Melanie Pfennig marvels at it all. Every year the Mattituck High School girls cross-country team loses good runners to graduation and every year the Tuckers fill the missing pieces. Somehow, the Tuckers find a way to get better and better.
Now, Pfennig said, “I think this is the best Mattituck team we ever had.”
That’s quite a statement, but who can argue?
In the New York State Sportswriters Association poll that was released Monday, Mattituck was ranked third in the state in Class C. Then, on Tuesday, led by Pfennig’s second straight victory in the Section XI Division Championships, Mattituck secured the Division IV title for a second year in a row.
“The girls really have been just putting in a lot of hard work and it’s nice to see them reap the rewards of that hard work,” said coach Julie Milliman, whose team triumphed with 28 points at Sunken Meadow State Park. Bishop McGann-Mercy was second with 41.
Pfennig, a senior and the only team member to have run for all four of Mattituck’s Suffolk County champion teams the past four years, led the way with freshman Payton Maddaloni. The duo took the first two places in 20 minutes, 12.85 seconds and 20:36.57 on the five-kilometer course.
Despite wind gusts and cold weather, Maddaloni ran a personal-best time, as did several of her teammates.
“I love this type of weather,” she said. “I’m a cold-weather runner.”
Also clocking a personal record was eighth-grader Kylie Conroy, who was fourth in 21:09.10. In addition, senior Sascha Rosin came in ninth in 22:27.44. She was followed shortly after by teammates Liv Shutte (12th in 22:53.32), Meg Dinizio (13th in 22:59.51) and Maddie Schmidt (16th in 24:00.99).
“I like to focus on the team because we have such a strong team, so I just tell them always to go out and run for each other,” Milliman said. “As much as it’s an individual sport, we really like to bring in the team concept in these big races.”
Pfennig, who has been battling a minor injury in the arch of her foot, had to deal with the wind, as did the other runners. At the start of the race, the runners had the wind at their backs, but the final straightaway was rough, running into the wind. “It was a little tough, but that’s just something you have to overcome as a runner and you have to adapt to every element that you run in,” said Pfennig.
In the team qualifier, Greenport senior Emily Villareal was 68th in 23:48.93. Jheimy Ugana was the first Southold finisher, coming in 142nd in 26:27.57.
Owen eighth in qualifier. Southold senior Owen Klipstein finished eighth in the boys team qualifier in 17:59.30. Mattituck sophomore Christian Demchak was 51st in 19:17.75.
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Melanie Pfennig became the Division IV champion for a second straight year. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)