Girls Track: Weather poses challenges for North Fork teams

Alya Ayoub, a long jumper, was one of four Mattituck athletes who competed in the Section XI Championships last year. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Mother Nature may have given new meaning to the phrase “March madness” for high school teams with the courage to practice outdoors. These March practices in the numbing cold and wind haven’t been easy for the Mattituck High School girls track and field team. That may be fitting, though, since the Tuckers are training for a season that will be anything but easy. 

Mattituck (5-2 last season) has been bumped up from League VII to League VI, where the competition is stiffer.

“It’s a challenge but we’re up for it,” coach Chris Robinson said. “If you’re not up for it, you’re in the wrong sport because you got to be competitive.”

The Tuckers have some competitors. Desirae Hubbard (100 meters, 200, 4×100-meter relay), Melanie Pfennig (1,500, 800, 4×800 relay), Kaylee Bergen (3,000 and 1,500) and Alya Ayoub (long jump) all competed in the Section XI Championships last year.

Shannon Dwyer may be the team’s best hurdler and will also compete in the high jump, the shot put and the pentathlon.

Nicole Zurawski (400, 4×400 relay, 100), Pam Batist (shot put, discus, 1,500-meter racewalk), Rachel Winkler (800, 1,500, 4×800 relay), Alaina Robins (1,500 racewalk, 200, discus), Jackie Imbriano (1,500 racewalk) and Jess Makucewicz (100, 200) are also expected to be contributors.

“We have some young kids that are stepping up that are going to show us what they got,” said Robinson.

Robinson said improvement is the name of the game. “It’s not about Ws and losses,” he said. “It’s just about competing every week and getting better.”

All of Mattituck’s meets this season will be away. After this season, the Tuckers’ old cinder track will be replaced by a new all-weather track.

The competition will be difficult, just like the weather has been.

“It’s tough but we make no excuses,” Robinson said. “We’re out here and we do what we got to do.”

As the new Greenport/Southold team prepared for its season-opening meet yesterday in Port Jefferson, coach Mike Gunther must have felt as if he was going into the contest blindfolded. In a sense, he was.

Because of snow, the difficulty of training on Greenport High School’s cinder track and many first-year track athletes, Gunther is still in the process of figuring out what he has.

“It’s a track program in its infancy,” Gunther said on Monday night. “We’ll be running at a track meet Wednesday and we’ve barely begun to walk as a program.”

With so many new athletes, Gunther said he was still in the process of trying to determine what events suited athletes best. Among the more familiar faces are high jumper Megan Murray and long-distance runner Victoria Piechnik.

In addition to the pressure of trying to piece things together quickly, there is the thrill of being part of something new.

“It’s so exciting,” said Gunther, who himself was a middle- and long-distance runner for Patchogue-Medford High School, Suffolk County Community College and St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. “The girls are excited because it’s a brand new experience. It’s an adventure and we’re all in it together.”

Like the Tuckers, the Clippers will run all their meets off the North Fork.

The Clippers have a long way to go. They didn’t work on relay handoffs until Friday, and by Monday they had only one day of working on hurdles.

Gunther said, “By the end of the season we’ll look like a track team and we’ll compete like a track team because I know we have talent.”

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