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Girls Cross Country: Tuckers chasing sixth straight county title

Julie Milliman isn’t one to dwell on statistics or records. What really counts to the Mattituck High School girls cross-country coach are the smiles on the faces of her runners.

And the Tuckers sure have had a lot to smile about. This year already they have won a League VII title with a 5-0 record, and last Thursday they picked up their third straight Division IV crown in the Section XI Division Championships.

But the team’s greatest achievements may be yet to come. Mattituck will bid for a sixth straight Suffolk County title Friday in the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park.

Pretty big stuff, huh?

“Actually, we don’t really talk about it much,” Milliman said. “It’s just like if we focus on our personal times, it will fall into place.”

So far, things have fallen into place quite well for Mattituck. Despite losing about a half-dozen runners from last year’s team to graduation, Mattituck has adjusted exceedingly well with a young team. Five of its top seven runners are freshmen or sophomores.

“It’s nice to be young because they have a lot of potential to grow into,” said Milliman.

At the head of the pack are sophomore Payton Maddaloni and freshman Kylie Conroy. They were the team’s Nos. 2 and 3 runners, respectively, last year.

“It’s really nice to have those two close together,” Milliman said. “Those two have really been separated by seconds each race.”

Maddaloni, in her third year on the team, is “a great athlete and she really likes to see her times improve over the course of the season,” Milliman said. “She really doesn’t like to settle.”

Conroy is in her second cross-country season. “She loves to run,” Milliman said. “She’s always so positive, always smiling.”

In the Division Championships at Sunken Meadow’s 3.1-mile course, Maddaloni (21 minutes, 18.61 seconds) and Conroy (21:21.69) took the next two places in Division IV after Shelter Island senior Lindsey Gallagher, who was first in 20:09.81.

Maddaloni, Conroy and Mattituck freshman Bella Masotti (fifth in 22:15.59) ran their fastest times ever on the course. Following them to the finish line were teammates Meg Dinizio (sixth in 24:37.44), Jane DiGregorio (seventh in 24:39.97), Emma Reidy (eighth in 24:41.70) and Liv Shutte (10th in 28:08.00).

Mattituck was first in the division with 23 points, beating out runner-up Shelter Island by 14 points.

Asked what it will be like Friday when the Tuckers step up to the starting line before chasing what would be the team’s sixth consecutive county title, Milliman said: “The girls are nervous every time, no matter what, but I feel like we put all the work in, then it’s running the race. As long as you put the work in, you should feel confident going in.”

Since 2012, when Mattituck turned in its best finish ever by coming in fourth place in the state, the Tuckers have gone 28-4 in league meets. Milliman, who is in her fifth year coaching the girls team after running Mattituck’s boys team for four years, has a 24-3 record.

“It’s been another good year,” she said.

Now that’s something to smile about.

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Photo caption: Mattituck sophomore Payton Maddaloni turned in a time of 21 minutes, 18.61 seconds to finish second among Division IV runners at Sunken Meadow State Park. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)