Patrick Ditmars, Conor Jacob lead Cherokee to 3rd straight SJ-4 title, Kingsway’s Kyle Rakitis individual winner!!!

Juniors Patrick Ditmars and Conor Jacob both ran well under 16 minutes, placing 2nd and 3rd and leading Cherokee to its third straight sectional title and 11th overall.

Senior Kyle Rakitis ran 15:15 to become Kingsway’s first individual winner in seven years. That was the 2nd-fastest time of the day, behind Dennis Fortuna’s course-record 15:09 and 2nd-fastest in course history. It’s also his fastest 5,000 on any course. He ran 15:30 last month at Cumberland Regional.

The last Kingsway boy to win a sectional title was Noah Culbreath, who won S.J.-4 in 2013 and 2014. Kingsway’s only other individual winners were in Group 3 – Ozzie Huerta in 2005 and Tim Cooke in 2011.

Cherokee, racing without one of its top runners, injured Nick Kuenkel, still averaged 16:13 for its five scorers on the 5,000-meter course at DREAM Park in Logan Township – 4th-fastest in course history and second-fastest of the day – and packed its first five runners in 56 seconds to win the South Jersey Group 4 championship.

Ditmars took second in 15:43, a one-second all-course PR, and Jacob ran 15:52, a 38-second all-course PR.

Senior Bradley Popler placed 14th in 16:21, sophomore Robert Poplau 20th in 16:27 and senior Joseph Natoli 26th in 16:39 formed the rest of Cherokee’s top 5, and junior Thomas Bromley  and sophomore Andrew Free ran 17:14 and 17:24 for 38th and 43rd overall.

Cherokee previously won South Jersey Group 4 XC titles in 1998, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2016, 2019 and 2020. This is the first time since 1998 through 2000 the Chiefs have won three straight.  

Cherokee held a slim 39-41 lead over Southern Regional after four runners before Natoli finished nine places ahead of Southern’s fifth runner.

Joining Cherokee and Southern representing South Jersey Group 4 at states next Saturday at Holmdel are Cherry Hill East [103], Kingsway [139] and Washington Township [141].

Also in the top 10 from South Jersey: Washington Township senior Chris Colavita [4th 15:54], Rancocas Valley senior Andre Faigal [5th 15:55], R.V. junior Ryan Smith [8th 16:02] and Lenape senior Jake Buniva [9th 16:05].

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