BELMONT — Don Berry first stepped into the world of track and field in the mid-1950s as a student at Scarborough High School.

From that point, Berry fell in love with the sport, and since — except for a four-year period when he attended the University of Maine in Orono — immersed himself in the activity, from his 25 years coaching at Belfast Area High School (1963-1998), to his 36 years — and counting — as an official.

Officiating is what Berry enjoys to this day, and his years of service in Maine — from youth to high school levels — the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation and New Balance Indoor and Outdoor high school meets (for the top high school athletes in the nation) as well as Olympic qualifiers, earned him a nomination for the USA Track and Field Officials Hall of Fame, which he, ultimately, was selected for, and announced in September.

“I was very humbled,” Berry said. “I’ve worked with most of the people that are in the hall of fame at one time, or at least 90 percent of them. We started [the national hall of fame] in 2007. I think it shows you’ve been recognized nationally by your peers. I think that is one of the greatest pieces, and probably most humbling and honoring piece that exists.”

Berry, who will be inducted in a ceremony on Friday, Dec. 3 in Orlando, Fla., said the criteria to be nominated for the hall of fame is “pretty straightforward,” as a person “has to officiate for at least 20 years and be an outstanding official at multiple levels of competition.”

Berry had ample time to achieve those criteria, and admits “it’s difficult to sit here and toot my own horn on what I’ve done.”

Lifetime of service

Berry’s start in the officiating world was while he was coach of the Lions track-and-field team, and the call to duty arose due to situations not up to his standards.

“Part of the driving force was knowing and seeing situations at times that were affecting my own team,” Berry said. “Things were being called that weren’t fouls, and other things not called that were fouls. That kind of did it [for me]. In the [Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference] at that time, we weren’t a huge league like it is today, and most of us who were coaches ended up working an event.”

The first event Berry worked in 1985 was javelin, and since that point the 80-year-old has worked every event at every level, but now focuses on running events.

“Now, my primary focus is an IMA running referee,” Berry said. “I’m what’s called a level two referee, which is the highest level you can achieve as a referee in the country. Working major track meets is a big part of this. For many years, I have been the running referee for the New Balance meets in New York and Greensboro, N.C., this last spring in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and this last summer in Eugene, Ore., for the national scholastic meet.”

In addition to traveling the United States for high-profile meets, Berry juggles multiple roles across the track-and-field landscape in Maine, including coordinator of officials for state track-and-field meets, coordinator of officials for New England high school track-and-field meets hosted by Maine, as well as the Maine certification chairperson, to name a few.

In addition to being in charge of track-and-field officials in Maine, Berry also steps back onto the sidelines and occasionally referees America East Conference college meets.

The former chemistry teacher also dipped into politics, as he served in the Maine House of Representatives in the 118th, 119th, 120th and 121st Legislatures.

Rewarding “job”

With 36 years under his belt, the enjoyment is still present, as Berry enjoys providing “fairness to athletes” across the track-and-field age spectrum.

“The most rewarding piece is to sign off on a national record or international record with master level athletes,” Berry said. “Working those New Balance meets for high school-level athletes, I have seen people that are now gold medal Olympians, and I saw them as freshmen in high school. You just knew at that point in time this person is going to excel.”

When he is not signing off on records, Berry enjoys working in the Pine Tree State with younger athletes.

“Maine runs one of the largest summer track programs for kids, which is one of the most fun events to work at,” he said.

Even as his coaching days at Belfast are in the rear-view mirror, Berry still checks in on the Lions, and one of his former athletes — Dale Nealey — who has been the head coach for years.

“Track and field has been a part of my life as far as what I’ve been doing,” Berry said. “Teaching at Belfast and coaching at Belfast was a major honor. The growth of track and field has been amazing. I think the philosophy [at Belfast] has been carried over by [Dale] Nealey. Seeing Nealey have championships, and championship athletes, is such a rewarding piece.”