Unbeaten Monarchs extend their reign

WYANDANCH — Karli Nunez will graduate next month having been part of a championship girls track and field team in three of her four years attending Bishop McGann-Mercy High School. Only a one-point loss to Port Jefferson two years ago, she said, kept her from winning four in a row.

“It’s really nice,” Nunez said of her team’s accomplishments.

But perhaps none of those will mean as much to her as the Suffolk County League VII championship the Monarchs (9-0, 9-0) clinched in a double-dual meet against Mattituck and Wyandanch last Thursday afternoon at Wyandanch High School. That is because for the first time in her track career, Nunez’s mother, Tricia Nunez, was her coach. Tricia Nunez coached the boys track team at Hampton Bays High School before moving over to coach the Monarchs this year.

“At first I was a little hesitant,” Karli Nunez said of her mother becoming her coach. “But then I thought, it’s my last year, why not? It’s turned out to be a lot of fun.”

Said Tricia Nunez, “It’s the best job in the world.”

In their last regular-season meet, the Monarchs beat Mattituck, 97 1/2-40 1/2, and routed Wyandanch, 110-29. The Tuckers defeated the Warriors, 90-60. The results left Mattituck 4-4, 4-4, and Wyandanch 0-8, 0-8.

“Mercy’s a powerhouse,” Mattituck Coach Jean Mahoney said.

The Monarchs came close to sweeping the track events, winning 10 of 12. When Lindsay Gelling finished the 1,500-meter racewalk in 8 minutes 45 seconds against Stony Brook earlier this season, Tricia Nunez called the performance “awesome.” This time Gelling clocked 8:39.

The Monarchs won the sprinting events, with Karli Nunez taking the 100-meter high hurdles with a time of 17.4 and Olivia Schumann winning the 100-meter dash in 12.7. Sasha Vann won the 200-meter race in 26.9.

In the 800 meters, Tori Cataldo of McGann-Mercy raced out to the lead and held it despite a decision by Mattituck’s Morgan Zuhoski’s to sprint the final three-quarters of a lap. Zuhoski passed Callie Gelling, who had led her by a comfortable margin to finish second in 2:47.8. “That’s a surprise,” Mahoney said. “She’s a sprinter. She’s also a soccer player, so she has the endurance.”

It was only the second time Zuhoski has run that distance. After the first time, “she swore she would never do it again,” Mahoney said. “But that’s a leader to say, ‘I’ll do it and make the sacrifice.’ “

Zuhoski found a gear no one else had despite gusty winds that made runners feel as if they were running into a headwind.

“That straightaway stunk,” Mattituck race walker Carly Batist said, pointing to the track’s backstretch. “We couldn’t do anything on it.”

Headwind, tailwind or no wind, it did not prevent some exciting showdowns. In the 400, McGann-Mercy’s Kayleigh Macchirole could not break free from Wyandanch’s Lorenza Birt. Birt stayed on Macchirole’s shoulder the entire way through the backstretch and final turn. Birt made her move with 50 meters left and Macchirole could not catch up. Birt won in 1:00.9. Macchirole finished in 1:02.9.

In the 4×100-meter relay, Vann ran the anchor leg in 11.7 seconds for the Monarchs, but it was not enough to catch up with Dominique Mitchell, who led the Warriors to the win in that event with a time of 52.8. The Monarchs were 7/10ths of a second behind.

It was not the only time that Mitchell outran Vann. Vann set the long-jump mark on her first attempt, leaping 15 feet 5 inches. But Mitchell beat that by five inches and then jumped 16-0 on her next attempt. Mitchell also won the triple jump. As the final jumper going into her last jump, she trailed Mattituck’s Chelsea Ficner by two inches. But Mitchell outleaped Ficner by eight inches and won with a jump of 33-3.

Neither opponent could touch the Monarchs in the other two relay events, nor was there much competition in either the 1,500, which Emily Venesenina, the only runner to crack 6 minutes, won in 5:32.9, or the 3,000 meters. Lauren Valle won the 3,000 with a time of 12:54.

Those efforts, allowing the Monarchs to roll through event after event, are why they repeated as League VII dual-meet champions.

“How great is that?” asked Tricia Nunez.

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