Bill Dotson Born: December 29, 1940 (Jamestown, KS)
Graduated: Concordia High School, 1958; University of Kansas, 1962
The state of Kansas has a rich tradition in distance running and many of the names that have been etched in the world, American, and Olympic record books also grace the walls of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, including greats like Glenn Cunningham, Jim Ryun, Archie San Romani, Wes Santee, Ken Swenson, Billy Mills, Harold Manning, and Bill Tidwell, just to name a few. Today, another of the greatest names is added to the roll in Bill Dotson.
Born in rural Cloud County, Dotson attended Concordia High School where he won the Class A state championship in the mile as a senior in 1958 with a time of 4:20.8, bettering high school marks by Glenn Cunningham, Wes Santee, and Billy Mills, in the process.
Following his high school career, Dotson chose to attend the University of Kansas and run for fellow Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bill Easton. Under Easton’s tutelage, Dotson improved on his already great times and reached heights theretofore unreached by Jawawk runners.
Dotson’s first success in the crimson and blue came in 1960 when he claimed his first Big 8 Conference Championship in the outdoor mile. Dotson would repeat as the outdoor mile conference champion in 1961. Dotson also claimed back-to-back Big 8 Indoor conference championships in 1961 and 1962 and added a 800 meter Big 8 Conference title in 1962.
Dotson’s second place finish in the 1961 mile national championships and third place finish in the 1962 mile national championships both earned him All-American honors.
Dotson experienced success winning many of the meets he competed in, but his biggest competitor was always the clock. During Dotson’s KU career, he flirted with breaking the four minute mile barrier many times and by June 1962, Dotson was poised to become the first Kansan, and just the seventh American, to break the milestone.
Dotson’s coach Bill Easton predicted that Dotson was close. Three days before AAU meet in Walnut, California, in June 1962, Easton said, “he simply hasn’t realized his great potential,” but Easton remained “firmly convinced he’ll run under four minutes this weekend.”
Dotson did his best to make Easton’s prediction come true. As four runners entered the home stretch of the race, Dotson found himself among three previous four minute milers and kept their pace all the way to the finish. Dotson finished the race with a time of 3:59.0 and became the first Kansan to break the barrier. The record breaking finish also put Dotson in elite company as just the seventh American to ever break the four minute mile mark.
As if that weren’t enough, Dotson also claimed a Big 8 Conference Championship in cross country in 1961. The same year, Dotson helped lead the Jayhawks to a first place cross country finish in the Big 8 Conference and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships.
The history of distance running in the state of Kansas is rock, chalk full of some of the greatest names in the sport’s history. Today, that list becomes a little more complete with the inclusion of the state’s first four minute miler in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.