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Top Sports Stories 2018: Mattituck girls run for glory

Some things can just be counted on when fall arrives. Temperatures drop, leaves change colors and the Mattituck High School girls cross-country team wins championships.

At least that’s the way it has been for much of the past decade.

Mattituck ran to its seventh straight Suffolk County Class C title, not to mention its fourth successive Section XI Division IV title. The Tuckers, in their bright neon yellow shirts, shined once again, qualifying as a team for the state meet for a seventh consecutive year.

The 2018 team, though, had a couple of notable additions — a new coach, Chris Robinson, and a new front runner, eighth-grader Ava Vaccarella.

“Wherever she came from, I’m glad I found her,” Robinson said of Vaccarella. “She’s a special runner, a special worker, a hard worker.”

Vaccarella, a converted soccer player in her first cross-country season, made an impact. The youngest runner on the team finished eighth in Class C in the state meet at Sunken Meadow State Park in 19 minutes and 57.8 seconds. That was the fastest she had ever run on the five-kilometer course.

“My goal was to do the best that I can and work as hard as I can because it’s states,” Vaccarella said. “It’s pretty cool that the [personal records] keep coming.”

Meanwhile, Mattituck finished fifth among 11 Class C teams for its best showing in the state meet since it was fourth in 2012. Mattituck junior Payton Maddaloni (38th in 21:05.9) also clocked her best time at Sunken Meadow. The other Tuckers who ran were sophomore Bella Masotti (56th in 21:34.1), freshman Kate Schuch (84th in 22:12.1), sophomore Kylie Conroy (92nd in 22:38.2), senior Miranda Annunziata (116th in 23:53.0) and sophomore Abby Rosato (120th in 24:30.2).

In the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow, Vaccarella (20:06.13) and Maddaloni (21:13.83) were first and second as five Tuckers were among the top 10 Class C finishers.

In the division championships at Sunken Meadow, Vaccarella was the top Division IV finisher and 17th overall in the girls championship race in 20:22.66.

“Every week, the expectation is to go out and run well, and I think they do that,” Robinson said. “They put in the time, they put in the work … Am I surprised? No, not at all.”

Photo caption: Mattituck eighth-grader Ava Vaccarella. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)