Early-June: The Season ends with the most important meets of the season: States! South Jersey State Group IV Sectional Championships at Buena High School on June 3rd and 4th; State Group IV Championships at Franklin Township High School on June 10th and 11th; and State Meet of Champions at Franklin Township High School on June 18th! GO CHEROKEE!
On June 3rd, 2022, the top performers on the team traveled to Buena High School for the two-day South Jersey State Group IV Sectional Championships and the stakes were high! To do well, maybe to PR, at Sectionals is a big deal but to advance to Groups is even bigger! Only the Top 6 in each event advance and the competition is extraordinary!
"Always prepared" Distance Coach Shaklee gave his version of events below:
"The Cherokee distance squad entered the South Jersey Group 4 Sectionals minus our top runner (for the second year in a row!). Patrick Ditmars was still recovering from COVID and could not race! Despite that fact, the runners did their best and managed to score 38 of the team's 56 - 5th place points (the remainder coming from that incredible 1-3-5 Jav finish!)!
"On Friday, the first event for the distance group was the 800 Meter Run. It was a tactical race in the seeded heat and Conor Jacob, Bobby Poplau and Tommy Bromley placed first, third and sixth with negative splits! Unfortunately, the two Kingsway runners, running from an unseeded heat, did not run tactically and both ran faster than Conor's winning time, moving us to third, fifth and eighth! While both Conor and Bobby still advanced to the state meet, due to the tactical nature of their race, they will not be running in the seeded heat next week.
"The 3200 Meter Run was the last event on Friday evening. Nick Kuenkel ran a solid race and got edged at the tape for second, finishing in third and advancing to the state meet! Bradley Popler placed ninth and will not advance but should still be extremely proud of the great senior season he has had! Benny Hackney was our third runner and he also ran a very solid race, finishing with his second fastest time ever!
"Saturday's first distance event was the 4 x 800 Meter Relay. We were the top seed but, after our first three runners - Lucas Hatch, Tommy Bromley and Joe Natoli, we found ourselves thirty meters behind Toms River North going into the anchor leg. Bobby Poplau refused to lose and gradually closed the gap before just getting by the TRN anchor a step before the line to give us a Sectional Championship!
"The final distance event of the meet was the 1600 Meter Run. Nick Kuenkel and Conor Jacob were facing one of the state's top runners from Kingsway High School. The Kingsway athlete went out fast from the start and only Conor and Nick went with him. Although they were not able to stay with him to the finish, they still got the job done with Nick finishing in second and Conor in third to both advance to the state meet next week!
"Finally, both Bobby and Conor came back in the final event of the meet - the 4 x 400 Meter Relay - and helped the team to an eight place finish with Conor setting a new 400 PR of 51.6 on the anchor!"
No reports from others yet but a quick review of the details at MileSplit shows some pretty incredible stuff, especially by the Javelin guys!
In the Sprints/Jumps/Throws, the three sprinters -- Wesley Davenport, Cam Burti and Allie Hughes -- didn't advance but they all scored PR's in the 100m, and Wesley and Allie did the same in the 200m! In the 400m Dash, Kevin Hess clocked just above his PR of 51.50 run last June, Josh Pawlik hit another PR of 52.96 and his brother Evan Pawlik did the same at 56.01. Great efforts but, again, they did not advance. In the Hurdles, Jeremy Linden PR'd when he cracked the 18-sec line for the first time in the 400IH, Christian Sproesser PR'd in both the 110's and the 400IH; and Wilson Leung dropped under 18-seconds for the first time in the 110's, and was just above his PR set last June! Again, none advanced. In the Jumps, Ryan Bender matched his 5' 10" PR in the High Jump, and Sam Green set his initial PR at his first-try in the Long Jump. In the Pole Vault, Evan Aronow matched his PR of 9'. But no jumpers advanced! Perhaps most disappointed was one of the leaders among the throwers, Dan Mondile who, in the Discus, threw below his PR but finished 7th, one spot below automatically advancing to Groups!
But don't lose focus here! Among the Javelin throwers, all three -- Holden Wolfert, Austin Lenart and Zach Ott -- threw very impressively with outstanding results! Holden threw 165' 5", a PR of about 9' and took 1st in the competition! Austin threw 152' 4", a PR of about 14' and took 3rd; and Zach Ott threw 146' 9", only 6/100 of an inch from his PR, and took 5th! All THREE ADVANCED! You go, boyos!
As usual, there's a huge amount of details available at MileSplit in general, and at South Sectionals in particular.
Selected pictures soon but all of the pictures are available at the District's Google Site. There are two links: for Friday, click June 3rd pictures; and for Saturday, click June 4th pictures.
On June 7th, 2022, Cherokee hosted Cherokee Night Racing # 2 featuring the 800m Sprint Medley Relay and the Open 800m and 1600m races. It was, as they say, a "last chance meet" for runners to set their last PR's of the season and many colleges and high schools offer the opportunity!
Coach Shaklee's reported on the successes of his distance men at the meet:
"A lot of good things happened at the final Cherokee Distance Night Meet on June 7th, including fifteen personal records and one additional season best performance!
"In the 800, new PR's were set by six of the seven Cherokee athletes running! Josh Pawlik led the way with a two second improvement and a second place finish! Kevin Hess, moving up to the 800 from his usual 400 meter distance, made the move worthwhile as he also PR'ed by a couple fo seconds to place 5th! Ben Weiner, dropped under 2:20 for the first time, and also under 2:19 and 2:18 as he crossed the line in 2:17.13! Additionally, Brett Yagiello, Nick Campbell and Tyler Newton all improved on their previous best times!
"In the 1600, nine of the nineteen Cherokee runners set new PR's with one additional season's best from senior, Jameson Crozier! The personal records were recorded by Sanidhya Goyal, Sharon Sarker, Ethan Weisenberg, Myron Paes, Anthony DiBatista, Enzo Corona, Danny Hassall, Liam Tindall and Joe Natoli! Sanidhya had the largest improvement as he knocked almost a minute off of his previous best!
"Other notable efforts among the PR performances were:
"Freshman, Enzo Corona, who showed a strong sprint finish to win his heat and go under 5:00 for the first time . . . way under with his 4:54.55 PR!
"Danny Hassall, who also had a strong finish to win his heat and knock seven seconds off his previous best!
"Freshman, Liam Tindall, who ran just about a perfect race to win his heat and record one of the fastest 1600 times by a Cherokee freshman ever with his 4:32.52 clocking!
"Senior, Joe Natoli, who also ran close to a perfect race to take third overall and knock four seconds off of his PR in 4:31.80!"
It was far from the biggest "last chance meet" we've had at Cherokee but it was nice to see the many successes made by team members!
Official Details at: NJ.MileSplit.
Selected pictures soon but all of the pictures are available at the District's Google Site.
On June 10th - 11th, 2022, the state hosted the two-day New Jersey State Group 4 Championships at Franklin High School in Somerset, NJ. Remembering some of the spifflicating heat of previous Group State meets, the weather was ideal! Low summer temperatures, little wind, sun and clouds throughout the two days!
Coach Shaklee sent a report on his distance guys and their excellent performances!
"The athletes who qualified out of Sectionals to advance to the Group 4 State Meet all ran well! On Friday, in the 800, Conor Jacob and Bobby Poplau ran in the unseeded heat. Conor led the early going but got passed on the backstretch of the final lap by two runners. He managed to come off the last turn and, with a good kick, pass one runner to finish second in his heat! Bobby was beginning his kick down the homestretch when an athlete in front of him moved in and clipped his foot sending Bobby to the track! To his credit, he got right back up and ran well to the finish!
"Nick Kuenkel was the tenth seed in the 3200 so he had his work cut-out for him. As always, Nick ran a very focused race and, in the process, beat six of the runners who had faster seeds to finish in fourth place and advance to the State Meet of Champions! Nick's time of 9:18.87 moved him to number seven on the Cherokee All-Time List, right behind Keith Krieger (2003) and just in front of Jack Shea (2017)! It also beat the previous Sophomore School Record of 9:21.01 set by Nick Falk in 2015!
"On Saturday, Conor Jacob, Tommy Bromley, Nick Kuenkel and Bobby Poplau teamed up for the 4 X 800 Meter Relay. Conor did a great job on the lead-off to hand-off in a close second place with a 1:56.68 split. Tommy finished well on his leg to keep us in second, behind Westfield with a 2:00.13 split. Nick PR'ed by over a second on the third leg, running 1:57.10, and keeping us in second place. Bobby Poplau had a tough job as he was running anchor against a couple of the fastest 800 runners in the state!
"Conor closed out the meet for us by tripling back in the 1600 Meter Run! Despite the triple, Conor showed a nice turn of speed over the final 200 meters to win his heat and finish eight overall with his second fastest time of the season!"
Last week at Sectionals, there was a happy surprise when all three of the Javelin guys -- Holden Wolfert, Austin Lenart and Zach Ott -- advanced but, this week at Groups, "sadness in Mudville, Casey!" Holden threw 147' 11", way off his PR at Sectionals; Zack threw 143' 7", almost 4' off his throw at Sectionals; and Austin threw 137' 7", again way off his exceptional PR at Sectionals! Hurumph! Was it that downhill runway, guys?! I know I didn't like it!
In his recent blog SJ Track Blog: From the Backstretch article, Reuben Frank reported on "All underclass 4 x 8 runs #3 time in Cherokee history at State Group 4 meet!!!!!!", and we saved the article on our server: here.
Details at: NJ.MileSplit
Here are some pictures from the meet! These as well as others are available at the District's Google site!
Wait . . . wait . . . Conor, are you talkin' to me?! Best head for the woods with Junior . . .!
On June 18th, 2022, the state hosted the New Jersey State Meet of Champions at Franklin High School in Somerset, NJ and Cherokee's athletes who qualified last week at Groups in the 4 x 800m Relay and the Open 3200m came home satisfied with their performances!
Reuben Frank beat us all to "publish!" In his recent blog SJ Track Blog: From the Backstretch article, Reuben reported on "Cherokee boys win first Meet of Champions 3,200-Meter Relay with all-underclass lineup!!!!!!", and we saved the article on our server here.
Distance Coach Shaklee followed soon afterwards . . . after he calmed down!
"Four Cherokee athletes ran in the State Meet of Champions on Saturday, June 18th at Franklin High School. All four were entered in the 4 x 800 Meter Relay which was the first event, while sophomore, Nick Kunkel, was also doubling back later in the 3200 Meter Run.
"The two teams with faster seed times than Cherokee - Westfield and Ridge - were not running so that left us as the pre-race favorite! The boys took that seriously and more than lived up to expectations!
"The conditions were challenging, especially since, to run the race we were capable of, we would have to lead the entire way. The wind on the backstretch and into the far turn was intense! Clearly it was not a day for fast times but still a day to show the rest of the state how good this all-underclassman relay team is!
"Junior, Conor Jacob did a great job on the lead-off leg! Despite leading from the start and fighting the wind, he managed to open a lead of about 25 meters by the time he handed off to sophomore, Nick Kuenkel! Nick ran aggressively and opened up an even larger lead before giving the baton to sophomore, Bobby Poplau! Bobby took it out fast and never gave the opposition an opportunity to even think about closing the gap, handing off to junior, Patrick Ditmars, with a sizable lead over the chase pack! In his first race in a month (after time out due to illness), Patrick showed his toughness as he fought the wind while running alone, well in front of the second place team! He cruised in to the finish with a smile on his face and Cherokee's first MOC title since 2019 when Luciano Pizarro won the shot put!
"While the time of 7:54.34 was nothing special (almost four seconds slower than our time from the previous week at the Group 4 State Meet, run in perfect conditions), the margin of victory - 6.29 seconds - was impressive!
"It's also important to recognize the entire group that made this possible - Lucas Hatch and Joe Natoli, both part of the SJ Group 4 Sectional Championship team and, especially, Tommy Bromley who was not only on the sectional squad but also ran a crucial second leg on the team last week to help us qualify for the Meet of Champions! With Tommy, Conor, Nick, Bobby and Patrick all returning next year, the future is certainly bright!
"About three hours later, Nick Kuenkel took to the track again for the 3200 Meter Run. With thirteen of the thirty entrants choosing not to race (instead, running a different event or racing at the national meet), Nick started as the eighth seed. The conditions were still very difficult and, if anything, the wind had increased. It meant that a fast time was unlikely (and, in fact, only two runners of the seventeen in the race ran faster than their seed time). Nick ran a very smart, very focused, very tough race and passed two runners shortly before the finish to place 7th and earn his second MOC medal of the day! Nick was the top sophomore and the second underclassman across the line! Given that he missed three months of running in the Fall due to injury and ran limited mileage through the winter, this result was a clear indication of the potential he has moving into his junior year!
"It was a great day for Cherokee track and a great way to end the season!"
MOC details at: NJ.MileSplit.
As a result of this impressive performance at the Meet Of Champions by the 4 X 800m team, Conor Jacob, Nick Kuenkel, Bobby Poplau and Patrick Ditmars were named to the 2022 All-South Jersey Team by the SJTCA!
Here are a few pictures from the meet! The first section from the 4 X 800m Relay, and then a few from the Open 3200m (emphasizing Mrs. Kuenkel's favorite hairstyle . . . oh Mamma!). Post-race pictures show some of the long-suffering parents (The Poplaus?), and then back to the runners! These and others on the District's Google site!
Tom Smith, a real photographer and friend of Cherokee who occasionally shoots for MileSplit, posted a bunch of Chiefs with his MOC pics. They're low-res and batch edited but here are a few, while others are on our Google site.
On June 24th, 2022, the team, coaches, parents and friends met for the last time at the school cafeteria for the 2022 Cherokee Track and Field Awards Dinner where the accomplishments of team members were applauded! In addition, they identified the achievements of Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshmen Teams, and they honored key individuals on the team, including the Field, Sprint and Distance MVP's, and the "Rookie of the Year" and the "Unsung Hero" on the team! Finally, the coaches paid special attention to the graduating seniors, many of whom were four-year members of the team and important contributors in many ways!
Congratulations to our graduating Seniors! We hope to follow your exploits in Track over the next four years! But take the time now, look back through the years -- even the crazy pandemic years -- on our website and see how they performed in their events! Some look pretty young, don't they?!
Coach Shaklee sent the following pics from the dinner just before he headed east and plunked his derriere at the beach! (See above!) Coach-I-can-do-my-training-anywhere-and-so-can-you will explain the last picture when/if he ever returns!
"What's to explain?" he asks! "They're the guys whom the coaches believe are "the best of the best!" The "Unsung Hero" is the guy who gave so much to the team but was too often overlooked: that's Bradley Popler! The "Rookie of the Year" was the best first year performer, AJ Cooper! The "Iron Man" was the top scorer on the team, Conor Jacob!
Most important of all, the "MVP" in each area! These are by far the most important because they are selected by the coaches after some very serious discussion! What makes them so deserving? Yes, usually they pick the fastest runners, the highest or longest jumpers, or the farthest throwers but it's more than that: dedication to the team values, leadeship, character, self-discipline, self-motivation, sportsmanship, competitiveness and persistence! With all of that in mind, they selected three MVP's:
Sprints: Lucas Hatch
Field/Throws: DJ Mondile
Distance: Patrick Ditmars
Special Awards, MVP
Haven't heard from Coach Shaklee in days but we're told that he and Coach Thompson are sailing a yawl (looks like a dingy to us!) northward to Coney Island, NY for the upcoming "July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest!"
"I've been training for this for months," said Shaklee, "and I don't care if it is Joey Chestnut's "territory" and he plans to win his 15th contest there! I'm going and I intend to win! . . . For months, Cricket has supplied a variety of tasty hot dog dishes for me to practice on and I'm well-prepared to come in 1st! . . . I plan to hit the beach like the Marines and not stop until every Nathan's Hot Dog is devoured!"