In recent years, the 4×200-meter relay team had been the pride and joy of the Mattituck High School girls winter track team.
For a good deal of this season, though, the speedsters on that relay team were not having the sort of success they expected. Over a stretch of three consecutive meets they had actually seen their times get slower, not faster.
Nothing will quite discourage a relay team like that.
“This season it seemed like it kind of dropped off, but we’re back,” said senior Claire Gatz.
Mattituck’s 4×200 relay team turned up the speed Saturday, recorded a season-best time and raced to first-place in the Section XI League V Championships at Suffolk County Community College’s Suffolk Federal Arena in Brentwood. Junior Nikki Searles, sophomore Mackenzie Conroy, Gatz and junior Bella Masotti won a close one in 1 minute, 54.18 seconds. Mount Sinai was second, only 75/100ths of a second behind the Tuckers.
It was Mattituck’s best time this season by about five seconds.
“It felt really good,” Gatz said. “I think we went really fast and our handoffs were really crisp. It seemed like everything came together this time.”
Who saw that coming?
“When I looked at the time, I was in like disbelief,” said Gatz, who was also fifth in the 600 in 1:53.70.
Masotti said: “This season was kind of rough with the 4×2. We didn’t have really high expectations, but just seeing that happen right now is insane.”
A key addition was Conroy, who ran her first 4×200 race ever and gave Mattituck the lead on the second leg.
Last year Mattituck was a second-place league finisher in the 4×200 in 1:54.71. Searles and Masotti ran on that team, which was nipped at the finish line by 29/100ths of a second by Bayport-Blue Point.
Despite the early-season difficulties, Masotti had not given up hope that the team would put things together. “I wasn’t really concerned because I knew we had the speed,” said Masotti, a runner-up in the 300 in 43.58. “All of us had the speed to run a good race. I think it was just like … someone would have a bad day, but today I think everything was just left on the track.”
The sprinting ability of Masotti and Searles came in handy in the 55-meter dash. They both ran season-best times of 7.93 seconds in the preliminaries. Then, in the final, Masotti’s bettered that time with a 7.83, bringing her third place. Searles clocked another 7.93 and finished fifth.
“We had a very good warmup,” Searles said. “That was definitely a factor and we actually had time to warm up, and we were just really pumped. And we wanted our start to be better because that’s like something we focus on, the start and the finish, not the middle of the race; we just really push each other on those parts.”
Mattituck senior Payton Maddaloni ran one of her better times in the 1,500 — 5:38.32. That brought her sixth place.
Maddaloni had won her heat handily, finishing nearly 17 seconds before the next finisher, Elwood/John Glenn’s Rebecca Hardie. That meant Maddaloni ran much of the race by herself, without being pushed by the competition.
“I ran pretty well,” she said. “I knew I’d start out pretty fast and I’d be running the race by myself most of the time, so I was just trying to pace myself, at the same time keep pushing myself.”
Maddaloni said she likes running with a large lead and no one around her. It’s training by herself that’s difficult, she said.
Earlier, Maddaloni had run the 1,000 in 3:31.08 (three seconds off her personal record) and came in eighth.
Conroy triple jumped 32 feet, 5 inches to land in fifth place. “It wasn’t my best for the season, but it was still good for me,” she said.
Searles, meanwhile, grabbed fourth in the 55-meter hurdles in 9.42 seconds.
“For me, I don’t think that’s a good time because what I’m aiming for is sub-nine,” she said. “That’s my goal for the season. I’ve been getting pretty close, but with the 55-meter finals so close to the prelims for the 55-meter hurdles, it was hard.”
Mattituck placed fourth in the team scoring with 35 points. Bayport took first with 168.
Searles said the league championships are a good measuring stick for athletes. She said, “I think our team is putting in a lot of work, and I think it will pay off.”