Girls Cross-Country Preview: No Croteau, no worries for Southold

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | With runners like junior Shelby Pickerell, left, and sophomore Colette Steele, Southold can look forward to a promising season.

The Southold First Settlers lost one of the top runners in Suffolk County League VIII in June with the graduation of Ivy Croteau, an accomplished runner. But Coach Karl Himmelmann isn’t worried. He really doesn’t have to be, not with the runners he has back for the 2011 season.

Southold (4-1 last season) looks to be in fine shape this year with junior Shelby Pickerell and sophomores Colette Steele and Shannon Guyer leading the pack. All three of them went to the state meet last year. Another sophomore, Katie Connolly, is also a returning runner.

They are joined by two juniors, Caitlyn Cassidy and Megan Moran, and a sophomore, Savannah Calderale.

“They had a very strong year last year,” Himmelmann said of his veterans. “I’m seeing a lot of rapid growth from the returning and new runners. They have a lot of tenacity. They don’t give up. They’re really determined that each one of them is going to improve as quick as they can.”

Steele and Shelby are already running a full minute faster than they did in the state qualifying meet last year.

“I’m really excited,” Himmelmann said. “If they are able to maintain that sense of discipline and focus throughout the season, that’s what I’ll consider a successful season.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck freshman Kaylee Bergen is a newcomer to cross-country.

The Mattituck Tuckers (3-3) have a new motto this year: The faster you run, the faster you get it done.

It makes sense. And the Tuckers seem well-positioned to run faster this season. For one thing, they have two state-caliber runners in senior Savanna Campbell and junior Sara Paparatto. Campbell qualified for the state meet last year and Paparatto did so the year before (a pulled calf muscle spoiiled her 2010 season).

Was Campbell a revelation?

“She was very determined to do it, and it was one of those things where she just kept getting better and better, and that’s what we’re hoping for this year as well,” said Coach Jean Mahoney.

Two juniors, Megan Finn and Yuliya Palianok, were both scorers last season.

The two captains, Campbell and senior Melissa Barry, are both in their fourth year on the team.

Two newcomers to cross-country, freshman Kaylee Bergen and eighth-grader Audrey Hoeg, have shown talent, as has another freshman, Leah Santacroce, in addition to junior Danielle Knuth and sophomore Hallie Kujawski.

Mahoney said this year’s group has high expectations.

“I like their energy,” she said. “They’re really excited. They’re very competitive. They want to win, and they’re hungry. That’s huge. They want to go to states.”

Mahoney knows things will not be easy in League VIII, where the Tuckers will be running against teams from Bayport-Blue Point, Hampton Bays and Center Moriches. That is why it was important for the Tuckers to hit the ground running by having worked out over the summer. After all, she noted, runners have got to run.

“You need to run,” she said. “You can’t start the season not having run.”

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