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Kendricks, Saunders Claim U.S. Titles Saturday

Vitter - Kendricks
Chancellor Vitter Olympic Bronze Medalist Sam Kendricks and Athletic Director Ross Bjork at the opening of the new Ole Miss Track facility. (Photo Ole Miss Communication.)
Current and former Rebels had quite a showcase at the USA Track & Field Championships Saturday, headlined by national titles for Ole Miss alum Sam Kendricks in the men’s pole vault and current Rebel Raven Saunders in the women’s shot put.
Among the 15 members of the Ole Miss family competing at the national meet this week, Kendricks, Saunders and Brittney Reese all punched their tickets for the IAAF World Championships (Aug. 5-13 in London). Several more will have a chance to do so Sunday, the final day of competition in Sacramento. NBC will have live coverage from 3-5 p.m. CT.
Both Kendricks and Saunders turned in signature career-best performances, which is noteworthy since they’re both already among the best in the world at what they do.
Let’s start with Saunders, who is completing her junior year as a Rebel. After a disappointing fourth-place showing at the NCAA Championships earlier this month, the “Hulk” took out her wrath on the competition in Sacramento. The Charleston, South Carolina, native won the shot put on her final throw, a mammoth personal-best and world-leading effort of 19.76m/64-10. That moves her (past her head coach Connie Price-Smith) into fourth place in American history and betters her own school record from last year’s Rio Olympics (19.35m/63-6). She already owns the all-time collegiate records for outdoor (19.33m/63-5) and indoor (19.56m/64-2.25) that only count in-season results.
Saunders posted this on Instagram: “2 weeks ago took an L but this week I bounced back. Happy to say I’m the 2017 USA Shot Put Champion and qualified for the USA World Championship Team in London. Man this year has had sooo many ups and downs, but I’m back.”
Saunders improved on her runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Olympic Trials that qualified her for Rio, at which she placed fifth in the world as one of the youngest in the competition.
Kendricks, an Oxford native who has put together a heck of a pro career since his days at Ole Miss, reached another milestone Saturday. He won the pole vault competition by being nearly flawless all the way to a career-best clearance at 6.00m/19-8.25. He had clean attempts all the way up to his lone miss on his first attempt at six meters, before making it over on his second try. He joins an exclusive world-wide club of six-meter vaulters and is now tied for fourth in U.S. history with the best vault by an American since 2008. It was the sixth U.S. title of Kendricks’ career.
“It was the (most fun) pole vault competition I’ve ever been a part of,” Kendricks said. “Everyone was jumping high, giving each other hope.
“Six meters is a career point. Every great jumper has at least one six-meter jump. Imperially, nineteen eight and a quarter doesn’t sound great, but six meters does. If I can replicate even close to this at Worlds, I’ve got a shot at the title. Going for the gold in London is my goal.”
Reese, a three-time Olympian and twice an Olympic medalist, was unable to win what would have been her 11th U.S. title in the long jump, but she still had a very respectable jump of 6.98m/22-10.75 on her fifth attempt to claim the silver medal and make yet another Team USA roster for the World Championships.
“I am really excited to get back (to London), won my first medal there,” Reese said. “Hopefully the magic is still there so I can secure another medal for myself. I am really excited to be back on the team.”
Other notable results from the first three days of competition:
Craig Engels placed fourth in the 1500-meter final (3:44.01), his first race as a professional runner for Nike. He was fifth at last year’s Olympic Trials.
Junior Brian Williams placed fourth in the discus (60.55m/198-8). He was 18th at last year’s Olympic Trials.
Alum Isiah Young, a 2012 Olympian, was eighth in the 100-meter final (10.25) and turned in the top qualifying time (20.29) for Sunday’s 200-meter semifinals.
MJ Erb, who just finished his senior year at Ole Miss, ran the third-fastest steeplechase time of 8:32.93 in Friday’s first round and will run in the final Sunday.
Current Rebels Ryan Manahan and Robert Domanic placed 14th in the 800 meters (1:47.05) and 20th in the 1500 meters (3:43.22), respectively.
“I am extremely proud of Raven and the rest of the Ole Miss Rebels,” Price-Smith said. “We have had a very good showing here. Raven made a clutch throw to come up with the win and impressed a lot of people – including me! Brian and Craig both had great performances coming away with fourth-place finishes. Ryan and Robert both ran solid races. Ryan coming away with an end of the season personal best in a competition like this was great. Domanic also had a good race coming off of a lifetime personal best two weeks ago. I look forward to tomorrow to watch MJ in the steeple and Janeah (Stewart) in the hammer.”
The USATF Junior Championships wrapped up Saturday. Two current Rebels and two signees competed at the meet, with Kaira Simmons finishing eighth in the women’s long jump, Robinson Snider 14th in the men’s 5000 meters, John Rivera sixth in the men’s 800 meters and Peyton Weismann sixth in the men’s pole vault.
For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.
100 Meters Final (Friday)
8. Isiah Young – 10.25
100 Meters Semifinals (Friday)
7. Isiah Young – 10.20Q
100 Meters First Round (Thursday)
2. Isiah Young – 9.97Q (PR)
200 Meters First Round (Saturday)
1. Isiah Young – 20.29Q
800 Meters Semifinals (Friday)
14. Ryan Manahan – 1:47.05
800 Meters First Round (Thursday)
4. Ryan Manahan – 1:46.87Q (PR)
1500 Meters Final (Saturday)
4. Craig Engels – 3:44.01
1500 Meters First Round (Thursday)
17. Craig Engels – 3:43.06Q
20. Robert Domanic – 3:43.22
3000 Meter Steeplechase First Round (Friday)
3. MJ Erb – 8:32.93Q
Pole Vault (Saturday)
1. Sam Kendricks – 6.00m/19-8.25 (PR)
Discus (Saturday)
4. Brian Williams – 60.55m/198-8
Long Jump (Saturday)
2. Brittney Reese – 6.98m/22-10.75
Shot Put (Saturday)
1. Raven Saunders – 19.76m/64-10 (PR) (SR)
9. Jeneva Stevens – 17.38m/57-0.25
Janeah Stewart – FOUL
800 Meters Final (Saturday)
6. John Rivera – 1:52.01
800 Meters First Round (Friday)
5. John Rivera – 1:53.49Q
5000 Meters (Friday)
14. Robinson Snider – 15:47.38
Pole Vault (Saturday)
6. Peyton Weismann – 5.15m/16-10.75
Long Jump (Friday)
8. Kaira Simmons – 5.80m/19-0.5

Courtesy of Ole Miss
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