BOYS TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW: Mattituck’s new coach puts an emphasis on relays

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck junior Corey Zlatniski is expected to compete in the triple jump, the 1,600 meters and run in a relay for the Tuckers.

As the first-year coach of the Mattituck High School boys track and field team, Pete Hansen doesn’t care what has transpired in the past. He is much more concerned about the present and the future.

Hansen has set two preseason goals for the Tuckers. “As a team, we want to win every league meet,” he said. “And, we want to improve in practice every day, even if it’s one tiny thing.

“If we would improve every single day, we would give every team a run for its money.”

Hansen, who last year was an assistant track coach at Riverhead High School, admitted he did not know the Tuckers’ record last spring. They finished 2-7.

But that was then.

The Tuckers will face the defending Suffolk County League VII champion Port Jefferson Royals (9-0) in their first meet at Port Jefferson on March 31.

“I’m not interested in what Port Jefferson did last year,” Hansen said. “It’s what they have this year. I told the kids that it’s not going to be easy for us. No team is going to roll over for us.”

But Hansen is optimistic about his team.

“We have some really good athletes,” he said. “We have a lot of young kids, but we have a very solid core.”

The Tuckers’ core starts with junior Corey Zlatniski, who is expected to compete in the triple jump and run the 1,600 meters and one relay (most likely a leg in the 4×400-meter or 4×800 relay).

Relays are a big deal to Hansen, who understands it could turn dual-meet losses into victories.

“We put a lot of emphasis on the team this year,” he said. “I put a lot of emphasis on relays. That’s 30 points in a meet. That’s a big swing.

“Track by its nature is an individual sport. If you come down to the end of the meet and you’re trailing, you can sneak back on a team. Since 10 points are given for a [relay] win, you can be down 25 to 28 points and still win the meet.”

Senior John Hamilton is expected to run the 1,600 and 3,200.

“We’re looking for his leadership a lot,” Hansen said. “The kids look up to him. He and Corey are a one-two punch in points and practice.

Junior Brendan Anderson, a first-time runner, will be able to handle the 100, 200 and 400 and compete in the long jump.

“He’s showed a lot of potential in those events,” Hansen said. “He’s got a lot of speed. It’s a matter if he’s going to be a long sprinter or a short sprinter.”

Another junior, Anthony Howell, who came off an excellent wrestling season, is slated to run the 800.

“He shows a lot of potential there,” Hansen said. “He can hang with Corey and John in the distance groups. I think he’s going to do some damage.”

After 10 years as an assistant track coach at Horace Mann High School in New York City, Copiaque and Riverhead, Hansen said: “I think I’m ready. I built up an extensive résumé. I worked under some really good coaches at Riverhead in Steve Gevinski and Sal Loverde.”

Needless to say, Hansen is excited about his first coaching position.

At the end of every practice, Hansen and Mattituck’s girls track coach, Jean Mahoney, talk to both teams, which train together. Hansen has talked to the teams about the challenges they will face in life, sports and school.

Hansen sounded ready for his latest challenge as a high school track coach.

“For such a small school, we’re going to be competing really hard,” he said. “It’s two parts confidence and one part ability.”