Tony Toro coached at Longwood and St. Anthony's and later...

Tony Toro coached at Longwood and St. Anthony's and later started his own race-timing business.  Credit: T.J. Toro

He was known in Suffolk County as "Mr. Track and Field."

Tony Toro made a name for himself as one of the most decorated coaches in Long Island history with over 60 years of involvement in cross country and track and field, including more than 20 years as the sports' coordinator for Section XI, the county's governing body of scholastic sports. After retiring from coaching, he started his own electronic race-timing business, Just-In-Time Racing.

“There’s no one else that has done more for Suffolk County track and cross country than Tony Toro,” said Half Hollow Hills West track coach Jim Christian, 64, of Sayville. “It was his lifelong passion for the sport that helped Section XI cross country and track reach an incredibly high level of success.”

Anthony “Tony” Toro, who built Longwood High School into a track and field powerhouse as the coach from 1972 to 1994 before finishing his coaching career at St. Anthony’s, died on Jan. 9. He was 77.

“I think everyone remembers how dominant his teams were,” said assistant Bayport-Blue Point and Miller Place girls track coach Francis Sullivan, 56, of Baiting Hollow. “His personality and competitiveness made him such a good coach. He always had great pride in coaching and Suffolk County track.”

Toro, who was born in Puerto Rico on Jan. 5, 1947, ran cross country and track for Port Jefferson High School. One of the premier distance runners in the county in the mid-1960s, Toro was an outdoor county champion in the mile and the Class A county champion in 1965 and 1966. He continued his running career at Yankton College in South Dakota, where he received his bachelor’s degree before moving to Miller Place and receiving his master’s in teaching at Stony Brook.

Toro began his coaching career at Longwood in 1969 as the assistant cross country and track coach before transitioning to head coach in 1972.

“He changed the dynamics totally,” said former Longwood track and field coach Joe Reilly, 68, of Shoreham. “He took over a program that had no chance of winning, to winning a league championship in his first year.”

Toro quickly established statewide dominance at Longwood. As a cross country coach, he led the Lions to six league titles, four county championships, two state Federation titles and a state championship. At one point, over a 10-year span, Longwood won 58 consecutive league dual meets.

Toro’s teams experienced even more success on the track. Longwood’s spring track team won 15 league titles and six county championships (1978, '83, '88, '89, '91 and '92) during his tenure.

Toro also won a state Federation title while coaching St. Anthony’s in 1998. In addition to team success, Toro coached two individual state champions, Kevin Krause (Class A, 1987) and Kevin Hogan (Class A, 1990).

“At one point, there were three hurdlers who were the best to come in that season and all three of them learned to hurdle in Tony's driveway,” said Sullivan. “I remember running with my cross country team and seeing kids jumping over hurdles in his driveway. If he saw potential in you, he knew how to make you the best you could be.”

Toro would leave his biggest mark on the community when he retired from coaching in 1999 and started Just-In-Time Racing.

“He introduced fully electronic timing when no one else was doing it,” said Christian, who helped take over Just-In-Time Racing in 2020. "It really put Suffolk in a great position because it gave the kids a chance to see their numbers from every single meet in one place."

“He saw what needed to be done and taught himself how to do it,” said T.J. Toro, Tony’s son. “When he transitioned to his business, it was out of pure love for the sport.”

Toro became a staple at every Suffolk track and cross country meet, recording the times of every athlete and publishing them on his website immediately after the event.

“It elevated Suffolk track to a new level,” said Bayport-Blue Point girls track coach Vin Ungaro, 39, of Sayville. “There isn't a kid that didn't run for the last 25 years that doesn’t know his website. And whether you were a coach from another team or a college coach, you relied on the timing of him and his crew.”

Just-In-Time Racing ultimately became an Islandwide business and remains the primary source of results for Suffolk, Nassau and Catholic meets. Christian recalled Toro being asked why he charged so little for his services, to which he replied, “I love the sport and want things to be good for the kids.”

“He didn’t just time high school meets. If you ever wanted to run a road race to raise money, Tony would come out in his little trailer and time it,” said Sullivan. “He had a real passion for running and he knew what running needed to succeed in Suffolk. He wanted it to benefit everyone.”

“He just kept making it bigger and better,” said Reilly, Toro’s friend of more than 45 years and his mentee. “Whether it was an athlete, program ... anything, he never stopped trying to make things better. That will be his legacy.”

Toro retired as the Section XI cross country and track and field coordinator in 2022.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, Lynn, with whom he shared 53 years of marriage; and his daughter-in-law, Krystina. A private funeral service was held, the family said.

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