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

Gene Johnson - Inducted 2022

Gene Johnson graduated from Yankton High School in 1965 and Yankton College in 1969. In track, he set the two-mile run all-time state record in 1964. He led the Bucks to the 1964 state cross country team title and was the individual winner. In 1965, he had a breakout season by becoming one of the nation’s top high school milers. On May 1, 1965, he set a Howard Wood Dakota Relays and South Dakota high school record in winning the mile in 4:21.0. Later that month, he became the first South Dakota high school runner to break 4:20 in the mile by running a 4:18.6. By the end of the month, he had won the mile at the ESD Conference and state track & field meets and was one of eight high school milers from across the nation to secure an invitational to the prestigious Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, CA. On June 19, Kansas native and future Olympic medalist Jim Ryun of Wichita won the race in Sacramento in a record 4:04.3 and Johnson finished eighth in 4:16.9 to set another South Dakota prep record. Both Ryun and Johnson were recruited to the University of Kansas where they became teammates and friends. In 1966, Johnson helped the Jayhawks break the college freshman four-mile relay national record by almost 20 seconds. Johnson also helped Kansas win the Big Eight Conference freshmen meet by finishing second.

Johnson returned to USD for his sophomore year and then finished at Yankton College. He was an educator in Kansas for 44 years. Johnson finished his last 23 years at Shawnee Mission School District as associate superintendent and then superintendent specializing in curriculum and athletics.

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