William Robert Bonthron (November 1, 1912 – January 17, 1983)[1] was an American middle-distance runner who held the world record at 1500 meters for two years.


Bonthron studied at Princeton University.[1][2] In 1933, his junior year, Bonthron was IC4A champion at both 800 meters and 1500 meters[3][4] and then set an American record in a Princeton mile race against New Zealand's Jack Lovelock.[5][6] Bonthron led most of the way and attempted to pull away in the final backstretch, only to be overhauled by Lovelock, who ran the last lap in 58.9 seconds to set a new world record of 4:07.6.[5][6] Bonthron finished seven yards back in 4:08.7, also under Jules Ladoumègue's old world mark.[5][6]

In February 1934 Bonthron defeated 1932 and 1933 NCAA champion Glenn Cunningham in an indoor meet in New York by several inches.[7] On June 16 Bonthron was again on the losing end of a mile world record, as Cunningham beat him in the Princeton Invitational Mile in 4:06.7.[8] However, Bonthron came back to beat Cunningham at the NCAA championships on June 23 in a meet record time of 4:08.9.[9] A week later at the national championships in Milwaukee, Bonthron defeated Cunningham again. The race was over 1500 meters; Cunningham went out hard and was still well ahead a hundred yards from the tape, but Bonthron came through with a blistering sprint to win by two feet in a new world record time of 3:48.8.[6][10][11] Cunningham's time was 3:48.9, also inside Luigi Beccali's previous record of 3:49.0.[6][11] Bonthron won the 1934 Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.[1][12]

Although Bonthron originally intended to retire from running after graduating,[13] he ended up not doing so; he, Cunningham and Gene Venzke remained America's leading milers in 1935.[14] However, Bonthron was not in his best shape in 1936 and only placed fourth at the Olympic Trials (behind Cunningham, Archie San Romani and Venzke),[15] failing to make the Olympic team and subsequently retiring.[16]

In April, 1936, Bonthron, along with many other sports champions and stand outs, was honored at a banquet in Detroit, MI.[17] This Banquet was the first celebration of Champions Day.


  1. ^ a b c "Bill Bonthron". New-York Historical Society. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  2. ^ "(No. 6-JUNE)". Lewiston Evening Journal. January 4, 1935. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  3. ^ Cameron, Stuart (May 25, 1934). "I.C.4-A Track Games Start". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  4. ^ Squire, Jesse. "IC4A CHAMPIONSHIPS (1876-1942)". Athletics Weekly. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Lovelock, Oxford, Sets World Mark Of 4:07.6 In Mile". The Montreal Gazette. 17 July 1933. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Jukola, Martti (1935). Huippu-urheilun historia (in Finnish). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö.
  7. ^ "Bill Bonthron Winner Baxter Mile at Gotham". The Lewiston Daily Sun. February 19, 1934. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  8. ^ "Princeton Ace, Bill Bonthron, Trails Kansan". The Palm Beach Post-Times. June 17, 1934. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  9. ^ Hill, E. Garry. "1500m/MILE" (PDF). Track & Field News. Retrieved 19 May 2013. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Cunningham Loses Race to Bonthron". July 2, 1934. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Mallon, Bill; Buchanan, Ian; Track & Field News. "A History Of The Results Of The National Track & Field Championships Of The USA From 1876 Through 2011". Track & Field News. Archived from the original on 2016-07-14. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Bonthron Wins Sullivan Award; Metcalfe Third". The Milwaukee Journal. January 3, 1935. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  13. ^ "Bonthron Will Retire This Fall". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 3, 1934. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  14. ^ "Athletics at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games: Men's 1,500 metres". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  15. ^ Hymans, Richard. "The History of the United States Olympic Trials - Track & Field". USA Track & Field; Track & Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-24. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  16. ^ Gould, Alan (March 19, 1937). "Glenn Gave Up Attempt to Set Record in Order to Win Race". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  17. ^ "Sport gossip". The Windsor Daily Star. 20 April 1936. Retrieved 20 October 2023 – via Google News Archive Search.
Records Preceded by Luigi Beccali Men's 1500 meters World Record Holder 30 June 1934 – 6 August 1936 Succeeded by Jack Lovelock