The new Mattituck High School boys track and field coach, Kris Ocker, knows there are no shortcuts in the sport. A direct correlation can be made between training and performance.
“Track is tough, man,” Ocker, 35, said. “It’s a lot of hard work. Track is one of those sports where you can’t hide anything. The numbers don’t lie.”
Ocker should know. He was a member of Oyster Bay High School’s track team (he also played football for Nassau County Community College and SUNY/Cortland) and coached the Port Washington girls track team. Now Ocker takes over Mattituck’s top job from Karl Himmelmann, who remains as an assistant coach.
Mattituck (5-1 last year) is led by senior Stephen Nyilas and junior Christian Demchak.
Nyilas can just about do it all. He can sprint, run middle distances, long distances, throw. Last year he came in seventh in the pentathlon in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier with 2,590 points. His best event was the shot put, which he threw 37 feet, 5 3/4 inches for second place. He was also eighth in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 57.34 seconds, 10th in the 110-meter high hurdles in 17.83, tied for 10th in the high jump at 5-4 1/4 and 14th in the long jump at 16-11 1/2.
Nyilas was third in the Suffolk County Division III pentathlon.
Similarly, Demchak, while primarily known for long distances, can handle any running event as can senior Justin Lake, who also pole vaults. Lake was 24th in the 1,600 in the state qualifier in 4:44.93.
For long distances, Mattituck looks to senior Connor Smith, sophomore Chris Dinizio, sophomore Eric Palencia and senior Dennis O’Rourke.
Antonio Marine runs middle distances and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. Others to look out for are sprinters Eric Duerwald and Brian Nicholson, triple jumper James Kowalski and Kacper Michalak, a sprinter/pole vaulter/jumper.
“I just am excited to get into the divisional meets and see what the boys do when they get up there in the divisional competition,” said Ocker.
What would make this season a success for Mattituck?
“Win the division,” Ocker replied. “I feel like we have the talent. We have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of putting the right individuals in the right event for the right meet.”
Greenport/Southold (2-5) has had a nice turnout with 35 athletes on the team (19 from Greenport, 16 from Southold). That’s an increase of about 10 from last year’s team, said coach Nick Fioretti, who attributes the increase to both the sport’s growth nationwide and the new, six-lane, all-weather track being built at Southold High School.
“I did expect a decent turnout,” Fioretti said. “A lot of kids prior to the track season said that they were interested. It’s a small school so that if kids say they have fun, the word spreads fast.”
The Porters have some fast runners, too.
Junior co-captain Mateo Arias, competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the first time last year, took third place in Suffolk Division III in 10:53.16. In the state qualifier, he was 18th in 11:09.55.
“He is motivated this year,” Fioretti said. “Last year, that kind of lit a fire under him.”
And then there is sophomore sprinter Max Pasko, one of top sprinters in the county this past winter in the 55-meter dash.
Senior triple jumper/sprinter Sean McCabe co-captains the team along with junior thrower Miguel Torres, who sat out last season with a torn ACL. Aside from McCabe, Christian Nikolov (400 IH) is the only other senior.
Sophomores Kenny Latham, a sprinter/hurdler, and Christian Ardiano, a middle-distance runner, also return. Good things are expected from sophomore sprinter Jorge Torrento.
“I think it’s going to be a good year for us as a team,” Fioretti said. “I know that some other teams have some strong returners, so the competition is going to be tough. The seniors that are leading this year were leaders last year so we’re kind of maintaining the same leadership, which is nice.”
He added: “I just want them to do the best that they can as a group. I have a group of individuals that are super dedicated.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Stephen Nyilas was third in the pentathlon in the division meet and seventh in the state qualifier. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)