Cherry Hill West cross country looking to qualify for state finals as season reaches climax

The Lions had strong performances from both the boys and girls teams in the Camden County and Olympic Conference championships.

Cherry Hill West’s Robert Abrams won the Camden County Championship at Timber Creek Park earlier in October.

By JOHN HAPP

Special to the Sun

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In cross country, the state championships are held during the first three Saturdays in November. However before that, at the end of October, are several important championships. Recently the Camden County and Olympic Conference Cross Country Championships were held.

The Camden County Championship, held at the very challenging Timber Creek Park in Gloucester Township, featured a number of strong team and individual performances by the Cherry Hill West boys and girls. Senior Robert Abrams won the boys race in a field of 111 runners from 16 schools after having finished sixth in 2015. This was the second year that the county championship was held at Timber Creek Park and Abrams’ winning time of 16:56 was 29 seconds faster than last year’s winner, Jimmy Macpherson of Sterling. Timber Creek’s 5K course is very challenging with most of the race held in the woods over uneven terrain with little room to pass. Others pointing for the Cherry Hill West boys team were junior Kassan Gary and seniors Jason Howe, Aiden Curran and Andrew DiVito. Meanwhile, the girls team finished fourth behind county champion Paul VI, Sterling and Timber Creek. This was their best finish since finishing second in 2012. The girls team was led by junior Keller Bean (10th, 23:29) and sophomores Mirasha Williamson (17th, 24:04) and Elizabeth Santana (22nd, 24:13). Others pointing for the Cherry Hill West girls team were junior Cassaundra Hoch, juniors Emily Santana, Sally Johnston and Melissa Palladino.

The Olympic Conference Cross Country Championship was held on Oct. 21 at Rowan College at Gloucester County. The Olympic Conference is extremely competitive and features a number of larger Group IV schools that are perennial cross country powerhouses, like Shawnee, Cherokee, East and Seneca (Group III). The girls team was led by freshman Cameron Wright with a time of 22:26. In the Patriot Division that features Shawnee and Seneca, which have finished one-two in the conference for the last four years and were both South Jersey champions. In 2014, Wright just missed earning all-conference honors as she placed 15th. And for the second year in a row, Abrams earn all-conference first team honors when he finished second in the entire conference with a sub-16 minute time of 15:56 and finished less than three seconds behind winner Jack Shea of Cherokee. Others competing for varsity and pointing for West were seniors Jason Howe, Joel DeLeon, Curran and Dillon Hoffman, and juniors Andrew Howe and DiVito.

Next up will be the South Jersey Group III sectionals at Delsea High School in Franklinville on Nov. 5. For a team to advance to the state finals it must finish in the top five of its sectional competition. And for an individual to advance he or she must be in the top ten. Last year the Cherry Hill West boys team just missed qualifying for the state finals when they finished sixth, and the girls team finished eighth.

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