BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -Sam Kendricks broke his own school record in the pole vault to lead Ole Miss to a strong performance in its first meet of the 2012-13 track & field season, the Panther Indoor Icebreaker hosted by Birmingham-Southern.
A sophomore from Oxford, Miss., Kendricks cleared 17-6.5 on his third attempt at the height, breaking his own school indoor record of 17-4.25 set as a college rookie a year ago. It won the competition and set a new meet record.
"The highlight of the night was Sam Kendricks," said first-year head coach Brian O'Neal. "It was a special night for him. He's set high expectations for himself, and I thought tonight was indicative of his fall preparation."
Ole Miss had good outings from its returnees and newcomers in a meet that included SEC foes Mississippi State and Vanderbilt and regional rivals Memphis and Southern Miss, among others.
"Everyone showed up with the competitive attitude and spirit that we were looking for today," O'Neal added. "When the lights were turned on, we found a few surprises out there, too."
One performance that was a surprise to nobody was Ricky Robertson in the high jump. Competing unattached, the senior six-time All-American cleared 7-4.5, just over an inch off his school indoor record of 7-5.75. That mark of 7-4.5 was a meet and facility record, breaking his own record from last year at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
Also standing out in the men's jumps was senior Morris Kersh, who placed second in the triple jump (48-11.5) and fifth in the long jump (22-9).
Sophomore Robert Semien, who was an SEC All-Freshman performer a year ago, had a strong 60-meter prelim with a time of 8.18. He was in the lead in the finals before bumping into another runner and not being able to finish the race.
A pair of freshman throwers, Onyi Afoaku and Kevin Conway, immediately moved into the top five performers in school history with their weight throws on Saturday. Afoaku had a toss of 54-6, while Conway was right behind him at 54-4.5.
Isiah Young, in his first meet since the 2012 London Olympics, ran a solid 6.69 to place first in the 60-meter prelims but chose not to run the finals. Young has exhausted his collegiate eligibility for indoor track and ran unattached. He will return for his Ole Miss senior season when outdoor competition begins in March.
On the women's side, a freshman sprinter arrived on the scene in a big way on Saturday. Asia Cooper, from Jackson, Miss., set a meet record en route to a victory in the 60 meters in her first ever indoor race at that distance. Her winning time of 7.45 ranks her sixth-best in the event in school history.
Cooper also raced to a fourth-place finish in the 200 (24.80), tops among the Rebels.
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