Led by senior Nicole Clifford in 11th place, the Cherokee girls turned in a historic performance Saturday, placing five girls under 20 minutes and becoming the first South Jersey school in 18 years to win the XC Meet of Champions.
Cherokee outscored Ridgewood 117-126 to join Moorestown and Shawnee as only the third South Jersey program to win the M-of-C in the meet’s 49 years of existence.
Shawnee won in 1991, 1997, 2002 and 2003 and Moorestown in 2001.
Clifford ran 18:43, junior Kelsey Niglio placed 35th in 19:22, sophomore Kerry O’Day 38th in 19:24, sophomore Olivia Parkinson 44th in 19:30 and freshman Megan Niglio 60th in 19:58.
Sophomore Alaina Bromley and senior Noelle Falzone also raced for Cherokee. Bromley ran 21:05 and Falzone 21:45.
As far as team scoring points, Cherokee went 8-22-24-26-37 to Ridgewood’s 9-16-21-39-41. So Ridgewood was up 46-54 through three runners before Parkinson finished 13 places ahead of Ridgewood’s fourth runner.
Ridgewood was ranked No. 1 in the state until Cherokee beat them at the state Group 4 meet on the same course last weekend.
Top-ranked Colts Neck was 3rd with 147 points, three-time defending champion North Hunterdon was 4th with 149 and Haddonfield was 5th with 179. So Cherokee has out-raced the No. 1 team in the state on back-to-back Saturdays.
The nine-point margin of victory is the smallest since 2014, when Red Bank Catholic won by seven (88-95) over Hillsborough.
Cherokee’s five scorers averaged 19:23, fastest ever by a South Jersey school over the challenging 5,000-meter Holmdel County Park course. The previous record was Haddonfield’s 19:31 last fall at the Holmdel Invitational, which replaced the cancelled Meet of Champions.
Clifford’s 18:43 makes her the 2nd-fastest Cherokee girl ever at Holmdel. Megan Lacy ran 17:55 at the 2010 Meet of Champions and sub 18:30 five other times.
This was only Cherokee’s third trip ever to the Meet of Champions. The Chiefs placed 8th in 2004 and 6th in 2010.
Congrats to coach Mark Jarvis and assistant Dave Petruzzi and the entire Cherokee program for this monumental achievement!
Next weekend Cherokee will race at the Nike XC Regionals at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.