The inaugural winter track season at Mattituck last year featured two prominent names: Jack Dufton and Darius Brew.
Dufton, a versatile athlete who excelled in the pentathlon during the outdoor season, and Brew, a standout high-jumper, formed an impressive duo for the first-year team. Brew was the small school county champion in the high jump and Dufton was fifth in the same event.
Now, though, both athletes have moved on after graduating, so it’ll be up to a new cast of names to carry the torch.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for the boys to step up and prove themselves,” said coach Karl Himmelman. “Last year it was a lot of Jack and a lot of Darius.”
The winter season has less to do with team success early on and is more about individual development, Himmelman said.
“It’s really an opportunity for the boys to stay in shape and prep themselves for the spring season,” he said. “One thing I’ve been telling them is that we had Jack and Darius last year score a lot of points for us and they’re no longer here. So this is an opportunity for the boys to really prove themselves and to be leaders on the team.”
The Tuckers return two members off last spring’s 4 x 100 relay team who are now competing in winter season for the first time: seniors Pandeli Pando and Joseph Kelly.
Sophomore Christian Demchak was a standout on the cross country team in the fall and will be a key distance runner this winter. Freshman Chris Dinizio will also run distance events after competing in cross country.
Himmelman said he’s excited to see what his 4 x 200 team, led by Pando and Kelly, can accomplish this year.
The overall numbers for the team have bumped up in its second year. Himmelman said last year’s team had about 15-18 kids and this year’s squad is up to 32.
“I think there’s definitely interest growing,” he said. “There are kids who did spring track last year and didn’t do winter track and now are doing winter track.”
The Tuckers had a successful spring season last year, tying with Port Jefferson for the league title. Himmelman attributed part of that success to the addition of winter track, which gave the kids equal opportunity to compete over the same time as the rest of the teams in the county.
“It really keeps the kids conditioned and in shape,” he said. “We had a lot fewer injuries last spring. I think it was very good for the boys and girls.”
Mattituck won’t be the only new team in winter track from the North Fork. This year, a new boys team formed in Greenport/Southold under the direction of Mike Gunther.
“These kids are trend-setters,” said Gunther, who will coach both the boys and girls — no easy task since competitions are often on different days. “They’re getting out there doing something nobody else has ever done in Greenport and Southold before. They’re establishing a whole new team.”
Greenport begins the season with a modest-size team of 10 kids, some of whom have already competed before in the spring season.
Adolfo Merino-Romano will be a key athlete in multiple events, from the 600 to 1,600. He’ll be the team captain, Gunther said.
Miguel Torres will run the 300, Sean McCabe will compete in the jumps and 300, Jay Scully runs the sprints and Emmett Moloney is a shot-putter.
Gunther said the captains for both teams have been like assistant coaches, often helping out with the other team.
“I’m one coach for two teams and even with just 24 kids, it’s still a lot to take care of,” Gunther said.
The team practices at Greenport. Competitions during the winter all take place indoors at neutral sites, mostly Suffolk West in Brentwood.
Photo caption: Members of the Mattituck boys track team at practice Tuesday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)