LOGAN TWP. >> Cherokee saw its five-year run as team champions come to an end at the Olympic Conference Boys Cross Country Championships Oct. 24 at the Gloucester County DREAM Park here.
Conference-rival Cherry Hill East edged the Chiefs, 42-46, for this year’s crown.
Last year, the Chiefs won its fifth consecutive team title over Cherry Hill East, 21-40, and 13th since the Lenape district joined the Olympic Conference in 1996.
“It has been a really long stretch since school and athletics were shutdown in March,” said Cherokee coach Jeff Thompson.
“Our team stayed really focused and put in a lot of hard work, so we were really excited to have a championship race (on Oct. 24). Add to that the fact that Cherry Hill East, one of our conference opponents, is ranked as the top team in South Jersey and one of the top teams in the state, we knew that we were in for a tough test.”
Senior captain Nico Grilli led the way for the Chiefs with his second-place finish of 16:07, which was just two seconds behind overall winner - Cherry Hill East senior Aidan Groff (16:05).
Senior captain Brett Shea had “his best race of the year so far,” according to Thompson, finishing sixth overall in 16:24 - his second-fastest and his best time ever at DREAM Park.”
Sophomore Conor Jacob was Cherokee’s third finisher, placing right behind Shea at 16:33.
“Conor had a great race,” said Thompson. “He showed a terrific finishing kick, passing four runners in the last 200 meters to place seventh with a new PR by 19 seconds.”
Cherokee's fourth man - senior Dylan Odud - “continued his pattern of improvement” with a season-best time by nine seconds 16:53 (13th place).
Sophomore Patrick Ditmars knocked 16 seconds off his previous best to place 18th (17:00) and come within five seconds of catching Cherry Hill East's fifth man – Michael McCurdy (15th; 16:55). Junior Bradley Popler (25th; 17:24) and freshman Nick Kuenkel (34th; 17:58) “were not at top form, but still ran tough,” said Thompson.
“The coaches were very happy with how the team ran. They competed well against a very talented and well-coached team in Cherry Hill East,” said Thompson.
Shawnee was fourth in the Olympic Conference Championships with 117 points.
Senior John Ruona broke into the top 10 with his fourth-place time of 16:14.
Other finishers for the Renegades were: senior Robert Birdsall (17th; 16:59), junior Alex Campagna (29th; 17:37), sophomore Ryan Czechowski (30th; 17:40), freshman Ryan Kaczur (37th; 18:10), senior Dylan Hansen (39th; 18:14) and senior Cooper Grabowski (48th; 19:09).
Lenape placed fifth overall in the Olympic Conference race, 13 points behind Lenape district-rival Shawnee.
“I thought the boys ran well overall and were competitive throughout the race,” said Lenape coach Gerald Richardson.
Junior Jake Buniva was Lenape’s first finisher in 11th place (16:38), followed by sophomore Colin Hermack in 20th at 17:01. Coach Richardson described Buniva and Hermack’s races as “very solid”.
“I’m looking for Jake and Colin to continue to improve in the next few weeks,” said Richardson.
Other Lenape finishers were: junior John Rielly (27th; 17:27), senior Brett Boyle (28th; 17:31), junior Nick Volpe (44th; 19:00) and sophomore Andrew Dove (47th; 19:07).
Seneca placed 11th out of 12 teams in the Olympic Conference Championships with 315 points.
Senior Kenny Stout was the first to cross the line for the Golden Eagles in 19:07, good for 46th place overall in the field of 82 finishers.
Other Seneca finishers were: senior Jimmy Demetrios (61st; 20:20), freshman Reindell Bailey (63rd; 20:29), junior Colby Welusz (76th; 22:08) and sophomore Maxwell Friedman (81st; 25:15).