On Friday the Mattituck High School girls got a feel for what it’s like to run cross country in frigid Plattsburgh, N.Y., this time of the year. On Saturday they will experience the real thing.
For the eighth straight year, Mattituck won the Class C title at Friday’s Section XI Championships on a brutally cold, blustery day at Sunken Meadow State Park. In doing so, the Tuckers once again qualified as a team to compete in the state championships Saturday at SUNY/Plattsburgh.
“Unfortunately, it’s going to feel like this in Plattsburgh, but I’m so excited,” said Payton Maddaloni, the Mattituck senior who finished first individually in the Class C race on the five-kilometer course in 21 minutes, 11.39 seconds. She also won this race two years ago.
The temperature when the meet began was 37 degrees, but the wind-chill factor made it feel as if it was in the 20s. “I told them it’s a good precursor for the states because it’s up in Plattsburgh, so it’s probably going to be similar weather,” said coach Chris Robinson.
Saturday’s forecast for Plattsburgh calls for a high of 24 degrees, a low of nine degrees, with a 10% chance of precipitation and five mph winds.
Southold coach Karl Himmelmann said: “If you’re going to run cross country, you have to know how to run in every weather condition … That’s the job of a cross-country runner.”
Runners had varying reactions to Friday’s weather conditions, with some minding it more than others. Maddaloni, for one, prefers cold over hot weather.
“The cold wasn’t even that bad,” she said. “I was ready to run. I was so excited. You have no idea. I was just ready to get out here and kill it for our team.”
The fact that it was Maddaloni’s last high school race at challenging, hilly Sunken Meadow and its famed Cardiac Hill was a motivator, she said.
“I’m so proud of her,” Mattituck junior Bella Masotti said of Maddaloni. “She’s been a team leader since she was a freshman. She’s been pushing us every day in practice and we made it here because of her and Rob [Robinson].”
Masotti didn’t seem to mind the cold too much, either. Her second-place time of 21:20.44 was only a few seconds off her best time on the course.
“I usually do better in the cold for some reason,” she said. “Last year my best race was when it was the coldest at states, so I wasn’t really worried about the weather.”
Emily Nicholson, a sophomore, completed Mattituck’s sweep of the top three places in 21:35.79, crushing her previous best Sunken Meadow time by 20 seconds.
Mattituck grabbed four of the first five places, with sophomore Kate Schuch fifth in 22:11.46. Two Mattituck juniors, Emma Reidy (23:54.90) and Abby Rosato (24:04.05), were 13th and 14th. Kylie Conroy, a junior who had been Mattituck’s No. 2 runner before being sidelined with knee tendinitis, made a comeback and was 17th in 28:29.37.
“They looked strong, so that’s what we wanted to be, be strong, finish well, be healthy and go to states with a great attitude going forward,” Robinson said. “Since day one they’ve been inseparable. So, I mean, just the dynamic between each one of them, it’s a big family and they pick each other up. They push each other constantly. We had some injuries this year that set us back a little bit, but we stuck together. We kept pushing, practicing, every single day working extremely hard.”
Mattituck finished with 22 points to second-place Center Moriches’ 34.
Maddaloni said, “We’ve had so many obstacles this season with injuries and just … bad races, so yeah, this was our time to show everybody that we were able to come out on top no matter what combination of people we put in, no matter how tough the course is.”
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for,” Masotti said after the team posed for photos with the championship plaque in the late afternoon’s fading light. “I’m so happy with our team. We’ve been working all season for this. Obviously, the weather isn’t the best, but we still ran our best. Today really showed that we’d do anything for each other.”
What was Nicholson’s take on things?
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I love this team so much. It’s the best team I’ve ever been on.”
Southold will send three girls to Plattsburgh: senior Olivia Lynch, her sister, freshman Francesca Lynch, and sophomore Evelyn Helinski.
“I’m thrilled. I’m absolutely thrilled,” said coach Karl Himmelmann.
Olivia Lynch (22:17.06) was second in the Class D race to Pierson junior Penelope Greene (20:30.41). Francesca Lynch (22:43.03) was third and Helinski (25:44.54, her best time ever on the course) seventh.
Of Olivia Lynch, who will make her third straight trip to the state meet, Himmelmann said: “I was happy with Olivia’s run. Olivia knows how to race to get the job done.”
Greenport senior Jessica Villareal (28:42.88) was 14th.
Maddaloni heard that the state meet will be run on a flat course. She liked hearing that.
“Flat courses are the best,” she said, “and that’s what we’re ready for, no hills, flat course and just kill it, and that’s just going to be a full-out sprint, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
As for the weather report, the Tuckers don’t seem to mind the cold, especially when good things happen.
Photo caption: Early in Friday’s race at Sunken Meadow State Park, from left, Southold’s Olivia Lynch, Mattituck’s Emily Nicholson, Payton Maddaloni and Bella Masotti led the Class C pack. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)