Cherokee tops Cherry Hill East & Southern in tight battle between three N.J. top-15 teams!!!

Cherokee packed its five scorers in 40 seconds Saturday and rolled to its 10th sectional title Saturday and second in a row.

Seniors Nico Grilli and Brett Shea led the way for the Chiefs, Grilli in 3rd in 16:28 and Shea in 6h in 16:33 over the water-logged 5K DREAM Park course in Logan Township.

The race featured three of the state’s top-14 ranked teams going in: No. 6 Cherry Hill East, No. 11 Cherokee and No. 14 Southern Regional.

Cherokee outscored Cherry Hill East 48-63, with Southern third third on a 6th-runner tiebreaker with Cherry Hill East.

Cherokee went 3-6-11-12-16, Southern 1-4-14-21-23 and Cherry Hill East 7-8-10-18-20. Cherry Hill East had beaten Cherokee by three in the Olympic Conference Championships last month.

Sophomore Patrick Ditmars, senior Dylan Odud and sophomore Conor Jacob clinched the win for the Chiefs, Ditmars 11th in 16:53, Odud 12th in 16:54 and Jacob 16th in 17:08. Freshman Nick Kuenkel was Cherokee’s sixth finisher, 19th in 17:16, and junior Bradley Popler also raced, taking 36th in 17:44.

This is the first time Cherokee has won consecutive sectional titles since 1999 and 2000, when the Chiefs won their fourth and fifth in a row. Cherokee also won SJ-4 titles in 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2019. The Chiefs went on to win the state title last year.

Cherokee’s 10 sectional titles trails only Haddonfield [40], Haddon Township [20] and Cinnaminson [12] among South Jersey schools and is most among South Jersey Group 4 schools, three more than Cherry Hill East and Toms River North.

Southern’s Jackson Braddock, the state Group 4 champion last year and an 8:54 two-miler on the track, won the race in 16:02, matching Brady Shute of Gateway-Woodbury for fastest time of the day [The FAT  camera gave Shute a 2-100ths-of-a-second edge, 16:02.97 to 16:02.99.]

Clearview senior Anas Bensaoud ran 16:25 for 2nd, and Washington Township senior Julian Lawson was 5th at 16:31. Seniors Gabe Rodriguez and Aidan Eyre took 7th and 8th for Cherry Hill East in in 16:39 and 16:43, Egg Harbor Township senior Nick Valdivieso was 9th in 16:48, and Aidan Groff of Cherry Hill East took 10th in 16:52.

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