Bella Masotti had traffic in front of her by the time Claire Gatz handed the baton to her, but that didn’t last long.
Masotti had several runners in front of her. Like a rocket, the Mattituck High School freshman burst forward and passed them all within 55 meters, as if she was shot out of a cannon.
Mattituck led the rest of the way as Miranda Annunziata and Meg Dinizio handled the final two legs of the 4×200-meter relay for a winning time of 1 minute, 55.11 seconds in a high school girls winter track crossover meet Sunday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. It was the best time of the young season for the Mattituck relay team. Eastport-South Manor (1:57.59) was the only other team to break two minutes.
“This is my favorite race, so I’m committed to this one,” Masotti said. “I think the baton, I just feel like it carries me and makes me go faster.”
It was the second win of the season for the relay team, which also took first at a crossover meet on Dec. 3 when it clocked 1:56.88.
Mattituck’s impressive showing Sunday came despite a bobbled baton exchange from Masotti to Annunziata that surely cost the Tuckers some time.
Asked for his assessment of the relay victory, Mattituck coach Chris Robinson said: “It was good. I think we consistently come here and perform well. It’s just little things that we need to clean up to really maximize our potential. I feel like this is something that we can go far with.”
In recent years the 4×200 relay has been one of Mattituck’s strengths. Some may have wondered if that would change with the graduations last spring of two 4×200 runners, Alya Ayoub and Amy Macaluso.
“I had a lot of hopes because we all try so hard,” Masotti said. “We lost two fast people last year so we didn’t know. It could go either way for this team, but so far it’s going really well.”
Dinizio said: “I think this is the best we’ve been ever. I think we have a big shock this year because some people did graduate, but I think we have a lot of young talent.”
All four high school grades are represented on this 4×200 team, with Dinizio a senior, Annunziata a junior, Gatz a sophomore and Masotti a freshman.
Masotti has been impressive. Last year she ran a 26-second 200. Is she faster this year?
“Yeah, I feel faster, definitely,” she said.
And she likes running the second leg of the relay.
“I think Claire did a great job on the first leg and then Bella kind of explodes, and that’s what’s great about her,” said Robinson.
Masotti said she has picked up personal records in each of the team’s three meets this season. That included the 44.31 she ran to take third place in the 300-meter dash and the 7.84 she posted in the 55-meter dash, good for fourth on Sunday.
“She’s a big asset to our team, definitely,” said Dinizio, who was fifth in the 55 in 7.92. “I stopped being surprised [by Masotti] about the end of the season last year. It’s just kind of something that happens now. It’s always quite enjoyable to watch the other teams, their faces.”
Another Mattituck freshman, Kylie Conroy, came in third in the 1,500 in 5:36.68.
The Tuckers also fared well in the triple jump, with junior Amber Rochon fourth at 30 feet, 4 inches and sophomore Jordan Osler sixth at 29-4 1/2.
So, Mattituck has a number of things to feel good about, not the least of which is its 4×200 relay team.
“They work hard every day,” Robinson said. “They do everything I’m asking them to do and obviously they want better. That’s a good attitude to have.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior Katie Parks leading her heat in the 55-meter hurdles Sunday. She finished 13th in 10.79 seconds. (Credit: Bob Liepa)