Two 1960s champion teams enter Sanger High Athletic HOF

Class of 2024 inductees include rodeo star Marty Staneart, record-setting athletes and trailblazing 1964 girls swim and dive team, 1968 football squad

Members of Sanger High’s 1964 girls swim and dive team pose for a group shot with Jeff TIftick, right, son of the team’s Hall of Fame coach Jack Tiftick, during the annual Sanger High Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at SHS Multi-Purpose Room on May 4. (Jon Earnest)
Members of Sanger High’s 1964 girls swim and dive team pose for a group shot with Jeff TIftick, right, son of the team’s Hall of Fame coach Jack Tiftick, during the annual Sanger High Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at SHS Multi-Purpose Room on May 4. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published May 7, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SANGER – This year’s Sanger High’s annual Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony had a little bit of cowboy flair, with a rodeo star highlighting a talented class of inductees including record-setting individuals and two milestone championship teams from the 1960s.

A large turnout packed the SHS Multi-Purpose Room on a rainy Saturday evening to honor the Class of 2024 Hall inductees. Two of the squads date back six decades — the 1964 girls swim and dive team that was the school’s first girls Valley champion squad, and the Sequoia Division champion Apaches football team from 1968.

Individually, the class features alumna athlete Marty Staneart, who after graduation in 1978 went on to become a state champion professional bull rider. Staneart was joined by Tom Bruner (Class of 1988), boys basketball; Roy Vinton (Class of 1982), cross country and track and field; Brandi Honn (Class of 1993), girls basketball; Sam Maestas (Class of 2002), football and track and field; and Charles and Marilyn Wallin (Class of 1960), contributors specializing in the SHS aquatics programs.

Sixty years ago, Sanger’s actual first Valley (section) champion girls team was the 1964 swimming and diving squad coached by 2020 Hall of Famer Jack Tiftick and Jan Probert-Hunter. The team featured individual champions in Pat Angell (50 yard breaststroke) and Marilyn Booth (50 yard butterfly) along with the 100 freestyle relay team of Angell, Booth, Sandy Hutchinson and Kristy Jensen.

The team members present for their 13 induction received a special surprise after they were joined for a group photo by Jeff Tiftick, son of the coach who died in 2007.

Head coach John Perkins, who still remains active at Reedley College, spoke on behalf of the 1968 football team and 17 players present at the ceremony. The Apaches bounced back from an opening loss to Clovis High to finish 11-1, outscoring the opposition 268-50 for the season and shutting out Coalinga and Garces in the playoff to capture the Sequoia Division Valley title.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen all the good defense over the years that I have played at Sanger. But if there ever was a defensive team that was better than these guys, I’d like to see them play. They were outstanding,” Perkins said of a unit that included two eventual professional players including Bruce Barnes (UCLA, New England Patriots) and Jim Merlo (Stanford, New Orleans Saints).

Individual athletes that were inducted included many who set school records or special milestones in their respective sport. But a special inductee was Staneart, who after high school became a professional rodeo cowboy and made his mark in bull riding. In addition to his two state championships on the circuit, he had a career highlight in 1989 when he managed to stay aboard the infamous bull “Mr. T” for the full eight seconds at The Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

Staneart credited his time at Sanger High with helping to prepare him for the rigors of making it with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

“The four years I went to Sanger High prepared me for going to the pros,” he said. “I came here as a boy, and came out a man. It was a long ride, and it was a tough life. I just kept my head down and kept trying, and essentially I succeeded to go into seven national finals.”

Other individual athletes inducted shared the accomplishments of performing under Hall of Fame coaches and making their own record-setting impression. In basketball, Bruner and Honn both were the first players at SHS to score 1,000 career points under respective HOF coaches Del Beshore and Roy Tanimoto.

Maestas, a football-track standout and 2002 graduate, spoke along with HOF football coach Chuck Shidan during his induction. Maestas was one of Shidan’s most prolific hard-nosed running backs, finishing his career ranked as the school’s career rush yardage leader with 3,321 yards and second with 32 career touchdowns. He also helped lead the Apaches to the 2001 section title.

Another record-setter was Vinton, the school’s first CIF Division I individual Valley champion in cross country when he turned the trick in 1981. The Apaches were Central Area champions and just missed capturing Valley that year. He also starred in track under Hall of Fame coach Dave Dodson, and later came back to the school for a stint as coach.

Vinton now lives in the Philippines, and made the long trek back to Sanger for the ceremony. His daughters all competed for Sanger High as well.

Inducted this year as contributors were Charles and Marilyn Wallin, part of a “royal family” at the school when it comes to aquatics. Sons Brian, Chris and Mark all went on to have Hall of Fame careers in water polo and swimming for the Apaches, Both Charles and Marilyn have been decades-long advocates of the swim and water polo programs at SHS, and both swam for the Apaches back in their high school days.

Jon Earnest