Mattituck High School’s fourth-place finish at the New York State Class C girls cross country championships might have surprised some observers, but not coach Jean Mahoney.
Before the Tuckers competed in Elma, N.Y. last Friday, Mahoney realized she had a special group of girls because they trained on their own when school was closed due to Hurricane Sandy.
“The amazing thing about them is they’re disciplined,” she said. “When school was out, they contacted each other and practiced. That was amazing.”
The Tuckers’ fourth-place standing turned out to be the best in school history.
Mahoney said that several Suffolk County coaches told her it was the best showing at the states by a Section XI Class C team.
In fact, no other female team from Long Island did as well as the Tuckers in any of the four classifications over the 5,000-meter course at Elma Meadows Golf Course. Mattituck accrued 136 points. Bronxville (Section I) won its fifth consecutive state title with 36 points.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” Mahoney said. “I knew from the beginning that this was going to be a special team. I knew they were going somewhere. The girls did a great job. They are a tight, close-knitted group of girls.”
Junior Tara Gatz led the way, finishing the course in 39th place in a personal-best 20 minutes, 27.7 seconds.
“Tara is usually my No. 2 runner,” said Mahoney, adding that Gatz took about 25 seconds off her previous best time.
The Tuckers’ top three finishers were within 10 spots of one another. Gatz was quickly followed by eighth-grader Melanie Pfenning (20:33.0) in 42nd place and sophomore Kaylee Bergen (20:38.1) in the 49th spot.
“I’m not surprised,” Mahoney said. “They usually run in a tight group and that has been a strength for us. That’s usually how they run. They run very close together. They are very supportive of each other. They’re very competitive but they support each other.”
Pfenning still has four years of varsity competition ahead of her.
“The fact that she runs with ninth- and tenth-graders is huge,” Mahoney said. “They give each other advice. That says a lot.”
Freshman Audrey Hoeg (21:19.7) took 74th place and freshman Mia Vasile-Cozzo (21:30.2) was 83rd.
The Southold girls did not place among the top 10 schools in the Class D competition, but had three junior runners with strong runs who finished within eight places of one another.
Katie Connolly set the pace at 78th place in 23:13.6, followed by Justine Kundmueller (23:38.2) at No. 82 and Shannon Guyer (23:53.7) in 86th place.
The First Settlers’ boys team finished 10th among the Class D schools, which raced on the same course. Southold had 264 points as Mount Academy (Section IX) won the title with 54 points.
Southold’s success was tempered by the condition of freshman Ronan Guyer, who is in a coma and on a ventilator after suffering cardiac arrest during a practice prior to the meet (see separate news story).
The First Settlers had five runners who crossed the finish line among the top 118.
Sophomore Jonathan Rempe took 50th place in 17:56.6. Eighth-grader Owen Klipstein wound up 87th with a clocking of 19:30.2.
Junior Ian Toy earned the 115th spot in 21:54.5, followed by senior John Tomici at No. 116 in 22:36.2 and sophomore Christopher Buono in 117th place in 22:36.3.