With his winning clearance of 18 feet, 8.25 inches, the former Oxford High standout and Oxford native became the first person in school history to win an NCAA title in the pole vault.
His title is the 13th individual national championship in program history, while he becomes the eighth Rebel to win at least one NCAA title. The others are Ralph Spry, George Kersh, Greg Saddler, Savante’ Stringfellow, Antwon Hicks, Barnabas Kirui and Brittney Reese.
“We had an outstanding day,” Ole Miss coach Brian O’Neal said. “But it’s just day one and there’s so much more we’re still fighting for. Sam came in here and had an outstanding performance to get 10 big points for our team. He’s been one of our stars all year long, and I’m just really proud of him.”
Kendricks kept clearing bars with ease at historic Hayward Field, many of them on the first try, until it was down to him and last year’s outdoor champion, Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts. After they both cleared 18-4.5, Kendricks passed on the next height of 18-6.5, while Whitt went over on his first attempt. Kendricks then cleared his first try at 18-8.25, while Whitt missed once and then passed to 18-10.25. Both missed their attempts at that final height, giving Kendricks a victorious night to remember.
“It was a great competition,” O’Neal said. “Sam battled through some adversity and there was a little bit of gamesmanship, but at the end of it all, when the bar was on the line, Sam was money. I’m really proud of him and proud of the job that Coach (Scott) Kendricks has done with him. When you believe in yourself and your coach and your training, special things happen, and Sam’s performance tonight was a byproduct of that.”
Before this meet, Kendricks previously placed third at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships and was 10th at last year’s NCAA Outdoor meet as a freshman.
Next up for the sensational sophomore will be the U.S. Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 20-23, where the top qualifiers will advance to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow Aug. 10-18. Kendricks is currently ranked second among Americans and seventh in the world this year with a mark of 19-0.75.