Sam Kendricks, photo by PhotoRun.net
Sam Kendricks won the pole vault on Day 4, with his 5.91m clearance and three attempts at 6.00 meters, he made believers of his fans. This piece was written by Lindsay Rossmiller on the American king of the pole vault.
By: Lindsay Rossmiller
EUGENE, Ore. – The crowd clapped and Sam Kendricks stomped his foot to the rhythm a few times before he took off running down the runway to make his third attempt at six meters in the pole vault at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
He knocked the bar off, but jumped up characteristically smiling and waving to the crowd.
“Six meters is a benchmark to put my name with the top 20 jumpers who have ever jumped,” said Kendricks who also took two attempts at the height earlier this year in Beijing.
After his final attempt Monday, Kendricks ran up to the railing along the East Grandstands of Hayward Field to give Scott Kendricks, his coach of ten years and father, a hug.
As they embraced, he said, “Way to put on a show son.”
Kendricks had already won the meet before the last three attempts, but had opted to try for the higher bar after clearing 5.91 and breaking the Olympic Trials record.
Tim Mack, the former American record holder, happened to be there to see him do it. He told Kendricks, “Sam, you got this. Break it.”
It took two attempts, but on the third Kendricks came down with the new record, ready to try for that six meter mark.
Kendricks will represent the U.S. next month in Rio along with Cale Simmons (5.65) and Logan Cunningham (5.6).
The Oxford, Mississippi native won his second consecutive U.S. outdoor championship after turning professional and giving up the rest of his collegiate eligibility at the University of Mississippi in 2015.
“It was a decision me and my coach made to set myself up for the most professional experience I could muster. How many high level meets could I jump in with the guys who will be at the top?” said Kendricks. “Not always can you achieve that goal, but having experience has led to me having a lot of confidence this year.”
Since turning professional, he’s been on a roll and has won both indoor and outdoor U.S. titles every year since then.
Overall, the U.S. has also experienced a changing of the guard in the pole vault since the last Olympics in 2012. At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Kendricks, Simmons, and Cunningham all became first-time all Olympians and only three of the competitors in the field had made the final in 2012.
Kendricks leads the way for the new group. He bounces around during the competition talking to both officials and competitors. He offers high fives for good jumps and pats on the shoulder for misses. At times, he almost seems to host the event as he gets the crowd clapping for someone on the runway or introduces his teammates at the press conference.
He is relentlessly positive, even when he misses.
“That jump [5.91] was the product of a great miss,” said Kendricks. “I do not know a jumper who has put the bar at six meters and jumped it their first try, or even their first three.”
But even misses provide motivation and more goals to continue to aim for.
“We see this meet as one stop along a very long journey. I hope to be in this sport another decade and compete for my country as many times as I possibly can,” said Kendricks.
Earning the chance to represent the U.S.A. on the Fourth of July held special meaning for Kendricks as he carried around the flag he’d been given. Kendricks is also an officer in the Army reserve based out of Millington, Tennessee.
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