Athlete, Pre 1970
Jess Mortensen one of the great sports figures in the history of Southern California, Jess began his storied athletic career at Riverside Poly High School. Matriculating to the University of Southern California, he was a letterman in three sports: track (1928, 1929, 1930), football (1928, 1929) and basketball (1928, 1929, 1930). Jess was on the National Championship football team in 1928, won the 1929 NCAA javelin title, was an All-American in basketball in 1930 and was a member of the 1930 Rose Bowl championship team. He set a world record in the decathlon in 1931.
Jess then became track and field coach at Riverside Junior College. Except for a break during World War II, he remained in Riverside until 1947. His teams won two National Junior College Track Titles. He moved to the University of Denver in 1947, before coaching at West Point in 1950. He returned to USC as an assistant football coach and head track coach in 1951.
For the next ten years, Jess coached the Trojans to seven NCAA team titles and his teams never finished worse than second in the Pacific Conference meet. His USC teams were never defeated in 64 dual meets. Mortensen served as an assistant track coach with the 1956 U.S. Olympic team in Helsinki, Sweden.
Jess is a member of USC’s Athletic Hall of Fame and the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame. He died on February 19, 1962 at age 54.