Ancel Robinson Jr. — one of the greatest athletes in Fresno County history —has died at age 86.
While at Fresno State, Robinson tied the world record in the 220-yard low hurdles at 22.2 seconds en route to winning the NCAA title in 1957.
Throughout his life, Robinson stayed in superb shape and relished the challenges of athletic competition. In the 1970s, he took up roller skating and won national championships in both the sprints and artistic skating.
Testifying to the 5-foot, 11-inch Robinson’s speed and agility: The Fresno State record he set in the 120-yard high hurdles in 1958 wasn’t broken until 1994.
“Ancel would put Pepsi caps or coins on top of the hurdles so he could learn to skim (over) them,” recalled Hugh Adams, who, like Robinson, competed at Selma High School and Fresno State. “He had good form and didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the collegiate hurdles.”
An Army Veteran
In high school, Robinson won state titles in both the low and high hurdles his senior year. He enrolled at Fresno State, but after his freshman year was called into the Army because of the Korean War. After serving a two-year hitch, Robinson returned to the university.
Though Robinson never represented the United States in the Olympics, he competed in meets throughout the world. And in the first-ever Cold War track and field showdown between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Robinson won the 110-meter high hurdles in 13.9 seconds in Moscow.
Of his roller skating career, Robinson once said, “It was fun until both knees gave out and I had to stop.”
Robinson was inducted into the Fresno County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1963 and the Selma Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Robinson operated a television repair shop with his son and enjoyed touring the United States on his motorcycle.
He died Sept. 12 in Fresno. His family is planning a private service, according to the Jesse E. Cooley Jr. Funeral Home. People wishing to share their memories of Robinson or offer their condolences to the family can mail cards and letters to the address at this link.