Track and field athletes love two things: personal records and medals.
The Mattituck girls team walked away from the Hampton Invitational on Saturday at Hampton Bays High School with several of the former, and an envelope full of the latter.
Personal records — or “prs” in the vernacular of track people — are validation of the hours of training athletes put in, an affirmation that they are heading in the right direction.
“I’m very happy because we’ve been training hard and getting our times down,” said eighth-grader Melanie Pfennig, who clocked personal-best times in two events. “That’s all that matters.”
Pfennig finished fifth in the 1,500 meters in 5 minutes 9 seconds and sixth in the 800 in 2:30. “Today I actually felt that I had a lot of energy,” she said.
Another one of Mattituck’s long-distance runners, sophomore Kaylee Bergen, ran the 800 faster than ever did before, turning in a time of 2:35. Bergen was also seventh in the 1,500 in 5:15, which is four seconds off her fastest time in that event.
And there were other notable performances for the Tuckers in the 11-team meet. Desirae Hubbard, a junior, produced a pair of personal records herself. In addition to running the 100-meter dash in 12.9 seconds, she matched her career-best 200 time of 27.6 during a qualifying heat. She followed that up by putting up a 27.8 in the final, good enough for fifth place.
Personal records weren’t foremost on Hubbard’s mind, she said, since she competed despite having a cold. “I really didn’t expect it since I’m sick,” she said.
Hubbard had another issue to deal with later in the meet. Running the anchor leg for Mattituck’s 4×100-meter relay team, she leaned forward at the finish line and rolled her right ankle. Mattituck coach Chris Robinson said he hoped it was only a mild sprain. Kyle Freudenberg, Alya Ayoub and Nicole Zurawski ran the first three legs of the relay as the Tuckers tied for sixth place in 55.4.
Ayoub, a freshman, was the only Mattituck athlete to compete in a field event. She covered a season-best distance of 14-5 in the long jump.
Zurawski, a sophomore, ran a personal-best 1:07 in the 400.
Personal records are encouraging. Robinson said they can be expected, though. If athletes are doing what they are supposed to be doing, he said, they should be getting better each week as the season progresses.
“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse,” reasoned Bergen.
Track and field is unlike some other sports in that the athletes are in essence competing against themselves as well as opponents.
“You just try to beat yourself every day,” Robinson said. “Whenever you can pr at any event on any day, that’s always a good thing, even in practice. That’s just a confidence-booster for them. It drives them a little more.”
He continued, “From day one at practice, I think that everyone has grown, from our long jumpers to our sprinters.”
This is a good time of the season for athletes to see their times go down and their distances go up. With the dual-meet season completed (Mattituck went 3-2, tying Port Jefferson for third place in League VIII), attention turns to invitational meets and big meets such as the Suffolk County division championships May 20 and 22 at Connetquot High School, the Section XI individual championships/state qualifier May 31 and June 1 at Port Jefferson High School. And, beyond that for the best of the best is the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on June 7 and 8 at Middletown High School.
This is when things really get serious.
“I enjoy dual meets and the fun, easygoing invitationals, but ultimately I want to do very well at the divisionals,” Bergen said. “Practices get a lot tougher as well. … I just have to keep working hard, stay healthy and keep pushing.”
Pfennig, who at 13 is the youngest team member, said workouts are “hard, but you just have to push yourself and do your best.”
Hubbard, who is in her third year on the team, said that thanks to her improved starts, she is running faster than she expected she would be able to when she first took up the sport. “Just never give up on yourself,” she said.