It was bitterly cold last Thursday, but that didn’t stop the brave souls who went about their business, training and running on Mattituck High School’s new track.
As if to mark the occasion for posterity, one of the coaches, watch in hand, announced that these were the first “time trials” on the track. History in the making. Jack Dufton was up to it. The Mattituck junior was the first boy to finish 800 meters in 2 minutes 16 seconds.
“It feels great,” Dufton said of the running surface, a dramatic improvement over the cinder track the Tuckers used to run on. “Never would have been able to get a time like that on the old track.”
The new track has generated a good deal of excitement. It means the Tuckers (1-5 last year) will be able to host meets for the first time since 2008.
“I love the new track,” coach Mike Miller said. “After practicing last week on the cinder, this is a huge change. … We have lanes. To show kids lanes before the first meet is huge.”
But the track isn’t the only new thing about the Mattituck team. It also has new uniforms and new warmup suits. The Tuckers even have a new assistant coach, Jim Underwood. Well, actually, Underwood isn’t so new. He coached the Tuckers from 1985 to 2010.
And the Tuckers are glad they have Dufton, who is in his fourth year on the team. Last year he finished 11th in the pentathlon in the Section XI Individual Championships.
The pentathlon is an appropriate event for Dufton, given his versatility. Miller said the only problem he has with Dufton is trying to figure out where to best utilize him. “He is so good at everything,” said the coach.
Miller said Dufton will high jump, possibly run the 400 and the 800 and, depending on the opponent, the 1,600 or one of the relays.
“He’s always ready to go,” Miller said. “He has a lot of energy. That kid comes to practice every day. He always works hard. He’s kind of a coach’s dream.”
Like Dufton, sophomore Dan Harkin (1,600) and senior Mike O’Rourke (400) competed in the division meet. Also expected to pick up points are senior Matt Krauza (100, 200, long jump), junior Darius Brew (high jump, triple jump), senior Anthony Giacia (100) and senior Frank Imbriano (400-meter intermediate hurdles). Two newcomers, senior Randy Salvitti and sophomore Carter Montgomery, will help out in the discus and the shot put.
The better an athlete gets, the better he wants to become.
That seems to be the case with Greenport/Southold, which went 1-5 last year in its inaugural season. The Clippers sent six athletes to the division championships, and it seems to have made an impact on them.
“When they saw the competition in Suffolk County, I think it was an eye-opener,” coach Maria Troise said. She continued, “They said to me, ‘This makes me want to work better and be better.’ ”
Troise said attitudes changed because of the experience. “They seem more dedicated,” she said. “Their work ethic is better. They seem more committed.”
That is all positive stuff, along with a doubling of the roster size to 22.
Among the top returning athletes are two sophomores, Ben Bracken and Owen Klipstein. Bracken is an all-league high jumper who has cleared 5 feet 6 inches. Klipstein is a long-distance runner who will focus on the 1,600 and the triple jump.
Another high jumper, junior Maleik Yoskovich, cleared 5-7 in practice recently. He also runs the 100. Bracken’s cousin, Justin Bracken, is a junior sprinter and a long jumper. Mateo Arias, an eighth-grader, ran the 1,600 last year in 5:00 and hopes to bring that time down. James Thilberg, a sophomore, will compete in throwing events, and junior Walker Sutton is a middle-distance runner.
“The numbers this year will definitely help us in field events,” Troise said. “One of my biggest problems is I had quality athletes but not enough to fill an event.”
The Clippers are road warriors. Since Greenport High School has a cinder track, all of the Clippers’ meets will be on the road.
Preseason training has been a challenge because of weather issues.
“Having spring track in the snow is not the best, not an ideal situation,” Troise said. “They all work hard. They’re all outside every day, fighting the snow and the weather.”