Lenora Lacy Barnes-Mileham dreamed of competing for the USA in the Olympics and there were good reasons to believe that she would attain her goal. In grade school and at Burroughs High School in her hometown of Ridgecrest, California, Lacy was an all-around athlete, but track was her favorite. She was an outstanding 100 and 220 meter sprinter and competed in the long jump. After a cancerous tumor in her left kidney was removed, her coaches in Ridgecrest encouraged her to work her way back into shape and pursue her goals. She eventually excelled at discus throwing and was recruited by a number of colleges.
Barnes-Mileham selected Fresno State, and as a freshman in 1984, won the first of four conference discus titles. She was on her way to becoming a three-time All-American for the Bulldogs, though was small for a discus thrower at 5'6” and 165 pounds.
Barnes-Mileham also focused on academics: "My attitude in track is something that I have in all areas of my life. I not only wanted to excel in track, but I did in academics as well. The balance of those two things has been a stabilizer for me. Achieving my Master's degree is something that I am very, very proud of." And her Olympic dream never died. With numerous titles and a number three ranking in the U.S., it seemed possible. In fact, in 1992, she was a gold-medal favorite.
She had the work ethic, training, and coaches. But at the Olympic trials, stress and doubt hindered her performance. It was a discouraging time and she decided she was done with track and field and would concentrate on a new teaching job at Reedley College. But as the 1996 Olympics approached, Lacy's husband, former Olympic hammer thrower Matt Mileham, encouraged his wife to try again. Along with her physical training, she sought the help of a psychologist and an exercise physiologist. It paid off. Barnes-Mileham competed in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta where she was the top American finisher in her event.
Merv Carter was part of the first Fresno State baseball team to compete in the College World Series, coached for twenty-seven years at Clovis and McLane High Schools, and ran the annual City-County baseball game. His high school teams won 425 games including six league titles and two Valley Championships, making him one of the most successful coaches in Central California.
As a prep player, Carter's Oakland Tech High School team snagged three championships and he was an All-Northern California outfielder for Oakland City College. He met Fresno State coach Pete Beiden at a Fresno State/Berkeley game. "Pete convinced me to come to Fresno State for tuition and a job," Carter said. "My job was to provide ice for the snack bars at Ratcliffe Stadium during the football season. I loved Pete and learned so much from him which helped me when I coached. He would correct you, but always put his arm around you and held your wrist."
In his second season at Fresno State (1958), the team-largely unknown-made its first trip to Oklahoma for the College World Series. Carter played another season for the Bulldogs and then began his seven-year coaching career at Clovis High. He had a huge role in the construction of Lloyd Merriman Park on the campus. Carter said Clovis District Superintendent Floyd "Doc" Buchanan allowed him to build a state-of-the-art stadium with sunken diamond (copied from Stanford), major-league dugouts, foul poles, and stands to seat 2,000 spectators. Carter spent the rest of his coaching years at McLane and was also an assistant football coach for eighteen years which included McLane's Valley Championship season.
Once Fresno State All-American Art Ruble captured two gold medals at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City, a New York television crew chose to film his streamlined stroke technique. The company could have selected any number of record-holding swimmers, but the producer told Ruble that his stroke was as close to perfect as any he had seen. Ruble was taped at the Fresno State University pool. "They had a couple of guys in scuba gear, and as I swam, they shot me from the front, the back, both sides, above me, and even underneath me," Ruble said. "They asked me all kinds of questions about my form and how I arrived at this style and I just told them) got it from a lot of hard work and from my dad."Ruble's dad, Arlie, coached his son for many years, helping him perfect his stroke.
By the time Ruble became a Bulldog, he had a room full of trophies, medals, and championships. He had an outstanding career at Madera High School where he swam and ran cross country for the Coyotes. He arrived at Fresno State in the fall of 1972 and immediately went to work on the Bulldogs record book in swimming. After four years, he held ten FSU all-time individual records, as well as three more relay-team records. The 6'4", 220-pounder took sixty-eight first places and captured second four times in dual meet competitions for the Dogs. In 1976, Ruble was named the Fresno State Athlete of the Year and had earned eight letters in swimming and water polo. Along the way, he became the first Bulldog swimmer to win conference titles and All-Conference honors in both sports. Besides being named to three All-American teams, Ruble at one time held all but two FSU men's swimming records. "Looking back, I know I gave everything I had, and I can't be disappointed at all because that is what I was taught to do by my folks and it paid off for me," Ruble said.
Michael Stewart, drafted in both baseball and football out of college, chose to pursue the NFL and played ten years for the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins. Out of several NFL-caliber athletes to come out of Bakersfield High School, Stewart was one of the most hard-hitting defensive players ever produced in the Central San Joaquin Valley. He was 5'11” and 195 pounds. Stewart was drafted in the 8th round in 1987 by St. Louis, a franchise looking for a defensive back. He competed for the Rams for seven years, finishing his NFL career as a strong safety for the Dolphins in 1996. He played in 144 games, starting in seventy-nine contests with eleven interceptions, five sacks, one safety, and one touchdown. His on-field leadership was developed as captain of his high school team in his senior year. Born in Atascadero, Stewart played for Bakersfield High for two years. He was named to Coach Pat Preston's All-Time Driller Team and to the Bob Elias Hall of Fame. Stewart also played baseball in high school, junior college, and at Fresno State University. He was selected in 1987 by major league baseball's Toronto Blue Jays as an outfielder, the same year St. Louis drafted him for football.
Born on the very first day of the 1940s, Gabe Terronez came to Fresno from the dusty streets of Corcoran after dropping out of high school following his sophomore year. Corcoran was a tough environment where childhood arguments and jealousies were not debated in a gentlemanly fashion; they were settled with flying fists. Little Gabe was often in the middle of playground scuffles. Maybe his choirboy looks-he actually did sing in one had something to do with the frequency of his fighting. His pals dubbed him the "Little Professor," not derisively, but out of respect, when he began taking classes at Fresno City College and boxing professionally at the same time. It was the epitome of conflicts for a fighter: textbooks versus left hooks. But the extremely ambitious and determined Terronez seemed to thrive despite this duality. He doggedly earned his Associate of Arts degree from City College and continued on to Fresno State where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. Gabe did well in school and developed his skills as a boxer. As a welterweight, Gabe's quick hands, agile footwork, good jab, and strong punch produced a 30-3-0 record, including twenty-seven wins by knockout as an amateur. After earning $33 dollars in his successful professional debut against Chauncey Williams, Terronez would go on to compile a 32-8-0 pro record, including twenty-two knockouts.