Former Selma High and Fresno State hurdler Ancel Robinson died at the age of 86 on Sept. 12. Robinson was born and raised in Selma.
Robinson was a CIF State champion at Selma High and set the Fresno State high hurdle record in 1958 at 13.6 seconds until it was broken in 1994. As a Bulldog, Robinson tied a world record in the 220-yard low hurdles at 22.2 seconds in the 1957 NCAA championships.
As a Selma Bear, Robinson played football along with being a track athlete. He was a CIF state champion in the highs and low hurdles in his senior year at Selma High School.
In the Fresno County Athletic Hall of Fame book, Hugh Adams, another Selma product and a hurdler himself, was a few years ahead of Robinson in school, recalls watching Robinson at practice.
"Ancel would put pepsi caps or coins on top of the hurdles, so he could learns to just skim them," Adams recalled. "He has good form and didn't have trouble adjusting to collegiate hurdles. The low hurdles were made for him."
Robinson was recruited by Fresno State and began his college career in 1952.
In comments made in an article in the Fresno County Hall of Fame publication, Robinson recalls his first meet at Fresno State against Stanford University and Tulare wonder boy Bob Mathias. Here is Robinson's comments:
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" I admit I did have some butterflies before the meet, but they dissaperaed when the starters gun cracked,' Robinson recalled. "The high hurdles didn't bother me but Bob was taller and stronger."
Mathias edged Robinson in the highs in 14.5, but Robinson returned the favor in the lows in 23.7.
After his freshman season at Fresno State, Robinson was called into military service and spent two years in Japan, Korea, and Iwo Jima. When he returned to the Army, Robinson competed in the Central California AAU meet in Kingsburg. Running in competition for the first time in two years and with only four days of training , Robinson finished in the high hurdles at 14.5 seconds and in the lows at 23.7.
In the early 1970's Robinson also was the national speed and dance champion is roller skating.
Robinson was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame along with being in the first group selected for the Fresno State Track Hall of Fame.
Pete Esraelian, friend of Ancel and a 20 year member of the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame Board of Directors, now Director Emeritus, provided information for this article.