The temperature hovered a few degrees above freezing Tuesday outside Mattituck High School. Make no mistake, this is winter track and field.
Girls coach Chris Robinson wore shorts as he instructed the athletes like it was early May. He wore no hat, no gloves.
“It gives them no excuses,” said Robinson, who’s now in his seventh year.
The cold weather may not bother Robinson so much. And when his team hits the track, things tend to heat up.
The Tuckers are coming off a strong cross country season, as they won the Class C county title, and many of those runners transition to the track season. The Tuckers have talent in the sprints and field events as well.
“We got a good core group coming back and we have a good young group coming in,” Robinson said. “We’re well rounded.”
The Tuckers have a consistent roster of more than 30 girls, giving them good depth for a small school.
Eighth-grader Ava Vaccarella, who was the Class C champion in November in cross country, will look to continue her success on the track.
“She had a great first year, so I’m hoping to continue that,” Robinson said. “And it’s a little different when you go indoors on the track instead of being out on the street or in the woods.”
She got her first chance at a crossover meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Dec. 2 and she promptly ran 10 minutes, 55.54 seconds in the 3,000 to finish second out of 11 runners. She ran the 1,500 Saturday at the second crossover meet and finished eighth in 5:09.18.
Robinson said Vaccarella loved running the 3,000, which is a great sign, since not everyone enjoys the longest event in high school track.
The Tuckers have a strength in the sprints and will look to build the relay teams that were anchored last year by Meg Dinizio, who since graduated. The Tuckers return sophomore Nikki Searles, Bella Masotti and senior Miranda Annunziata, who were all members of the 4 x 100 relay in spring last year. That group, with Dinizio, finished second at the division championships.
“We’re going through the process of trying to find that fourth girl to fill that gap,” Robinson said.
Searles will run hurdles as well. She ran 9.43 in the 55-hurdles Saturday for fourth place out of 36 competitors. Masotti will also run sprints, the 55 and 300. She was second in the 300 Saturday in 44.2.
“She’s off to a great start,” Robinson said.
Annunziata was seventh in the 300 in 46.48.
Sophomore Kylie Conroy returns for middle-distance events along with junior Payton Maddaloni. Junior Jordan Osler will compete in field events like the triple jump, where she posted a mark of 31 feet 10 1/4 inches Saturday.
Southold High School is hosting a combined team with Greenport this winter, coached by Bill Hiney, a former throwing coach at Shoreham-Wading River.
He’ll have a good candidate to work with in that department with senior Emily Russell. In the shot put, she took first place Saturday by throwing 30-04 at the crossover meet. A versatile athlete, Russell showed why she’s a middle hitter in volleyball during the fall by clearing 4-10 in the high jump. She topped 5 feet at the Dec. 2 crossover meet, a mark that should have her in the hunt with some of the top jumpers in the county.
Southold also returns senior Marie Mullen in the hurdles. She ran 9.81 Saturday for fifth place. Freshman Natalie Kopala was ninth in the 1,000 (3:41.54).
Top photo caption: Mattituck sophomore Nikki Searles practices the hurdles at practice Tuesday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)