The Championship Season: mid-May through June, as most of the training is finished and the team is ready to show their stuff at the championship meets! It starts with the Olympic Conference Championships (Washington Twp, May 16th); the Burlington County Open (Maple Shade, May 21st); the East Coast Relays (Randolph HS, May 21st); and the Haddonfield Distance Night (May 22nd). Soon after that, the New Jersey State competitions begin with the South Jersey Sectional Championships (Egg Harbor HS, May 25th and 26th); the New Jersey State Group Championships (Old Bridge HS, June 1st and 2nd); and the New Jersey State Meet of Champions (Old Bridge HS, June 6th and 7th). Squeezed in there is the Fast Times Relays (Warwick Valley HS, NY, May 29th). GO CHEROKEE!
Olympic Conference Championships
On May 15, 2012, Cherokee traveled to Washington Township High School for the Olympic Conference Championships. The clearest highlight of the event for the Chiefs was the 800m Run but there were other significant accomplishments as well! In the 800m Run, Colin Merrigan, Shawn Wilson, Drew Viscidy and Ross Staudt swept the first four places with what had to be PR's. As a result, Colin was named 1st Team, All-Conference, and Shawn was named to the Second Team, All-Conference! Cherokee also showed its strength at the distance when Mike Lowinger, Mike Hare, Brandon Illagan and Matt Venanzi defeated a strong Camden Catholic team and took 1st in the 4 X 800m Relay! As a result, they too were named to the 1st Team, All-Conference! Several other distance performers did well too: Kaleb Burch had a good day in the 1600m Run clocking a 4:39.39 and taking 10th; and Jeremy Morgan and Bill Hornung both had decent times in the 3200m Run, with 10:08 and 10:20 respectively!
In the Sprints, Duane Johnson took 4th in both the Trials and the Finals of the 100m Dash; and then he returned in the 4 X 100m Relay to set a new seasonal PR with Shawn Tracey, Matt Jackson, and Eli Conner and take 4th! In the 4 X 400m Relay, the team's 800m champions -- Merrigan, Staudt, Wilson and Viscidy -- returned to set a new seasonal PR and to take 3rd in a very tough field! They also won 2nd Team, All-Conference recognition for that performance!
In the Field, Eric Mudge took 4th and 2nd Team, All-Conference in the Vault with a PR 11" 6' clearance; and Matt Rhodes had his own PR in the Triple Jump at 39' 0.75"! Also, in the Shot, Zach Madden took 4th in the competition and made 2nd Team, All-Conference!
Details at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
Burlington County Open
On May 19, 2012, Cherokee traveled to Maple Shade for the 75th Annual Burlington County Open, the oldest track meet of its kind in South Jersey! Over the past four years, Cherokee won the county three times, only losing last year, but this year looked like a long shot because of the absence of two key athletes, including star senior Brandon Rapp who broke his toe! But others stepped-up in important ways and brought the champion's trophy home for another year!
Prominent among those who stepped-up was Shawn Wilson who accounted for 20 points, winning the 3200m and the 1600m, both tactical races with strong kicks! Others picked-up huge points in the middle-distance events, including Drew Viscidy who set a new school record with his victory in the 400m, came back for 4th in the 200m, and anchored the winning 4 X 400m Relay! Colin Merrigan and Ross Staudt went 1 - 2 in a very fast 800m! Merrigan's time put him at #3 on the Cherokee All-Time list, while Staudt's time landed him at #6 Cherokee All-Time! Both also ran strong legs on the winning 4 X 400 Relay!
Cherokee also fared well in three relays with Mike Hare running on both the 4 X 800m where he PR'd, while the team finished 2nd, and on the winning 4 X 400m where he ran a strong 3rd leg! Running with Hare on the 4 X 800m were Kaleb Burch, Rob Harper and Brandon Ilagan. Burch and Harper both PR'd, with Harper (only a freshman) splitting 2:05.5! And, while speaking of freshmen in the 800m, James Transue ran a gutsy 2:06.77 in the Open 800m! Finally, the 4 X 100m guys did a great job to finish in 3rd place with Freshman, Marc Woodard leading off! Matt Jackson, Shawn Tracey and Eli Conner handled the other three legs.
In the Throws and Jumps, Brandon McCleese took 5th in the Discus and 4th in the Javelin; while Zach Madden placed 5th in the Shot. Chaz Lee took 6th in the Triple Jump; and Eric Mudge tied for 5th in the Vault.
Details at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
East Coast Relays
On May 21, 2012, Cherokee sent "the cream of the crop" -- Colin Merrigan, Drew Viscidy, Ross Staudt and Shawn Wilson -- on a long ride to the East Coast Relays at Randolph High School, just to the west of New York City! The weather forecast was awful -- showers and thunderstorms -- but they had one plan in mind: to win the Distance Medley Relay in school-record-breaking time and go home! Unfortunately, they came very close but didn't get the win or the record!
NJ.com blogged the race this way: "Voorhees wins in 10:18.72. Cherokee 2nd in 10:19.47. Harrison Brakewood split 4:19.7 and outkicked Shawn Wilson of Cherokee to win the race for Voorhees. Brakewood got the baton in 2nd behind Pope John with Wilson third. Wilson jumped right into 2nd behind Peter Spinks of PJ and Brakewood sat in third. It stayed that way until the final lap. Wilson went to the front with 250m to go and Brakewood followed. Wilson and Brakewood dueled down the final straight. Brakewood got ahead with about 50m to go and roared across the finish line. . . . Cherokee's splits: Colin Merrigan - 3:09.9; Drew Viscidy - 50.5; Ross Staudt - 1:55.9; Shawn Wilson - 4:18.9."
The coaches' splits were different -- NJ.com botched Ross' and Shawn's times -- but the finish time can't be disputed. Sadness in Mudville . . ..
Results at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
Haddonfield Distance Night
On May 22, 2012, Cherokee sent a small group to nearby Haddonfield for the Haddonfield Distance Night. The event is a last-chance opportunity for some runners to set season-ending PR's and for some to sharpen before the South Jersey Sectionals on the weekend. For many of those who attended, especially the eleven Cherokee athletes who set PR's, it was good night!
Jake Callan started it off in the Freshman 800m, placing 2nd with a new PR by over 4 seconds. In the Varsity 800m, Mike Lowinger set a "Open 800m" PR at 2:01.37 for 2nd with Brandon Ilagan, Mike Hare, Freddy Rasmussen and Dan Forcier also running their fastest times ever. In the Freshman 1600m, Cherokee had two new additions to the sub-5:00 club with Rob Harper going almost nine seconds under and James Transue just dipping below 5:00! Aiden Lynch won the Varsity 1600m with a new PR while Kaleb Burch also PR'd to get 4th. Finally, Jeremy Morgan ran a tough race to just barely beat his previous best while taking 2nd place!
Details at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
NEw Jersey State Group IV Sectional Championships
On May 25 and 26, 2012, the Cherokee Chiefs headed to Egg Harbor Township High School for the New Jersey State Group IV Sectional Championships! The highlight of the meet was definitely the double win by Junior Shawn Wilson in the 1600m and 3200m Runs! Shawn ran "tactical races" with the intention of winning but not necessarily setting records and the plan worked perfectly! "Sectional Champion" . . . say that twice! In the 1600m, too, Sophomore Kaleb Burch set a nice three second PR and finished 11th overall!
Joining Shawn, as he advances to the Group IV State Championships next week, are several others who everyone expected to see. In the 800m Run, Colin Merrigan took 2nd and Drew Viscidy took 3rd and advance, while the third leg of Cherokee's seemingly invincible 800 squad, Ross Staudt was forced to take 7th in the event and failed to advance! But Ross and his 800 squad didn't have to wait for long, as he, Colin, Drew and Mike Harr returned to take 3rd in the 4 X 400m Relay and advance!
In the Field, Cherokee's lone scorer, Brandon McCleese took 3rd in the Javelin with a throw of 161' and advanced to the State Group Championships!
There's another "big" story here too: the absence of a Rapp in the state championship series! For what seems like decades, Will Rapp, and then his equally-talented brother, Brandon, scored big points for the team at Sectionals and beyond. But this year, Brandon's last, he suffered a broken foot late in the season that cost him (and Cherokee) the last part of his senior year! It was, no doubt, a loss for him but it was an equal loss for the team!
And while we're on "top brother acts," Cherokee will always remember the "one-two punch" over the years of the Merrigan brothers, Kevin Merrigan, '08, who left multiple school records in the Sprints when he graduated, and Colin Merrigan, '12 who will leave his own school records when he graduates in a few weeks!
Meet details at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
In the Burlington County Times, John A. Lewis had this to say about Shawn Wilson's performance.
Fast Times Relays
On May 29, 2012, Cherokee took the long -- three hours! -- bus ride to Warwick Valley High School for the 18th Annual Fast Times Relays! The Relays have a new, lightening-fast (pun intended . . . keep reading!) track and the management traditionally books the top teams from the region: a great opportunity for record-breaking times! Naturally, Cherokee took two of their outstanding 4 X 800m Relay teams to compete with the best!
Unfortunately, after that long ride and a long wait well into the evening, thunderstorms blanketed the area and the meet was cancelled! Their website captured their disappointment with this picture! Fortunately, there are no pictures of the coaches and team members that capture their disappointment!
NEw Jersey State Group Championships
On June 1 and 2, 2012, the Cherokee Chiefs who qualified at the New Jersey Group IV Sectionals last week headed to Old Bridge High School in Matawan for the New Jersey State Group Championships! Here the talent pool definitely tightens as all the Group qualifiers from throughout the state compete against qualifiers in their Groups for individual and team Group CHampionships.
Last week, Shawn Wilson qualifed for the "Group States" in two events: the 1600m Run and the 3200m Run. This week, he advanced to the up-coming Meet of Champions in both events! On Day One, Shawn's 6th place time of 4:18.88 in the 1600m Run was his 2nd fastest to date (behind his indoor MOC time of 4:18.50). Shawn now has three of the thirteen fastest times run by a Cherokee athlete and he is 4th on the Cherokee All-Time List (Marc Pelerin '02 - 4:11.86, Steve Burkholder '10 - 4:15.49, Josh Joseph '01 - 4:18.43). He is also the Cherokee Junior Class Record Holder in the 1600m Run! On Day Two, Shawn came back with an even better performance when he finished 2nd in the 3200m Run with a time of 9:14.91 to move to 2nd on the Cherokee All-Time List (Marc Pelerin '02 - 9:01.89) and break Pelerin's Cherokee Junior Class Record of 9:15.47 set in 2001 when Marc finished 2nd in the Meet of Champions! Yikes!
Last week, Cherokee's sprint qualifiers Drew Viscidy, Colin Merrigan, Ross Staudt and Mike Hare advanced in the 400m Dash, the 800m Run, and/or the 4 X 400m Relay. In the 800m Run on Day Two, Drew Viscidy rebounded from a slightly sub-par 400m Dash on Day One (15th in 50.58) to run a strong race, placing 6th in 1:54.53! Drew's time moved him to 3rd on the Cherokee All-Time List behind Dave Sitzer's, '00 School Record when he ran 1:53.13 to place 3rd in the Meet of Champions and Steve Burkholder's '10 hand-timed 1:54.1 run in an end-of-season time trial in 2010. Colin Merrigan also qualified for the Meet of Champions in the 800m, grabbing the last wildcard spot with his time of 1:55.61! Finally, the 4 X 400m Relay team of Colin Merrigan, Ross Staudt, Mike Hare and Drew Viscidy improved significantly from their sectional race last weekend to place 5th in 3:21.48 and advance to the Meet of Champions. PR splits were recorded by Staudt, Hare and Viscidy (who split 48.7 on the anchor leg)! Du-u-u-des . . .!
Results, etc. at: MileSplit/NJRunners.
Post Season Recognition
On June 4, 2012, the team, coaches and parents met to enjoy a meal together while reviewing the accomplishments of the season and bidding farewell to our graduating seniors.
Not all the details are in -- especially since the Meet of Champions has yet to be run and the voting by various groups on All-Burlington County, All-South Jersey, and All-State have yet to be cast -- but the team had three major accomplishments through the season: they won the Woodbury Relays and the Sprint Medley Relay team of Ross Staudt, Colin Merrigan, Brandon Rapp and Drew Viscidy took home 1st place watches; they won the Burlington County Open for the 4th time in five years; and they won the Lenape District Cup for the 6th year in a row! And speaking of 6th, the South Jersey Track Coaches Association, the premier team-ranking organization in the region, listed Cherokee as the 6th best team (out of 20 South Jersey teams) at the end of the season, behind track powerhouses Oakcrest, Timber Creek, Cherry Hill East, Egg Harbor and Delsea!
The Coaches' Awards are by far the most important awards of the season because they are given by people who really know the athletes and know the most-deserving of all! They were selected not simply because they were the fastest runners, the highest or longest jumpers, or the farthest throwers on the team. These factors are important but the coaches also consider their dedication to the team and its values, their leadership, character, self-discipline and self-motivation, sportsmanship, competitiveness, and persistence. Congratulations to the following athletes who were selected to receive the Coaches' Awards:
Shawn Wilson, Distance
Eric Mudge, Jumps
Colin Merrigan, Sprints
Brandon McCleese, Throws
Mike Gallo, Hurdles
Congratulations to Shawn Wilson who was named to the MileSplit 1st Team Elite by the MileSplit Network and to the All-South Jersey Track Team by the South Jersey Track Coaches Association! Shawn was recognized for his performance in the 3200m Run. Shawn also was named to the MileSplit 2nd Team Elite for his performances in both the 800m and the 1600m Runs! The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Camden Courier-Post piggybacked on their work and named Shawn to their All-South Jersey teams. In addition, the Burlington County Times named Shawn to their 1st Team, All-Burlington County in both the 1600m and 3200m Runs; and the Star-Ledger of Trenton named Shawn to their 1st Team, All-Group IV and their 1st Team, All-South Jersey in the 3200m Run!
Congratulations as well to Drew Viscidy, Colin Merrigan, Ross Staudt and Shawn Wilson who were named to the MileSplit 1st Team Elite for their performances in the 4 X 800m Relay; to Drew and Colin who were also named for their sub-1:55 performances in the Open 800m; to Drew who was named to the MileSplit 2nd Team Elite for his performance in the Open 400m, and to Ross who was named to the MileSplit 2nd Team Elite for his performance in the Open 800m! In addition, congratulations to Brandon Rapp and John Barr who, with Colin and Drew, were named to the MileSplit 2nd Team Elite for their performance in the 4 X 400m Relay at the Conference Championships! Added congratulations to Drew Viscidy for being named to the 1st Team, All-Burlington County by the Burlington County Times in the 800m Run; and to Colin Merrigan who was named to the 2nd Team, All-Burlington County in the 800m Run! Also, congratulations to Viscidy, Hare, Staudt and Merrigan who were named to the 1st Team, All-Burlington County in the 4 X 400m Relay; and to Drew who was named to the Star-Ledger's 3rd Team, All-South Jersey!
MileSplit/NJRunners' multiple lists of 1st and 2nd Team Elite Runners is at: MileSplit/NJRunners. Look under "Events" and click on the various races. Also, all the lists provided by the Star-Ledger of Trenton can be found at: NJ.com.
Thanks to Coaches Callinan, Shaklee, and Thompson for their expertise this season! And really special thanks to Volunteer Coaches Cunoe and Pelerin who donated so much of their time to the athletes on the team! Finally, thanks to the parents who catered the Awards Banquet and for all the help they gave the team and coaches this season! GO CHEROKEE!
New Jersey State Meet of Champions
On June 11, 2012, the state conducted the storm-tossed and twice-postponed Meet of Champions at Lombardi Field in Old Bridge. But the news for Cherokee was not good! Shawn Wilson, who many expected to win the 3200m Run, was sidelined by an apparently minor leg injury, but one that the coaches felt could become a major injury if he raced. Several of Cherokee's best runners also qualified in the 800m Run and the 4 X 400m Relay but a very-long racing season -- really from December until June! -- took a toll and none scored in those events: Drew Viscidy and Colin Merrigan, Cherokee's great 400m/800m runners, failed to medal in the Open 800m Run; and they, with Ross Staudt and Mike Harr, also missed medaling in the 4 X 400m Relay. A tough finish to a truly great season for Cherokee's finest!
Results at: MileSplit/NJRunners.