Ole Miss’ Kendricks has world’s best pole vault mark this year
By JACK SCHULTZ — Special to the Sun Herald
OXFORD — Sam Kendricks seems like an ordinary kid going to school at his hometown college. However, Ole Miss’ sophomore pole-vaulter, a product of his father’s track and field program at Oxford High School, is far from ordinary.
Kendricks currently holds the top pole-vault clearance in the world this year, though you’d hardly know it from talking to him. Kendricks prefers to focus on team performances and enjoying the sport; he’s truly a Rebel through and through.
Competing at the Texas Relays several weekends ago, Kendricks cleared 19 feet, 3/4 inches not only shattering his own previous school record, but marking the highest clearance in the world thus far in 2013.
“All I wanted to do was have fun and compete,” Kendricks said of his expectations going into the Texas Relays, which changed as the day went on. “I had to jump 19 feet to win the meet. It was that competitive. Two guys had jumped 18-8, I’d never jumped that before in my life.”
Despite never having vaulted above 18-8, Kendricks notched three straight personal records that day on his way to the 19-3/4.
“Jumping 19 feet was just a by product of such a great competition and my training coming together,” Kendricks said.
Kendricks was completely unaware at the time that he was attempting the year’s highest vault, which also ranks fifth in NCAA history, and the best since 1998.
“We didn’t think anything about being number one in the world, that was something that came afterward — and that was just cool,” Kendricks said.
Despite his recent success, not much has changed in the world of Sam Kendricks. But he has enjoyed even the small opportunities such as signing posters for younger, aspiring track and field athletes at the Ole Miss High School Invitational last weekend.
“The first big change is I got a poster,” Kendricks joked of the attention he has received after his impressive vault at the Texas Relays.
“Any attention that goes to me, I hope it goes double to the Rebels team. Hopefully I can continue to represent.”
Kendricks knows his world-leading vault for the year is fleeting, but he has now won 14 straight meets in the pole vault, including breaking the Ole Miss facility record twice in the last two weekends. He doesn’t seem to ever slow down, either, as he focuses on “being the best.”
“Just knowing that could change at any moment or any weekend, just gives me
that little bit of extra edge,” Kendricks said about others beating his mark. “If I was going to be number one indisputably, what would be the point?”
Ole Miss coach Brian O’Neal has been impressed with Kendricks’ competitive drive as a “student of the sport.”
“Originally coming into this year, Sam’s goal was to jump over 19 feet,” O’Neal said. “He’s proven that with hard work that anything is possible.
One possible future goal for Kendricks is to break the all-time world record. For now, however, that is a goal that will have to wait. Kendricks’ personal record is still more than a foot shy of the all-time world record clearance of 20-3/4.
“I know the amount of training it takes to jump that extra foot on top of 19 feet,” Kendricks said. “I think there is a little bit more career out there in front of me to strive to be the best.”
While the feat may be improbable, Kendricks will surely try.
“Maybe I won’t jump the world record one day, but I’ll have fun trying,” he said.
The NCAA championships are June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.