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U.S. OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS LIVE STREAM: Watch Oxford’s Sam Kendricks in pole vault finals

Meet Sam Kendricks, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He also just so happens to be one of the world’s top pole vaulters this season.

He also happens to be from Oxford, one of our hometown heroes.

Only fitting, the final of his event at the U.S. Track and Field Trials falls on such a patriotic day, the Fourth of July.

The pole vault event is at 5:30 pm. Central time. You can watch the finals live on NBC’s digital app. You can watch the live stream of the finals here today for free.

Kendricks is certainly the vaulter to beat, which is quite a contrast to four years ago when he was in the stands and watching the competition.

As for balancing his duties to his country with his pole vaulting career, Kendricks said it’s not all that difficult. He’s currently in the reserves, but checks in all the time with his commanders.

“They all give me space and time to do this so I can reach my highest level and lift the Army along with me,” Kendricks said. “I still wanted to give my dedication to my nation and so I continued as a reservist.

“I love to serve my country.”

Here’s how his military and his pole vaulting careers started: Kendricks walked on to the University of Mississippi track team as a freshman and joined the ROTC program to help with college tuition. He fully planned to serve when he was done, but became so good at the event — winning 2013 and ’14 NCAA championships — that he combined his two passions.

He’s only soared from there, capturing a silver medal at world indoors in March up the road in Portland. His best jump this season was 19 feet, 5 inches (5.92 meters) in May. It’s second only to reigning Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France.

The 23-year-old Kendricks easily earned his way into the final with a rather smooth performance during Saturday’s qualifying.

“It was a fun day out there. It’s a rare occasion that we can get all the guys together because I consider pole vault at this stage to be like a traveling circus, because we all go around the country to the same meets trying to find the best conditions to get into this meet,” Kendricks said. “Everybody just went out there and had fun.”

At meets, Kendricks is frequently thanked for his service by fellow military personnel.

No, he always responds, a big thanks to them.

“I know there are other (people) out there putting their lives on the line,” Kendricks said. “I applaud them for their service and thank them very much.”

By The Associated Press