November 1, 2006

Rathbun Was Heps Champion for Men’s Track

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On Friday, Nov. 3, 11 former athletes, including five regional and national All-Americans, will be inducted into the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame. Among those All-Americans will be William Rathbun III ’90, a four-year letter winner on the track and cross country teams and the only Cornellian to ever run a sub 4:00 mile.
Remembered most for his driven attitude and incredible will to win, Rathbun was nearly unbeatable on race days. Rich Bowman, now an assistant coach with the track program, recruited Rathbun in 1986.
“[Rathbun had] an interesting knack of getting to the finish line first, usually using his incredible finishing speed,” Bowman said. “If he was even remotely close near the end of a race, you could bank on it that he would win.”
And win he did. Rathbun’s desire to win was at its unequivocal best during his last indoor Heptagonal mile championship race. Behind by more than 100 meters with 800 meters to go in the race, Rathbun dug deep for one final surge and blew past Princeton Miler Bill Burke to claim the championship in record time.
As of today, Rathbun’s accomplishments have yet to be challenged by any other runner. He won All-American honors in 1990 after finishing third in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Track championships with a time of 4:00.5, which remains the school record. He won the mile at the indoor IC4As in 1990, while taking second in 1989 to earn All-East honors in both seasons.
He was also a three-time Heps champion, winning the indoor mile in 1990 and twice winning the outdoor 1500-meter event — in 1989 and again in 1990, when he ran a school and Heps record time of 3:43.83 to earn the Outstanding Male Performer of the Meet Award.
He was a three-time recipient of the Theodota Ladas Award as the team’s best middle-distance runner and won the Charles Blanford Award as the senior who scored the most points over his four years.
Off the track, Rathbun is remembered as a caring, fun-loving individual and a good friend. Mark Bilyk, who also served as a coach during Rathbun’s time at Cornell, remembers him as, “a quiet, not unusually loud or boastful or cocky kid, with a small circle of friends that he was very loyal to.”
The general consensus from the teams Rathbun ran on are that this honor was long overdue. From a program which has produced numerous All-Americans and even a few Olympians, Rathbun is regarded as the cream of the crop.
“Long Overdue. He is so well deserving of this,” Bowman said.