Cherry Hill East’s Top Distance Runners Compete in Winter Sectionals.


Tushar Garg (‘21)

Maddie McNiff (‘22) crosses the finish line as winner of Heat 1 in the Girls’ 3200 meter run.

The Cherry Hill East Cougars sent 13 runners to compete in the Winter Distance Invitational at Cherokee High School Saturday morning. The weather was perfect with clear skies and no breeze felt from Cherokee’s crater of a stadium, allowing for the runners to put their best foot forward.

So while the stadium may have been much quieter than at past sectional meets, the energy could be felt from each race that took place.

The fun would kick off with the Girls’ 3200 Meter Run.

East would have five runners compete in Heat 1 of this event, but it was junior Maddie McNiff who stole the show.

Seniors Gabe Rodriguez and Aidan Groff take off in the final heat of the Boys’ 3200 meter run. (Tushar Garg (’21))

McNiff had a blazing start from the jump and would never look back, taking home a victory after outlasting Haddonfield Memorial’s Georgia Nussey (‘21). McNiff’s lead only expanded as the race progressed, and she finished with an 11:49 two mile run.

Junior Elliana Tonghini would beat out Haddonfield Memorial’s Riley Slootsky (‘24) for third in the heat, while Isabel Slimm (‘21), Sabrina Rounds (‘21) and Leah Gallagher (‘21) would all have solid runs as well.

In the Boys’ 3200, Michael McCurdy (‘23) would run a personal record of 10:23 in the first heat, which was followed by a spectacular second race.

Michelle Barry (‘22) expands her lead heading into the second lap of her Heat 1 Girls’ 800 meter run victory. (Tushar Garg (’21))

This second heat saw East’s Olympic Conference cross country champion Aidan Groff (‘21) take home fifth with a personal record of 9:40, while Gabe Rodriguez (‘21) and Justin Whitney (‘21) finished 8th and 14th overall respectively. This race started off tight, but eventually spread out, with the top runner running a 9:20.

Michelle Barry (‘22) would secure a huge victory with her personal record of 2:25 in the 800 meter run’s first heat. Barry took over heading into the second lap, separating from the pack and eventually beating out any potential competitors in the final sprint.

MaryKate McCurdy (‘21) would run a 2:27 in the second heat of this event, too.

Peter Tepper (‘23) is near the front of the pack on lap two of his Boys’ 800 meter finish. (Tushar Garg (’21))

The last race that saw East competitors was in the Boys’ 800, where Peter Tepper (‘23) and Mason Bulicki (‘21) would finish with a 2:04 and 2:11 respectively. Tepper’s personal record of a run was good enough for him to finish third in the first heat.

The team looks forward to a successful upcoming spring season, where these 13 runners and more will compete for more victories and potential records. Roll Cougs.