KAZAN, Russia - Ole Miss athlete Sam Kendricks captured a gold medal in the men's pole vault Thursday at the 27th World University Games, capping off his incredible sophomore season in a big way.
Kendricks adds the title of World University champion to his name just over a month after he was crowned NCAA champion in Eugene, Ore.
The Oxford, Miss., native out-dueled 10 other elite collegiate vaulters in front of a large and vocal Russian crowd, ending in a final showdown with Japan's Seito Yamamoto that went down to the wire.
Kendricks cleared every bar on the first attempt from his opening height of 5.0 meters (16-4.75) through 5.60 meters (18-4.5) to lead the competition. Yamamoto was the only other man to clear 18-4.5, doing so on his third and final attempt at that height. Both men missed all three tries at 18-8.25, giving Kendricks the nail-biting victory.
It was the eighth time in 11 outdoor meets this year that Kendricks has cleared at least 18 feet, while it marked his seventh outright victory. He was invited to join Team USA at the World University Games after narrowly missing a spot on the American team for the World Championships.
Athletes eligible for the World University Games include those born between 1985 and 1995, have taken at least one three-credit course toward a degree or diploma in the last year and have met the 2013 WUG qualifying standard.
Kendricks still ranks ninth in the world this year with a school-record mark of 19-0.75 that he set at the Texas Relays on March 29. It was the best vault in the NCAA since 1998 and placed Kendricks fifth-best in collegiate history.
He is the latest in a long line of Ole Miss Rebels that have represented Team USA at international track & field competitions. That list includes Olympic gold medalist Brittney Reese, as well as such standouts as Isiah Young, Mike Granger, Savante' Stringfellow, George Kersh and Clarence Daniel.
Next month, former Rebel stars Reese and Young will compete for Team USA at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Reese will take part in the women's long jump, while Young will run the men's 200 meters - events in which they both also competed at last year's London Olympics.
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