University of Akron junior Shawn Barber protected his home turf Saturday in the third annual Akron Pole Vault Convention in Stile Athletics Field House.
Barber and Mississippi product Sam Kendricks continued their rivalry in front of a rowdy crowd and finished 1-2, with Barber clearing 19-feet, ¼-inch on his first attempt to win.
“It was an exciting meet and I am glad everybody made it out here,” said Barber, who broke the collegiate pole vault record last weekend with a jump of 19-3 to win the Texas Expo Vault competition in Belton, Texas.
“I’m glad Sam could be here. I think all the competition and the crowd really made it what it was today. Overall, this was good. I felt similar to last week and I feel like I am getting into a really nice rhythm for the year. I just want to keep getting better and keep putting the bar up higher and higher.”
Both athletes cleared 18-8¼ Saturday, but Kendricks, who is now a professional affiliated with Nike, was unable to vault over the bar at 19-¼ in three attempts.
“When they get together they always jump high and they feed off each other,” UA coach Dennis Mitchell said. “They are great friends but, boy, they definitely want to beat each other. Akron in Greek means the highest, and we want to keep that up.”
A total of 11 men and women competed Saturday.
Pros Melissa Gergel and Kelsie Ahbe both cleared 14-5¼ in the women’s meet, with Gergel winning the title because she cleared the mark on her first try. Ahbe, a graduate of Green High School and Indiana University, cleared the mark on her second try.
Barber, a dual-citizen of the United States and Canada, and Kendricks, a U.S. citizen, call their rivalry a friendly one, and both realize it could continue in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Barber, 20, was raised in Kingwood, Texas. His father is from Ontario and his mother is from Las Cruces, N.M. He won the 2014 NCAA Indoor national title at 18-10.24.
Kendricks, 22, is from Oxford, Miss. He won the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Outdoor national titles with jumps of 18-8¼ in each event.
“Here at Akron they put so much effort into this event that it is really special,” said Kendricks, whose personal bests are 17-0 in high school and 19-0 in college. “You don’t go very many other places in America, besides maybe the Summit [Reno, Nev.], to see vaulters this enthusiastic about an event like this.
“They center this around the athletes themselves, and not necessarily the event, so from a competitor’s standpoint, this runway, this pit and this crowd is a perfect place to jump. That’s why Shawn gets that home field advantage and gets a crowd advantage, which is awesome.
“Shawn and I have been going back-and-forth ever since he left high school with that sparkling high school record from Texas. He has that high school national record at 18-3½, so coming into college he was already a legend. So competing with a guy that has all that many accolades is fun.”
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