ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO
Mattituck sophomore Sara Paparatto, a state meet qualifier last year, thinks on her feet.
As the Mattituck Tuckers girls cross-country team prepares to improve upon last season’s 3-3 record in Suffolk County League VIII, Coach Jean Mahoney believes the team’s “tight-knit” closeness bodes well.
“These girls are all in this together,” Mahoney said. “The new girls are being embraced by the older girls. They all have great spirit. They enjoy being a team.”
The Tuckers are led by returning runners in sophomores Sara Paparatto, Megan Finn and Yuliya Palinok, along with junior Savanna Campbell.
Paparatto made it to the state meet last year.
“Sara loves to run,” Mahoney said. “She runs at a good pace. She is learning. She’s a thinker. She figures out where she needs to be.”
Mahoney said Finn “improved tremendously as the season went on.”
Palinok is a solid runner, who Mahoney said, “pushes to keep going.” Campbell, if she can avoid injuries, is poised to be a good runner. Mahoney said juniors Melissa Barry and Mirin Greenberger “encourage the other runners and are an integral part of our team.”
Mahoney pointed out a trio of newcomers who show promise: freshman Hallie Kujawski and sophomores Danielle Knuth and Alex Kluko. “Hallie is quiet, but she is a hard worker,” Mahoney said. “She sticks with it. She will eventually be one of our stars.” Knuth and Kluko, Mahoney said, “are making great strides.”
The Tuckers will open the season on Saturday at the Jim Smith Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park.
“We need to keep doing more hills,” Mahoney said. “Strategy is going to be important for us this year.”
The Southold First Settlers (1-5 last year) are returning two of their three runners in senior Ivy Croteau and sophomore Shelby Pickerell.
Croteau made the county and state meets last season.
“Ivy has a great attitude,” Southold’s new coach, Karl Himmelmann, said. “She is always smiling. Ivy has a tremendous amount of endurance and she is very fast. She always has a huge smile on her face.”
Himmelmann said Pickerell has “great technique and form. With a little more speed training, she is going to be a top runner.”
Three first-time runners — seniors Meghan Kelley and Jenny Roslak and freshman Colette Steele — show a lot of potential.
“Our girls all have solid running form,” Himmelmann said. “Their foot strike is mid-center. Their kick is straight and consistent.”
Himmelmann said “setting the proper pace” will be key for his team.
“The girls have to recognize the pace and not go out too fast,” he said. “They are allowed to use a stopwatch this season, so they need to know in their head what their pace is and keep it.”