OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss sends two of the nation's top track & field athletes to Albuquerque, N.M., for this Friday and Saturday's NCAA Indoor Championships, held at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Junior pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and freshman sprinter Jalen Miller will represent the Rebels and seek to claim national titles in the men's pole vault and 60 meter dash, respectively.
Miller will start things off for Ole Miss in the 60 meter semifinals at 8:25 p.m. CT on Friday. Racing out of lane 1 in heat 1, Miller will try to be among the top eight that advance to Saturday's championship final (8 p.m. CT). The Tunica, Miss., native is one of five freshmen in the field of 16 that includes such superstars as Florida State's Dentarius Locke (2013 NCAA 100m runner-up), Alabama's Diondre Batson (2014 SEC 60m champion) and Houston's freshman sensation Cameron Burrell.
Kendricks will try to claim a second straight national title when the pole vault competition begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT. The reigning NCAA outdoor champion will jump 15th out of the 16 vaulters in Albuquerque. Among his competitors are two-time defending NCAA indoor champ Andrew Irwin of Arkansas and Canadian record holder Shawn Barber of Akron.
The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com and will be shown on tape-delay Saturday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
"It's the national championships," said head coach Brian O'Neal. "It's a big meet, but we won't do anything differently than we have all year. We will simplify things and just have the same mindset and the same competitive spirit that both Sam and Jalen have displayed all year long. And we expect the same results."
Kendricks, the No. 1 pole vaulter in the NCAA and U.S., captured the conference title in College Station, Texas and was named SEC Men's Field Athlete of the Year. The Oxford, Miss., native owns a season-best and school-record clearance of 18-8.25 from the Don Kirby Elite Invitational (Feb. 14) at the same Albuquerque facility at which he'll compete on Saturday. In six 2013-14 indoor meets, he has broken five meet records and two facility records and eclipsed 18 feet five times. He is undefeated in collegiate pole vault competitions since he won last year's NCAA outdoor title.
Kendricks earned first team All-America honors after finishing third at last year's NCAA indoor meet.
"Sam's process is just to go out there and compete, whether it's at a local meet or an NCAA championship," O'Neal said. "He always wants to be the best he can be. That's our process week-in and week-out. You come out here and do what you've been doing."
Miller, at only 18 years old from the small town of Tunica, has burst onto the national stage just as quickly as he gets out of his sprinter's starting blocks. He ranks 12th on the performance list for the 60 meter dash with a season-best 6.62 from the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York.
Miller captured third place in a tight SEC Championships 60 meter final in College Station behind Batson and Florida's Hugh Graham.
The Ole Miss men placed 23rd at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships behind scoring efforts from Kendricks in the pole vault and Ricky Robertson in the high jump. Their highest finish in school history was a ninth-place result in 1991. They finished 10th in 2001 and 11th in 2011 and have placed top 25 a total of nine of times throughout program history.
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