By AUBRIE GEORGE
The Cherokee girls cross country team ran its way into history this season when it became the school’s first team to medal at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Meet of Champions.
But even before the season-culminating meet in Holmdel this November, the team had been winning meets and runners had been breaking records.
Head coach Mark Jarvis said the team’s success streak seemed to start with a win at the Burlington County Open this October.
From there, the girls went on to place second at the Olympic Conference American Division Championship before losing a tie-breaker to place second at sectionals.
At the state championship meet, the team placed fifth and won the second wild card to compete at the Meet of Champions. There, the season culminated when the team placed sixth overall out of 20 teams.
“It just seemed from the Burlington County Open on they were winning. Then they showed up and put it all together on the same day,” Jarvis said.
This was the second time Jarvis has seen Cherokee’s girls cross-country team to a Meet of Champions, but it was the first time the team medaled. In 2004, Cherokee competed at the meet and placed eighth overall.
Jarvis noted improvements some of Cherokee’s runners had made between states and the Meet of Champions.
“It was pretty remarkable because a week before at the state meet, which is the same course, just over the course of a week our number two runner, Megan Charbeneau, had a 39 second improvement,” Jarvis said.
There were other improvements, too, he said. Juniors Erin O’Leary and Alyssa Litty both improved their times by 28 seconds, and Jamie Kehoe, also a junior, improved her time by 14 seconds.
Looking back on his 10 years coaching the girls’ cross-country team at Cherokee, Jarvis said this team has been, by far, the best team the school has ever seen.
“I think they’re just a hard-working group of girls and they’ve been a pretty close knit team all season,” he said.
He noted the success of lead runner Megan Lacy, who is the NJISAA Group IV individual champion.
Lacy set several records this season, including becoming the first girl in Burlington County to break 18 minutes.
“She’s actually the second best runner in the state,” Jarvis said. “She led the way and everyone else just sort of followed.
“Not that luck has anything to do with it, but we didn’t have anybody get sick, and we were relatively injury free,” Jarvis said. “A lot of those things determine how long your season is going to be. We were really happy with how this season played out.”
Last week, the girls were awarded “best team” by the South Jersey Track Coaches Association. Jarvis was named “girls coach of the year” by the association.