His voice is unmistakable — both pronounced and palpable. It is the voice of track and field. It is the voice of the ‘big meet.’ It is the voice of success. And now, it is the voice of a Hall of Famer. Dennis Kornfield, now in his 34th year as coach of the Uniondale boys track and field team and longtime public-address announcer at The Armory in Manhattan, was inducted into the Armory Coaches Hall of Fame during the 2nd AT&T Coaches Hall of Fame Invitational Dec. 17.
“It was fantastic,” Kornfield, who is also the Nassau boys indoor track coordinator, said. “My team was there, so that made me feel great. We capped it off by winning the 4 x 200-meter relay, and at that moment, they announced it was the number three time in the U.S. The time that we ran (1:31.77) was faster than we’ve run at this point in the season in probably about 20 years. So, I’m really psyched about this group.”
Kornfield’s resume is as lengthy as it is accomplished. At heart, however, he is a coach that would much rather speak passionately about his current team and the athletes that proceeded them than wax poetic about his own accomplishments.
Since taking the reigns of the Uniondale boys program in the spring of 1982, Kornfield has engineered 42 team county championships, split between indoor and outdoor track and field, he said.
Track, which has seeped into Kornfield’s DNA, was not his first love, or even his second. While growing up in Hempstead in the 1950s, Kornfield played both baseball and basketball. He graduated Hempstead High School in 1959, where he was a classmate of NFL Hall of Famer John Mackey.
After graduating the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in 1964, he worked at his father’s drugstore in West Hempstead while taking education courses at Hofstra. Kornfield became a science teacher and, in 1967, was asked to coach cross country at Turtle Hook Junior High School. He also coached junior varsity basketball and, after an undefeated season in 1982, turned his attention to track full time.
“The first meeting that I called, I had one kid show up,” he said. “I’ll never forget it.”
But, after embracing the tradition that had been built at Uniondale under longtime coach Al Krauser, Kornfield began to build his own track and field dynasty.
“In my first year, I would be an observer,” he said. “I would go to meets and watch athletes and see ‘oh, this is working.’ ”
Kornfield’s time as an announcer began, he estimates, nearly 25 years ago.
“He brings the New York voice,” Armory Foundation president Dr. Norb Sander said. “He’s got a twang that’s distinctive, and he really adds a lot to these races.”
This year, he will take his Hall of Fame pipes a little south of the Armory and announce the indoor track state championships at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island in March.
“I love doing that because I love getting kids attention and publicity,” Kornfield said. “The kids love it also.”
When Kornfield is not blowing a whistle or speaking into a microphone, moments that are sometimes hard to come by, he can be seen at Jets home games standing on the sideline as a member of the chain gang, a role he has occupied since the mid-1980s.
“I’ve been hit a few times,” Kornfield said. “You try to get up as quickly as you can because it’s embarrassing. I had Bruce Smith, when he was playing for the Buffalo Bills, run into me. He grabbed me around the waist and the pants I was wearing started to fall down.”
With so much on his plate, Kornfield sees no reason to slow down. After all, he’s having so much fun — and it doesn’t take a trained ear to hear that.
“I can’t see myself not doing it,” he said. “I still do all the running drills with the kids. I’m not crazy enough to still go over the hurdles. But, I can do high knees. I can still beat most of them.”