Over the past two decades, the Southampton girls track and field team has gained notoriety for consistently putting together talented 4x100-meter relay teams. But at the Division III meet at Ward Melville High School on May 22, it was a different relay team that stole the show.
For the first time in 18 years, the Lady Mariners 4x400-meter relay team won the division title, with Dreanne Joseph, Michele Gagliardo, Amanda Mannino and Gabriella Arnold upsetting top seed Mount Sinai, posting a time of 4:08.02 in what head coach Eddie Arnold called the most exciting relay he has witnessed by his team in 18 years of coaching. The team’s time in the prelims had been 4:11. Mount Sinai took second, in 4:08.53.
“We were seeded second, and the goal was just to make All-Division,” he said. “So [the win] came as a surprise, because the girls really just stepped it up.”
The race was a battle between Mount Sinai—led by anchor leg runner Kayleigh Robinson, one of the top 400-meter runners in the county—and a strong Southampton team.
Neither team had the early lead, as Westhampton Beach got out to a quick start in the first two legs of the race, but Arnold said that Joseph and Gagliardo, who completed the first two legs for the Lady Mariners, did a great job keeping it close enough to give Southampton a chance at a comeback.
Mount Sinai was making a comeback as well, and by the third leg, Westhampton Beach had faded to third, setting up the battle between Mount Sinai and Southampton. Mannino “totally tore it up” in the third leg, according to Arnold, overtaking Mount Sinai’s runner to put Southampton ahead when she handed the baton off to Arnold, setting up a showdown for the win between Arnold and Robinson. Robinson took a slight lead over Arnold, but Arnold dug deep and snatched back the lead, and the victory, for her team.
Every Lady Mariner ran a personal-best time.
“They were neck and neck the last 80 meters,” their coach said. “It was the most exciting race I’ve ever seen.”
Arnold said the 4x4 division title was certainly the first the team had won in his nearly 20-year coaching career, and said he believed it was the first in program history.
The 4x4 win was part of an overall strong two-day showing at the division meet, which was contested at Ward Melville on May 20 and 22. Arnold also made the finals in the 400-meter race, taking fourth, in 1:02.18.
Caroline Palumbo made the finals in the 100-meter hurdles, taking sixth, in 17.25 seconds. The Southampton 4x100-meter relay team of Rebekah Moritz, Katey O’Brien, Taylor Zukosky and Carli Cameron finished fifth, in 53.33 seconds. Riplee Mercer took ninth in the discus throw, with a distance of 88 feet 6 inches, and Bridget Ferguson was sixth in the high jump after clearing 4 feet 8 inches.
As a team, Southampton finished 13th out of the 18 teams competing in Division III.
Next up for the Lady Mariners is the Section XI (Suffolk County) state qualifier meet at Comsewogue High School on May 31 and June 1. Action starts at 3 p.m. both days.