The plan for the Mattituck boys track and field team this year is to run less and win more.
Mattituck’s new approach is a response to last season, coach Pete Hansen said, when the Tuckers bit off more than they could chew.
“I think we’re running harder, but we’re running less,” he said. “I think we’re running smarter.”
Mattituck (2-4 last year) may not dominate in some events like it did last season, but Hansen believes it is a more well-rounded team that could be ranked among the top three in Suffolk County League VII along with Port Jefferson and The Stony Brook School.
Long-distance running has traditionally been a Mattituck strength, and undoubtedly remains so with all-league miler Corey Zlatniski, but there is more to the Tuckers than that.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people in some of the other events,” Hansen said. “I think we’re going to get some points in the throws and the jumps and some of the shorter races.”
In the Suffolk Division III Championships last year, Zlatniski struggled in the heat yet still finished eighth in the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes 42.79 seconds. He chipped one second off his previous personal-best time. In fact, Hansen said, Zlatniski’s drive to get faster has propelled him to take almost 35 seconds off his time from two years ago. Just what the senior will achieve this year is anyone’s guess.
“If that kid had just 10 more races, he would improve 10 more seconds,” Hansen said. “He improved every race. He has a lot of talent, but he’s willing to learn and listen. He’ll always ask questions. I don’t think one person could say one bad thing about Corey, not one person.”
In addition to Zlatniski, Mattituck has others who ran for a league champion cross-country team last fall, long-distance runners like Anthony Howell, Ralph Pugliese and Clay Davis.
And there are others who could make an impact. Jared Schenone has thrown the discus over 120 feet while “standing still,” said Hansen. Trevor Bush (triple jump), Chris Wahlers (400-meter intermediate hurdles), Sal Loverde (discus, long jump, 400) and Daniel Wells (throws) could also make an impact.
“Those guys are going to help us out,” said Hansen.
So should three junior varsity soccer players — Erik Schwartz, Michael O’Rourke and Evan Neighly — who have been recruited for the sprints.
Two eighth-graders have earned a place on the team as well. Darius Brew runs sprints and jumps; Jack Dufton runs long distance and jumps.
Last year’s team started with about 80 athletes, but ended up with 40. The current team has around 40 athletes, and Hansen expects them to still be on the team by the end of the season. “I think they’ll all stay,” he said. “This is just a different group of kids and they seem a lot more committed. It’s a different feeling than last year.”
Track is back in Greenport.
For the first time in at least over two decades, Greenport has its own track team. The Porters train at Mattituck High School and will follow the same dual-meet schedule as the Tuckers.
“I think it’s great,” coach Jack Martilotta said. “A lot of kids have been asking about it for a few years. You can see by the numbers that there’s quite a bit of interest in it.”
About 15 athletes are on the team, and Martilotta is hoping for more yet. The sport is not only relatively new to Greenport, but it’s new to the athletes.
“They’ve never done it before,” said Martilotta, a former track athlete for Mattituck High School and Bates College (Me.) who competed in the discus and the hammer throw.
That presents a fascinating scenario in which athletes attempt to find the events that best suit their skills.
“They’re still trying out events and trying to figure out where they best fit, but we got some very talented kids,” said Martilotta.
The Porters have already had some eye-opening performances in practice. Two shot putters, sophomore Codey Fisher and junior Ray Thilberg, have thrown over 40 feet. “That’s a good number in high school, 40 feet, so hopefully they keep that up and improve,” said Martilotta.
Ryan Weingart, a sophomore sprinter, and Camillo Torres, a junior middle-distance runner, should also help.
“I’m looking for the kids to find a niche and improve as the year goes on,” Martilotta said. “That’s what you’re always looking for in sports.”
The Porters may not be able to judge their season strictly by wins and losses, but they can focus on individual achievement.
“We don’t have the depth of a team like Mattituck or probably most teams, but that’s one of the nice things about track,” Martilotta said, “it’s an individual [sport, too]. There’s no reason some of these kids can’t win at their event in the meets.”
“We’re working hard and having fun,” he continued. “I think they’re excited. This is something they’ve been waiting to do for a long time, and I think they’re taking advantage of the opportunity and they’re really giving a lot of effort.”