Baseball isn’t the only sport that features scoreboard watching. Scoreboard watching is a habit at the New York State track and field championships, too.
After the Mattituck girls 4 x 100-meter relay team completed its heat Friday afternoon, the four Tuckers and coach Chris Robinson all converged on the track infield and stared at the large scoreboard at Cicero North Syracuse High School’s Michael J. Bragman Athletic Complex as results from the two Division II heats were flashed on the big board.
They stared in dead silence.
“That’s kind of how it always is at these meets because you can’t really tell,” Mattituck senior Meg Dinizio said. “At these meets you’re so focused on just getting there. You can’t even talk to the people around you. It’s totally tunnel vision. So you don’t know what time you were in. You don’t know what place you were in really, except if you were in first.”
Nikki Searles watched intently. “I wasn’t really praying,” the freshman said. “I was just anxious because I was hoping to be sub-50” seconds.
What the Tuckers saw was that they had finished third in their heat in 51.15 seconds. They later learned that they had finished ninth overall, seventh among public schools, falling short of a place in Saturday’s final.
What was obvious, though, was Mattituck had failed to seal an automatic qualification by a mere 25/100ths of a second. That was the difference between the Tuckers and Poly Prep, which took second in the heat and eighth overall. The top two finishers in each heat qualified for the finals along with four other teams with the next-best times.
It was thatclose.
“It was real close,” Robinson said. “Literally, fractions of a second separate everybody, so you got to be on your game and, you know, they feel bad and they’re hurt but it’s because they’ve worked so hard that it’s an upsetting feeling.”
Searles and fellow freshman Bella Masotti ran the first two legs for Mattituck while junior Miranda Annunziata handled the third leg before handing off to Dinizio. Dinizio, competing in her fourth outdoor state meet, passed two runners.
“They all put me in a great position to be able to close out,” Dinizio said of her teammates.
Mattituck ran a season-best 50.56 in the Section XI Championships preliminaries seven days earlier at Comsewogue High School.
“I think we all ran the best we could have,” Searles said. “Some of the handoffs could have been a little better.”
She cited her handoff to Masotti, in particular. “At first it hit her fingertips,” she said. “It wasn’t as solid as it could have been.”
In an event like the 4 x 100, every millisecond counts. A single second can mean everything.
“When you come to a meet like this you really have to be at your best because everybody’s great,” Robinson said. “These teams are coming from all over the state to compete for the same thing you are and any little error, any little mishap can cost you. They ran well. It wasn’t our best day but they did a great job.”
Tapestry Charter was first overall in 48.86. Seven other teams broke 50 seconds.
To qualify for the state meet is an achievement in itself. Athletes and teams don’t make it to this meet unless they’re really good. Masotti called the competition Mattituck faced “insane.”
The foursome made the trip along with an alternate, junior Abby Heffernan. Last year Mattituck’s 4 x 100 relay team of Alya Ayoub, Amy Macaluso, Masotti and Dinizio reached the state meet, but didn’t finish the race. They were disqualified for a handoff outside of the exchange zone.
Following Friday’s race, Masotti said: “It was kind of disappointing because it wasn’t a [season-best time], but I don’t know. We did a lot in the season to get here and it was definitely worth it to run at the state meet.”
Searles enjoyed her first state meet experience.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s way better than any other meet ever. You would think there would be a ton of pressure, but it doesn’t feel like that much. It was fun.”
Robinson said: “They did an amazing job this year. Just to get to this point is a success all around.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Meg Dinizio, second from left, charges toward the finish line, bringing the Tuckers third in their heat in the 4 x 100-meter relay Friday in the state meet at Cicero North Syracuse High School. (Credit: Bob Liepa)