Girls Cross-Country Preview: Tuckers chase 7th straight county title

The Mattituck High School girls cross-country team has enjoyed astounding success the past six years, each of those times winning a Suffolk County championship and competing in the state meet as a team.

Do the Tuckers have it in them for a seventh straight time?

“I guess my answer to that is that is the goal,” said Chris Robinson, who succeeds Julie Milliman as coach. “We’re not settling for anything less. They’ve had success in the past. They know what it takes to get there.”

That success manifested itself last year in a League VII championship, a third straight Suffolk Division IV title and, yes, a sixth straight appearance in the state meet for the Tuckers (5-0).

Since 2012, Mattituck has a 28-4 record in league meets. During Milliman’s five years as coach, the team went 24-3.

“They’ve been tremendously successful,” Robinson said. “It has just continued and continued, and that’s just a credit to Julie Milliman and what she has down for the program. That’s big shoes to fill but I’m excited about the challenge and I’m excited about the team that we have.”

It’s a lot to be excited about.

Mattituck has junior Payton Maddaloni at the head of the pack. Maddaloni, a four-year team member, turned in a time of 22 minutes, 19.5 seconds on a muddy 3.1-mile course at Wayne Central School in Ontario Center to finish 42nd in the Class C race. As a team, Mattituck finished ninth among state Class C teams.

Maddaloni led the charge in the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park’s 3.1-mile course, clocking a winning time of 21:36.26. That was the headline performance as three Tuckers were among the first five Class C finishers.

“She’s been around for a long time,” Robinson said of Maddaloni. “She continues to get bigger and stronger and she continues to lead this team … She’s learned from a lot of great runners from the past. She knows what it takes. She’s a smart girl, a smart runner.”

Maddaloni (21:18.61) and Kylie Conroy (21:21.69), a sophomore, placed second and third, respectively, in the division meet at Sunken Meadow. Mattituck won the Suffolk Division IV crown, beating out runner-up Shelter Island by 14 points.

Among those Tuckers who ran at last year’s state meet were sophomore Bella Masotti (44th in 22:19.6), Conroy (74th in 23:05.5), sophomore Abby Rosato (11th in 24:56.6) and sophomore Emma Reidy (121st in 26:01.0).

The majority of the team consists of returning runners like senior Julie Seifert and sophomore Lauren Onufrak. New to the squad are Kate Schuch, Miranda Annunziata, Courtney Trzcinsky, Ava Vacarrella and Anna Falco, a former runner for Bishop McGann-Mercy, which has closed.

“I think we look good,” Robinson said. “I think we got a strong core group of girls. I think we range from veterans down to young girls ready to make an impact early.”

The state meet will return to Sunken Meadow on Nov. 10 for the first time in 10 years.

Southold/Greenport junior Olivia Lynch reached the state meet last year in her first varsity season and looks like a good bet to get back there this year.

“She’s a very talented runner,” coach Karl Himmelmann said. “When we do workouts on the track, she’ll pace with my top boys. I think she has a very good shot at going back to the state meet. I’d like to see her be very competitive in every meet that we do. If she stays healthy, she’ll be setting some new [personal records] for herself this year.”

Lynch was 53rd in the state Class D race in 22:54.1. She qualified for the state meet by taking second in the class in the sectional championships in 22:04.48.

Emiliann Palermo and Kelli McHugh also return from last year’s 1-5 team. “They’re wonderful, committed members of the team, and they’re always trying to challenge themselves and get better every year,” said Himmelmann.

Annie Antonucci and Evelyn Helsinski, who ran for the junior high school team last year, are new additions.

Closing out the season in a rare state meet at Sunken Meadow is the carrot at the end of the stick for Long Island’s runners and others.

Said Himmelmann, “Everybody wants the opportunity to go to the state meet this year and run on that course.”

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Photo caption: Mattituck junior Payton Maddaloni is the top runner for a team seeking a seventh straight county championship. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

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