Luke Johnson Impresses in XC Debut at Cherokee Challenge

Luke Johnson after setting the fastest time of the meet at 9:33, watch the race here. 

Full Results | Videos | Photos

The Cherokee Challenge amassed over 2,700 athletes on Saturday to easily be crowned as the biggest season opening meet of the weekend for New Jersey. The large fields and class races led to spotlight worthy performances, big PRs on the 3200m course, and new names to keep an eye on this season. 

Luke Johnson's Big Debut! 

Possibly the biggest run of the day came during the final race, out of the boys senior division, where West Windsor Plainsboro North's Luke Johnson laid down a 9:33 for the win. This was Johnson's first career cross country meet having switched over from football for his senior year, he's made it to the Meet of Champions multiple times on the track with PRs of 4:15.46 in the 1600m and 9:25.71 for 3200m.

This overall meet leading performance was just seven seconds off of the course record of 9:26 held by Cherokee's Shawn Wilson since 2012. Johnson wasn't the only winner for NJ#10 ranked WWP North, Jeffrey Chen won the sophomore division with a time of 10:03, the ninth best run of the meet. 

As a team WWP North finished second in the overall MileSplit merge. 

Summit Earns the Co-Ed Team Win

The Cherokee Challenge awards the top team in three divisions, the combined score of the top finisher in each of the four class races for boys and girls as well as the combined co-ed score. 

Challenge Team Score: Boys | Girls | Co-Ed 

Ocean City won the boys Challenge title with a total of 29 points thanks to their top finishers in each race freshmen to seniors scoring 14th, 4th, 6th, and 5th. Ocean City's fastest time of the day came from senior Luke Kramer who finished fifth running 10:02.  

The Summit girls dominated their division with 17 points finishing second in both the freshmen and sophomore divisions followed by a fourth and ninth place finish by their top junior and senior for 17 points. A 53 point lead carried over to the co-ed division where Summit won with a total of 84 over Cherokee's 134. 

Summit's top performer was Lara Cota who finished second in the sophomore race running 12:00. 

RBC and Cherokee Have Big Days, MileSplit Merge

Red Bank Catholic's Maddy Kopec took home the senior division win and the overall meet lead at 11:33 holding off the same talented top four girls who battled last year as juniors at this meet, Kate Rathman of Cherokee, Cynthia Boryeskne of Edison, and Victoria Vanriele who had won three straight years coming into this event.  

RBC had two winners on the day with freshman Cate DeSousa leading her division at 12:02, adding to an already talented RBC squad as a newcomer. DeSousa's time ended up eighth in the merge and was her team's second best performance. With all the races together and scoring top five RBC brought home 86 points with a 12:15 average. Allentown had a solid meet behind them as well with a 107 point total. 


We already covered Luke Johnson's meet leading 9:33 above, his WWP North team combined for 116 points in our merge to rank second behind Cherokee's 108.

While Cherokee didn't have division winners they ran strong in their junior senior races to a five man average of 10:09. Led by senior Tyler Jackson with the fifth fastest time of the meet at 10:02 his team had four in the top 20 overall and a top five split of just 26 seconds and this is without running their top runner Ethan Wechsler. 

More Highlights

  • The boys junior race went to Jackson Braddock of Southern Regional at 9:42, the second fastest time of the meet. Braddock is feeling strong and healthy after missing out on most of his last cross and spring track seasons due to injury. Sandwiched between those two seasons he had made it to the Indoor Meet of Champions in the 1600m to place 11th with a 4:21.15 as a sophomore. Could be a big season from this young star. 
  • Haddon Heights' Jack Bolling brought home the freshmen win with a 10:49.
  • In the girls junior race Sophie Steidle of Collingswood finished second in her division for the second straight year. Steidle ran a course PR of 12:14 only finishing behind Pennsylvania's Tatum Lynch at 11:53.
  • Allentown's Andie Murray ran the third fastest time of the meet while winning the sophomore race with her 11:46. She doesn't run spring due to softball but this past indoor season she was ninth at the Meet of Champions in the 800m with a 2:17.98. Keep an eye out for Murray this season. 
  • The middle school division races saw two defending champs collect their second straight. The boys race went to Nick Kuenkel of Marlton running 7:41 over the 2400m course, could add strength to the Cherokee squad next year as a freshman. The girls division saw Emma Zawatski, running unattached, win with over a 30 second lead at 8:06. She'll also be joining the high school ranks next season as well.