EUGENE, Ore. - Ole Miss junior Sam Kendricks won his second straight NCAA outdoor pole vault on Wednesday, but it wasn't easy.
Kendricks had a couple of clutch clearances late in the competition to overcome Akron's Shawn Barber on the first day of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships in front of 9,165 enthusiastic fans at historic Hayward Field in Track Town USA.
A native of Oxford, Mississippi, Kendricks becomes the first back-to-back NCAA outdoor champion for the Rebels since Savante' Stringfellow won long jump titles in 2000 and 2001. He's the first back-to-back NCAA outdoor pole vault champ since Oregon's Tommy Skipper in 2006 and 2007.
Barber and Tennessee's Jake Blankeship were the leaders through 18-2.5, which was the last height that Blankenship cleared. Kendricks came through in a big way on his third and final attempt at 18-4.5 when he brushed the bar, but it held steady. Then Barber cleared 18-6.5 and Kendricks missed, setting up a fantastic finale that saw Kendricks jump up to 18-8.25, which Barber couldn't match.
"The reward for me came from all the guys I jumped against today," Kendricks said afterward. "Those guys have worked hard their whole lives, just like I have. And they wanted me to make that bar as much as they wanted to make it themselves. So it was very rewarding to know they worked their hardest and I came out on top among friends. And that's what made it a lot of fun."
It was another great duel between the top American collegian (Kendricks) and the top Canadian collegian (Barber). Barber won the duel at this year's NCAA Indoor Championships when he set a Canadian national record, while Kendricks was second with the same height that he cleared to win on Wednesday.
Ole Miss also competed in the 4x100 meter relay semifinals on Wednesday and placed 20th in 40.05 to end its season. The school-record holding quartet of Mike Granger, Jalen Miller, Creighton Serrette and Kailo Moore were in the top three for most of their race (top two in each heat advanced to the final), but couldn't finish it out among a very fast field of teams.
"What a day," head coach Brian O'Neal said. "Great job by Sam. During our team meeting last night, we talked about the things we needed to do this week to be successful. We reminded the team that what makes the NCAA Championships special is everyone will be at their best. Each competitor has worked hard all season long and it comes down to the athlete that can focus on the task at hand, and Sam did just that.
"I can't say enough about how proud we are of Sam. It's great to see the bond that he shares with Coach Kendricks and the confidence they have in each other. Each week we've asked Sam to go out and provide a spark for this team. Week in and week out that's exactly what he's done. That was 10 big points for us. Now we have to continue to build on this as we move on to day two tomorrow and another opportunity for us to advance."
Ole Miss gets 10 team points for Kendricks' victory, which has them in third place overall after day one of four.
"Knowing that my team's eyes are on me wherever they may be in the country gives me an edge," Kendricks added. "Knowing that there are eight other athletes form Ole Miss here as well, that makes it special."
Next up for the Rebels is junior Robert Semien in the 110-meter hurdle semifinals on Thursday. Junior Phillip Young will compete in the triple jump on Saturday.
4x100 Meter Relay Semifinals 20. Ole Miss (Granger, Miller, Serrette, Moore) - 40.05
The dean of Southeastern Conferences quarterbacks and the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns, senior Bo Wallace is as healthy and confident as ever, and he's also assumed a more vocal leadership role on the... read more
We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.In case you missed it, "Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss" from earlier this year: Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed that junior cornerback Carlos Davis suffered a torn ACL and will likely have surgery Monday. Davis joins sophomore cornerback Tee Shepard and junior safety Chief Brown on the list of players expected to miss... read more
The launch of the SEC Network shows the growth and vision of the 14 schools in the conference. #OleMiss-- Coach Alex (@apsimms2) August 15, 2014 That was fun! And the @SECNetwork is only getting started. #SECStoried finished strong. Great... read more
Tonight is the night!! #SECNetworkLaunch pic.twitter.com/73UYs8B0Hg-- SEC Network (@SECNetwork) August 14, 2014 Historic day for SEC & #OleMiss as we celebrate the launch of the @SECNetwork at 5pm CST! Congrats to everyone who made it happen!-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) August... read more
The center and right tackle position battles have been two of the biggest story lines of fall camp, but as the Rebels prepped for their second preseason scrimmage Wednesday night, they are closer to solidifying the depth chart along the... read more
"Buy-in" is a common term thrown around by coaches. How will first-year Ole Miss head volleyball coach Steven McRoberts measure buy-in, as the team continues its preseason work for the upcoming season? Attitude and effort. "If we bring those two... read more
The Ole Miss men's basketball team wrapped up its Bahamian exhibition tour with a perfect 2-0 record. Head coach Andy Kennedy recapped the trip, talked about the chemistry, depth and experience of a new-look roster heading into the fall. The... read more
Sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore returned from their respective injuries, while sophomore Tee Shepard remains out with a toe injury. The results from Shepard's MRI performed on Saturday are being sent to Birmingham, head coach... read more
The SEC Network will debut on Thursday, August 14 with a three-hour SEC Now that will visit every SEC school and the 21 sports within the SEC. The first two weeks of the network will also feature customized programming to... read more
Ole Miss continues its preparations for the the 2014 season with the second full week of fall camp starting Monday. Here's a look back at the first full week of fall camp with some observations and takeaways, as well as... read more
An extended portion of the team drills were open to the media. Gameplay-wise, the highlight of the period was a pair of deep throws from senior quarterback Bo Wallace, one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and another to junior... read more