Bill Green was sprinter extraordinaire
Bill Green's life was a fast one, which is appropriate since the former Cubberley High star was among the fastest runners of his generation in track and field.
Green, who grew up in Palo Alto, passed away at age 50 on March 4 in Spokane, Wash., after courageously enduring a painful illness and crushing disability — he learned last August he had metastatic esophageal cancer after an undetected malignant spinal tumor caused sudden paraplegia.
He is most remembered, by many, for his extraordinary talent as a runner who put Cubberley High on the map in the world of track and field.
By 1978, as a junior, he won the California State championship at 440 yards and track officialdom took notice. The next year, as a senior, he ran 45.51 in the 400 meters and set a national high school record having run it faster than any high school athlete ever. In addition, he was a fail-safe, come-from-behind anchor in the sprint relays.
Bill was selected for the Pan American Games, though he did not compete. At age 18, after placing in the top three in the U.S. Men's National Championship meet in Southern California against veteran college stars, he found himself three days later on a flight to Europe with a team of Americans sent to compete on the world stage.
He had a large collection of trophies, but among his proudest recognitions were those earned at home — his Athlete of the Year honor at Cubberley and the Peninsula Male Athlete of the Year Award, presented by the Peninsula Times Tribune in 1979.
He ran 10.59 for the 100 meters, 20.91 for the 200 and 45.51 in the 400 — times that still rank among the best all-time in the Central Coast Section. His 400 time still ranks No. 2.
From Cubberley, Green graduated to USC and was a member of some of the world's fastest relays.
In 1980, the ecstasy and agony of his running career were realized when he won the 400 meters at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., despite know full well that U.S. President Jimmy Carter had called for a boycott of the Moscow Games.
Nonetheless, Green's memory will always carry the legacy of being an Olympian.
When news of Bill's death reached friends, fans and coaches, they flooded social media venues with tributes and photos of his track accomplishments.
"Bill and I were roommates, teammates, and friends at USC,":wrote one friend. "Bill was a track and field phenomenon, and a far better friend. Bill had many interests beyond track, life was always interesting with Bill, you never new what adventure was around the corner. He touched many lives."
"As a Bellarmine track athlete, I had the privilege of competing against Bill in one race and watching him in a few others. A truly incredible athlete, a good guy, and one of the best high school track & field athletes in CA history. For those of us who had the opportunity to watch him, he will not be forgotten," wrote Doug Griffith. "A very special athlete. God bless Bill and his family."
And, from Dan Carney: "I ran for Buchser High School in my senior year '79 against Bill. We raced in the 220 at Cubberley and after he smoked me I was so mad I threw my shoes on the ground. But, he came up to me and said, 'You had me all the way off the turn and I ran as hard as I could.' I know he was just trying to make me feel good, but he insisted he gave it his all. Anyway, it just proves his character and how modest and humble he was. He was the fastest athlete I've ever had the privilege to compete against. Over the years I tell people of him and how amazing he was and how lucky and fortunate I was to run against him. You're the man, Bill Green."
Friends and family recalled his love of animals; his "techno-geek" interest in electronics and computers; his collection of vintage radios; and his status as a licensed ham operator.
Bill spent long hours in the library, loved gardening, music, cooking, hiking, camping, metal-detecting and fishing. Friends praised his sense of humor and his kindness and compassion.
Bill was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., May 1, 1961. The family moved to Rochester, N.Y., where he attended the Harley School and later public school. The Greens moved to Palo Alto in 1971 and he attended Crescent Park School, Jordan and Wilbur middle schools, and was a graduate of Cubberley's last class before it closed in 1979.
Bill is survived by his parents, Palo Altans Loretta Martin Green, a retired journalist, and William E. Green, an attorney and a former quarter-miler at the University of Pittsburgh. He also leaves his brother Roderic Martin Green (Tammy) of Commerce, Mich., who also was a member of the speedy Cubberley Cougars. Bill is survived by his sisters Inelle Lisa Green of San Jose and Nicole Elise Green of Oakland.
A celebration of Bill's life will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, at the Unity Palo Alto Church, 3391 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in Bill's memory to the Peninsula Bay Links Scholarship Fund, 1635 Candace Way, Los Altos, CA 94024. The money will fund a Bill Green academic scholarship to be presented in May to a local, college-bound senior track and field athlete.