Warwick, Rhode Island - One of New York's great Track and Field Historian's and Record Keepers, Larry Byrne, passed away earlier today. Byrne was more than just a passive contributor to the sport, supplying the now-famous "Blue Book," which for many years before the advent of the internet, would list the Top 50 All-Time Marks for New York State High School Track and Field. He was also involved in Cross Country, publishing a "Green Book," of marks run at the famed Van Cortlandt Park. Larry will also be remembered most for his dedication to the Penn Relays, attending 55 renditions of the annual event.
In 2013, Larry Byrne began collaborating with MileSplit NY, to help preserve the historical nature of his work. It was then we crowned the Larry Byrne Archives, a resource for all historical data from New York State, organized into a singular database and location. Through his tireless efforts, names dating back to the 60's and before, will not go forgotten in the annals of Track and Field History.
The Archives will continue to bear his name, proof of his lasting legacy upon the sport in New York State, and beyond.
More information about upcoming services will be made available when we hear of them.
Read More About Larry's contributions to the Sport below.
Byrne's first connection with track & field began in high school where he was as a distance runner for two catholic high schools. He enjoyed moderate success on the oval, clocking a best of 4:37 for the mile. School didn't quite go as planned.
"I started off at Xavier High. I was there for a year and a half and I flunked out," he said. "I then went to Brooklyn Prep, also a catholic high school, and I still couldn't get along with the Jesuits and dropped out."
After his two stints in high school, Byrne enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served for 22 years, retiring in 1971 as a Sargent. During his time in the Marines, he would earn his GED and bachelor's degree in Business Administration.
"I started going nights at Georgetown," he said. 'I got transferred all over the United States. Wherever I was stationed, if there was a college there I went. It took me 14 years to get a degree."
Byrne would land a job at Metropolitan Life where he worked as a recruiter, a position he held for 18 years until his retirement at 59, the same age he retired from the Marines.
Shortly after, Byrne coached for three years at Chaminade High where he was an assistant and later a head coach for the indoor squad in 1971.
"That's when I got my baptism to The Armory," he said. "They don't have dual meets in New York. They have big meets every weekend."
It was during this time that Byrne began his timeless collection of stats on high school T&F athletes. His dedication to the sport made him the likely choice to succeed nationally-recognized running author and journalist, Marc Bloom, as the Primary Invitation Director of the high school mile at the Millrose Games, a position that Bloom himself chose as Bryne successor. The race now bears the name of Bryne, who held the position for 34 years.
For many years, Byrne also served as the meet director for the IC4A Championships. Among other tings he has also done announcing for several track & field meets including the Yale Track Classic. He's also been an official and a member of the "split crew" in Press Row at the Penn Relays.
Speaking of the Penn Relays, it seems only fitting to talk about Byrne's association with the coveted meet that's being held this week. In the past 69 years, he has attended 55 Penns. His first experience was in 1946, his senior year of high school.
'I was like, 'Wow!" said Byrne, when he first entered Franklin Stadium as a teenager. "It was amazing seeing some of the best runners in the United States competing. The stadium wasn't quite as packed as it is now, but it was the most I have ever seen."
Byrne on his wedding to longtime companion Bernice DeMello on March 25.
Byrne has attended 22 straight Penn Relays since 1993. An operation to remove what turned out to be a benign tumor is his brain in 1999 has forced him to use a wheelchair. But it hasn't slowed him down."He still attends many meets, including Penn, with his longtime companion and now wife of one month, Bernice DeMello.
Mary Cain reacts with excitement after Byrne tells her she just set the national sophomore mile record at the 2012 Penn Relays.
For his contributions to the sport, Byrne was given the prestigious Donald H. Potts Award by the Penn Relays committee, an award that comes with a plaque, a yellow officials cap and a gold watch, the same coveted watch that is given to the winners in the Championship of America events.
While he has many great memories of the Penn Relays, he list seven among his favorite. At the top of the list is when he was honored as the Carnival Referee in 1999. He also cherished the time he was able to give the great Mary Cain her gold watch after the distance ace from Bronxville, New York set a national sophomore and NY state record of 4:39.28 in 2012.