In 1951, Woburn High standout Dave Ryan twice finished second in both the Middlesex League outdoor mile and in the league cross country championships. Both times, Ryan was beaten to the tape by a gangly, blond-haired youth from Arlington High named Bill Squires.
“That was a long time ago, but he was a class act. He was the best runner in our area. The best,” the 78-year-old Ryan said of Squires. “He was one of the best runners in the East. He went out to Notre Dame, but he would have been real famous if he had stayed here because he would have won more titles around here.”
Squires did go on to fame as a distance running coach, most notably with the Greater Boston Track Club. And Saturday, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Ryan and a host of Squires’ colleagues and former runners will gather at Boston College’s Corcoran Commons to honor the man who has been a success at the high school, college and international level.
In addition to the Greater Boston Track Club, Squires has coached at Wakefield High, Boston State College, Liberty A.C. (the nation’s oldest women’s running club), SISU (Finnish for perseverance/determination) and UMass-Boston. While at Boston State from 1965-1978, he directed the so-called “Squires Flyers” to 49 team titles, producing 16 All-Americans. With GBTC from 1974-80, Squires guided Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar and Greg Meyer to a combined six men’s open division titles at the Boston Marathon.
In honor of Squires, event planners hope to establish a fund called, “RunStrong .â€‰.â€‰. RunSmart,” to help support the academic and athletic endeavors of young runners.
“For us in the GBTC or one of the other groups he coached, he helped us all to rise to a national or world level and he did it while having fun,” Rodgers said of Spires. “He opened our minds to the possibility. It all came about because of his background as a top-level runner. He was also unique because he had a unique way of phrasing things, too. He was just different as so many great coaches are. It comes out of personal experience.
“Squires coached so many to a high level and that’s the difference. It was not just one, two or three runners. He coached so many to world or national class, and that’s what is so unique.”
During a stellar college career, Squires established Notre Dame records for both indoor and outdoor miles and was a two-time All-America in cross-country in 1954 and 1955.
Notre Dame teammate Dale Vandenberg, who captained the Irish to the NCAA cross country title in 1957, said Squires was a bit of a pioneer.
“Bill was really the first big star that (coach) Alex Wilson had, in my mind. He was the building block of that program. He was a trendsetter,” Vandenberg said of Squires. “You could always depend upon him even if his tongue was hanging down around his knees.”
Former BC mile star Jack McDonald, a founding member of the GBTC, said the Squires imprint on the running community is unmatched.
“He reshaped the lives of a lot of individuals, myself included,” said McDonald, now the athletic director at Quinnipiac. “He kind of ignited the running boom in the greater Boston area, which affected the world.”
Boston University coach Bruce Lehane, who earned All-America status under Squires as a middle-distance runner at Boston State, pointed to Squires’ personal manner.
“Bottom line, the single-most thing that stands out is (Squires’) respect of athletes,” Lehane said. “There wasn’t any instance where he did not give you support no matter how you did, and he always had success. The other thing was the fun we had. I can remember always coming home with a smile on my face.”
UMass Hall of Fame runner Randy Thomas, who now coaches the BC women’s cross country team cited the coach’s generosity.
“Many times he took money out of his own pocket to buy books for students at Boston State,” Thomas said. “He had an extremely positive influence, not only on my coaching but, as a person later in life. It makes you want to give back like he did.”
Thomas set a world record for the 30 kilometers (1:30:44), under Squires’ guidance. Thomas noted that the National AAU cross country championship was the one elusive team title that Squires wanted to win desperately. Finally, in 1979, the GBTC and an all-star crew of Rodgers, Salazar, Meyer, Thomas, Bob Hodge and Dan Dillon won, placing five runners in the top 12.
“He couldn’t enjoy it. He was sick as a dog with gallstones,” Thomas said of Squires. “We wheeled him from the hotel to the course. He watched us win and then we wheeled back to the hotel and put him to bed!”
For more information on the birthday celebration, go to www.coachsquires80th.com.