Larry Keene’s decades-long passion for cycling has enabled him to remain impressively close to his playing weight from his days as a two-sport athlete at the University of Indianapolis.
Forty-nine years after breaking the tape on his final 880-yard dash as a 150-pound Greyhounds senior, the 5-foot-8 Keene, now 71, checks in at a fit 155 pounds.
A teacher and coach in the Greenwood Community School Corp. for 40 years (1965-2005), Keene, now living in Largo, Fla., recently learned he would be among those inducted into UIndy’s Athletic Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Feb. 15.
“My first feeling was that I was humbled and that it was something I didn’t deserve,” Keene said via phone from his Florida home. “We were taught to be humble in those days, and the memories are still fresh.
“Beating Butler in football my freshman year is probably a good one. In track, winning conference (in the 880) and in the mile relay.”
Keene remains something of a novelty — an athlete who earned more varsity letters at the collegiate level than he or she did in high school.
He graduated from Southport High School in 1961 with six letters, four in track and two in football.
At the University of Indianapolis, which was then Indiana Central College, Keene starred in both sports all four years he was on campus, earning All-Conference honors six times.
Four were in track and field, the competition closest to Keene’s heart.
A fifth-place finisher for Southport in the 880 at the 1961 IHSAA State Meet on the then-cindered surface at Tech High School, Keene went on to enjoy even greater success at the next level.
He held school and conference records in the 880-yard dash (1:55.6) and as a member of the Greyhounds’ mile relay team with a blazing time of 3:23. The appropriately nicknamed Greyhounds finished undefeated in dual meets both Keene’s sophomore and junior seasons and managed multiple team conference titles with him in uniform.
Among his coaching stints at Greenwood Community High School was a 10-year run as the Woodmen boys track and field coach.
Keene’s gridiron feats included playing both tailback and defensive back in an era when two-way players were the norm rather than the exception. He was named the conference’s Most Outstanding Defensive Back as a senior.
“I probably liked track better because as an individual you can see your accolades better,” Keene said. “And we weren’t very good in football.”
Returning to this area for the upcoming ceremony isn’t a reach for Keene, who lived here until just five months ago. He still has plenty of family and close friends in the area.
“I just moved this past August to Florida,” he said. “It took me some getting used to, but I’m used to it now. I spent most of the last four winters in Florida, so I think it was adapting to a new place. This winter reminded me I did the right thing.”
A broken right hip suffered prior to the move south scaled back the number of miles Keene has been able to cycle, though lately he’s been working his way back to form.
Largo is on Florida’s Gulf Coast, 15 minutes northwest of St. Petersburg. From the comfort of his bicycle seat, Keene is able to observe the landmarks of Pinellas County in moderate to warm temperatures.
Geographically, he is a long way away from the athletic accomplishments of his youth.
But they’re always there. Come Feb. 15 they’ll be here on a permanent basis even if Larry Keene isn’t.