After a childhood of loving track and field, Paul Limmer took over the cross country program at Mepham High School in the 1960s. Sure, he was an enthusiast of the sport, but could he coach it? Those doubts lingered throughout the preseason. Then the gun went off, and a legendary career was born.
“When I took over the cross country coach job at Mepham, the school record at Eisenhower Park was 13 minutes, and in our first cross country race, we had six kids break the school record,” said Limmer, 74, of East Northport.
“We were easily the best team in the county in October, but because I had no idea what I was doing, we peaked in the middle of October. Then we were only third in the county. But I learned and listened to people like Al Berkowski [of Bellmore JFK] and I read, went to clinics, and before I knew it, I had some idea of what I was doing.”
That knowledge grew exponentially. And years later, in 1998, Limmer retired as one of the most accomplished track and cross country coaches in Long Island history.
He blew the practice whistle for numerous state and national champions, including distance standouts Mark Belger and Christine Curtin. He also coached former NFL running back Amos Zereoue.
Limmer will be among five coaches inducted into the Armory Coaches Hall of Fame during the Armory Coaches Hall of Fame Invitational on Saturday at The Armory in Manhattan.
“It feels good,” he said. “Some of the people who are already in that Hall of Fame are really special people. I’m not sure that I even belong among them, but I guess somebody must feel that way because I’m in. I’m really honored.”
Despite retiring 19 years ago, Limmer has remained a prominent name and face in the high school track and field world. He is the co-director of the Nike Cross New York and Northeast Regional meet, held at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls each fall, and is the assistant meet director for the New Balance indoor and outdoor track nationals.
For the last three years, Limmer has coached an American high school all-star team that competes at the Barrientos Memorial track and field meet in Havana, Cuba. Among the stars he worked with at this meet were Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Steelers cornerback Artie Burns and 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin.
“I never worked a day in my life,” Limmer said. “Nothing made me feel better than to see kids having a great time. That’s what I love. When kids have a great time, it was the thing that drove me. I got as much pleasure out of a kid breaking five minutes in the mile for the first time as a kid who ran 4:10. That is the truth.”