Jess Mortensen Athlete, Pre 1970

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Mar 21, 2013 4 Comments ›› Riverside Sport Hall of Fame

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.


  1. Gary Hunt says:

    Reference to Jess Mortensen’s short BIO:

    He was an assistant tack and field coach for the 1956 Olympic Games in
    Melbourne, Australia. Also Helsinki is in Finland not Sweden.

  2. nancy Hammerschmidt says:

    Our family was fortunate to have had a personal relationship with Jess;;;;;;;;dad was so amazed at his accomplishments, and when he returned to Calif. we kids were older, and could appreciate what he stood for in sports;;;;;;I still cannot believe how young he was when he died! I am thankful that I got to see himas an adult, just beginning my own teaching career;;;;;;;;;;;no one deserves this award more, and I am glad his story can be told to those who never knew him before;;;;;;;;;;;;see you then, fondly, Nancy Hammerschmidt Jones

  3. nancy Hammerschmidt says:

    I am so thrilled that Jess is finally getting this award;;;;;;;;;;our family had the honor of knowing him personally, both as children and as adults. My father had such respect for him, and they both shared similar coaching and teaching values;;;;;;;I still cannot believe he died so young;;;;;;;;;;;;in his prime. I look forward to seeing him on the wall! thank you, Nancy Hammerschmidt Jones

  4. Jesse Ross Mortensen says:

    Thanks for all the praises of my dad. -Jess jr