Are you ready for some Kendricks?
They say Oxford is a great football town.
It’s true, of course.
But is a great pole vault town, too. Or, it will be in two weeks.
That’s when Oxford’s Sam Kendricks competes for a gold medal in the Rio Olympics 2016. It’s likely that most everybody in our community will be tuned in, watching as one of our own battles on the world’s biggest athletics stage.
Not since Lafayette High School graduate Jennifer Gillom won a gold medal in basketball in the 1988 Olympics have we had a true local resident battling for a medal at the summer games. And Kendricks is the first-ever from Oxford High School.
Whether Kendricks, who also competed at Ole Miss, wins a medal or not isn’t the point. He’s easily the most talented in pole vault in the United States, and that’s something to celebrate. Just having one of our own in the games is worth collectively cheering for in a football Saturday sort of way.
Yes, Ole Miss will have other athletes at the Rio games. And, yes, we will celebrate and follow them as well. But for Oxford, there’s something special about this Kendricks story, starting with his quality as a person, and the fact that he flipped and flopped and sweated out his rise to greatness at Oxford High School.
I will admit to counting down the days to the Rio pole vault. The event is scheduled for qualifying rounds on Saturday evening Aug. 13, by the way. The finals are scheduled for the evening of Monday, Aug. 15, when Kendricks will likely be competing for a medal if all goes well in the preliminaries.
These moments are worth making plans for, since Kendricks is likely to emerge as one of those great stories that all Americans pull for. He’s a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, which should easily get the military on his side. He’s also got that great family story with a father as coach and Oxford native Marni as number-one-fan/mother.
It’s the perfect setting for individual stardom, and it could not happen to a better person, or a better community. Whenever fellow military members thank Kendricks for his service, for instance, he thanks them instead.
“I know there are other (people) out there putting their lives on the line,” Kendricks told The Associated Press last month. “I applaud them for their service and thank them very much.”
He is active in the military because serving, like competing on a world stage, is a passion.
“I love my country,” Kendricks says.
America will no doubt love Sam Kendricks right back during the Olympics.
Winning a medal in these games isn’t a long shot for Kendricks, either. The odds makers — yes, people wager the Olympics — have pegged him as one of three favorites to win the pole vault gold at Rio (France’s Renaud Lavillenie is the odds-on favorite). A leading sports magazine has projected Kendricks as a bronze medal winner in the games.
But that’s the thing about competitions like the Olympics. Nobody knows how it will go. Anything can happen, and often does.
All we know is that Oxford will become a pole vault town in a couple of weeks, eagerly watching and cheering for one of its own.
No matter how it turns out, Sam Kendricks is a winner. And so is his hometown, for getting to be a part of such a great story.
David magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.