The South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame is dedicated to the preservation, documentation and display of South Dakota's sports history.

"Smokey" Joe Mendel



Onida. 1931 Yankton College grad.

On May 21,1926, Mendel accomplished what no other South Dakota athlete has done: He singlehandedly won the state track meet. He entered four events and won them all as Onida edged Sioux Falls Washington 20-19 for the one-class state title. It would be 70 years before another boy won four individual events at the state meet. Mendel’s long jump of 22 feet, 9 1/2 inches (he hit the end of the pit when he landed) stood as a state record for 50 years. He also won the 100- (10.0), 220- (22.1) and 440-yard (51.2) dashes, cutting a half-second off the 440 record and tying the 100 mark. His wins were not unexpected, as he had won the 220 and finished second in the 100, 440 and long jump the year before. Soon after the 1926 meet, at the Amos Alonzo Stagg national high school track meet, Mendel came home with the 440 title.

At Yankton College, Mendel was an all-conference halfback in football and dominated the sprints and long jump in track, winning the 100, 220 and long jump all four years in the conference meet. Mendel soared 24-1 in the long jump in 1929, a state college record that wasn’t bettered for 45 years.

On  May 23, 1931, at the SDIC meet in Huron, the 5-8, 170-pound Mendel matched Eddie Tolan's world 100-yard dash record of 9.5 seconds. The two had met at the Drake Relays in 1930 with Tolan edging Mendel.

Mendel coached all sports at Faulkton for 11 years, and he coached at Doland from 1942-45.

Mendel was a charter member of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 1968 as well as the following halls of fame: Howard Wood Relays (1959), South Dakota Hall of Fame (1978), Yankton College Greyhound Track (1979) and South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (1980). His biography, “The Times and Life of Smokey Joe Mendel,” was published in 1992 by Tim Waltner of the Freeman Courier. It is available in several public libraries. The Heritage Hall Museum in Freeman contains a display case commemorating Smokey Joe's track accomplishments.

(SECOND PHOTO IS ONIDA TRACK TEAM WITH MENDEL AT BOTTOM LEFT; BOTTOM PHOTO IS OF MENDEL, AT LEFT, AND FELLOW HALL OF FAMER WEERT ENGELMANN)




























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