Playing with machine-like precision, nerves of steel and emotional electricity, the sixth-seeded Sunbirds completed their march to the NAIA national championship with a sweep of Hawaii Pacific 15-3, 17-15 in Hawaii. It was Fresno Pacific’s first national title in any sport. Going into the tournament, the odds appeared stacked against Coach Dennis Janzen’s team, but the Sunbirds defeated host BYU-Hawaii, previously undefeated and ranked No.2 in the national, before 3,000 fans and came back the next day to twice beat Hawaii Pacific. Sunbirds middle blocker Jessica Bennett, who had nine kills in the championship match, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Joining Bennett as NAIA All-Americans were setter Melanie Mariano and outside hitter Sevi Berryman. Janzen was named NAIA National Coach of the Year as the Sunbirds set a school record for victories in a 46-9 campaign. Six teams had a chance at the title entering the last day, but Fresno Pacific dominated when it counted by not losing a single set in the elimination round. The Sunbirds had qualified for the nationals by defeating Cal Baptist in the District III championships. The 1989 title provided a foundation for future success that would include five more NAIA national volleyball championships and an all-time record of 912-226 before Fresno Pacific transitioned to NCAA Divison II competition.
The team: head coach Dennis Janzen, assistant coach Karen Chandler, assistant coach Rudy Dyck, manager Andy Herrick; players: Jessica Bennett, Sevi Berryman, Natalie Carter, Debbie Guck, Angela Holguin (team captain), Michala Jarmin, Melanie Mariano (team captain), Sue Milani, Liz Miller, Irene Robles, Melissa Tennant, and Iris Womack.
Coach Bill Musick had the same goal every year: “Go undefeated in duals and tournaments.” Even though his teams had won state community college titles in 1975, 1989 and 1993 and taken the state dual-meet title in 1992, his goal didn’t become reality until the magical 1994 season. Led by 134-pounder Yero Washington, 142-pounder Eddie Ramos and heavyweight Chad Mast, Fresno CC was 9-0 in duals and 9-0 in tournaments - capped by adding the state tournament title in December to the dual-meet crown won a month earlier. The perfect season was the first for a California community college team and landed the Rams a No.2 national ranking in the final poll.
Fresno CC finished with 130 ½ points at the state tournament, easily eclipsing runner-up Cerritos (109) and Palomar (81 ½). Its closest dual match was a 27-10 victory over Palomar. Just like the team, Washington had a perfect season with a 38-0 mark and was named the outstanding wrestler st seven tournaments, including the state meet. Nearly perfect were state champions Ramos and Mast, who combined with Washington for a 106-2 record. Six Rams advanced to championship matches at the state meet in Whittier and two others to the semifinals. All earned All-America honors. In addition to the three individual champions, Isaac Pumajero (118), Victor DeLaCruz (126) and Jeremiah Muhammad (190) placed second. Doug Miller (158) and Elias Zamorano (177) finished fourth. The team: head coach Bill Musick, assistant coach Robert Arballo, Isaac Pumajero, Victor DeLaCruz, Yero Washington, Eddie Ramos, Ray Benevides, Doug Miller, Fred Douthat, Elias Zamorano, Jeremiah Muhammad, Chad Mast.
Dever-Boaz, a three-sport standout from Woodlake High School and Cal-Hi Sports Small School Athlete of the Year; was Margie Wright's first softball recruit at Fresno State. Choosing the Bulldogs over UCLA, Dever-Boaz would post an 84-12 pitching record, toss 58 shutouts and post six no-hitters. During those four seasons, the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Women's College World Series every year, finishing second three times and fifth once.
Dever-Boaz was honored three times as a second-team All-American (1988, '89, '90). She was a two-time Academic All-American and the university's female Big West Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1990. In addition, the pitcher/third baseman was named All-College World Series twice, made the all-regional team three times, and was a first-team all-conference choice four times.
Winning and Dever-Boaz went hand-in-hand, as she was a vital cog in championship teams in softball, volleyball and basketball at Woodlake. In 1985, the Tigers won the state Division III basketball championship with Dever-Boaz contributing as a high-scoring guard.
During her prep softball career, she hit .614, stole 86 bases, and struck out just twice. In the circle, she was 35-4, with 15 no-hitters and 2 perfect games. In volleyball, she was the first female Woodlake athlete to have her number retired as she helped the Tigers to a 92-4 record and four league titles.
Dever-Boaz because the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at South Carolina. Then it was on to Arkansas, where as a head coach she led the Razorbacks to two NCAA Tournaments and six Southeastern Conference tournaments. She was the SEC Coach of the Year in 1999.
She was also an assistant coach at Florida and Virginia, and manager of the Washington Glory, which won the National Pro Fastpitch championship in 2007. Dever-Boaz wrote "The Art of Pitching" and produces softball training videos. She is an international instructor in Holland, Canada, Italy and Australia.
Earning the rank of first-degree black belt at age 14, Imamura would eventually attain the rank of Kudan, or ninth degree, 60 years later in 2007. Between these benchmarks, he positively influenced thousands of people in the Valley, the United States, and around the world as a competitor and a coach. As a member of the All-Japan Collegiate team touring the United States in 1955, he visited the Valley and after graduating from Tenri University decided to continue studies at Fresno City College in 1958.
Two years later, he won the prestigious title of Grand Champion - the best out of all weight classes - at the AAU Senior National Tournament, with future U. S. Senator Ben Campbell of Colorado among his opponents. Imamura repeated as 180-pound AAU champion in 1960. in 1976, Imamura began a U. S. - Japan judo exchange program which provided high school judoists the opportunity to compete in cities such as Tokyo and Hiroshima. Through the years, judoists from both countries have benefited from their overseas experiences.
Imumura, who became a kinesiology professor at the university in 1980, coached the Fresno State men's club team to national titles in 1985 and 1988. In 1989, his Bulldogs women's team shared the national crown with San Jose State. Among his national collegiate individual champions were sons Rodney, Richard and Randy, and all four of his sons attained black belt.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Imamura served as the U. S. National Judo coach and traveled the world leading his pupils. In 2002, he began taking junior-high school teams to an annual international tournament in Japan, competing against countries such as Russia, South Korea, Germany, South Africa, Taiwan, Egypt, and Japan. At the grassroots level, he coached clubs in Fresno, Clovis and Reedley.
California Judo named Imamura the Coach of the Year in 2006. Imamura, it has been said, "epitomizes the judo creed of maximum, efficient use of mind and body to perfect oneself and contribute to the welfare of self and to mankind."
Dominating inside at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds for San Joaquin Memorial, Pondexter was the first California prep to score 2,000 career points and the first player from Fresno chosen as California Mr. Basketball in 1971. After a season at Fresno City College, where he average 24.6 points and 10.9 rebounds a game and garnered conference MVP honors and all-state recognition, Pondexter was recruited to Long Beach State by Coach Jerry Tarkanian. Adding muscle to the 49res' front line, Pondexter averaged 13.9 points and 9.3 rebounds as Long Beach State captured the PCAA title with a 10-2 record and advanced to the NCAA West Regional semifinals in a 26-3 season.
Pondexter became a two-time All-PCAA selection the following campaign, helping the 49ers to another PCAA championship and a 24-2 overall record in Coach Lute Olson's first season. Pondexter, an honorable mention All-american, left Long Beach State following his junior season and entered the NBA draft. He was selected in the third round by the Boston Celtics, but signed with the ABA's Virginia Squires. After the ABA folded, Pondexter played 10 seasons in Europe and South America. Following his playing career, he became an assistant to the athletic director at Fresno State, working with players during the Takanian era. He is the elder brother of FAHOF inductee Clifton Pondexter and father of NBA player Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter's brothers Clifton and Samuel are also in the FAHOF as members of the Memorial team recognition. While at Memorial, Pondexter led the Panthers to four league championships and the 1970 section championship. He averaged 29.7 points a game his senior season, was the Fresno Bee Player of the Year and earned consensus All-America honors. He finished his prep career with 2,288 points and 1,491 rebounds.
A trailblazer for women pole-vaulters all over the world, Lewis soared into the USA and NCAA record books and the USA Pole Vault National Summit Hall of Fame. High School girls could only compete in the event in ‘exhibitions’ against boys when Lewis was at Kingsburg High School. But after a court ruling paved the way for girls to compete for real, Lewis entered and won the event at the Bob Mathias Fresno Relays by clearing 9 feet, 9 inches and setting a state prep record in 1994. A sophomore at the time, she was bound for loftier heights, including competing in the Goodwill Games. The following spring, she cleared 11-1, again in the Bob Mathias Fresno Relays, to set the national women’s pole vault competition at the USA/Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Her senior season and the following summer produced more records and entries into international meets. It was at USA/Mobile Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento that she pushed her American outdoor record to 12-9 - a week after winning the state high school title in Cerritos. Before the summer was over, she would elevate the national women’s mark to 13-1 ¾. Lewis, who was known to train up to eight hours a day, was just as dominant at Fresno State. The NCAA had originally set 2000 at the first year to sanction women’s vaulting. But pressure from coaches moved the date ahead two years. With the event certified, Lewis became Fresno State’s first female individual national champion. She won NCAA indoor titles in 1998 and 1999 and set the NCAA outdoor mark (14-3 ½) in 1998. Lewis was a three-time All-American and two-time Western Athletic Conference indoor and outdoor champion. She competed in the 1997 World Indoor Championships and 1999 World Championships.
After earning All-America honors and being named Cal-Hi Sports state player of the year at Clovis High, the right-hander became one of the greatest pitchers in NCAA history at Fresno State and a World Championship gold-medal winner for Team USA. Southern excelled in the circle and in the classroom for the Bulldogs as a four-time All-American and two time Academic All-American. Upon ending her collegiate career in 2005, she ranked among the Top 10 in nine NCAA categories and in the Top 10 among 18 Fresno State pitching and hitting categories. She was named to the ESPN Rise All-Decade softball team in 2009. Southern accomplished this while overcoming a major shoulder injury four games into her freshman season and arm trouble her junior year.
With the Bulldogs, she posted an 118-34 record, with 79 shutouts, eight no-hitters, four perfect games, 0.51 ERA, and 1,321 strikeouts in 1,088 ⅔ innings. At the plate, she hit .314, with 29 home runs, 127 RBI and a slugging percentage of .479 over her career. Among other collegiate honors: 2005 Western Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year, four-time WAC Pitcher of the Year, four-time All-WAC, two-time Fresno State Female Athlete of the Year, and two-time NCAA earned-run average leader.
Southern helped the Fresno Force win the under-16 Amateur Softball Association national championship in 1997 and was named an ASA All-American in 1998 and 1999. Following her final season at Fresno State, she was a first-round professional draft pick and pitched for two championship teams in the National Pro Fastpitch League (2005, 2008). Her bid for a spot on the U.S. 2008 Olympic team was ended by a neck injury. She has coached at the high school and college levels.
At the time of his induction, Watney had groomed 29 All-Americans and 17 All-American Scholars, and his teams had captured 13 conference championships over 33 seasons as Fresno State golf coach. In recognition of his invaluable contributions to the game, Watney was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of American Hall of Fame in 2006. Watney’s coaching skill is evidenced by the Bulldogs who went on to win PGA Tour tournaments: nephew Nick Watney, Tim Norris, and Kevin Sutherland. In addition, David Sutherland, Todd Rose, Joe Acosta, and Tim Loustalot earned PGA Tour cards. Local golfers - duffers and scratch players alike - Mike Schy, Ed Luethke, Eric Peterson, Paul Wightmen, Ken Collins, and Todd Hansen became club professionals.
Watney’s influence on collegiate golf bought the NCAA Championships to Fresno’s San Joaquin Country Club in 1983 and the NCAA Western Regionals to Madera’s Riverbend Golf Club in 2000. Under Watney, the Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA Championships 25 times, highlighted by a school-best fifth-place in 1990 and a No.3 final national ranking in 1987. Watney was honored as district or region coach of the year three times (1987, 1994, 2002) and nine times as Big West Conference or Western Athletic Conference coach of the year. Watney is recognized internationally, serving as a liaison between Japanese and U.S. golf for the Topy Cup. The event annually sends four men’s and two women’s collegiate teams to Japan. Watney was a golf standout at Fresno State, earning honorable mention All-American honors in 1973. The Bullard High graduate competed on the PGA Tour in 1978 then became Fresno State coach in 1979.