Making it to the high school girls cross-country state championships is quite an achievement. For a team to do it five straight years like Mattituck has done is even more impressive yet. If the Tuckers are to somehow find their way back to the state meet again this year, though, they will have to do so without two-time All-State runner Melanie Pfennig, the only girl to run on all of Mattituck’s Suffolk County champion teams the past five years.
Pfennig finished 13th in the state Class C race last year to lead Mattituck to fifth place in the team standings.
As much as Mattituck (6-0) has lost in Pfennig, who has moved on to run for NCAA Division I Monmouth University in New Jersey, it still has decorated runners returning and talent to work with. Among them are All-County sophomore Payton Maddaloni and All-Division Kylie Conroy.
Maddaloni was 34th in the state meet in 20 minutes, 24.5 seconds on the 3.1-mile course at Chenango Valley State Park. Conroy was 47th in 20:35.6.
Coach Julie Milliman said Maddaloni “finds a lot of joy in running and her teammates and she’s got a very uplifting personality.”
And there are more experienced runners back: senior Meg Dinizio, juniors Julie Seifert, Olivia Shutte and Abby Heffernan and freshmen Emma Reidy, Abby Rosato and Lauren Onufrak.
New to the team are senior Jane DiGregorio and eighth-grader Emily Nicholson. DiGregorio, a former soccer player, is in her first year in cross country.
“She’s just an awesome athlete,” Milliman said. “She’s just a great girl to have on your team because she’s hyperfocused. She’s going to be great at it. I think she’s going be a huge contributor to our scoring. She doesn’t give up and she’s very competitive.”
As successful as last season was for the Tuckers, Milliman isn’t one to dwell on the past.
“Every year … I like to start fresh and not think about the previous season’s accomplishments, and just kind of look forward and not look back,” she said. “I haven’t even referenced last year that much. I want us to be the best team we can be this year.”
Southold coach Karl Himmelmann sees good things coming from sophomore Olivia Lynch. “She only joined us for the second half of last year and she’s had a good preseason,” he said. “As long as she stays healthy, I think she’s got a good shot at qualifying for the state meet.”
That’s something a Southold girl hasn’t done in four years, said Himmelmann.
Senior Ashley Hilary and sophomore Emily Newman are also back for the First Settlers (1-4). Freshman Kelli McHugh and junior Emiliann Palermo are new to the team. Blayr Corazzini, a senior from Greenport, will compete alongside the team as an independent athlete.
Himmelmann coaches both the Southold girls and boys teams, who train together and follow the same meet schedule.
“They don’t really see themselves as separate teams because they’re really not,” he said. “They practice and compete together. I think [the girls are] definitely hungry to be competitive. They want to be as competitive as the boys do.”
Photo caption: Payton Maddaloni, an All-County sophomore, leads a Mattituck team in search of a sixth straight county championship. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)