Croteau is pleasantly surprised in opening meet

Ivy Croteau’s victory led Southold to its win over Mattituck in the first League VII dual meet for both teams.

Ivy Croteau confesses that she did not train much over the summer. That only made things tougher for her when preseason practice started. “Preseason was a bit of a kick in the gut,” said the top runner on the Southold High School girls cross-country team.

Even so, Croteau was able to kick into high gear Tuesday when her winning performance led Southold to a 22-36 defeat of Mattituck in the season-opening dual meet for both teams. The senior clocked a time of 21 minutes 33 seconds for the First Settlers in the Suffolk County League VII meet at Indian Island County Park’s 3.1-mile course in Riverhead.

“I was really happy and surprised,” Croteau said. “It’s a really good starting point. I’m really happy with it.”

Croteau said she ran her first competitive race last season in a time that was about a minute slower. At a recent training session, she ran over 23 minutes, but that, she explained, was at 7 a.m.

With her victory, Croteau helped make the debut of Southold’s new coach, Karl Himmelmann, a winning one. Himmelmann places an emphasis on his runners pacing themselves for a strong finish, and Croteau did just that.

“Ivy had a wonderful time,” Himmelmann said. “She had a very strong race today, and she looked strong at the finish.”

A three-time qualifier for the state championships, Croteau finished 50th among Class D runners last year with a time of 21:14.8. She is hoping for better this year, saying, “I’m going to confidently say, if not naively, that I’m going to break 20 [minutes] this year.”

Four of the first six places on Tuesday went to Southold. Colette Steele of Southold and Mattituck’s Sara Paparatto both crossed the finish line in 24:20. Rounding out the top 10 were Meghan Kelly of Southold (24:48), Megan Finn of Mattituck (24:48), Savanna Campbell of Southold (25:59), Shelby Pickerell of Southold (26:06), Jenny Roslak of Mattituck (26:46), Shannon Guyer of Mattituck (27:13) and Yuliya Palianok of Southold (26:23).

“Winning the first meet is always good,” Croteau said. “I’m happy, not just with myself, I’m happy for the whole team.”

Paparatto, a sophomore who made it to the state meet last year for the first time, said she lost sight of Croteau during the first mile. “I’m still getting there because I didn’t really run over the summer, but it’s getting there,” said Paparatto, whose career-best time was the 23:33 she posted at last year’s state qualifying meet.

Mattituck Coach Jean Mahoney said, “I think that they’re doing very well. It’s only the beginning. Of course I’m disappointed by the score, but I’m very excited about their times. They ran very well. All we’ve done so far is improve every time we’ve timed and raced.”

A winning start can do wonders for a team’s spirits, as the First Settlers know full well.

“They’re thrilled,” Himmelmann said of his runners before heading to the happy team bus for the drive home. “They’re flying high right now, and it’s great to see.”

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