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

Jay Dirksen - Inducted 2014

A 1963 graduate of General Beadle High School in Madison, Dirksen excelled as a runner and a coach. The 1968 South Dakota State grad coached SDSU to the 1973 NCAA Division II men’s cross country title before spending more than 30 years as a coach at the Division I level, mostly at Nebraska.

He began his coaching career as the men’s cross country and track coach at SDSU in 1969. In 1975, he started SDSU’s women’s cross country program. He coached six Division II champs and 34 Division II All-Americans during his eight years at SDSU. In eight years as SDSU men’s cross country coach, the Jackrabbits were North Central Conference champs four times and runners-up four times. His men’s track teams won four NCC titles (2 outdoors, 2 indoors).

In 1977, he started a five-year stint as assistant men’s track coach at Illinois. He was the head women’s track coach at Missouri for one year (1983) before coming to Nebraska.

He coached the Cornhuskers for 28 seasons before retiring in December 2011. At Nebraska he was the head cross country coach and assistant head track coach in charge of distance runners. There he coached 14 cross country All-Americans, 39 track All-Americans, 45 track individual conference champions and five Big 12 women’s cross country team champions (1985, ’88-89, ’91, ’93). Before his arrival, Nebraska had had only one cross country All-American (men and women). Twenty-two of his men’s and women’s teams qualified for the NCAA Championships. Twice the women’s team placed third at nationals (1988-89).

In track, Dirksen and head coach Gary Pepin put together an impressive run as the men and women combined to win 61 conference team titles (33 women, 28 men) during Dirksen’s years as the distance coach. The women won the 1984 indoor national title and swept the indoor and outdoor conference titles from 1984-95.

As an athlete, he was the state prep Class B mile champ in 1963. At SDSU, he was an NCC champ in the 2-mile and 3-mile and was an All-American in the steeplechase. He finished 28th in the 1969 Boston Marathon. In all, he won eight of 16 marathons he entered. He qualified for the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon. His best marathon time was 2:21:53, in 1969 (which was third best in the U.S. that year).

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