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

Janel Birrenkott - Inducted 2022

Janel Birrenkott graduated from Lemmon High School in 1982 and Northern State University in 1987. Despite a 100 percent hearing loss obstacle, she was a two-time All-State basketball player in high school. She left NSU as one of its all-time leading scorers and went on to play professionally, nationally, and internationally. In 1986 she earned a roster spot on one of the eight teams (Pride of Iowa) that formed the start-up National Women’s Basketball Association before the league folded.

Birrenkott was the 1993 South Dakota Sportswriters Independent Female Athlete of the Year. She led Team USA to four Deaf Olympic gold medals (1993 in Bulgaria, 1997 in Denmark, 2001 in Rome and 2005 in Australia). She is the all-time leading scorer (794 points) for USA Deaf Basketball (USADB), a member of 10 USADB national championship teams, a two-time league MVP, and an eight-time all-star. She won her last USA deaf championship in 2013 at age 50, scoring and playing in the three games of the national tournament for Arizona. Birrenkott holds several USADB records including most points (52) and steals (15) in a game. She was a key player from the start of her freshman year at NSU, when SD Sports Hall of Fame coach, Curt Fredrickson, called Birrenkott “the surprise of fall camp” for his Wolves. During her time at NSU, she helped the Wolves compile a 98-21 record with a career 1,352 points, 357 rebounds, 213 assists and 129 steals.

Birrenkott was an accomplished hurdler in high school who qualified for the 100-meter hurdles finals at the 1982 state meet. Despite a sprained ankle, she led Lemmon as a senior (25 points per game coached by David Kelley) to the 1981 Region 8B championship in basketball where the Cowgirls lost to Oglala in overtime. She is a member of seven halls of fame.

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