Miles Schoedler glanced at Ben Potts during the senior-class race at the Cherokee Challenge cross country meet in Evesham Township on Saturday.

Schoedler, of Ocean City High School, was waiting for Haddonfield's Potts to make a move.

Schoedler figured Potts was waiting for him to do the same thing.

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Schoedler ended the waiting game with 400 meters left.

"I went before he did," Schoedler said. "It just felt right. If anybody else wasn't going to go, I felt I'd make a move there."

The decisive move gave Schoedler the win in a course-record time. He covered the 3,200 meters in 9 minutes, 28 seconds, breaking the record of 9:33 set last year by Haddonfield's Jonathan Vitez. Potts finished second in 9:33.

"I can't be happier," Schoedler said. "There's really nothing else I could have done better. It was a great day for the Ocean City team."

Schoedler's effort highlighted an outstanding day by local runners. Eric Johnson of Ocean City won the junior race in 9:44. Matt Nelson of Barnegat won the sophomore race in 9:55. The Ocean City boys won the team championship.

The 15th annual Cherokee Challenge was the first major event of the cross country season and featured more than 1,500 runners from more than 70 schools. One of the unique features of the Challenge is that runners compete against their own classes.

Schoedler, Potts and Robert Rawls of Triton broke away from the pack in the senior race. Schoedler and Potts let Rawls lead most of the way.

"We were all jostling," Schoedler said.

Schoedler began his move at the bottom of an uphill climb.

"I hammered the hill," he said, "and took off right at the top. I kicked to the finish line."

Johnson won the junior race by four seconds. Johnson is the younger brother of former Ocean City standout Brett Johnson, now a University of Virginia sophomore.

"Eric has come into his own," Ocean City coach Matt Purdue said. "He's much more confident. He's stronger. He's worked hard the last couple of months, and (Saturday) was a reflection of that."

In addition to the wins by Schoedler and Johnson, the Red Raiders had five other top-30 finishers: Andrew DeMaria (senior, 19th, 10:15), Dan Murray (junior, 14th, 10:29), Kevin Scott (sophomore, 14th, 10:40), David Gilhooley (sophomore, 27th, 11:03) and Louis Paone (freshman, sixth, 10:54).

"We beat a lot of good teams," Purdue said. "It's a confidence builder for the newer guys."

In the sophomore race, Nelson beat Delsea's Nick Costello by nine seconds.

The Southern Regional boys also performed well. Eric Dragonetti (junior), Troy Gifford (junior) and Mike Evans (freshman) all finished in the top 10 of their respective races. Dragonetti had the area's third-best time (9:51).

In girls events, sophomores ran the area's best times. Jill Smith of Southern Regional had the fastest time, running 12:09 to finish eighth in the sophomore race. Smith is no relation to 2009 Southern graduate Jill Smith, who was one of the best runners in New Jersey history and is now at the University of Michigan.

(Brittany Grugan contributed to this report).

Contact Michael McGarry:



1. Jill Smith, Southern Regional (So.), 12:09; 2. Abigail Shafer, Egg Harbor Township (So.), 12:10; 3. Mary Kate Brelsford, Ocean City (So.), 12:11; 4. Emily Casey, Holy Spirit (Sr.), 12:19; 5. Christin Bettis, Hammonton (Jr.), 12:23; 6. Ashley Miller, Southern Regional (Sr.), 12:25; 7. Rachel Heussner, Southern Regional (Jr.), 12:26; 8. Catherine Nolan, Holy Spirit (Sr.), 12:26; 9. Christine McMahon, Lacey (Sr.), 12:29; 10. Bridget Pfeifer, Absegami (Sr.), 12:35;


1. Miles Schoedler, Ocean City (Sr.), 9:28; 2. Erik Johnson, Ocean City (Jr.), 9:44; 3. Eric Dragonetti, Southern Regional (Jr.), 9:51; 4. Matt Nelson, Barnegat (So.), 9:55; 5. Noah Jacobs, Lacey Township (Jr.), 10:10; 6. Andrew DeMaria, Ocean City (Sr.), 10:15; 7. Joseph Mandara, Barnegat (So.), 10:18; 8. Brandon Skeie, Southern Regional (Sr.), 10:18; 9. Troy Gifford, Southern Regional (Jr.), 10:23; 10. Liam Dingman, Egg Harbor Township (Sr.), 10:26.

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