The Mattituck School Board rejected a proposal to allow nearly a dozen students to practice and compete with Riverhead’s winter track team this season.
The board voted against the proposal, 4-3. The dissenters argued that the entire student body hadn’t been informed of the option to join Riverhead’s team this winter.
During the school board’s meeting Thursday, athletic director Greggory Wormuth said seven female and four male students had expressed an interest in winter track, which the district doesn’t offer. Mattituck has a spring track team and unveiled a new track facility last month. The school also has cross country in the fall. The girls team won the Class C county title this fall.
Section XI, which governs high school sports in Suffolk County, allows districts without certain sport teams to participate in neighboring school programs, Mr. Wormuth said.
Part of the agreement through Section XI is a district can only send up to eight student athletes to a nearby district, Mr. Wormuth said, describing his proposal to the school board as a “pilot program.”
While Mattituck’s athletes would travel and practice with the Riverhead team under the failed proposal, they would compete separately in individual races, Mr. Wormuth explained.
His proposal also included transportation to Riverhead High School, which would cost the district about $25 per trip since a bus route from Mattituck already drives nearby to drop off district students enrolled at Bishop-Mercy McGann High School, he said. While transportation to practice would be provided, Mr. Wormuth said students would need to find rides home.
He said transportation for the season, including to and from meets, would cost about $1,000. He added the total cost to the district for the season would be $7,000 at most. The program would be funded partially through savings recently realized from disbanding cheerleading due to a lack of interest and the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team not finishing the season, he said.
If the pilot program was successful and enough students expressed an interest in the sport, then Mr. Wormuth said he would put together a plan to add a winter track program next year. The school currently offers boys/girls basketball and wrestling in the winter season.
Although school board president Jerry Diffley and trustee Laura Jens-Smith said they’re pleased students have expressed an interest in winter track, they questioned the equity of the process since Mr. Wormuth said the opportunity to play on a winter track team “wasn’t advertised” to all students.
Mr. Wormuth said he reached out to the school’s cross country runners after one student approached him personally and expressed an interest in having a chance to run winter track. Mr. Wormuth said he had also submitted a survey to student athletes that included winter track as an option.
Those efforts weren’t enough, as the board voted against Mr. Wormuth’s proposal, with Mr. Diffley, Ms. Jens-Smith, Bill Gatz and Sarah Hassildine casting “no” votes.
Mr. Diffley described the process as “too much too fast.”
Mr. Diffley said asking all the students now would still be problematic because others might feel discouraged to join if the team went over the player limit.
“From a personal standpoint, if we were able to have it come to the floor sooner so that we could have gone back to the student body to see who else [wanted to participate], then it had a chance to survive,” he said.
High school principal Shawn Petretti described the plan as a “good test case” and said he supported it, especially since the idea was “initiated by the students.”
Trustee Doug Cooper, who voted in the minority with vice president Charlie Anderson and trustee Jeff Smith, described the proposal as a “worthwhile endeavor” since students have asked for an opportunity to play.
Although there won’t be an opportunity to participate in winter track this season, Mr. Wormuth said after the meeting that he and his staff will continue to support students.
“We’re going to train like we would anyway,” he said. “We’re going to train through the offseason and we’re going to get prepared for the spring track season.”