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South Jersey Cross Country:
SJTC Competes In AAU XC National Championship

Saturday, December 4, 1999


On Saturday, December 4, the South Jersey Track Club (SJTC) captured 3rd place in the (Bantam-Boy) 9-10 year old division at the recent AAU Cross Country National Championship in Lexington, Kentucky. The team was lead by 9 year old Dale Holzer from Erial, Brandon Smith of Marlton, Michael "Scooby" Murray of Sicklerville, Zach Holzer, Dale's older brother, Kevin Shickling, Marlton and Kevin Cronin of Linwood. SJTC departed New Jersey on Thursday, Dec 2 and returned from Kentucky on Sunday, Dec. 6 having made a statement that in 3 short years, they have become one of the premier youth cross country programs in the nation. Every male and female age-group team from their 9-10 year olds to their 15-16 year olds finished in the top 10, in the races they competed in.

The AAU is recognized as the highest level of youth athletic competition in America. Over the years, the young athletes who have competed in the AAU sports competitions are the who's-who of American athletics. This is a tremendous accomplishment for a young athlete, and provides memories that last a lifetime. Athletes from the South Jersey Track Club competed in races that consisted of as many as 400 athletes, who qualified to be there by being the best in their region.

According to Coach Mike, the head coach and president, this is the highest finish of any cross country team from the South Jersey area that he can recall. These kids worked really hard, they never missed a day of training, even during the holiday, the rain or the recent cold spell. Most people have no idea how difficult it to finish this high at the Nationals. A national caliber 9-10 year old is about as good as many high school athletes, you have to develop 5 to 8 kids capable of running at that level. Most teams would consider themselves fortunate to have one kid capable of competing at the Nationals. It is very difficult for a private club like SJTC to compete against clubs like the Brocov Blazers, which is an all-star team consisting of the best athletes from the entire state of Missouri and Kansas, Team Kentucky, which is the team that represent the entire state of Kentucky and closer to home, Lakeland, which is a combination of 13 township teams in North Jersey who ban together to form a an all-star team or the Philadelphia CYO, which is a program consisting of the best athletes from all of the Catholics schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, just to name a few.

People are usually shocked when I tell them that in spite of our name South Jersey Track Club, we don't represent half the state of New Jersey, we don't even represent South Jersey, we are one of several clubs in South Jersey and that we are not an all-star were where our athletes are chosen through some selection process. Any kid who enjoys running and wants to train has an opportunity compete for us. What is unfortunate and equally surprising to people is when I tell them that no state, township or any municipal government or major super market chain or whatever, funds us. We rely solely on a few fundraisers; a couple of donations, but most of our expenditures are paid for by parents out of their pockets. Youth cross country is so big in many areas of the country and some teams are so well funded that they own their luxury tour buses or fly to meets that are more than a couple hundred miles away. I write letters to schools asking for permission for our kids to be excused for a day and be allowed to take with them the school work they would have received for that day, so that they can travel to the national meet; this does not always work. Some teams and individuals are given pep rallies by their schools the day before they leave.

SJTC athletes qualified for the nationals by finishing in the top 12 as an individual athlete or on a team that finished in the top 3 among teams at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. The Mid-Atlantic Region, which consists of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, is considered one of the most competitive regions in the country; we had 49 athletes compete in the Regional meets and 43 of those advanced to the Nationals. Of the 43 athletes who qualified, we produced 3 individual all-Americans, Jennifer Croghan, Nutley, Matthew Soult, Mt. Holly and Keith Kreiger of Marlton. But, what SJTC is most proud of is the many kids who get involved in running just for the fun of it and through our program, go on to become successful high school and college athletes. About half of this year's top freshmen in the state of New Jersey came through our program. SJTC is also proud of helping to increase the popularity of cross country at the middle school level in South Jersey, which in turn will provide our high schools with a continuous steam of kids who will become productive members of their high school teams. The recent Cape-Atlantic Middle School Cross Country Championship had 14 schools participate, parts of Burlington and parts of Camden Country have active middle school cross country leagues. In addition, SJTC host their own middle school cross country meet. The main reasons why cross country is becoming very popular at the middle school level is because of the low insurance liability, low cost, no special facilities or equipment is needed and it is a sport that kids of all body types can enjoy.

The following athletes represented the South Jersey Track Club at the national and regional meet:

NameAgeCity, State
Kayce Briney10Ocean View, NJ
Elizabeth Richardson10Tuckahoe, NJ
Linsey Czuba10Marlon, NJ
Persha Lane10Sicklerville, NJ
Megan Mitchell10Marlon, NJ
Tracey Campanella10Flemington, NJ
Jennifer Croghan10Nutley, NJ
Jennifer Ennis10Parsippany, NJ
Lillian Floyd11Sewell, NJ
Kristina Slivinski11Mount Laurel, NJ
Christa Johnson12West Berlin, NJ
Margaret Simms12Sicklerville, NJ
Brenda Briney13Ocean View, NJ
Lauren Campanella13Flemington, NJ
Paula Giguere13Schnecksville, PA
Melanie Martin13Ringoes, NJ
Krystyn Fenon14Palmerton, PA
Dana Kaufman14Hammonton, NJ
LaShell Green15Seaford, DE
Kathryn Wardenski15Manahawkin, NJ
Jill Hajec16Seaford, DE
Jamie Netwall16Allentown, PA
Jennifer Netwall16Allentown, PA
Jessica Riveria16Dover, DE
Jessica Veliante16Mayslanding, NJ
Tiffani Howells17Allentown, PA
Kevin Bjornson8Haddon Twp, NJ
Dale Holzer9Erial, NJ
Michael Murray9Sicklerville, NJ
Kevin Schickling9Marlton, NJ
Kevin Cronin10Linwood, NJ
Zacharey Holzer10Erial, NJ
Brandon Smith10Marlton, NJ
Kevin McFadden12New Tripoli, PA
Dennis Drury12Allentown, PA
Justine Heinze12Woodbury, NJ
Alex Soult12Mount Holly, NJ
Alex Gangaware12Allentown, PA
Chris Pannone13Whitehouse Station, NJ
Nathan King14Riverside, NJ
Jeff Bjornson14Haddon Twp, NJ
Keith Kreiger14Easham
Greg Smith14Stratford, NJ
Matt Soult14Mount Holly, NJ
Kent Zwikl14Allentown, PA
Daniel DeGeorge15West Berlin, NJ
John Richardson15Tuckahoe, NJ
Adam Breisch15Quakertown, PA
Margarito Munive18Margate, NJ
Joe Breisch18Quakertown, PA

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