Coaches' Message

Coaches Shaklee and Callinan

A message to the Cherokee High School Cross Country team from Coaches Steve Shaklee and Chris Callinan.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother . . ..

William Shakespeare, Henry V

There is no sport like cross country. First, it's harder than anything you'll ever do. Second, it's the one sport in which you are totally alone during competition yet more connected to team than ever.

Everyone trains together; everyone races together . . . truly a band of brothers.

As your coaches, we hope you feel this way about the team. We do. Everyone is important. It doesn't matter how fast you are. What's important is the commitment you make to be the best you can be. This year, many of you dedicated yourselves to the cause . . . and it showed.

We began the year uncertain . . . would we be able to live up to the reputation of Cherokee Cross Country?

While in senior, Keith Krieger, we had a proven frontrunner, behind him we had a lot of young and inexperienced athletes. Would they rise to the occasion or would we be looking at a long rebuilding project? The answer began to take shape during the summer when we had record numbers of runners show up for the group runs. By the time September came, we knew we had a core group of athletes who were dedicated, who had done the work, and who were ready to step up to the next level . . ..

On September 17th, we took the first step with a big dual meet win over district rival Shawnee who began the season ranked ahead of us in the Courier Post Poll. With Keith Krieger getting an easy win, we kept Sean McLaughlin, Nick Freeman, Mike Candy, Tom Yersak and James Maneval together and they swept places 5 through 9 to seal the win.

A few days later, on September 21st at the Cherokee Challenge, the super sophs - Yersak, McLaughlin, Candy and Maneval - showed their dominance with an impressive 3-4-5-7 finish. In addition, two new runners added their names to the list of candidates for the varsity seven, as sophomore, Drew Dellamonica, placed 11th and freshman, Greg Bredeck, almost pulled off a win in the frosh race.

On September 25th, without Krieger who was training through, the team trounced Eastern High School to move to 2 and 0 in the division. Highlights included a 1 ½ minute improvement by first year cross country runner, Jason Becker, a 2 ½ minute improvement by freshman,Will Andes, and almost a 4 minute improvement by junior, Eric Sczepanski, also a first year cross country runner.

On October 1st, the team moved to 4 and 0 with wins over Washington Township and Lenape. Keith Krieger eased through the course with a time fast enough to have won last year's Olympic Conference meet and Sean McLaughlin finished a surprising 2nd with his first sub-17 clocking of the year.

On October 5th, Keith Krieger won his first major championship race as he dominated the field in the Division A race at the Shore Coaches Meet while Greg Bredeck and Rich Nelson placed 2nd and 9th respectively in the large, competitive freshman field. The team finished 3rd behind Old Bridge and Hunterdon Central.

On October 9th, the harriers completed their 6th straight undefeated dual meet season with an impressive win over an improving Cherry Hill East team. Seniors, Bryan O'Rourke and Steve Price, and junior, Kevin Cuneo, rose to the occasion with strong sub-18 minute clockings as Cherokee had 9 of the first 13 finishers.

On October 10th, at the Burlington County Freshman-Sophomore Championships, Cherokee had five freshmen - Greg Bredeck, 1st; Rich Nelson), 2nd; Will Andes, 7th; Mike Brown, 19th; and, in his first race of the year after a return from injury, Vinny Marziano, 20th - all finish in the top twenty. The sophomores were almost as impressive as Paul McFadden, 2nd; Matt Dolan, 8th; Steve Brown, 9th; Jeff Mullen, 21st; and Matt Raychert, 29th - all finished in the top thirty.

Two days later, on October 12th,, the varsity went to New York for the Manhattan Meet while the rest of the team stayed local for the South Jersey Open. After slipping in the mud at the start and falling, Keith Krieger worked his way up to the front pack for a 4th place finish with the 2nd fastest time ever run by a Cherokee runner. The rest of the varsity squad ran well for a strong 3rd place finish. Meanwhile, the 2nd varsity squad running in the JV meet at the South Jersey Open ran a great team race to finish a close 2nd to Toms River North led by Greg Bredeck's 2nd place individual finish. Rob Henry, Bryan O'Rourke, Steve Price, Rich Nelson and Paul McFadden all finished in the top 14.

On October 21st, the young members of the team gave the area a look at what they are in for in the coming years with a dominating performance at the South Jersey Freshman-Sophomore Championships. Greg Bredeck in 2nd, Rich Nelson in 8th, and Will Andes in 19th, gave Cherokee three runners in the top 20 of the freshman race. The sophomores were even more dominant with Sean McLaughlin in 1st, Mike Candy in 2nd, Tom Yersak in 3rd, Drew Dellamonica in 5th, James Maneval in 7th, and Paul McFadden in 15th.

October 25th brought the highly anticipated showdown at the Burlington County Meet between Cinnaminson and Cherokee, and, individually, between Jon Anderson and Keith Krieger. Cinnaminson was ranked higher and Anderson had run faster at the Shore Coaches Meet than Krieger. However, the Chiefs were able to win both match-ups. Keith completely dominated the individual race winning by 18 seconds with the 2nd fastest time in course history while the team squeaked past a very good Cinnaminson team with great pack running. Only 10 seconds separated Sean McLaughlin, our 2nd runner, and Mike Candy, our 5th man. In the open race, following the varsity competition, the Chiefs destroyed the rest of the county. Greg Bredeck, Paul McFadden and Kevin Cuneo swept the first three spots with Rich Nelson, Steve Price, Matt Dolan, Steve Brown and Joe stewart all finishing in the top 13. Joe Stewart's time of 18:46 was over 11 minutes faster than what he had first run as a freshman! Anthony So also recorded his 5K PR with a time of 20:20.

On Friday, November 1st, the regular season ended with the running of the Olympic Conference Championships at Gloucester County College. While resting our top 5 runners for the state competitions to follow, we still finished a very respectable 6th, led by Greg Bredeck and Drew Dellamonica in 14th and 15th, to earn 2nd team All-Conference honors. A slew of seasonal bests were run on that day including Rich Nelson at 18:00, Eric Sczepanski at 19:18, Vinny Marziano at 20:00, Matt Raychert at 20:14 and Mike Brown at 20:16.

The Third Annual Cherokee Challenge II took center stage on Tuesday, November 5th. The Georgetown Team led by Rob Henry and Rich Nelson edged out the Villanova squad led by individual champion, Paul McFadden. The close race was decided when Georgetown's 3rd and 4th runners, Will Andes and Joe Stewart, moved well over the last part of the race to beat Villanova's 3rd man.

The state tournament races began with the South Jersey Group IV Sectionals at Delsea High School on November 9th. Keith Krieger ran a courageous race against Pete Hess from Toms River North. Keith led until the final 300 and finished a close 2nd with the fastest 5k cross country time ever run by a Cherokee athlete - 15:22. Although it was not our best race of the year, the team still managed to finish 2nd, marking the 6th year in a row that we have finished in the top two.

November 16th was a wet and muddy day at the Group IV State Meet. The course was not too bad except for the finish. The Cherokee runners proved themselves to be mudders as they ran their best race of the year to finish 3rd behind Toms River North and Hunterdon Central. Keith Krieger came within a second of upsetting favored Pete Hess of TRN, with an outstanding time of 15:45.8, the second fastest time ever by a Burlington County runner. Keith's time also puts him at 9th on the All-Time Holmdel List! Sophomore, Sean McLaughlin had a breakthrough performance, dropping 45 seconds off of his previous best to move to number 7 on the Cherokee Holmdel list at 16:37.2 (11th place). Tom Yersak, Nick Freeman, Greg Bredeck, Mike Candy and Drew Dellamonica all finished between 17:02 and 17:26 to complete the team scoring.

The State Meet of Champs fell on November 23rd, a cold and windy day. Keith Krieger did not let that stop him as he ran one of the toughest races we have ever witnessed. Keith gave everything he had to finish a close 2nd to Mohammad Khadraoui, an 18-year-old Moroccan sophomore from JFK Patterson. The rest of the team suffered a letdown after such a great race the week before. While we were not pleased with our 6th place finish, we were still able to lay claim as the only team to finish in the top 6 at the Meet of Champs in each of the last 6 years.

The season officially ended on Saturday, November 30th at the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships at Van Cortland Park in New York. Keith Krieger once again ran an extremely courageous race to finish 12th, earning Second Team All-Northeast honors. Keith's finish was the 3rd best ever by a Burlington County athlete. In the class races, the team had even more success as Greg Bredeck became Cherokee's first ever Northeast Regional Freshman Champion, and Sean McLaughlin, Tom Yersak and Mike Candy finished 2nd, 5th and 11th respectively in the sophomore race.

On Thursday, December 5th, Keith Krieger accepted his award from the South Jersey Track Coaches Association as the Runner of the Year. It was the second year in a row that the award was given to a Cherokee athlete. (Marc Pelerin, 2001) Keith was also selected to the All-State Team. Sean McLaughlin, Nick Freeman and Tom Yersak were selected to the All-South Jersey Group IV Team along with Keith, while Sean and Keith were named first team All-County.

. . . Now, with the season at an end, we begin to look forward to the future. Remember, as we do so, the words of William Jennings Bryan: Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. What we accomplish tomorrow is up to us. Set goals, work hard, do your best, be patient, persistent and focused. You will get there . . . we will get there together.


Bryan O'Rourke, you have done an admirable job in a short period of time. We appreciate your hard work and we respect the way you have handled adversity. Showing up to practice everyday, while injured and unable to run, just to support the team, says a great deal about your fine character. Remember, you are not a golfer with a good 5k PR. You are a runner with a good handicap!

Steve Price, thanks for four good years! You also showed real character in the way you came back from your surgery. We know you have struggled with reoccurring injuries since then, and we are proud of your refusal to let it stop you. In addition, your sense of humor and quick wit will definitely be missed next year!

Joe Stewart, you are a great example of what Cherokee Cross Country is all about! You have worked hard for four years simply to be the best runner you could be. The success you have enjoyed this year has been well earned! You are a true athlete and, as your coaches, we are very proud.

Keith Krieger, it is hard to imagine our team without you. You epitomize all that is good in our sport. You are focused, determined, responsible, hardworking and team oriented. No one has ever been more deserving of being selected as the Runner of The Year than you. Best of luck next year at Princeton . . . Duke . . . William and Mary . . . Stanford . . . well, we don't know, but we do know that you're sure to be successful wherever you go. Thanks for all you have done for our program.

To all of you, please remember that, whatever we accomplish in the coming years, you are, and will always be, a part of it.

Returning Runners:

To those who are returning: We can be the best team in Cherokee Cross Country history, but only if we are willing to pay the price. It begins now, one day at a time . . . one workout at a time . . . one mile at a time. Together - a band of brothers - we can accomplish great things.

Thanks to all of you for everything!

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