By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Some might see the national championship as the goal achieved, the end of the road.
Ole Miss sophomore Sam Kendricks sees it as the beginning.
Next up for the Rebels’ championship pole vaulter is the USA championships next week in Des Moines where he will have a chance to earn a spot on Team USA as it competes in the world championships, Aug. 10-18 in Moscow.
The USA meet begins Thursday.
Kendricks won the school’s first pole vault title with a jump of 18-8.25 at the NCAA national meet in Eugene, Ore., last week.
Kendricks’ jump scored 10 points, and coupled with 14 points from sprinter Isiah Young, who finished second in the 200 and third in the 100, gave the Rebels 24 points, their best finish at the NCAA meet.
Young ran 20.17 in the 200, 9.96 in the 100. He will join Kendricks in Des Moines.
Kendricks’ national championship status took a while to sink in. Earlier this week he admitted he didn’t know how to feel but getting back to work brought clarity to his emotions.
“My mind still goes back to all these practices, and it’s not that much different. It was not different than the Monday before we left,” said Kendricks, an Oxford native.
Brian O’Neal, in his first year as Ole Miss coach, had an idea what he had and told his athletes they had a chance to finish higher than any previous Rebels team in an NCAA meet. A combined three top-three finishes by Kendricks and Young allowed them to do just that.
The school’s previous best was a ninth-place finish in 1991.
Six SEC teams finished in the top 11, led by Florida and Texas A&M, which shared the title.
“A lot of people think track and field is an individual sport,” O’Neal said. “Talk to the stars, and they’ll tell you they do it for people other than themselves.”
Young competed in the London Olympics last summer where he reached the semifinals of the 200 meters.
Kendricks says the next step in his development should be hitting the highest bars more consistently so he can break into the competition later and pace himself to be stronger at the finish.
He’s hoping he can remain consistent and begin to make his way onto the world scene. The NCAA pole vault title could give him the lift to do just that.
“I feel accomplished, that I’ve done this, but at the same time, who can be fully satisfied with something like this?” he asked. I did what I knew I could do.”