Sometimes when members of the Mattituck High School girls track and field team are sweating through a tough workout, coach Chris Robinson poses a question for them: Does anyone want to do Melanie Pfennig’s workout?
“Everybody says no,” Robinson said. “So, when they think they got it tough, they watch Mel and Mel is pushing to the last limits of her body. She’s definitely an example to them and makes them work harder and achieve what they want to achieve.”
Pfennig brings drive to training, practices and meets. Even though it isn’t mandatory, she is in the weight room every day, said Robinson. She pushes herself, pushes herself and then pushes herself some more.
“You got to give a little more,” Robinson said. “If you want to be super successful, you got to put in the extra time, beyond the work hours of practice.”
Now look at where all that training has brought Pfennig. The senior has signed a national letter of intent to run cross country and track at the NCAA Division I level for Monmouth University in New Jersey.
As Pfennig saw it, there would have been a void in her life without running for a team in college.
“I couldn’t see myself not on any team, not wanting to get better and not running,” she said. “I just feel that college is the time when you peak, and I wanted to take advantage of that.”
Pfennig was joined at a ceremonial signing ceremony Tuesday in the school library along with her mother, Pam, Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth and Robinson, who coached her in indoor track as well as outdoor track.
“I’m not surprised,” Robinson said. “The hard work that she puts in day in and day out really, it shows its face and it really shows you what you can do when you put that work in.”
So, what drives Pfennig?
Early in her high school career she was inspired by former Mattituck runner Kaylee Bergen. Now, it is something more.
“I feel satisfied when I work my hardest and I feel satisfied when I give it my all and when I give it all for my coaches, and I think that just drives me to work hard every day because I feel it’s the right thing,” she said.
Pfennig was all-league last year in outdoor track and this past winter in indoor track. Last fall she was an all-state runner for the cross-country team, which she led to a fifth-place finish in the state meet in Class C. Individually, Pfennig was 13th, completing the rolling hills on the five-kilometer course at Chenango Valley State Park in 19 minutes, 49.7 seconds. The Tuckers also won a fifth straight Suffolk County championship. Pfennig, the only girl to have run for all five of those teams, was the Suffolk Class C individual champion, clocking 20:28.52 at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Her fastest outdoor times in her primary events are 10:32 in the 3,000 meters and 4:56 in the 1,500. Her fastest five-kilometer time in cross country is 18:27, which she ran at Brown University.
On top of all of that, Pfennig’s coaches speak about her in glowing terms, praising her for her modest, unassuming, polite manner.
“Melanie deserves every good thing that happens to her in life,” Mattituck girls cross-country coach Julie Milliman stated in a text message to a reporter. “She has a heart of gold. She deserves to run at the next level because of all the hard work that she’s put in and I’m excited to see what she can do at the collegiate level because I think that her best running is still ahead of her. We’re really going to miss her next year on our cross-country team.”
Robinson’s first year as the girls track coach coincided with Pfennig’s arrival on the team five years ago.
“She’s done a lot for the program,” he said. “She’s not someone who will yell or scream or anything like that, but her actions and the work she puts in and the example she sets for the younger girls is really what this program’s about. She’s a great leader to have and we’re going to miss her when she’s gone.”
Speaking of her time running for Mattituck, Pfennig said: “It’s gone by fast. It’s a bittersweet moment. The relationships that I’ve built with my team and just my coaches, it made me into the person I am today and it made me love the sport even more.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Melanie Pfennig signed a national letter of intent to run cross country and track for Monmouth University. She was joined Tuesday at a signing ceremony with, from left, Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth, her mother Pam and Mattituck track coach Chris Robinson. (Credit: Bob Liepa)