WESTHAMPTON BEACH INVITATIONAL
Anyone focusing on high placements or medals — or the lack thereof — for the Mattituck boys track and field team on Saturday would have missed the point. The young Tuckers are nowhere near a finished product. This is a team for tomorrow, or perhaps more accurately, two years from now.
“In two years, we’re going to have an amazing team,” said Mattituck eighth-grader Jack Dufton.
Sophomores alone make up most of the roster, which also includes a couple of eighth-graders (Darius Brew and Dufton) and two freshmen (Mike O’Rourke and Erik Schwartz). That means most of the team should remain intact for at least two more years, and that’s no small source of encouragement.
“These are the kind of kids that, yeah, they’re not the top performers now, but with that, they’re going to be kids that are good with a good mix,” Mattituck coach Pete Hansen said. “So they’re going to have a lot of experience in two years, and they have decent talent. By no means are they at the top right now, but these are kids that are learning and kids that work. So, it’s a lot to work with, and the days that we improve, we improve by a lot.”
Saturday was one of those days.
The Tuckers had no shortage of personal records (which are called pr’s by coaches and athletes in track and field shorthand) in the Westhampton Beach Invitational.
“Everybody pr’d today, everybody, in at least one event,” Hansen said, “so it’s one of those things that you’re like, ‘Alright, I’m very encouraged going into the next meet.’ And this will get us fired up for practice for the next five days. This was a great step.”
Not to mention some great leaps by Brew, the son of former jumper Lynette Wigington, who herself is possibly the greatest female track athlete that Mattituck has ever produced. Brew, who last year competed at the junior high school level in his first track season, said he has heard about his mother’s glory days and receives tips from her.
Brew must be a good listener because he took first place in the novice long jump with a personal-best distance of 18 feet 1/2 inch on Saturday.
Other Tuckers got some good experience as well. Sal Loverde, a sophomore who had not thrown the discus before this season, turned in a throw of 115-2, ranking him ninth in the open discus. Matthew Berezny, a sophomore, tied William Ellis of East Hampton for fifth place in the novice high jump. They both cleared 4-9. Another Mattituck sophomore, Connor Andersen, was seventh in the novice shot put at 28-9. Yet another sophomore, Ian Husak, came in 12th in the novice 110-meter high hurdles in 22.09. In the novice 200 meters, Dufton (28.26 seconds) was 11th and sophomore Chris Mehalaks (29.16) was 13th. Mattituck’s 4×100 relay team of Evan Neighly, Michael Kelly, Corey Zlatniski and Nigel Ortiz was 10th in an open event. Their time was 49.94. Zlatniski was 20th in the open 1,600 in 4:51.58.
“We’re doing all the right things,” said Hansen, whose team went 3-4 in Suffolk County League VII dual meets this year. “We’re just missing one piece here and one piece there. We have talent. You see it.”
In a couple of years, there should be a lot more to see.
Zlatniski will not be around to see it, though. A five-year varsity athlete who is one of the team’s few seniors, Zlatniski will be headed to SUNY/Utica to run cross-country and track. He laments that he will miss the chance to run with his current teammates when they have some more miles on their legs and knowledge in their heads.
Hansen, for one, sounds as if he can’t wait for his team to mature.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I tell everybody, in two years, you got to watch out for us.”