Girls Cross Country: Defending county champions look loaded

From left, Melanie Pfennig, Kaylee Bergen and Audrey Hoeg are among 10 returning runners for defending county champion Mattituck. (Credit: Garret Meade)
From left, Melanie Pfennig, Kaylee Bergen and Audrey Hoeg are among 10 returning runners for defending county champion Mattituck. (Credit: Garret Meade)


Before the Class C race in last year’s Section XI girls cross country championships, Audrey Hoeg pointed to the finish line at Sunken Meadow State Park and told her Mattituck teammates: “The championship is right over there. It’s right at the finish line. We can go get it.”

She was right.

For the second year in a row, the Tuckers (4-1) won a county championship. Three Tuckers were among the top eight places and six were among the first 18 as Mattituck, without a single senior, beat out the runner-up, Center Moriches, by 6 points.

“They did great,” said Julie Milliman, who after four years coaching Mattituck’s boys team takes over the girls team.

Melanie Pfennig, who is in her sophomore year, was the second Class C runner to complete the 3.1-mile distance in the county meet in 21 minutes 2.99 seconds.

Mia Vasile-Cozzo was seventh in 22:54.39, Hoeg was eighth in 22:55.33, Kaylee Bergen was 11th in 23:18.96, Tiana Baker was 15th in 24:17.89 and Sascha Rosin was 18th in 24:31.67. All of those runners, except Baker, are back.

Pfennig was 48th in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships in 20:01.6 at Queensbury High School’s 3.1-mile course. The Tuckers were 10th in the team scoring at the state meet with 260 points.

Do the Tuckers have what it takes to grab another county crown?

“To be honest, I don’t even think about that,” Milliman said. “I know that we accomplished that last year. Every year is a new year. It would be nice to replicate.”

A bunch of returning runners help. Among them are Briana Perino, Sarah Goerler, Taylor Berkoski, Katie Stumpf and Tina Impriano.

The Tuckers look like they will be a force for at least a couple of years. Bergen is the only returner who is a senior.

Tori Ireland, Megan Dinizio, Grace Pellegrino and Charley Claudio are new additions.

“They just have a very good work ethic,” Milliman said. “They work hard every practice and you go home feeling good, like you got better that day.”

Being a defending county champion brings with it a degree of pressure and high expectations, but each season is its own entity. The Tuckers are back at the starting line, with their eyes glued to the finish line.

Said Milliman, “Nothing’s given to you, it’s all earned.”

The rebuilding process continues at Southold (0-6).

Last year the First Settlers started the season with only three runners, had to forfeit their first four dual meets, and finished the season with five runners.

That is the same number they start this season with. Three of the runners — junior Katie Hunstein, senior Heather Koscinch and sophomore Julia McAllister — are returning veterans. Ashley Alexander, a senior, and Jhiemy Uguna, a sophomore, are new to the team.

Coach Karl Himmelmann said Hunstein “has a fire in her eyes for running. There’s no quit in that girl. She’ll be tired and she’ll be exhausted, but she never quits. She has a really gutsy determination to push herself.”

Himmelmann said he is hopeful that a second-year junior high school team, coached by John Palmeri, will act as a feeder to the varsity team in years to come.

As for his current varsity team, Himmelmann said: “My main focus for the girls this year is to develop them as runners, help them improve their times over last year. For the girls, it’s really going to be about pushing themselves to new prs [personal records].”

He added, “The nice thing about being in this kind of a phase where you’re doing some rebuilding and developing young runners is that it gives you an opportunity for surprises.”

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