If the athletes on the Mattituck High School girls track and field team have a noticeable bounce in their step these days, it may be because they have a brand new track to run on this year, a blue surface that gives runners some bounce.
The Tuckers recently did away with their old cinder track and have modernized with an all-weather surface. They have already seen the benefits of the new track. For one thing, they have been able to hold some outdoor practices that they might otherwise not have been able to had the cinder track still been in place.
“It’s just a different feeling coming out there than in the past from my experience as well as the girls,” coach Chris Robinson said. “They’re very excited about it. I’m very excited about it. The coaches are very excited about it.”
The new track will mean the Tuckers will have something they haven’t had in a while: home meets. They will christen their track with a meet April 13 against Bishop McGann-Mercy.
And there are other benefits, too, like defined lanes with exchange zones for relay teams to practice on.
The Tuckers were moved up from League VII to League VI last season and went 2-4. They are returning to League VII this season.
Robinson saw some good things such as personal records, also known in track shorthand as prs, last season.
“It was a tougher league and the competition was stronger, and I think we rose to the challenge,” he said. He added: “I thought we were very competitive. I thought the girls worked extremely hard, improved every single week. Every week you got to get better.
“All the work is done in practice, and they showed that. On meet day or invitational day they’re only running a couple of races, but practice is where they put the time in and they put the effort in to really show what they can do on meet days, and their times showed it, a lot of prs, a lot of successful stories.”
Two sophomores, Alya Ayoub (long jump, 100 meters) and Mel Pfennig (1,500 and 800), competed in the state qualifying meet last year. They were all-league athletes along with senior Kaylee Bergen, who will run the 3,000 and the 4×800-meter relay.
The other returners are: Emily Berezny, Taylor Berkoski, Charley Claudio, Jacky Diaz, Sarah Goerler, Abby Graeb, Christina Hatzinikolaou, Sam Husak, Tina Imbriano, Emily Mincielli, Johanna Pedone, Grace Pellerino, Dawn Rochon, Sascha Rosin, Katie Stumpf and Nikki Zurawski. Amy Macaluso is a new addition who could make an impact as a sprinter.
Perhaps the new track encouraged more athletes to come out for the team. The Tuckers have 34 athletes on their roster. They finished last season with about 23, said Robinson.
“We do have some new faces, which I think is another benefit of having a new track,” he said. “Girls are coming out, trying to take a chance at this sport.”
Last season was the first for the fledgling Greenport/Southold team. Just the fact that the Clippers were running track and field was a story.
“Last year’s team was about making the season happen,” coach Mike Gunther said. “It was the first time. Getting through the season was the critical marker.”
The Clippers did that, going 1-5 (their win coming against The Ross School).
Now Year 2 is here. What is the team’s goal for this coming season?
“To see this team set the tone for what Greenport/Southold track is going to be as far as work ethic, as far as competition within the team and outside,” said Gunther.
A nice plus has already been seen. The Clippers finished last season with 13 athletes. They now have 26.
More numbers are nice. Because they couldn’t cover all the events last year, the Clippers would start a dual meet down some 30 points because of forfeited events. Now, Gunther said, they have the personnel to cover all of the events except for the pole vault.
“Not only do we have more kids, but we have more kids committed to being track and field athletes,” said Gunther. He added, “They’re motivated.”
More bodies mean more competition — during practices and meets.
“Now there’s competition,” Gunther said. “They’re pushing each other and they’re willing to compete with each other. It was a foreign concept for a lot of them last year.”
The team, captained by seniors Heather Koscinch and Jasmine Fell, has a mix of returning athletes and new faces. Koscinch will run the 400 and 800 meters. Fell will handle a leg of the 4×100-meter relay.
Among the other notable returners are Angelina Pagano, a sophomore who was an all-league hurdler. Stephanie King, Maia Mazzaferro, Charis Stoner and Claudia Steinmuller are expected to be consistent scorers in the throwing events. Kyla Smiley is a 4×100 relay runner.
“They’ve got good work ethic and they’re athletic,” said Gunther, who noted that some of the athletes have been working out in the weight room in the off-season. “I’m coming in not cold. Does that translate into more wins? I’m not sure.”
The Clippers didn’t get to set foot on their cinder track at Greenport High School until last Thursday. And then it snowed on Friday and Saturday, making life a little more complicated for them.
“It sets you back a lot,” Gunther said of the impact that being forced indoors has on the training schedule.
The Clippers have had to be creative when their track wasn’t suitable for running by taking practices to a parking lot or doing yoga indoors.
Gunther sounded like he was ready for a break in the weather. He said, “I look forward to complaining about the heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes.”