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RIO BOUND: Oxford’s Kendricks heads to Olympics with U.S. title

The dream is now a reality for Sam Kendricks.

Kendricks dominated the competition at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Monday to win the pole vault at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. With the win, the Oxford native qualified for his first Olympics and will compete for Team USA at the Rio Games next month.

Kendricks, an Oxford High graduate and two-time national champion at Ole Miss, is the first OHS athlete to ever qualify for the Olympics. The second-ranked vaulter in the world, Kendricks is the second former Ole Miss athlete headed to Rio through the trials’ first four days, joining women’s long jump champion and three-time Olympian Brittney Reese.

Cale Simmons and Logan Cunningham will also represent the U.S. in the pole vault in Rio. The Olympics begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janiero.

Kendricks just needed to finish in the top 3 to punch his ticket to Rio but did much more than that. He needed just one attempt in each of the first six rounds to advance before setting a trials meet record by clearing 5.91 meters (19 feet, 4 ¾ inches) on his third attempt. Having already claimed the title, Kendricks went for 6 meters but couldn’t clear the bar on any of his three attempts.

His personal best is 5.92.

It’s the fifth U.S. championship for Kendricks, who finished second in the world indoor championships earlier this year. Kendricks vaulted at Ole Miss from 2012-14, winning the NCAA outdoor titles in 2013 and 2014 before forgoing his senior season to get an early start on his professional career.

Just short
Ole Miss’ Craig Engels finished fourth in the men’s 800-meter final — one spot shy of qualifying for the Rio Games.

Engels, who just finished his junior season, ran a personal best of 1 minute, 46.03 seconds. Clayton Murphy won the event with a time of 1:44.76. Boris Berian (1:44.92) finished second while Charles Jock was the final qualifier with a third-place time of 1:45.48.

Another Rebel, M.J. Erb, ran in 8:37.60 in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase to advance to the final Thursday. Former Ole Miss runner Isiah Young didn’t advance to the final in the 100 meters but will compete in the 200 meters starting Thursday.

The trials, which run through Sunday, will resume Wednesday after an off day today.