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.