High school winter track is a different animal than the spring version in a number of ways. That includes the makeup of the Section XI Championships.
In the winter season, teams are not divided into classes for the Suffolk County meet. Regardless of size, all the schools are thrown into the same pot. May the fastest and the strongest emerge on top.
“Everybody’s in it, the best of the best,” said Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Meg Tuthill.
And Tuthill is among the best as the county’s new 1,000-meter champion.
Tuthill, who lives in Southold and is in her sixth season of winter track, will make her third appearance in the state meet on March 5 at Cornell University. The only difference is this time she will do so as a county champion.
Tuthill used her strong kick down the stretch to take the lead with about 60 meters left in the 1,000 race at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Wednesday night. She triumphed in 2 minutes 55.26 seconds, topping second-place Alexandra DeCicco of Sachem East (2:56.12). McGann-Mercy junior Kaitlyn Butterfield, who lives in Greenport, finished fifth in 3:02.79.
Asked how this meet compared to the previous two state qualifiers she competed in, Tuthill said: “Today is definitely the most special. Being a county champ means so much to me.”
“Second place is great, too, but there’s just something about being a champion,” she said, adding, “I will still call this the best race of my life.”
Tuthill and Butterfield also joined juniors Devyn O’Brien and Maddie Joinnides on a 4×800-meter relay team that took second place in 9:52.07. Sachem East won in 9:30.65.
Melanie Pfennig became the first Mattituck girl to ever compete in the Section XI Championships. The junior for the Tuckers, who are in their first season, was ninth among the 12 girls who started the 3,000-meter race (one did not finish).
“It’s one big pool, so you’re running against girls who are better than you, which makes you a better runner,” said Pfennig, whose time was 10:59.99. “It was definitely a good experience.”
A couple of weeks earlier, Pfennig turned in a personal-record time of 10:48 at The Armory in New York City.
“She keeps getting better and the girls know about her,” Mattituck coach Chris Robinson said. “Her name is out there.”
How does Pfennig like the demanding 3,000?
“Sometimes I say I like it because each [200-meter] lap is so quick, and sometimes I say I miss being outside and only running eight laps instead of 15,” she said. “So, I guess it’s a love-hate relationship.”
DUFTON HITS WALL Jack Dufton is known for pushing the limit when he competes in track. On Wednesday night the Mattituck senior pushed himself so hard that he reached his limitation.
After leading for over 800 meters in the 1,000 race in the Section XI Championships, Dufton ran into trouble.
“At the end of the fourth lap, my legs just started to give out on me,” he said. “My arms, everything just ran out of gas, just gave up on me. I hit the wall and it didn’t feel good then, and it did not feel good after.”
Dufton completed the race in 2:47.01 (Hauppauge senior Nick Beglane won in 2:34.18), but he stumbled off the track and looked unsteady on his feet. He was attended to by Mattituck coaches in the high jump area, where he was to begin competition in the high jump. But Dufton was in no condition for that and withdrew from the event.
“I was supposed to high jump immediately after running the 1,000, but I could barely stand, so I had to throw in the towel,” he said.
Mattituck coach Karl Himmelmann said: “I know that feeling when you push your body to the limit and it’s not going to go any further. Jack, number one, is a competitor. He likes to win. He likes to push himself as much as he can.”
Dufton is more accustomed to running the 800 outdoors than the 1,000 indoors.
“I thought the 800 was tough and then I had to run the 1,000,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re expected to keep the 800 pace for another lap. That’s really the only way to describe it.”
Darius Brew, the Mattituck senior who high jumped 6 feet 6 inches in the Section XI Small School Championships on Jan. 25, was scheduled to compete Wednesday, but was not present. Himmelmann attributed Brew’s absence to “personal issues.”
Photo Caption: McGann-Mercy senior Mug Tutill, followed by teammate Kaitlyn Butterfield, won the 1,000 on Wednesday night. (Credit: Bill Landon)