One might have expected the cross-country runners to cringe when they unboarded their buses and stepped out into a light, but steady rain Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park for the Section XI Division Championships.
Not the Mattituck High School girls team, though. The Tuckers, believe it or not, seemed to actually like running in the rain.
“I loved it,” Mattituck senior Payton Maddaloni said. “I thought it was great. It was actually a lot of fun.”
Of course, what made things even more fun for the Tuckers was the fact that they had won their fifth consecutive Division IV championship, an impressive run of success. The Tuckers’ 21 points gave them a 13-point advantage over second-place Bayport-Blue Point.
“It means a lot because we can keep up our reputation,” junior Bella Masotti said. “Honestly, it feels really, really good to be in the spot to get that again.”
This championship was a true testament to Mattituck’s depth. The Tuckers won the team title despite having their No. 2 runner, junior Kylie Conroy, out with knee tendinitis.
No matter. Maddaloni turned in a season-best time of 20 minutes and 0.64 seconds on the 5,000-meter course to take third in the division behind Elwood/John Glenn freshman Emily LaMena (19:57.63) and Pierson junior Penelope Greene (20:09.70).
“On the downhills, I was really trying to pick up my pace on Cardiac [Hill] and Snake [Hill],” Maddaloni said. “The footing there was like absolutely terrible.”
Mattituck coach Chris Robinson said Maddaloni “did great. She’s kind of been leading the charge this year and taking responsibility as that number one girl. She’s done a great job with it.”
Masotti was fourth in what she called “my best race, ever.” Masotti beat her previous best time on the course by about 20 seconds, clocking 21:17.64.
“It felt really, really good,” Masotti said. She added: “It really felt like I was pushing myself, really, really hard.
“I feel like every time we run here, every time it’s raining and we think we’re going to do bad, we always do good. It’s always our best day, for some reason.”
Mattituck freshman Ava Vaccarella was sixth, clocking a season-best 21:27.46 on the course. “It was raining, but I actually felt better,” she said. “I think I like running in the rain better … so I liked it.”
Robinson liked what he saw from Vaccarella.
“Ava’s getting her groove back,” he said. “… She’s [been] battling some injuries all season, and she’s starting to look like the old Ava, which is a good thing.”
Mattituck sophomore Emily Nicholson was seventh in 21:56.14. Also scoring for the Tuckers were sophomore Kate Schuch (12th in 23:09.96), junior Abby Rosato (15th in 24:16.92) and junior Emma Reidy (17th in 26:11.48).
Maddaloni said the Tuckers understand the importance of not being complacent.
“We have to be competitive no matter what,” she said. “No matter if we’re last in the county or first in the county, we still have to run like we’re going to be the best. I’m just excited to see where we go.”
The Tuckers will return to Sunken Meadow Nov. 8 for the Section XI Championships, a state qualifying meet. Robinson hopes to have Conroy back for that meet. And, if it happens to rain that day, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Said Robinson, “Sometimes it’s not bad to run in the rain.”
Southold’s Meraz grabs eighth. Southold sophomore Isaiah Meraz was eighth in the boys 5K team qualifier race in 18:28.45. Mattituck freshman Trevor Zappulla was 11th in 18:38.21 and Mattituck senior Eric Palencia was 47th in 19:26.87.
Photo caption: Payton Maddaloni led Mattituck’s charge to a fifth straight Division IV championship with a season-best time of 20 minutes and 0.64 seconds on Sunken Meadow State Park’s 5,000-meter course. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)