for the rest of the season!"
"Don't worry, Mom . . . I'll be fine. And if I need help, I'll call you or Thompson."
"Well, I'm not coming . . . and Thompson will use his old excuse, 'I have to watch the babies!', so you're on your own! . . . And don't call me 'Mom'!"
So who is this guy in the Cherokee shirt?
Yikes . . . dude! . . . Someone said Shak was going to use the lumber to build stairs on the back hill of the Cherokee Challenge! . . . wants to help some of the slower guys on the team! . . . Really?!
On August 28th, NJ.MileSplit issued their Pre-Season Top-20 Team Rankings, mostly based on Voodoo magical rites, sorcery, spirit possession and maybe a bit of computerized witchcraft! Essentially, they took returning runners' times from last year at Holmdel and, without considering other factors, they created a "Top-20" list to get the debates going! The obvious question for most teams is how much their losses to graduation hurt them and how much their returnees have improved since last year? They should have a decent idea about Cherokee after the Cherokee Challenge and the Battle of Ocean County Park! LET's GO, CHEROKEE!
On July 20th, NJ.MileSplit did the first of their Pre-Season articles on the upcoming XC season: the Holmdel Park Returners for 2023! Top Holmdel Returners.
On July 24th, NJ.MileSplit kept busy by developing a Returning Holmdel Park Team Rankings For 2023 that you should check out! Using last year's race times at Holmdel, they list the "Top Returners" on each team! Where are you on this list, and if you're not there, will you be this year?! Team Rankings.
On August 10th, NJ.MileSplit did the same "Top-Dogs" ranking for DREAM Park! Check out where you stand on our "home course" this year! DREAM Park Rankings.
On August 28th, NJ.MileSplit posted another look at the Top-20 Teams, with Cherokee ranked 5th: NJ.MileSplit Rankings.
On September 1st, NJ.MileSplit recognized Nick Kuenkel and Bobby Poplau among the Top Boys To Watch For NJ Cross Country! Of course, we knew that! Top Boyos
On September 9th, 2023, Cherokee welcomed almost 2,000 runners to our unique and highly-successful Cross Country Meet, the Cherokee Challenge! Last year, the weather was excellent and several new records -- the Senior and Middle School -- were established. This year was different: it was cloudy most of the time, rain threatened and, while the temperature was mostly in the 70s, it was very humid. Few expected another extraordinary day but that was settled by the Boys Middle School race!
Coach Shaklee sent this extensive analysis of the day:
"The Cherokee boys had a pretty good day at the season's first meet, the 27th Annual Cherokee Challenge!
"Even before any team member took to the course, the day already bode well for the future of the program. Jack Tindall, an 8th grader at Marlton Middle and brother of team member Liam, and up-and-coming 5th grader Finn, won the middle school championship and demolished the course record by a full 10 seconds!
"The freshman race was next and saw three Cherokee athletes come away with medals. Ben Realley closed well to finish a close 2nd overall in the field of 330 runners - a great way to start his Cherokee XC career! Sean Sooy was next for the team, placing 17th, a huge improvement from his 60th place finish last year in the middle school event! Leo Vyvyan also medaled, running a very strong race to take 25th place in his first cross country race! Behind those three, the other freshmen - Gavin Danielewicz 53rd, Lucas Zambon - 103rd, Jack Finley - 190th and Jonathan Merkel - 253rd - were also getting their seasons off to a good start!
"We only had three runners in the sophomore race but they all ran well! Logan Bromley ran a very smart, tough race and passed four runners in the last 500 meters to finish 8th! Dom Pileri also moved up well over the last half mile of the race to take 21st place in his first race for Cherokee! Luke Ehly also acquitted himself well in his first Cherokee Challenge, placing 142nd in the field of 327 runners!
"The junior race was a good one with four Cherokee runners placing in the top 20! Enzo Corona led the way in 13th and was followed closely by Ben Weiner - 16th, Anthony DiBatista - 18th and Liam Tindall - 19th. All four runners finished within four seconds of each other! Behind those four, several other Cherokee athletes were also having very good results. Tate Midora ran well to place 43rd, a huge improvement on his 126th place finish last year! Tate's time was 86 seconds faster this year than last! The final two juniors both showed huge improvement from last year! Liam Deimler moved up to 87th after finishing 256th last year with a time that was 2:38 faster, and Sam Wright finished 110 places better this year with a time that was 2:28 faster!
"In the senior race, Silas Matteson led the way, running 37 seconds faster than last year and moving up 24 places! Luke Reistle finished close behind Silas while Myron Paes and Nimai Kumar both improved their times and places from their 2022 results!
"Running without seniors, Nick Kuenkel, Bobby Poplau and Andrew Free, Cherokee still managed to place 4th out of 72 teams in the merged results, the second New Jersey team!
"Next up, the Battle at Ocean County Park this Friday when the entire team will be racing!"
Details, including results, inteviews, race videos, thousands of race pictures by two photographers, etc. at: NJ.MileSplit.
Here are some pictures taken by our photographer, and they and the rest of his pictures are posted on the District's Google site.
On September 12th, 2023, a small group of young team members traveled to Moorestown High School for Batch Meet # 1.
In the past here in South Jersey, quite a few "dual meets," now compressed into only three "batch meets," decided the Conference Championships. In the days before MileSplit, that championship was one of the highlights of the season and the local newspapers hyped the results throughout the season.
Back when boys were men -- I mean when Coach Shaklee raced for Cherry Hill H.S. East in the 1970s -- there were 11 dual meets, every Tuesday and Thursday, and the athletes were expected to race at the big Saturday meets as well. Not much time for real training unless you consider racing the only way to train! There were many other issues involved but, unquestionably, many potential champions were ruined by this system!
Recently, largely through the influence of Coach Shaklee, the "dual meets" were compressed into three "batch meets" and there was no pressure to race any of them. They became opportunities for young, inexperienced runners to gain experience and compete against others like themselves.
Today's "batch meet" was exactly that. The coach sent a small contingent of runners to Moorestown to race and kept the rest at home to train. He's looking to the future, the near future at The Battle of Ocean County Park on Friday, and the far future (far future, when zombies roam?) at the Meet of Champions months from now!
The layout at the sleepy village of Moorestown is flat and quiet despite reports of there being some conflicts in the more-rustic parts of town where the XC course is located. Before the meet, our photographer traveled to Moorestown to check the safety of the area and terrain, and was put-off by a noisy dispute on the course. He took one picture, called Coach Shaklee to suggest a change of venue, and then took off for home! He was then unavailable for the meet which went on as usual.
On September 13th, 2023, the coaches announced the names of the Team Captains for 2023. Coach Thompson chose to provide the following photograph and save our official photographer some time. Thanks Coach! GO MATTEO! GO NICK! GO BOBBY!
On September 15th, 2023, the team took the 50-mile trip to Lakewood, NJ for The Battle at Ocean County Park and came home with more than their share of shiny metal!
Coach Shaklee sent the following msummary of the day's events:
"The Cherokee team had a good day at The Battle at Ocean County Park on Friday, September 15th!
"Like the Cherokee Challenge, this was also a class meet, although only the freshmen ran shorter than 5K. Their race distance was listed as 2 miles but the course was quite a bit longer. Ben Realley, once again, led the way for the frosh group. He ran in 4th most of the race but closed well over the last half mile to pass two runners and secure a runner-up finish in the field of 183 runners! Although second, Ben's time was 36 seconds faster than last year's winning time! Sean Sooy and Leo Vyvyan were next in 10th and 11th, both running faster than our top freshman from last year (who, BTW, was this year's sophomore champ!). Gavin Danielewicz was our 4th finisher in 17th place! The frosh team finished on top in the team scoring!
"Logan Bromley, last meet's Athlete of the Meet, ran even better this time! He ran a very smart race, covering the moves made up front and waiting until about 300 to go to make a move of his own, which he did decisively to win the Sophomore Championship! His time of 16:13 was a PR by 1:40! Behind him, Dominic Pileri was also having a great race, setting a new 5K PR by 78 seconds to finish 12th in the field of 171 runners! In addition, Rory Carroll beat his PR from last year in his first race of the year and Charlie Wasserott acquitted himself well in his first 5K ever!
"The Junior race saw four Cherokee athletes finish in the medals, led by Liam Tindall who placed 6th with a new 5K PR! Ben Weiner and Enzo Corona were next in 10th and 12th respectively! Ben's 16:26 finish time was a PR by 51 seconds while Enzo's 16:40 was a 46 second PR! Tate Midora knocked even more time off of his previous best - 74 seconds - to finish in 29th in a field of 173! Anthony DiBatista got tripped early in the race and, to his credit, got right back up and did the best he could despite the fall. Liam Deimler had a huge PR, almost two minutes faster than his previous best, while Sam Wright PR'ed by 69 seconds and Josh Lowery, while not setting a PR, still managed to run almost two minutes faster than his time at this same meet last year!
"The senior race was highlighted by Nick Kuenkel's win with the fastest time of the day! Nick stayed with the lead pack through 2 miles before pulling away easily with a sub-4:40 last mile! Behind him, Bobby Poplau was setting a new PR of 15:50 to take 4th! Andrew Free was next and, while not setting a new PR, did run slightly faster than his time from last year at this meet. Silas Matteson was not far behind Andrew with a great run and the biggest PR of the day as his 17:28 was 2:22 faster than his previous best! Luke Reistle battled through the knee pain he is dealing with while Myron Paes and Nimai Kumar both ran faster than their times from last year!
"With so many good races, Athlete of the Meet was a difficult choice. However, the coaches decided to go with freshman, Ben Realley, for the way he battled back into contention in the last half mile of his race! GO BEN!
Reuben Frank of Comcast and NBC Sports, continues to write his blog for the SJTCA and he wrote on Nick and the team's success at: SJ Track Blog. Mr. Franks' article can be found on our server at Frank71a.
Details: results, additional pictures, videos, etc. at NJ.MileSplit. Also, NJ.MileSplit did a comprehensive merge that didn't include Freshmen (who ran only 2 miles) and Cherokee edged St. Peter's Prep by one point to win: 66 - 65! NJ.MileSplit,
Below are a select few of the many pictures that are posted on the district's Google site!
Small piece of one of many conversations our photographer had with himself during the meet: "Wright? . . . Where's Wright? . . . Come on, Sam, where are you? . . . Maybe he fell? . . . No way that kid would drop out! . . . That's the guy who barfed on himself during a race last year rather than quit! . . . Come on, Sam, where are you?" A day later: "Maybe he used Stealth Mode?. . . dropped 69 seconds! Maybe . . . ?!"
Tension among the members of the Safe at Home Plate awards committee has delayed the announcement of this honor! The debate over awarding the honor is between Anthony DiBatista, who took a dive shortly after his race began, and Liam Deimler who, post-race, landed flat-faced on the ground after slipping on a banana! At this point, Anthony is in the lead for this honor because he was in an actual race while Liam slipped as he "raced" for a pretzel in the team's bivouac area! Stay tuned!