By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Bill Green's life went by just too fast, nearly as quick as he was at Cubberley High when he blazed to a reputation as one of 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 clocked 46.77 and won the 440-yard title at the CIF State Meet and track officialdom took notice. The next year, as a senior, he won the 100 at the state meet and anchored the mile relay to a third-place finish of 3:17.7 -- fastest in school history.
During the summer, Green ran 45.51 in the 400 meters while taking third at the AAU meet 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.
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, Green 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.
Green won CCS titles in the 220 and 440 as a junior and won the 100 (yards) in 9.56 and 440 in 46.73 and anchored the 440 relay team to victory in 42.07 to help Cubberley win the 1979 CCS team title, the only one in school history.
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 knowing full well that U.S. President Jimmy Carter had called for a boycott of the Moscow Games.
Nonetheless, Green will always carry the legacy of being an Olympian.
When news of Green'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."
From Doug Griffith: "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. 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."
Green 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.
He is survived by his parents, Palo Altans Loretta Martin Green, a retired journalist, and William E. Green, an attorney. He also leaves his brother Roderic Martin Green (Tammy) of Commerce, Mich., who also was a member of the speedy Cubberley Cougars. Green is survived by his sisters Inelle Lisa Green of San Jose and Nicole Elise Green of Oakland.
A celebration of Bill Green's life was held on Saturday, with hundreds turning out. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in his 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.
It was announced that a memorial bench will be placed next to the track at the former Cubberley High site (now Cubberley Community Center) with a special plaque highlighting Green's achievements.