SECTION XI DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS
Mattituck cross country coach Jean Mahoney knew something was amiss when freshmen Tiana Baker and Sascha Rosin crossed the finish line together at the Section XI Division Championship.
Both girls’ times had been rapidly improving this season. But they were both slower than usual at Tuesday’s race at Sunken Meadow State Park.
“What happened?” Mahoney asked the girls.
That’s when she discovered both girls had stopped along the way to help a North Babylon runner who had fallen during the race.
“She was crying and complaining her whole leg was hurting,” Baker said. “We put her on our shoulders and helped her limp, then pushed her to jog and someone came over.”
The girls said it appeared as if she was having an asthma attack.
After their humanitarian effort, the girls continued the race against the top runners in the county in the division champioship race. The championship race features the top two teams from each league plus four at-large teams. From that race, an overall winner is determined, as well as winners for four divisions, which are based on school enrollments.
Freshman Melanie Pfennig ran the top time for Mattituck.
Pfennig said her strategy in a race is to find a runner she can stick with. She tries to stay close to her and then catch her at the end. In this race, she picked out a Bayport-Blue Point runner, but couldn’t catch her in the end.
“She beat me unfortunately,” Pfennig said.
In her second year on the Mattituck varsity team, Pfennig has quickly emerged into the Tuckers’ top runner. For most of the girls, running at Sunken Meadow is a relatively new experience. And this year provided an extra challenge of an altered course, which some coaches estimated added as much as 40 seconds onto times.
Last year’s hurricane disrupted a lot of the course and a new bridge had to be installed at one point of the course. It hasn’t been completed yet, so the course has been changed this year, taking runners on a different route.
“I didn’t really like it as much as last year because my time is like 45 seconds slower,” Pfennig said. “But I guess Sunken Meadow makes you better.”
“It’s a hard course this year,” Mahoney added.
Coaches were hopeful that the the regular course would be open in time for the Section XI State Qualifier Nov. 1.
Mattituck qualified for Tuesday’s championship race by finishing second in League VII with a 4-1 dual meet record. The Tuckers’ only loss came in the first dual meet against Bayport-Blue Point.
“It’s been very fun,” Pfennig said. “We’re all close.”
Looking ahead to the state qualifier, Pfennig said she hopes to try to beat the Bayport runner who finished ahead of her.
“My goal is to try to beat her, beat my best time and get a [personal record],” she said.
After Pfennig, Audrey Hoeg crossed the line next for Mattituck followed by Kaylee Bergen.
On Saturday the girls ran at the Brown Invitational in Rhode Island. The team finished seventh in the Varsity 1 race, led by Pfennig who ran 19:35.5. Bergen ran 20:20.5, followed by Hoeg in 20:54.4 and Mia Vasile-Cozzo in 21:22.8.
“It just really worked out well and the kids had a great day,” Mahoney said.