Jack Dufton, one of the greatest track and field athletes Mattituck High School has seen in recent memory, has moved on. He is now running for Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Life after Dufton will undoubtedly be different for the Tuckers, and it calls for a different approach.
“One of the first things I told the kids at the beginning of this year is that they need to go into every single meet with an attitude that each one of them has the potential of scoring points for us,” coach Karl Himmelmann said. “This is not going to be a team this year that is built around two or three kids. This is going to be a team where everybody can contribute.”
Mattituck went 4-1 last year, sharing the League VII title with Port Jefferson. It was Mattituck’s first league title in at least 12 years, according to Himmelmann.
Two veterans, senior Dan Harkin and junior Justin Lake, lead the way. They can each run a variety of events and are potential pentathletes. “I would call them my utility players,” said Himmelmann.
Seniors Tristen Foranda, Pando Pandeli and Joseph Kelly were members of a 4×100-meter relay team that reached the division finals last year. Another senior, Carter Montgomery, throws the shot put and discus. Sophomore Christian Demchak runs long distance.
“I think the strength of our team is its diversity,” Himmelmann said. “We have distance kids. We have jumpers. We have throwers. It’s not just specifically strong in one area. I think we have the potential to be strong in a lot of areas.”
“Every single person on that roster needs to contribute to our success,” he added. “They need to have that attitude. This is their opportunity to step up and take advantage of the situation that is in front of them.”
Greenport/Southold’s new coach, Nick Fioretti, hasn’t flinched in the face of a variety of obstacles thrown his way: bad weather, athletes’ conflicts with other extracurricular activities and no all-weather track to train on (Greenport High School has a cinder track that is in rough shape).
And yet, Fioretti isn’t making excuses.
“A track doesn’t make your athletes any less tough or any slower,” he said. “They are troubles, but they are troubles that we can work around. I think getting everyone in practice every day is a difficult thing. It’s a learning curve and if they’re not there, they’re not learning.”
Fioretti takes over a 28-athlete roster, more than half of which is made up of ninth- and 10th-graders.
The Clippers (3-2) are led by senior captain Adolfo Merino-Romano, who runs middle and long distances. Among the other returning talent are sophomore Miguel Torres, (400, 400 intermediate hurdles), junior Sean McCabe (triple jump), senior Ben Bracken (high jump), senior Oscar Coc Tomas (long jump) and senior Jay Scully (sprints). Senior high jumper Eduardo Sanchez is in his first year on the team.
“I like the leadership and I like their positive attitudes,” Fioretti said. “I look for people who are dedicated and willing to work hard.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Dan Harkin can compete in a variety of events for the Tuckers. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)