As she walked from her car to the Mattituck High School athletic fields, Laurie Reilly held back tears.
She was headed to a once familiar track at the school, where her three grown daughters had run. But this time was different.
Ms. Reilly was one of more than 500 local residents who attended a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday evening at the school’s brand new track — an all-weather, polyflex running surface that has replaced the former cinder track that long stood at the school.
“I’m just so glad for the kids,” said Ms. Reilly, who attended the event with her daughter Diana, a 1998 graduate and former state champion in the 400 meter hurdles for the Tuckers.
Diana Reilly and her former teammate Lynette Wigington, who won a state title all four years of high school and still holds New York State Public High School Athletic Association records in the long jump and triple jump, say the track will make a huge difference in the training of future Mattituck athletes.
“It’s wonderful,” said Ms. Wigington, a former junior Olympian who graduated in 1997 and whose son now runs for the school. “The kids today will be inspired by this track.”
Diana Reilly said the “odds were against” the school’s runners over the years, but that will change. In recent years the school had been stripped of its right to host home meets because its track didn’t meet standards.
Jim Underwood, who coached track at the school for 30 years beginning in 1984, said the new running surface will also benefit the greater Mattituck-Cutchogue community. He called it one of the “first recreational resources the [whole] community can use.”
“It’s a long time coming,” he said.
District residents voted 777-386 in favor of the $925,000 track bond proposal during a special vote in the high school gym last October. About $675,000 was estimated to go toward construction of the track at the time. The bond also included funding toward the purchase of portable bleachers and irrigation upgrades, perimeter sport netting, sidewalks and asbestos remediation work inside the school.
“In this economy, to pass a bond of this magnitude, it shows just how much support this project had,” said Mattituck Board of Education president Jerry Diffley.
Members of the community arrived in droves to be among the first to use the updated facility Friday evening. The event also included a pep rally for all the school’s fall sports teams, a community bonfire and the “Tucker Bowl,” an athletic challenge between the different grades at the school.
The NJROTC presented the nation’s colors and the school’s Select Chorus sang the National Anthem at the event.
“This feels like Americana,” said Superintendent Anne Smith. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
The school’s soccer teams will play homecoming on the field inside the oval Saturday, with the boys hosting Center Moriches at noon and the girls squaring off against Southold at 2 p.m.
Click the page links to see more photos from the event.