Cherokee boys end 4-year drought, win first sectional XC title since 2011

Cherokee placed three runners under 16 minutes and eked out a six-point win and its first sectional cross country title since 2011 Saturday.
The Chiefs, ranked No. 6 in New Jersey, outscored Kingsway 60-66 in the closest South Jersey Group 4 finish since 2009, when Shawnee defeated Southern Regional by one point.

Jack Shea was first across the line in 15:37 over the flat 5,000-meter course at Delsea Regional High School in Franklinville. Nick Falk placed third in 15:48 and Justin Kelly was fourth in 15:51, giving the Chiefs three of the first four finishers.

Junior Brandon Marks was 12th for Cherokee in 16:26.

Joe Grandizio of Kingsway was second, and the Dragons placed their second, third, fourth and fifth runners all between Marks and Cherokee’s fifth runner, junior Joe Falk, who placed 40th in 17:02.

This is the first time in 13 years three runners from the same school broke 16 minutes at the South Jersey Group 4 sectionals.
In 2003, Greg Hughes, James Wyner and Spencer Popeson from the legendary Mainland Regional team all ran 15:46 or faster. That team went on to win the Meet of Champions.

This is the first time one school has had two runners under 16 in the South Jersey Group 4 race Connor Herr (15:26) and Peter Murray (15:59) of Shawnee went 1-3 in 2011.

The team title is Cherokee’s first since 2011, ends Cherry Hill East’s three-year hold on team honors, and gives coach Steve Shaklee his his seventh South Jersey Group 4 title overall since 1997 to go with three when he was at Shawnee.

Kingsway, ranked 12th in New Jersey, placed all seven of its runners in the top 30 and all ran 16:48 or faster … and all are underclassmen!

After Grandizio, junior Jonathan Connor was 13th (16:28), junior Brian Mangiaracina 15th (16:33), sophomore Kieran Burns 16th (16:34), junior Cade Hindley 20th (16:44), junior Cole Hindley 23rd (16:45) and sophomore Gavin Wagner 29th (16:48).

This is the first time Cherokee has had both the individual winner and a team title since 2007, when Alex Yersak won his third straight race and Cherokee won 52-90 in the team race over Cherry Hill West.

This is also Cherokee’s 20th consecutive year finishing in the top six in the South Jersey Group 4 race and 16th time in that 20-year span in the top three. That 20 years includes seven 1sts, six 2nds, three 3rds, three 4ths and a 6th.

Overall, this was Cherokee’s eighth South Jersey Group 4 title, which ties the Chiefs for second-most in South Jersey boys history behind Cinnaminson, which goes into today’s Group 2 race with 11 titles (including one in Central Jersey).

Cherokee’s 16:09 average is the sixth-fastest since the meet moved to Delsea
For a complete sectional history of team and individual winners in every group and in every section, click here.

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