Bill Green was more than just a remarkable sprinter | News | Palo Alto Online |


Bill Green was more than just a remarkable sprinter


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.

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1 person likes this
Posted by JackieTreehorn
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2012 at 2:41 am

I knew Bill, we were friends. RIP.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm


Thank you for writing this story on Bill Green. I did not know him, personally, but I do know those who did.

Chariots of fire are as rare as bright comets. Bill Green was one of them. So was Hal Davis.

Like this comment
Posted by steve san jule
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 31, 2012 at 9:34 am

keith...just read about bill green. as a cub. graduate...class of especially pains me to read of his passing. what a wonderful young man. memories of times gone by....cubberley closing in 79...

2 people like this
Posted by Raymond Threatt
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

The the Green family (Mr. Green) I'm so sorry to hear the news of Bill. I meet your son/brother in the spring of 1978 at a track meet. We became track rivals who had great respect for each other. We had one of the greatest battle of my high school career in January of 1979 at the old Cow palace beteen my self,Bill and Ted White of Richmond. I attended the U of Arizona and Bill U.S.C. we would speak at differant meets thru our college days. As much as I enjoy seeing Bill from time to time I always enjoyed speaking to you also Mr. Green. God bless you all.
Raymond Threat, Pittsburg High school. Pittsburg Ca./ U of Arizona

Like this comment
Posted by Amyk
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Thanks Keith for the wonderful article. You just don't seem to have humble athletes anymore. Cubberley was a great school with some great people

Like this comment
Posted by Bret Michel
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 11:50 am

I ran track at Cubberley High School, but quit due to painful shin-splints early 1979 season. I knew Bill, and his brother Rod. Bill especially had encouraging words for me---he was an amazing athlete no doubt,and we were transfixed on his abilities from the bleachers, but what I remember most, was his demeanor---just the nicest guy in the world who always gave you the time of day; that is, if he wasn't flyin' by at a high rate of speed.
I remember my conversations with Bill on the bleachers at Palo Alto High when he'd come visit in 1980, the year I graduated from Paly. He'd always have something interesting or funny to say, but was quiet and contemplative as well.
I am truly saddened by his passing, and regret not being able to chat with him after all these years, it would have been fun to catch up. My deepest sympathy to all his family and friends. -Bret Michel

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm

That's the best photo ya got of Bill? Besides being smart, sweet, and funny, my friend was also extremely handsome.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Sarah, I don't mean to make too much of your statement, because there is no need to, for a variety of reasons. I would just say that the published picture showed Bill Green in action. Look at his explosive cut! From an athletic perspective, he is very awesome, if not exactly "handsome". Good enough for me!

Perhaps you were looking from a different perspective?


3 people like this
Posted by Rod Green
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm


Very nice article and thanks for coming to Bill's service. I remember our O.J. Conversation.


Thanks for the kind words about Bill. I remember you well and have a picture of you and Bill from a race here with me in Michigan.

Bret, Sarah, & Craig,

Thanks for the comments. I kind of like the picture. Bill often took a hat off before a race so his hair was a bit rough. His legacy lives on. His nephew Rod Jr. (14) ran in his first meet in a few years last week. He won the 200, 400 & 800. Bill and I never did that.

Rod Green

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 1, 2012 at 7:34 am

I just saw his bench over at the Cubberly track. The name on the plaque brought me here. They did a nice job--it has a few flower pots on the edges and is in a cool and shady redwood grove on the western end of the track.

You can access the track from the rear parking lot at Cubberly (near the ball fields) or the entrance on the Nelson Drive side. It's a nice spot to spend a few minutes remembering and watching all the activity going on at the various fields.

Like this comment
Posted by john foster
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Thanks. I coached bill and his brother rod and friends at cubberly in spring 1979. Bill was the most gifted and
Naturally talented athlete iI had ever seen or coached. We won the ccs that year and almost won the state meet in sacramento, with just bill and our mile relay team. I felt bill would go in to win an olympic medal in the 400. Bill was quiet, kind, humble, polite, and a true champion. He knew god had given him a great gift. I will always feel honored to have coached and known bill green. My sympathy and prayers to the green family.hmm

Like this comment
Posted by bill foster
a resident of University South
on Jun 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm

I used to go to all the cubberly hs track meets in spring 1979. My brother john foster had been an all american high hurdler from stanford under payton jordan and coached at cubberly. Watching bill was like watching an olympian run against hs boys. Bill would get the baton and pass sic runners in the blink of an eye. It was exciting and fun to watch him run. My sympathy to the green family. Bills life and positive deeds will not be forgotten. He will always be one of the best to come out of california and our beautiful penninsula ..sf bay.

Like this comment
Posted by joe wilson
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:16 am

Bill was part of a great cubberly track and field team that year..he never made himself out to be anyone bigger than any if his team members, even if he was the star. They sure had a lot of fun that championship season of 1979. What ever happened to coach ken..and all the other great coaches and athletes ? Where are they now ? I was a fan and follower of the team and a cub graduate 1973. Thanks for remembering bill. The fastest gun in the west in 1979 !!! You shoulda seen them all blaze !!! Speed city palo alto !!!

Like this comment
Posted by Dwayne Green
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2016 at 4:59 am

Just heard about the death of Bill at the San Jose State Track and Field reinstatement presentation. I first met Bill when I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman. He reminded me of myself when I was a freshman except bigger and stronger.

We connected because of being name-sakes and had a plessnt conversation. Despite all of his early success he prssent himself as a humble and nice person. I later ran into him a few years later when he was running for USC and I for SJSU. We both ran anchor leg on the 4 x 200 relay.

It was a pleasure meeting Bill and I think it was a great gesture for the city to put a bench and plaque honoring Bill. And to the Green family, so heartfully sorry for you loss God bless.

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