This winter was relatively mild and that allowed for more training and, perhaps, some excellent performances by many of Cherokee's athletes! By mid-February, many on the team looked forward to the up-coming championship meets: Sectionals, Group States, the Meet of Champions, and beyond that to the Eastern State Regionals and the Nationals! At the same time, others on the team concentrated on "rebuilding the base" and strength training, and on skill-development and conditioning for the upcoming Spring campaign.
NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional Championships
On February 10, 2012, the top members of the team traveled to the Bennett Center for the NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional Championships and they produced some outstanding results! Brandon Rapp started everything when he took 4th in an incredibly tight 400m Dash where the top six finished within tenths of each other! Then Shawn Wilson, Mike Lowinger and Matt Venanzi followed with three PR's in the 1600m Run and took 2nd, 4th and 5th! Perhaps disappointed with "only a 2nd" in the 1600m, Shawn came back in the 3200m Run to win his first Sectional Title and set another PR; and he was followed by Matt Venanzi who took 3rd with his own PR!
Cherokee's outstanding 800m threesome of Ross Staudt, Drew Viscidy, and Colin Merrigan provided the fastest times and the most intersting spectacle of the evening as they swept the event, placing 1st through 3rd, separated by only .19 seconds! Then, Ross -- the, now, Sectional Champion -- Drew, and Colin joined Brendan Rapp in the 4 X 400m Relay, took 2nd, clocked a team PR, and qualified for the New Balance Indoor National Championships in New York City!
Several others did well at the meet too! Shawn Tracey ran a great PR performance in the 55m Dash going under 7 seconds for the first time; and Brandon Illagan also ran well in the 400m Dash producing his own indoor PR! In the Field, Shot Putter Mike Conway just missed qualifying for the Group Championships as he threw his own PR of 43' 09.25"; and Pole Vaulter Eric Mudge just missed qualifying when he failed to clear his own PR in that event!
Cherokee placed 2nd in the Sectional Championships! For further details see: NJRunners/MileSplit.
NJSIAA State Group IV Championships
On February 18, 2012, Cherokee's top performers returned to "The Bubble" for the NJSIAA State Group Championships! Brandon Rapp started the action in the 400m Dash, clocking the second fastest Indoor 400m time in the school's history and placing 1st in his heat and 4th overall! Brandon was quickly followed -- pun intended -- by Shawn Wilson in the 1600m where his PR performance took 4th place overall and moved him to #6 on the Cherokee 1600m All-Time List!
Soon after Shawn's performance, the 800m squad of Ross Staudt, Drew Viscidy and Colin Merrigan took to the track with Colin clocking a PR and taking 4th overall in the event, and moving to #14 on Cherokee's All-Time 800m List! Drew and Ross were close behind and earned "wildcard" invitations to the upcoming Meet of Champions!
Late that afternoon, Shawn Wilson returned for a crack at winning the 3200m Run! He missed 1st place to the winner of this year's Cross Country Meet of Champions -- Tim Ball -- but he made the drive for 2nd wildly exciting as he overtook his closest opponent near the finish line and claimed the slot! In addition, this PR performance, where he dropped 19 seconds from his previous PR effort, moved him to #6 on the Cherokee All-Time 1600m List! Finally, the 4 X 400m Relay team of Brendan Rapp, Drew Viscidy, Ross Staudt and Colin Merrigan put together a great effort, coming very close to their Indoor PR and taking 3rd overall in the event!
All of these efforts scored big points towards the State Championship but not enough for the win! Still, Cherokee took a very good 3rd place in the state! In addition, all of these athletes qualified and advanced to the final New Jersey state meet, the Meet of Champions! GO CHEROKEE!
Results at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
NJSIAA State Meet of Champions
On February 25, 2012, Cherokee's elite once again traveled to the Bennett Center in Toms River for the final New Jersey contest of the 2012 Indoor Track season, the Meet of Champions! Just to qualify for the event, they had to battle through Sectional and Group Championships, and then, once there, they had to compete against the absolute best in the entire state! That's less than 1% of the track world in New Jersey . . . that's how good they are!
Brandon Rapp started the action again, competing in the 400m Dash and, although his time was faster than his qualifying time the previous week at the Group Championships, and only a little more than a second off the winning time, he failed to medal! Soon after that, Shawn Wilson took to the track for the 1600m Run. Shawn got boxed throughout the race and lost the momentum a runner needs in such a competive race but his PR time of 4:18.50 for 9th overall moved him to 4th on Cherokee's All-Time 1600m List, just .07 seconds behind Josh Joseph and closing in on Steve Burkholder's and Marc Pelerin's second and first places! Shawn's time is also the 2nd fastest indoor clocking by a Cherokee runner since Marc Pelerin!
After that, the track was taken over by the fastest 800m runners in the state! Minor differences in times at the Group State qualifier separated Cherokee's three into three separate heats with Ross Staudt clocking 1:57.51 in the 1st heat, and Drew Viscidy breaking the tape at 1:57.81 in the 2nd heat! These times moved them to 11th and 12th on the Cherokee All-Time 800m List, and they are two of the fastest 800's ever run indoors by Cherokee athletes, made even more impressive by the fact that they were recorded on the flat track at Tom's River and not on the much-faster banked track at the New York City Armory! Colin Merrigan, Cherokee's top 800m performer at Groups, finished very close to his time at Groups but that left him farther down the list of finishers than he had hoped or expected but the meet wasn't over yet!
The highlight of the meet was the 4 X 400m Relay with Cherokee fielding the team of Brandon Rapp, Drew Viscidy, Ross Staudt and Colin Merrigan! Perhaps warmed-up from their previous efforts, the squad finished 4th overall and established a new School Indoor Record of 3:23.40, an incredibly fast time on a flat 200 meter track!
Results at: NJRunners/MileSplit.
Eastern States Championships
"Yo . . . dudes . . . that was much better than Jeopardy!"
On February 28, 2012, a select group of Cherokee's finest bussed to the fabled Armory Track and Field Center in New York City for the 75th Annual Eastern States Championships. Once again, the Cherokee action began with Brandon Rapp, this time in the 200m Dash. Brandon ran well but not well enough to get into the finals. Still, it helped loosen him up for the upcoming 4 X 400m Relay!
Before that, though, the 4 X 800m Relay team of Colin Merrigan, Drew Viscidy, Ross Staudt and Shawn Wilson ran "the race of their young lives" when they clocked 7:47.84 and broke the South Jersey Indoor Record of 7:51.43 set by Washington Township in 2009, and Cherokee's All-Time Record of 7:49.34 set by Josh Joseph, Mike Caputi, Marc Pelerin and Dave Sitzer in 2000 at the National Scholastic Meet! Three guys running 1:56's and change . . . and Ross Staudt, slowed by a runner falling just in front of him, named "Cherokee Hurdler of the Meet" for his outstanding leap over the runner and continuing the race! And that's not all! It was also the 3rd fastest time ever run at the Eastern States Championships (behind Pope John High School who finished 1st in the race and Morris Hills High School in 2009), the 3rd fastest in Burlington County history (behind two Willingboro teams in 1983 and 2003), the 6th fastest in New Jersey State history, and the 3rd fastest time in the nation this year (behind Christian Brothers Academy and Pope John)! Wow! The best part is that this relay team can run faster, and plans to next week at the New Balance Indoor Nationals!
But, just when everything seemed great, a freak accident in the 4 X 400m Relay left the runners somewhat saddened on the bus-ride home. The team of Drew Viscidy, Brandon Rapp, Ross Staudt and Colin Merrigan battled local South Jersey rival, Cherry Hill East, throughout the race and, just before crossing the finish line in 1st place, Cherokee's anchor man lost the baton and was DQ'd! Yikes! The time was their best all season and, if nothing else, it suggests the possibility of another great race in the upcoming Nationals. GO CHEROKEE!
Milesplit, New York did a great job of videotaping all of the evening's races. There is no guarantee on how long they will be available but go to the following address and scroll through after the 55 Hurdles and 55 Dash for the Open 400; scroll through until after the mid-meet welcoming program for the 4 X 800m Relay; and scroll through almost to the end for the 4 X 400m Relay. They're definitely worth the time! NY.MileSplit, videos. For the meet page with results, see: NY.MileSplit, results.
SJTCA All-South Jersey Honorees
On March 2, 2012, the South Jersey Track Coaches Association announced their selections for the All- South Jersey Winter Track and Field Team and Shawn Wilson was named for his performances in the 1600m Run! Shawn was 4th in the Group IV State Championship and 9th in the Meet of Champions, beating all others from South Jersey! GO SHAWN! Just a thought, they need to include the 4 X 800m Relay in that selection process! GO COLIN! GO DREW! GO ROSS! Complete All-South Jersey List at: SJTCA.
New Balance Indoor Nationals
On March 9, 2012, six of Cherokee's finest traveled to New York City for a three-day adventure at the New Balance Indoor Nationals! Although a few would claim that the highlight of the trip was the two-night stay at the "Worst" Western in Ft. Lee, most point to the incredibly well run 4 X 800m Relay race on Saturday night!
Before that, though, on Friday night, the Sprint Medley Relay team of Brandon Rapp, John Barr, Drew Viscidy and Mike Lowinger made a go of it in the Emerging Elite Division but an injury to one of the team's members weakened their performance and resulted in a finish outside the medals. Video available at: Armory SMR.
On Saturday, after a long day's wait at the hotel and its environs, the 4 X 800m Relay team of Colin Merrigan, Drew Viscidy, Ross Staudt and Shawn Wilson took to the track for the final championship race of the day and the audience that remained was treated to what had to be the most exciting race of the day!
Colin started the race as the # 1 runner in the inside lane, probably the worst starting position on the Armory's banked 200m track. Colin's instructions were to get out fast and not get caught up in the bunching that regularly occurs at the beginning of the race and when the two lanes combine after the second turn. But Colin was in that position becasue he didn't need those instructions to go out fast! He did a great job and maintained a strong position throughout his leg of the race, handing off and leaving Drew in an excellent position close to the front! Drew changed positions a few times with several leading runners and then, at the exchange, passed off to Ross in 1st place! Several runners challenged Ross at various times during his leg of the race but, at the exchange, he built a full-second lead as he passed the baton to Shawn, the team's anchor leg! Shawn ran tough throughout, only relinguishing his lead to an extraordinary runner from a New York City high school! Shawn finished in 2nd place, with the team clocking an incredible 7:43.64! All four Cherokee athletes set PR's in the race, breaking their own South Jersey Record by 4 seconds, running the 2nd fastest New Jersey time ever, the 3rd fastest time in the United States this year, and the 7th fastest All-Time in United States' history! There's an excellent video of the race at: Armory 4 X 800, and a post-race MileSplit interview with the team at: Post-Race Interview.
That was a really tough act to follow but part of that team remained overnight to compete on Sunday in the 4 X 400m Relay: Drew Viscidy, Brandon Rapp, Ross Staudt and Colin Merrigan. It was a close race throughout with all four teams (a 5th DNF) running in a tight group until the last leg when two of Cherokee's opponents ran low 49's to break away from Cherokee's anchor. A video of the race is available at: Armory 4 X 400.
Complete results at: MileSplit.
Adrenaline 5K Run
For Cherokee Distance, running the 7th Annual Haddonfield Adrenaline 5K, formerly known as the Bancroft 5K Run, is a tradition that dates back to the late days of the 20th Century! After a long winter of training, it was an opportunity to check the team's conditioning and to have some fun! This year, a little "noise" among the runners led to a challenge issued by Cherokee's top distance runner, Shawn Wilson, to Cherokee's former state champion and present coach, Marc Pelerin. It was, the young people implied, a time to pass the baton to the next generation . . . and it was a challenge easily accepted by Coach Pelerin!
The race went out fast with many of the region's top runners in the lead pack, including Coach Pelerin and Shawn Wilson. Close behind came about a dozen team members who watched the action unfold ahead of them! The mile mark was a fast one -- too fast according to Coach Shaklee who reported a time well under 5 minutes -- and it didn't get any easier as the lead group and our two competitors approached "the hill" at the two mile mark. They stayed close to one another throughout but, just short of the finish line, Coach Pelerin had a lead of about 20 meters and he took that across the line! Pelerin: 15:46 (his 4th fastest time on the course with 14:43 being his fastest); Wilson: 15:53!
Coach Shaklee provided his All-Time Bancroft-Adrenaline PR List which shows Shawn in 2nd place among Cherokee runners while they were in high school -- behind Keith Kreiger who, as an 11th grader in 2002, clocked 15:13! -- and 5th place when you include the post-grad times of Marc Pelerin (14:43 in 2009, Joe Halin (15:32 in 2012), and Coach Shaklee (15:42 in 1999)! Of course, Coach Pelerin would be the last to point to his name at the very top of the list, well ahead of Shawn's; nor would Coach Shaklee point to his name ahead of Shawn's, especially when he ran it at the advanced age of, what . . . 44! . . . Now, quiet down, boys.
In addition to the "Featured Race," Bill Hornung ran well after a winter marred by injury, clocking 17:05 and moving him to 25th on the "Bancroft-Adrenaline PR List" among the high school runners. Kaleb Burch also ran well in his first 5K to finish at 17:40, 39th on the list. Danny Mintzer PR'd for 5K (50th on list); and Cameron Rabinowitz ran well in his first ever 5K race (59th on list)! Finally, it was also good to have Justin DeTone racing again after missing the winter season with injury (48th on list)!
Access that list at: All-Time Bancroft-Adrenaline PR List. Results at: L and M Sports.
Scrimmage: Cherokee V. Haddon Heights and Timber Creek High Schools
On March 21, 2012, Cherokee welcomed two local schools to a Scrimmage: Haddon Heights and Timber Creek High Schools. A scrimmage before the season begins is always important, especially because it allows new athletes to gain some experience before "the real thing," and it allows coaches to identify strengths and weaknesses on the team. It's not a time to challenge the more-experienced athletes and many of them trained through the meet.
In the Distance events, a lot of improvement was seen! In the 1600m, Kaleb Burch and Jeremy Morgan ran in the mid-40s, just behind Billy Hornung, and set PR's by over 5 seconds! In addition, Danny Mintzer and Justin DeTone both PR'd by even more at 5:03.5 and 5:04.4. Matt Venanzi won the 800m running a very evenly split 2:04.3, his fastest Open 800m time. Brandon Illagan was right behind him at 2:05.2 for a big PR. Freshman, James Transue, who was out for a while with a broken wrist, ran a strong 2:16.7 and Freddy Rasmussen PR'd at 2:21.3. The new freshmen - Rob Harper, Jake Callan and Joe Lacy all ran well in the 800m, their first race as Cherokee athletes.
The Distance 4 X 400m Relay was an exciting match race between the team of James Transue, Jeremy Morgan, Jake Callan -- who stepped-up to cover for another athlete who suffered a minor ankle injury -- and Matt Venanzi against the team of Freddy Rassmussen, Matt Decker, Kaleb Burch and Billy Hornung, expertly "coached" by Senior Mike Lowinger! Six of the eight runners set 400m PR's and it came down to the anchor leg with Hornung holding a slight lead over Venanzi at the exchange. Matt ran an excellent 54.07 to take the win for his team -- and administer a crushing defeat to rookie "coach" Lowinger! -- while Billy ran a solid 58.04, only a few tics off of his best ever! Although Venanzi ran well, it was the strong legs by freshmen, Transue (58.82) and Callan (60.63) that kept the race close enough for Matt to secure the win!
The Sprint group had some nice performances as well! In the 100m Dash, both Duane Johnson and Shawn Tracey clocked solid 11.7's; and in the 200m Dash, Duane ran a strong 23.8 while Shawn bested him with a 23.1! Newcomer Joey Havers crossed the line in 24.0 in his first race as a Chief! In the 110HH, both Eric Mudge and Mike Gallo -- MIke's first time at 110 Highs -- did well as they began their season over the barriers!
Among the Jumpers and Throwers, newcomer Tyrone Ringgold showed great potential in the Long Jump and High Jump; Eric Mudge vaulted 11' 6"; and Mike Conway and newcomer Zach Madden had decent season openers in the Shot Put, with Mike (and, obviously, Zach!) throwing an outdoor PR!