It’s not something that is seen every day, an athlete from one team cheering on an athlete from another team, a rival team at that.
But there was Kait Butterfield of the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School girls track and field team urging on Mattituck’s Melanie Pfennig during a race Tuesday. The two seniors are living proof that rivals can be good friends.
“We’ve known each other since freshman year and we’ve always [had] a really healthy rivalry and we kind of turned it into training together on the weekends, but when it comes to racing, we race,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield lives in Greenport and Pfennig lives in Mattituck. Both will run for college teams — Butterfield for SUNY/Albany and Pfennig for Monmouth.
The two have shared training runs together and developed a bond beyond track.
“We push each other,” Pfennig said. “It’s a good relationship because you want to be around a friend who wants to push you and motivate you and be happy for you at the same time even though you’re competing, and I think that describes our relationship. We’re happy for each other and we’re competing against each other, but we’re just great friends because of it. We’re rivals but we cheer for each other.”
They did so on Tuesday when Mattituck and Mercy, the co-champions of Suffolk County League VII last year (thanks to a 73-73 tie between the teams), met in a dual meet that could have huge implications on the league title.
“Mattituck and Mercy, that’s as good as it gets,” said Mercy coach Zach Zieniewicz.
Mattituck’s depth proved to be too much, and the Tuckers won, 103-47, at Harold T. Murray Memorial Field in Riverhead.
Afterward, Mattituck coach Chris Robinson was asked if his team had just effectively won the league title.
“No, I would never say that,” he said. “We have to take each meet at a time, but we know coming into Mercy that it’s the best competition we’re going to have and we’re always trying to improve and get better. It’s good for our girls to compete against the level of athletes that Mercy has every year, so our girls just have to step up to that standard.”
Pfennig and Butterfield both helped their respective teams and even raced against each other in the 1,500 meters. Butterfield got the better of that race, winning in 5 minutes, 16.5 seconds. Pfennig was second n 5:25.3.
Pfennig flew to the finish line first in the 3,000 in 11:29.1 and joined Emma Reidy, Sascha Rosin and Katie Stumpf on a 4×800 relay team that won in 12:06.7.
In addition to her 1,500 triumph, Butterfield took first in the 800 in 2:36.2 and ran a leg on Mercy’s uncontested 4×400 relay team. That team, including Olivia Kneski, Maddie Joinnides and Rita Ellis, was timed in 5:19.8.
Mattituck (2-0), a 125-0 winner over Ross in its season opener last Thursday, received contributions from a variety of sources. Among them were victories by Megan Dinizio in the 100 (13.3), Julia Vasile-Cozzo in the 1,500 walk (no time was announced), Isabella Masotti in the 200 (27.8), Alya Ayoub in the long jump (15 feet, 3 1/2 inches), Sam Husak in the high jump (4-6), Sarah Santacroce in the discus (75-6), and Jordyn Maichin in the shot put (24-8). Ayoub, Masotti, Amy Macaluso and Dinizio also teamed up for a first-place finish in the 4×100 relay in 54.4.
“They knew they had to come in and bring their ‘A’ game and I think everybody did,” said Robinson.
Joinnides brought Mercy (1-1) first-place points in the triple jump (30-8) and the 400 intermediate hurdles (1:18.7). Kneski won the 400 in 1:04.
Both teams, which share a 1-1-1 record against each other over the last three years, have three dual meets remaining.
What is Butterfield’s take on the league-title chase?
“I think Mattituck has it now,” she said, “but it’s been fun over the past years battling it out. You win some, you lose some.”
Photo caption: Rivals and friends Melanie Pfennig of Mattituck, left, and Kait Butterfield of Bishop McGann-Mercy share a hug during Tuesday’s meet. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)