Allen Dawson Award for Contributions to Track and Field - Larry Byrne

by Pete Cava

Competitor, coach, official, renowned “guru” of Eastern scholastic track, and former IC4A Championships Director, best describes the life-long association Larry Byrne has had with track and field, since taking up the sport seriously as a prep distance runner in 1944. “In my slim youth”…as he puts it!

It probably all began a few years before that, when in his pre-teens on a quiet street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn [where he was born and raised], the neighborhood kids would gather for fun and games, which frequently turned to “foot races,” as they were then called.

At that time, distances were not measured in yards, but in “sewers,” or manhole covers in mid-street at regular intervals of about 100 feet or so. The races would be for one, never more than two “sewers,” and Larry most often was the victor. However, when kids from adjoining neighborhoods began to appear as competitors in these races, young “fleet-footed” Byrne soon lost the “Union Street laurel wreath,” and his interests turned to other sports and games that he could win with some consistency.

It wasn’t until his scholastic Sophomore year when the “running bug” manifested itself again, this time in the hills and dales of now famous Van Cortlandt Park, the cross country “mecca” for all New York City high schools, as well as Eastern colleges and beyond, where Larry found not only his “winning ways” again [well almost], but began to appreciate the teamwork and camaraderie that has carried him all the way to this point, in a life-long devotion to a true year-round sport that involves cross-country, as well as Indoor and Outdoor track and field.

With the onset of his young adult years, college didn’t beckon; however, with the outbreak of the Korean War, the U. S. Marine Corps did. In what turned out to be a rewarding military career totaling over 21 years, First Sergeant Byrne retired in 1970, soon after his obligatory Viet Nam combat tour. An 18 year career followed with Metropolitan Life, in their mid-Manhattan Home Office, as personnel consultant and executive conference planner. Along the way, Larry married and raised eight children.

Then, during the latter years of his Marine Corps career, and subsequent tenure with Met Life, he renewed a longtime “on-again-off-again” residency in the Long Island suburbs, where devoting part-time evenings, Larry earned a B.S. in Business Administration at C.W. Post College,’68, that eluded him in earlier years.. In 1988 he relocated to Warwick, Rhode Island, where he currently resides with longtime companion, Bernice DeMello, herself a collegiate and scholastic championships official.

Larry rekindled his significant affiliation with track post-USMC, initially as an assistant, then Head Coach, at a local Long Island high school…Chaminade…1970-74. Then he subsequently gravitated into officiating, at both the scholastic and collegiate levels. It is in this collegiate capacity that he became associated with the IC4A as an official in various capacities for over 10 years, when in August of 1987, then ECAC Commissioner Scotty Whitelaw appointed him as IC4A Championships Director.

In this position, Larry served as Meet Director, responsible for managing all of the activities necessary to conduct three annual championship meets--cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field--for the 100 plus member colleges and universities of the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (the “IC4A”), the now 129-year old men’s track and field conference.

In 2000, Larry retired from his IC4A role; however, he currently continues to devote countless hours to many other major components of the track world. He is “just about everywhere” that a major collegiate or scholastic meet is being conducted in the East. His varied functions have encompassed serving as “color” announcer at the Brown Invitational, Dartmouth Relays, Yale Classic, and National Scholastic Indoor Championship.

Perhaps his most cherished and rewarding assignment in the scholastic track world, is that of the Invitations Director of the Millrose Games Boys’ High School Mile, where for the past 28 years it has been his responsibility to select and invite nine participants, from among the nation’s best scholastic milers, to compete in what is considered to be the most prestigious individual scholastic indoor event in the U.S.

Additionally, Larry has served for over 25 years as a member of the Track and Field News “Media Crew” at the world-renowned Penn Relays; as well as periodically the “Recorder of Records” at the USATF Indoor and Outdoor Nationals; and the Millrose Games; as well as “Official Scorer” at several recent NCAA Outdoor Championships.

On the journalism side, Larry has been an active member for over three decades of the Track and Field Writers of America, along with New York City Track Writers Association, and has contributed articles, meet summaries, statistics, and been quoted on his knowledge and expertise of the sport in such major print media as Sports Illustrated, Track and Field News, Eastern Track, New York Times, Newsday, Boston Globe and Providence Journal, among others.

Moreover, since 1977, Larry has served as Track Editor of the weekly New York State Scholastic Sports Writers “Newsletter”, and publishes several annual statistical booklets, including the Van Cortlandt Park Cross Country “Greenbook”... and the New York State High School Track and Field “Bluebook”. Therefore, it is not too surprising that Larry has been the recipient of a number of prominent awards within the “track world” for his enthusiastic dedication and devotion to all facets of the sport…including today...THE SECOND ANNUAL ALLEN DAWSON AWARD.


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