It all ended for Jack Dufton with a Coke and a smile.
Following the New York State Public High School Athletic Association track and field championships last year when he finished 23rd in the pentathlon, Dufton resolved to cut out bad foods from his diet and abstained from drinking soda. “I wanted to come back bigger, stronger, healthier,” said the Mattituck High School senior.
And he did. The results spoke for themselves.
Dufton broke his own school record on Saturday, taking 10th place in the pentathlon, fifth among Division II schools, in the state meet at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. He set personal records in four of the five events, earning a place on the podium for a medal and All-State recognition in the final meet of his high school career.
“I couldn’t go out a better way,” said Dufton, the top Long Island finisher who was ranked sixth among small school athletes. “Five events, four PRs, a new school record.”
It was only seven days earlier, in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier, when Dufton totaled 3,017 points to break a school record that had stood for 26 years. On Saturday, he put the finishing touches on a performance that left him with another high mark: 3,182 points. He reached that total with personal-best numbers in the 110-meter high hurdles (16.71 seconds), high jump (6 feet 2 inches), long jump (19-0) and 1,500 meters (4:18.69), which was the fastest time in that event. He also threw the shot put 31-10.
“I knew going into it (that) it was the last time I was going to be on a track as a high schooler, and I just wanted to leave it all out there and do the best that I could,” said Dufton, who called it the greatest day of his track career.
Maine-Endwell senior Mike Palmer was the pentathlon champion with 3,516 points.
“It’s a perfect way to go out,” Mattituck coach Karl Himmelmann said of Dufton. “I think if you were going to script the whole thing, I don’t think you would write it any better.”
The meet got off to a good start for Dufton. He received a sportsmanship award, which went to a boy and girl from each section, during Friday’s opening ceremonies. “Then, after that, I went to work,” he said.
After winning the 1,500 race, the final pentathlon event, Dufton was greeted by his sister Shelby, who brought him some refreshment, an ice-cold soda. It made for a sweet ending to a five-year track career at Mattituck for Dufton, who will run cross country and track for Amherst College (Massachusetts).
“It tasted amazing, the best thing I’ve tasted in a while,” he said. “It was victory.”
As for his eventful career with the Tuckers, Dufton said: “It’s been a storybook career for me, leaving with a lot of records, a lot of memories. I loved every second.”
Pfennig clocks personal record. Mattituck junior Melanie Pfennig ran a personal-record time of 10:33.09, leaving her 14th among Division II runners in the 3,000-meter finals on Friday.
Another Mattituck girl, sophomore Meg Dinizio, ranked 15th in the Division II preliminaries in the 200 in 27.75.
Photo Caption: Mattituck senior Jack Dufton, with a medal draped around his neck, broke his own school record in the pentathlon and finished fifth in Division II at the state meet. (Karl Himmelmann, courtesy photo)