Handoffs may be the Mattituck High School girls 4 x 100-meter relay team’s greatest strength. That’s ironic because a handoff nightmare spelled the end of its season last year.
Because of a handoff outside the exchange zone, the Tuckers were disqualified in last year’s state track and field meet. As painful an experience as that was, it sowed the seeds for this season.
Mattituck has once again qualified a 4 x 100 team to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. This time the Tuckers are looking for medals and redemption.
With a season-best time of 50.56 seconds, Mattituck finished 10th overall in the preliminaries at the Section XI Championships at Comsewogue High School Friday. That wasn’t enough to qualify the Tuckers for the finals, but it earned them a place in the state meet as Suffolk County’s top Class B team.
“I was ecstatic,” Mattituck senior Meg Dinizio said. “It’s big.”
That time sliced 13/100ths of a second off the time that freshman Nikki Searles, freshman Bella Masotti, junior Miranda Annunziata and Dinizio ran for second place in the recent Division III Championships. More importantly, it earned them a ticket to the state meet that will be run Friday and Saturday at Cicero North Syracuse High School. Junior Abby Heffernan will accompany that foursome as an alternate.
“We have some redemption that we want,” said coach Chris Robinson.
That’s a reference to last year’s exchange foul-up.
“It really stuck with me all year,” Dinizio said. “You don’t want that to happen. You don’t want that to be how you go out. So, it’s like a redemption year. It’s definitely like a trigger for all of us because it was very painful.”
The Tuckers didn’t pout about that disappointing showing, though. They did something about it. They practiced handoffs — again and again and again. They even passed the baton to each other while taking turns during a recent interview session.
“We worked on handoffs more than anything else, honestly,” Searles said. “We’re not perfect, but we’re pretty close. We’re getting better.”
Dinizio, who will be making her fourth appearance in the outdoor state meet, said: “We’re definitely right there. We have little things here and there, but it’s to the point where now we’re just being meticulous. We just want it to be perfect. We’re not the fastest girls in New York. We’re not. The handoffs [are] really what makes our team as good as we are.”
Dinizio and Masotti are the two returning members of last year’s relay team. With the graduations of Alya Ayoub and Amy Macaluso, the two available positions were filled by Annunziata, an alternate last year, and Searles, who ran for Mattituck’s “B” 4 x 100 team last year. Annunziata said the addition of Searles has made a “big difference.”
That foursome gained valuable experience working together this past winter as a league champion 4 x 200 relay team indoors, clocking 1:52.93.
“I don’t know if we have the fastest four girls in the county, but I think that what we do well, we do really well,” Robinson said. “I’m super proud of them. They’ve worked tirelessly to get to where they’re at and I told them they should be proud of the position they’re in. They earned it.”
Memory of last year’s critical mistake still stings, but the Tuckers are grateful for the opportunity to imprint a happier memory.
“It’s tough when you get on that stage and something like that happens,” Robinson said. “It’s tough to swallow. It stayed with them. I think it was definitely motivation for them this year not to let that happen again.”
Redemption is waiting at Cicero North Syracuse.
“It’s like we have a second chance,” Masotti said, “to not just prove to everyone else, but to prove to ourselves that we can do it and not have what happened last year.”
Greenport/Southold junior Emily Russell finished 14th in the high jump, clearing 4 feet, 10 inches.
In the boys 3,000-meter steeplechase, Greenport junior Mateo Arias was 14th in 10:52.04.
Photo caption: From left, Mattituck’s 4 x 100-meter relay team of junior Miranda Annunziata, freshman Nikki Searles, freshman Bella Masotti and senior Meg Dinizio (Credit: Bob Liepa)