SACRAMENTO - SEC Champion. NCAA Champion. And now, USA Champion.
Sam Kendricks capped off his remarkable junior year of college with his first career USA title Sunday, winning the men's pole vault with a season-best height of 18-10.25 at the USA Track & Field Championships.
The Oxford, Mississippi, native will return for his senior year at Ole Miss as the reigning SEC, NCAA and USA outdoor champion, an impressive feat for any collegiate track & field athlete.
"I'm ecstatic right now," Kendricks told reporters after his win. "This is such an awesome experience. After the NCAA championship, I just wanted to come out here and jump and to be with these guys I've looked up to, it's incredible."
"Sam being the U.S. champion is a great way to complete a fantastic season," Ole Miss head coach Brian O'Neal said. "He always competes his heart out for the Rebs, and for him to rattle off this string of wins at SECs, NCAAs and the U.S. Championships is an impressive addition to an already outstanding career. It's a fulfillment of all the hours of hard work that he's put in this entire year."
Kendricks claimed a gold medal Sunday after a riveting competition against the other top American vaulters from both the professional and collegiate ranks. Only two men cleared 18-8.25, with Kendricks and Nike's Mark Hollis both going over on their third attempt. Kendricks then cleared 18-10.25 on his third attempt, while Hollis missed on all three tries. Kendricks made two unsuccessful efforts at a personal-best 19-1 before retiring for the day.
It topped off an incredible year for Kendricks, who claimed the 2014 SEC indoor and outdoor titles, as well as the 2014 NCAA outdoor crown. He was the NCAA indoor runner-up, the only time he has not claimed victory during the 2014 calendar year.
"Sam epitomizes what it means to be an Ole Miss student-athlete," O'Neal added. "He's a first-class person who works hard day in and day out at his craft to be the best he can possibly be, and he's a leader both on and off the track."
This was the second USA title for the Ole Miss family this weekend, as former Rebel Brittney Reese claimed gold in the women's long jump on Saturday. Other Rebels who competed were Ricky Robertson in the high jump (8th place) and Isiah Young in both the 100 meters (prelims) and 200 meters (semifinals).
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