If he hadn’t gotten cut from the baseball team in his senior year of high school, it’s quite possible that Eddie Arnold never would have been the track coach at Southampton High School.
Arnold, who’s been coaching track at Southampton since the fall of 2002, had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player when he attended William Floyd High School in the 1980s, but that all changed when he was cut from the team his senior year. Surprised—to say the least—that he was cut, Arnold was urged by other coaches and his parents to go out for the track team. He eventually decided to run track, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Arnold, who graduated from Floyd in 1985, was inducted into the William Floyd Hall of Fame at the school’s sixth annual induction ceremony on December 22. It was a pleasant surprise to be inducted, said Arnold. “It was a great feeling,” he said. “More so for my family, for my children to see me getting inducted, and my wife—that was more special to me. It was a nice honor.”
Arnold simply said that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for being cut from the baseball team—at the time, a severe setback. “I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do,” he explained. “I had no direction. I played baseball through my high school career, and I was a very good baseball player. But playing baseball wasn’t in God’s plan for me—I don’t want to make it about God, but I think it has a lot to do with him.
“A lot of kids don’t get a chance to do things, and a coach can make or break a kid’s life,” he continued. “I really believe that what happened to me was a blessing. I coach now, I teach now. I give back to the community as a coach.”
Arnold used one spring track season his senior year at Floyd to launch himself into what would end up being a lifelong infatuation with track. In his lone high school track season, he broke two school records—in the 100- and 200-meter dash—and also made the Suffolk County Championships.
Track also led Arnold to pursue endeavors he never thought were possible. Before track, he wasn’t sure if college was a possibility. But because of his success during his final high school year, Arnold was able to run track at Farmingdale State University, becoming the first member of his family to attend college. While Arnold liked Farmingdale, he didn’t enjoy the long rides from Shirley to Farmingdale, and felt unsatisfied there. So Arnold decided to attend Suffolk County Community College, where he was still able to run track and find his calling to teach and coach.
In 1988, Arnold ran in the Empire State Games and took home a gold medal in the 200-meter dash. After graduating from Suffolk County Community College in 1990, Arnold went to Millersville University in Pennsylvania. It was at Millersville where Arnold received a degree in education, but he also set school records that still stand today in the 200- and 300-meter dash. Arnold was a Pennsylvania State Champion and earned All-American Division II honors in 1991, when he was ranked fifth in the nation in the 200-meter dash.
Later in 1991, Arnold competed in the U.S. Olympic Development Invitational, also known as the Penn Relays, with a professional running team, Shore/AC Running Club. He ran the anchor leg against eventual Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis in the 4x200-meter relay, which aired on ESPN.
Arnold said that his coach at Millersville, Larry Warshawsky, was the first track coach that he was really able to connect with. Warshawsky agreed, mainly because he grew up in the Bronx and could get along with a young man coming from Long Island. “He was a pleasure to work with,” he said of Arnold. “He weighed about 190 pounds and was built like a football player. He had an extremely fast stride. I coached at Millersville for about 21 years, and he was by far the best 200-meter runner I’ve ever coached. He still holds the school record in the 200, at 21.1 seconds.”
Warshawsky said he had to adjust workouts for his team because of Arnold. “No one could keep up with him in practice,” he said, “so I made two separate workouts for the team, one for short sprinters and one for long sprinters. Eddie would run the 100 and 200 steadily for us, and once or twice he would run in the relays.”
After graduating from Millersville, Arnold returned to Long Island, where he wound up working at BOCES in the special education program. In the spring of 2002, Arnold was asked to take over the boys track varsity program at Center Moriches, and in his first year of coaching he was named Coach of the Year after his team won the county championship, dethroning then seven-time champion Port Jefferson. His success, not to mention his energy and passion as a coach, led him to a job at Southampton, where he has been ever since. He has led the Southampton girls 4x100-relay team to eight consecutive county titles.