The Cougars finishing in fourth place at the South Jersey Group IV sectional last weekend to qualify for Saturday’s state finals meet.
By JOHN HAPP
Special to the Sun
The Cherry Hill East boys cross country team is heading to the state Group IV finals for the ninth consecutive year after finishing fourth at the South Jersey Group IV sectional at Delsea High School in Franklinville. The nine consecutive years ties East with Southern Regional, who finished fifth, as the longest active streak. Cherokee has the longest streak of 15 years from 1997 until 2012.
To advance to the state finals a team must finish in the top five at sectionals. Nineteen schools and 124 runners competed in the Group IV sectional that was won by Olympic Conference rival Cherokee. In fact, if one did not look closely, the South Jersey final looked a lot like the Olympic Conference American Division, which includes Cherokee (first), Cherry Hill East (fourth) and Lenape (sixth). Also qualifying for the state finals was Kingsway (second) and Toms River North (third).
Cherry Hill East’s team featured three runners in the top 14. However, Cherokee had three runners in the top four. Cherry Hill East was again led by their senior class. Tyler Parsons (fifth, 15:54) improved his time from last year by 39 seconds. Marc Meltzer (seventh, 16:02) took 29 seconds off his 2015 time. Meltzer has run in the state sectionals and finals all four years of his high school career. Michael Onu (14th, 16:31) ran in his first cross country sectional. Fourth for Cherry Hill East was sophomore Kyle Krell (44th, 17:06). Also pointing for Cherry Hill East was senior Noah Preihs (46th, 17:09) who improved by 16 seconds. Also competing for varsity was junior Jeremy Helfand (50th, 17:15) and sophomore Andy Zhong (84th, 18:04).
Parsons’ time was the third best time ever by a Cherry Hill East runner in the South Jersey sectional and only the fourth time sixteen minutes has been broken. The only two faster times were by Aaron Groff in 2014 and 2015. Meltzer’s time ranks sixth all-time. Krell’s time ranks as the seventh best time ever by a Cherry Hill East sophomore in the South Jersey sectional.
Next up is the state Group IV finals at iconic Holmdel Park. The state finals feature the top five teams from the four sectionals. Should Cherry Hill East finish in the top three it will advance to the Meet Of Champions for the fourth consecutive year.