/Oxford’s Kendricks vaults to ‘top of the world’

Oxford’s Kendricks vaults to ‘top of the world’

Sam Kendricks is a pole vaulter who has vaulted higher than any American Olympian. He was recently asked what it felt like to be at the top of his vault. Kendricks from Oxford didn’t hesitate to give his answer. He said that it felt like he was suspended above the world. Literally, it feels like you’re on top of the universe. You feel like you are on top of the world. And that feeling lasts for a while. Kendricks (24 years old) will be among the favourites in the pole vault at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Games. His father Scott Kendricks will be his coach. He will depart for Rio in the early part of August. He competes on August 13. Kendricks stated, “As an Olympic athlete, I’m not concerned about winning.” Doing my best is what I worry about. “If I do that, if I do all I can, I’ll be fine.” Kendricks was asked how he felt about his chances of winning gold. Kendricks replied, “Realistically speaking, there are quite some men in contention to take that top spot.” “So long I compete as much as possible, I believe my chances of winning the top spot are very good.” It’s possible for anything to happen, and it would be foolish to think that the top spot is mine. *** This was 11 years ago. Sam was 13 years old, running cross-country for his middle school track team. Sam was 5’4″ tall and 4″ in length. He weighed 95 pounds and was only about half his father’s height. His father wanted him to excel in technical events. Scott Kendricks made a vault pole from a broken high jump bar. He wrapped it in tape and made it just right for Sam. Scott Kendrick stated, “I told Sam that he should try it. That this might be something he would be good at.” “I didn’t know he would get to 13 or 14 feet.” Sam, a 13 year old, competed for the high school team and cleared 10 feet 6 inches. He also earned points for the Oxford team, as a fourth-place finisher. Sam was hooked. Scott Kendricks stated that Sam was a late bloomer. “He kept growing, got quicker, got stronger, and really, really worked hard at it.” Sam Kendricks soared to 13-14, 15 and finally 19 feet. Sam Kendricks, father and son, have vaulted over 20,000 times since he picked up the broken high jump bar 11 years ago. Each time he focused on improving his ability to perform one of the most challenging tasks in all of sport. Pole vaulting requires an uncommon combination of strength, speed, agility, technique, and intellect. Pole vault is a thinking sport, as Ukrainian Sergey Bubka believed. Bubka once stated, “I love pole vault because it’s a professor’s sport.” One must think, not just run and jump. What pole, what height, and which strategy should you use? It’s a great sport because it produces immediate results and the winner is always the strongest.” *** Team Kendricks approaches it differently than others. Sam is now 6’1″ and 175 lbs. He uses a pole nearly one foot shorter than those used by world-class vaulters. It could be related to the broken high jump bar. Team Kendricks Sam has been told by other pole vault experts that he should use a longer pole. He hasn’t. Yes, there was some vindication when Sam vaulted just a fraction more than 19 feet 4 inches to win at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Sam had the same coach and the same philosophy for his 20,000 vaults in 11 years. Sam works eight hours per day on his craft, with his father always watching and advising. Said Scott Kendricks, “We believe in consistency. We believe in outworking everyone.” Sam Kendricks is currently ahead of schedule. The prime time for pole vaulters is in their late 20s. Scott Kendricks stated that, “Olympics wise, we really had aimed toward 2020.” 2020 will have to wait. Rick Cleveland writes a weekly sports column running Fridays at Mississippitoday.org. To support this work, make a regular donation today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this story.