By February, winter was half over and Cherokee continued to prepare for the Spring season. The distance coach concentrated on "rebuilding the base" and strength training for his athletes; while the sprint/jumps coach and the throws coach concentrated on skill-development and conditioning for their athletes. The schedule was wracked by a series of record-breaking snow storms but, even so, the team participated in a number of meets -- some of which are not reported here -- for both experience and a change of pace.
On February 3, 2010, a small contingent of Cherokee's team traveled to The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville for the annual Poreda Invitational. Many on the team did not participate because the State Sectional Meet was scheduled two days from then -- too close for back-to-back distance racing -- and because the invitation was for the "elite" members of the team only. As it turned out, the state meet was postponed because of heavy snow and many of Cherokee's "elite" distance runners lost an opportunity to compete on the interesting banked track there at Lawrenceville.
Highlights included Ed Kramer in both the Long Jump (4th at 20' 5") and High Jump (an easy 1st place at 6' 4"); Jon Scott in the 55m Dash (1st in 6.68); and Darren McCluskey in the 55m High Hurdles (1st in Trials, 7.75; 2nd in Finals, 7.76)! Also, the Sprint Medley Relay team of Mike Palmieri, Brandon Rapp, Jon Scott, and Colin Merrigan did well by taking 3rd (3:45.34). Complete results at: MileSplit.NJ.
NJ Varsity Classic
On February 8, 2010, the team expected to compete in the NJSIAA Group IV Sectional Championships at the Bennett Center in Toms River but a recent snow storm forced the state to postpone the meet. Undeterred, the coaches immediately signed-up for an alternative meet, the NJ Varsity Classic at the incredible 168th Street Armory in New York City! There, several of Cherokee's athletes turned-in outstanding performances!
Among the distance squad, Steve Burkholder had the most impressive showing! Racing the 3200m for the first time since last Spring, Burk battled Jason Stapleton, the 2009 New York City Cross Country Champion, throughout the race and, throwing in a 30.5 final lap on the 200m track, he crossed the line two-tenths of a second ahead of Stapleton! According to Reuben Frank of the Burlington County Times -- apparently an even more compulsive statistician than Coach Shaklee -- that was a 27 second PR, 7th fastest in Burlington County's Indoor history; and, this year, 8th fastest in the state, and fastest in South Jersey! Also, he noted, Burk's performance placed him 4th on the All-Time Cherokee Indoor list -- behind Marc Pelerin (2002), Keith Krieger (2003), and Joe Halin (2000)! Include Alex Yersak on that list ahead of Burk when you add the Outdoor statistics. And rounding out the report on distance runners, both Matt Venanzi and Tyler Somers PR'd in the 800m with their splits in the 4 X 800m Relay, and Josh Perez ran his own PR and a negative split in the 1600m!
The key highlight from among the jumpers is the 1st place -- and Indoor record-setting -- performance by Ed Kramer in the High Jump! As the event moved towards a close, four jumpers were left at the formidable height of 6' 8" but only Ed was able to clear the bar, and he did it on his first try! This bettered his own 6' 6" Indoor record set in December at the SJ Coaches' Meet, and matched the school record -- both Indoor and Outdoor -- held by 2009 Alum, Justin Turner! On the Burlington County level, Ed is the first Burlington County high jumper to clear 6' 8" indoors since 2003! Official results at: MileSplit.NJ.
Mystery Athlete. Hint: It's not another picture of McCluskey or Burk!
NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV Sectional Championships
On February 12, 2010, the team's top performers competed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV Sectional Championships at the Bennett Center in Toms River. Among the distance runners, Senior, Steve Burkholder ran a PR in the 1600m Run, finishing in 3rd place in 4:22.40! That places him at 9th on the All-Time Burlington County Indoor list, and 6th on the Cherokee All-Time 1600m list! In addition, Sophomore Matt Venanzi set his own PR, breaking five minutes in the 1600m Run for the first time!
Senior Ed Kramer continued his winning and record-breaking ways in the High Jump. Feeling a bit of the flu, this time he jumped only enough to win the event, and enter the record-books as the first Cherokee jumper to win an Indoor Sectional Championship -- 6' 4" -- before retiring for the evening!
Among the sprinter/hurdlers, two Cherokee athletes performed well and advanced to the up-coming State Groups Championships. Hurdler, Senior Darren McCluskey had a bad start in the Finals of the 55m HH but recovered well enough to take 3rd (8.02)! But just matching his qualifying time of 7.81 would have placed him in 2nd in the Finals, so he should be very positive-minded about winning on the next level! Senior Sprinter Jon Scott made his presence known in the 55m Dash, finishing 1st in his heat of the Trails (6.78), and 4th overall going into the Finals. Then, in the Finals, he remained 4th but in an even faster time of 6.68!
Official results at: MileSplit.NJ.
NJSIAA Group IV State Championships
On February 20, 2010, the team's elite -- those who qualified in last week's South Jersey Sectional Championships -- competed in the NJSIAA Group IV State Championships at the Bennett Center in Toms River, and all four set team or personal records as they moved on to the State Meet of Champions!
Ed Kramer overcame some early jitters to clear 6' 6" in the High Jump and win the event! Ed set another "team record:" he was the first Cherokee athlete in the High Jump to qualify for the Indoor Group Championships, and with this victory, he became the first to qualify for the Indoor Meet of Champions!
Three others set Personal Records at the meet! In the 55m Dash, Jon Scott set a PR (6.66) in the Trials, and finishing 5th in the Finals, he matched that record exactly! In the 55m High Hurdles, Darren McCluskey set a PR in the Trials (7.75), and while finishing 5th in the Finals, he improved on that record with another PR (7.70)! And, finally, in the 1600m Run, Steve Burkholder set a PR of 4:21.88, finishing 2nd in the event!
Details at: Dyestat.
Eastern States Championships
On February 23, 2010, several of the team's top competitors traveled to the Armory in New York City for the 73rd Eastern States Championships. Key performances came from Ed Kramer who cleared 6' 6" in the High Jump and took 5th in the event, behind two 6" 10" and two 6' 8" jumpers, but ahead of the other 20 jumpers in the event! Jon Scott qualified for the semi-finals in the 55m Dash with a 6.72 in the Trials -- cut-off was 6.87 -- but failed to move on to the Finals when he finished 14th out of 32 sprinters (6.68) in the semi's. Jon's time was only 0.2 of a second slower than his PR set at the recent NJSIAA Group States Championships!
In the Mile competition, Steve Burkholder finished a respectable 4th in 4:22.68 (converts to 4:21.16 for 1600m using the accepted .9942 conversion factor). That is a new Personal Record! Unfortunately, his race was a slow tactical affair, ending in negative splits (2:13.60 / 2:09.08); but it suggested that he can run even faster this season, given the right race. Steve has shown steady improvement this winter in his four 1600/mile races -- 4:25.1 - 4:22.40 - 4:21.88 - 4:21.16 -- and everyone is looking forward to a breakthrough race at the State Meet of Champions.
Details at: MileSplit.NY.
Instead of the usual photographs, the events at the Armory were videotaped, and "God willing and the Creek don't rise" -- look that one up, you History scholars! -- they will appear here in the near future!
NJSIAA Meet of Champions
On February 27, 2010, Cherokee's four top athletes experienced one of the most challenging state championships in history, and three of them took home medals for their performances! Though there were some records broken at New Jersey's 42nd Meet of Champions, at the Bennett Center in Toms River, the most impressive aspect of the meet was the incredible speed and depth of talent at the meet! For example, Sprinter Jon Scott, who only a few weeks ago set his own PR of 6.66 in the 55m Dash, had to run 6.58 just to qualify for the Finals! He failed, but he had an excellent winter campaign and should be looking forward to the Spring!
In the 55m High Hurdles, Hurdler Darren McCluskey did what he did all winter long: he consistently dropped his PR and scored in the Finals! In the Trials, Darren finished 1st in his heat, dropping his PR from 7.70 to 7.66; and then, in the Finals, he finished in 4th, again dropping his PR to 7.64! In an event where 1/10th of a second can mean a lot, Darren's performances over the winter have been no less than spectacular! On the record boards, Darren is now the state's top Junior in the 55m Dash, and in 10th place overall here in Burlington County! And, for those looking for statistics not already listed by Reuben Frank (see below), Darren is the only High Hurdler on the state championship level who wears glasses; and he always wanted to be a baseball player . . . something about the excitement of the game . . .!
In the High Jump, Ed Kramer came into the event knowing he was the underdog -- Mark Jones of Summit, the winner of last week's Eastern States Championships was the # 1 seed -- but Ed was jumping so well that he felt winning was a real possibility! He easily cleared 6' 2" and 6' 4" and left all but four others behind. After clearing 6' 6", he left another behind, but clearing 6' 8" -- a height he jumped twice this winter -- proved impossible, and he was forced to share 2nd place with two others while Jones won the event at 6' 8". Even without this last winter victory, Ed had an outstanding season: new PR's were routine, a new school record, the reigning Conference, South Jersey, South Jersey Sectional and State Group Champion, and 2nd in the State Meet of Champions . . . Wow!
In the distance events, probably no state in the country had stronger distance championships this winter than New Jersey! In the 3200m, nine guys went under 9:14, with the winner at a meet record 8:58.9! In the 1600m, ten guys under 4:20, with the winner at 4:12.5! It really is a challenging but great time to be part of it! And Steve Burkholder was there! Like Darren McCluskey who constantly dropped his time through the season, Burk did the same in the 1600m Run! Stealing some of Reuben Frank's observations (see below), Burk took 3rd at Sectionals in 4:22.40; 2nd at Groups in 4:21.80; and 4th at Eastern States in 4:21.16 (converted from Mile time); and then he dropped from that to 4:19.97 for 10th in the crowded and powerful field mustered for the Meet of Champions! As a result, Burk's name moved to 4th in Burlington County history (indoors), behind Marc Pelerin, 4:13.56; Dave Forward of Shawnee, 4:16.71; and Jon Anderson of Cinnaminson, 4:18.91 (all converted from mile times); and from 6th to 4th on the Cherokee All-Time 1600m List (behind Marc Pelerin, 4:11.83; Josh Joseph, 4:18.43; and Jeff Storch, 4:19.80).
For Reuben Frank's remarks on Darren McCluskey and Steve Burkholder at the meet in both the Burlington County Times and the BCT Blog Pages click here. Read Reuben Frank regularly at the Burlington County Times.
Complete details at: MileSplit.NJ.
Nike Indoor Nationals
On March 12 - 14, 2010, seven members of Cherokee's Track team -- reconstituted as the Tomahawk Track Club for eligibility purposes -- competed in the Nike Indoor Nationals at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Entered in a variety of relay and individual events, the athletes found the meet the most challenging they have ever entered! Highlights included the Sprint Medley Relay team of Jon Scott, Brandon Rapp, Mike Palmieri, and Steve Burkholder that finished in 18th place in a field of 48 elite teams. Darren McCluskey did well in prelim's of the 60m High Hurdles by qualifying for the semi's with a close-to-PR performance but he hit the fourth hurdle in the semi's and failed to advance.
Ed Kramer started the High Jump competition well, easily clearing the opening and second heights (1.89m or 6' 2 - 1/4" and then 1.94m or 6' 4 - 1/4") but he failed to clear the following height (1.99m or 6' 6 - 1/4") and was forced to take 6th in the competition. Still, that was enough for him to be named to the "Nike All-American Team!" GO ED!
Both the 4 X 55m Shuttle Hurdle Relay team of Mike Palmieri, Darren McCluskey, Ed Kramer, and Andrew Wenzel, and the 4 X 200m Relay team of Brandon Rapp, Mike Palmieri, Jon Scott, and Cody McDonald, had difficult experiences too, finishing back in the pack in their respective events. Jon Scott also competed in the 60m Dash prelim's but he too failed to advance to the next level.
Complete details available at: Nike Indoor Nationals.