When a mutual acquaintance learned that a reporter was seeking an interview with Trevor Zappulla, he wished the journalist good luck. In other words, the humble Zappulla is not known for being much of a talker. Not that he needs to be. His running times this high school track and field season spoke volumes.
In this, his first outdoor track season, the Mattituck junior has run the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 38.62 seconds, the 3,200 in 10:16.11 and the 2,000-meter steeplechase in 7:08.16 the first time he competed in that event, according to Mattituck coach Jean Mahoney.
The mere fact that Zappulla competed and earned a medal in the Section XI Class C Championships May 26 at Mount Sinai High School was impressive enough. In the 1,600, Zappulla finished fourth in 4:48.63, good for a medal. Earlier in the meet, he came in fifth in the 800 in 2:04.88. His day got more interesting, too. That evening he was selected Mattituck’s junior prom king.
But an asterisk needs to be placed next to those times. Zappulla was not at full strength that day, coming off a bout with flu-like symptoms, losing about 10 pounds in the process.
“I was worried,” Mahoney said. “I was really worried. I wasn’t sure if he was gonna run at all this week, but he really pushed himself and, you know, we tried to figure out how to recover as best we could.”
Track is an unforgiving sport for those not feeling their best. So, how did Zappulla feel?
“I felt like I had a little less endurance,” he said. “I could have done a better time, but I’m happy with how it went.”
Asked to put a percentage on where he was health-wise, Zappulla answered, “I’m not totally sure, maybe 80 percent, but I still I felt good enough to race, just I didn’t feel like a hundred percent there.”
When it was pointed out that Zappulla picked up a fourth-place medal, Mahoney said: “But normally it would be second or first. Next time.” She also noted that his 800 time was the second-fastest he has run.
Zappulla said he returned to training May 23 after a few days of being ill. “I went on an easy run to see how I felt,” he said. “I tried doing workouts each day. It went pretty well.”
Zappulla indicated he felt better at the Section XI state qualifier last Thursday and Friday at Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, but he didn’t qualify for the state meet. He was second in Division II in the 1,600 in 4:39.19 to Southampton senior William Malone (4:30.11). The day before Zappulla ran an unseeded section of the 3,200 in 10:20.40.
“Today was the race to get in and I missed it,” he said after the 1,600 race.
Mahoney has raved about Zappulla’s performances, attitude and approach.
“He’s an amazing kid,” she said, “top-notch student, a hard worker, you know. He’s the kind of kid that you can tell him what he needs to do and then he’ll do a little extra, whether it’s doing extra strideouts [100-meter sprints] or something like that.”
Zappulla also puts a good deal of thought into his races, the coach said.
“He really knows the other kids,” she said. “He looks up what they have. We sit down and talk about that. He’s a very smart athlete. He’s really thinking like, ‘What do I need to do? Do I just need to stay up with the other kids or, you know, do I need to pace? What do I need?’ ”
While Zappulla figures the 1,600 is his best event, he likes the 800 more. The 800 is like a long sprint, with not much time to think. “That’s what I like about it,” he said.