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Track Hall of Famer Roy Chernock, who coached 5 county schools, dies


Those in the local track and field coaching fraternity would affectionately describe Roy Chernock as having a feisty personality, at times argumentative to the point that one coach said he sometimes would just walk away from the verbal confrontation.

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It was all part of Chernock’s passion for a sport dear to him and for the young athletes he pushed to become winners.

“He rubbed some people the wrong way, but he was right most of the time,” said Rick Rothman, who built Spanish River High into a nationally ranked cross-country power and currently is an assistant track coach at Florida Atlantic University. “Him and I used to have some really good arguments. We both loved the sport… . He didn’t tolerate people who didn’t know what they were doing.”

Rothman fondly reflected on his occasional confrontations with Chernock after learning that his old friend and coaching colleague had died this week.

Chernock died Sept. 4 at Trustbridge Hospice in West Palm Beach. He was 90.His coaching career was filled with success. It began in the 1950s in Long Island, N. Y., and stretched more than six decades before he retired — for a second time — in 2016 .

Chernock had retired from coaching college track when he and his late wife, Ethel, moved to Palm Beach County in the late winter of 1990. His retirement did not last long, however.

Coaching young athletes was in his blood, and he decided that he wasn’t ready to give it up completely, so he happily accepted a job as the girls track coach at John I. Leonard High. Stints at four other local high schools – Suncoast, Wellington, Palm Beach Central and Seminole Ridge — and more coaching accolades would follow over the next two-plus decades.

“Coach C” — as his athletes affectionately called him — was 75 when he coached the John I. Leonard boys track team (his second stint at the school) to its most successful season in more than a decade, surprisingly overtaking the pre-meet favorites to capture the district title in 2003.

He practiced what he preached, too, as evidenced by the four events he won in his 60-64 age group – the 100-yard and 200-yard sprints, the long jump and standing broad jump – at the U. S. Senior Games held in Palm Beach County when he was 62. He held Masters sprint records in the 100 and 200 meters and the 100-meter hurdles when he was in his late 60s before hip replacement surgery ended his competitive running career, which he joked was “a shame because I was looking forward to kicking all those older guys’ butts in my age group.”

And he loved to boast that he shot his age (73) on the golf course at Addison Reserve in Delray Beach in 2001.

His legacy was highlighted though by the success he had coaching young athletes to be their best.

He coached 39 NCAA All-Americans, including five NCAA champions, during his five years at C. W. Post, now LIU Post in New York. He was inducted into the halls of fame at New York University (his alma mater), C. W. Post and William & Mary College, where he started the women’s track program in the late 1970s and which was his last stop at the college level before “retiring” to Palm Beach County.

“He was tough at times and very competitive,” said Jay Seider, who was building the Glades Central girls track program into a state power at the time Chernock arrived in Florida. “He loved the kids. Some things the kids didn’t understand, but he was trying to get the best out of them.”

Said Rothman: “I considered him a friend and a very respected colleague. He’ll be missed.”



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