Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations student assistant
In the sport of track and field, pole vaulting is a different animal.
The athlete runs with a pole over twice his or her height and vaults over a 15-foot-long bar situated about two stories high in the air. The loss of total aerial control and a relatively large margin for accidents has given the sport of pole vaulting a daredevil attitude for high-flying adrenaline junkies, or just peak-performing athletes.
Currently competing at Ole Miss are the men's school record holder, freshman Sam Kendricks, and the women's school record holder, junior Neal Tisher.
Kendricks set the indoor school record (17-4.25) and the outdoor record (17-11) in less than a year of collegiate competition. The hometown Oxford native broke Baker Vinci's record marks that had held since 1985. He currently ranks third in the SEC and eighth in the NCAA.
Tisher broke the indoor school record with a mark of 13-11 this year, while she set the outdoor record as a sophomore (13-9.75). She currently ranks top five in the SEC and top 30 nationally.
Tisher, who began pole vaulting in seventh grade, says the transition from gymnastics to pole vaulting made it much easier to learn. However, she says that it is difficult to stay comfortable in the sport.
"There's a lot of changing going on in pole vaulting" says Tisher, "For example, I tried a longer pole about a week ago and was thrown back on the ground."
Freshman Sam Kendricks also began pole vaulting in middle school after growing up around the track. His father, Scott Kendricks, is the head track coach at Oxford High School. The younger Kendricks began mastering the pole vault at a young age, while competing in anything else to make him jump higher.
"I ran the hurdles and the 4x400 meter relay," Kendricks said, "basically anything to make me better at pole vaulting."
Ole Miss Associate Head Coach Doug Blackwell, who mentors the Rebel pole vaulters, says pole vaulting takes a bit of a "daredevil" attitude.
"The best way to explain it is to compare it to diving," says Blackwell. "People say you have to have fortitude to dive and land properly. Vaulting is very similar in that you need faith that the pole won't break and that you'll land safely in the pit."
Off the track, Tisher keeps active off the coast of her hometown, Mobile, Ala.
"I love to wakeboard and white water kayak," said Tisher. "But I'll wakeboard all summer long."
Kendricks keeps busy off of the track with Army ROTC here at Ole Miss. "It keeps me pretty busy between track and classes," he says.
With both Tisher and Kendricks becoming prominent in the pole vault, both could imagine continuing the sport after their senior seasons.
"I would love to continue competitively in the pole vault," Tisher says. "But if not, I will at least keep jumping on my own after college."
Kendricks, on the other hand, has a different situation. "I have a contract with the Army, so I could be put into active duty, but if I could pole vault professionally, that would be a dream."
He looks to further his progress already made as a freshman.
"I came in with a goal to eventually break the school record," Kendricks said. "Now I'm looking to break the 18-feet mark."
The high-flying duo is determined to both literally and figuratively raise the bar as they push on to the end of the track season.
"It's nice to finally be recognized as a pole vaulting school," Tisher said.
"It's always a great feeling to have two outstanding athletes improving from year to year," said Blackwell.
Keep up with Tisher, Kendricks and the rest of the Ole Miss track team as they compete in the SEC Championships Thursday-Sunday in Baton Rouge, La.
Ahead of a rivalry renewed on a national stage, complete with a visit of ESPN's "College GameDay" and the mystique of a Saturday night game in Death Valley, here's link roundup of videos and stories from local and national media... read more
Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play Through the years, special teams play has provided a winning edge in the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry, and and you don't have to go all the way back to Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween run. In... read more
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and LSU head coach Les Miles on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Baton Rouge.For the full SEC teleconference, go here.Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:06:12... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewOct. 13-19, 2014Football- Ole Miss rode its dominant defense to a 34-3 homecoming win over Tennessee on Saturday to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play.- The Rebels are 7-0 for just... read more
It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations surrounding the Homecoming festivities this weekend. Let's get into it:1. When "College GameDay" visits Baton Rouge,... read more
The winning formula revealed itself as it has throughout the season: a dominant defense and a mistake-free offense. The Ole Miss defense forced four turnovers, while the Ole Miss offense did not commit a single turnover in a workmanlike 34-3... read more
Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss faces Tennessee for Homecoming on Saturday.'Third Down for What'Tennessee is very dangerous, Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze said, because its talented, particularly if it gets momentum and confidence during... read more
Highlights from today's media opportunity with SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears discussing the show's visit to Oxford for the SEC matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and Tennessee. Tessitore recalls calling the first college... read more
At the halfway point of the regular season, Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. It's No. 3 ranking in the national polls is its... read more
With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions. Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive... read more
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Oxford. For the full SEC teleconference, go here. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at... read more