BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A record-breaking pole vault performance by sophomore Sam Kendricks highlighted a strong showing by the Ole Miss track and field team at the Blazer Invite on Friday, hosted by UAB at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
Kendricks led the way for the No. 23 Rebel men by clearing 18-1.75 without missing on any attempts. That mark is tied for first in the nation and among the top 10 in the world so far this indoor season. The Oxford, Miss., native shattered his previous school indoor record (17-6.5) by more than half a foot and established new meet and facility records.
"Sam continues to show us that he is one of the elite vaulters not only in this conference, but in the U.S.," said Ole Miss head coach Brian O'Neal. "He's still nowhere near the tip of the iceberg, and he continues to raise the bar for not only himself but also for his teammates as one of the leaders of this team. He's showing everyone what you can accomplish when you work hard.
"It's exciting to watch the bond between Sam and Coach (Scott) Kendricks. The key thing is that they trust each other, and what you're seeing is the byproduct of that in Sam's performances."
Kendricks' effort overshadowed an otherwise stellar day by Ricky Robertson, the six-time All-American and 2012 SEC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year. His 7-2.5 in the high jump tied the meet record, and he nearly cleared 7-4.5, which would have tied his own facility record set on Dec. 1, 2012. The senior from Hernando, Miss., also placed second in the long jump with a mark of 24-1.5.
"Ricky did a good job today of competing in two events almost back-to-back," O'Neal said. "He provided a solid performance in the long jump in a limited role where I only allowed him three attempts, and then jumped at a high level in the high jump."
"Our team goal this week was to get better than we were last week, and I think across the board we did that," O'Neal added.
Junior Montez Griffin posted a strong effort in his two individual races on Friday. The Batesville, Miss., native finished runner-up in the 400 meters with a time of 48.48 and sixth in the 200 with a personal-best time of 21.91.
Other strong performances by the Rebel men included sophomore Robert Semien placing fourth in the 60-meter hurdles (8.11), sophomore Malcolm Davis finishing third in the long jump (23-0.5) and freshman Kevin Conway's third-place result in the shot put (49-3).
In addition, junior Benjamin Lapane and Conway both moved into the top five in the school record books in the weight throw with heaves of 56-3 and 55-9.75, respectively.
"It's great to see Kevin Conway come in and be the type of guy that we recruited him to be - a dual threat in both throws," O'Neal said. "And it was a huge personal best for Ben in the weight throw, as well."
The women's side was highlighted by freshman Asia Cooper, who won the 60 meters for the second time in as many college meets. This time she blazed down the track to beat all other competitors with a time of 7.46, just off her winning time of 7.45 on the same track in December. The Jackson, Miss., native placed third in the 200 with a strong mark of 24.54.
Senior Jazmin Miller claimed the weight throw title with a winning toss of 59-9.5.
"I'm very proud of Asia and Jazmin for coming into the season and getting two wins in two meets," O'Neal said. "That's the process we're talking about - getting better each week. Their goal next weekend is to come out and see if they can't go 3-0."
Senior Marci Morman placed top five in both the long jump (3rd, 18-8) and triple jump (5th, 40-0.75), while sophomore Taryn Hartfield placed fifth in the 60-meter hurdles with a solid time of 8.73.
Among the teams competing alongside the Rebels were Mississippi State (whose men's team is ranked No. 20), perennial track power Louisiana Tech, UAB, Jackson State and Division II juggernauts Academy of Art and Johnson C. Smith.
Ole Miss returns to the same impressive Birmingham facility for the third straight time on Jan. 19 for the Auburn Invitational.
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