By Tyler Komis/Journalism Student
Ole Miss alumnus and pole vaulting champion Sam Kendricks took time out of his day to visit his alma mater last Friday. Kendricks, a professional athlete from Oxford, won the Gold medal at the World Championships in 2017 & 2019 for pole vaulting after claiming the Bronze medal at the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Kendricks not only walked around campus reminiscing about his days at Ole Miss, but he also took the time to speak with aspiring sports writers and answer questions about his own life in a session at Ole Miss’ Overby Center, located in Farley Hall.
During his time at Oxford High School, Kendricks was named the Gatorade Boys’ High School Track & Field Athlete of the Year in Mississippi in 2011. He also won multiple state championships as a pole vaulter for Oxford. When he finished high school, he walked onto the Ole Miss team in 2012 and ended up breaking two Ole Miss Rebels pole vault records as a freshman.
“It’s been just a family thing from the get-go. My brother’s beaten me (in sports), my dad coached me, my little brother is now my motivation,” Kendricks said. “Hopefully he’ll be my training partner one day. But there’s so much that goes into it that you just don’t have a good reason to give up. Broken bones . . . whatever stitches had to stitch me up . . . just wasn’t a good reason to give up.”
While attending Ole Miss, Kendricks became a two-time SEC champion, then went on to win the NCAA Championships in both 2013 and 2014.
Kendricks is not only an athlete but also a husband and a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. He is married to Leanne (Zimmer) Kendricks, who also went to Ole Miss as a member of the Ole Miss Track and Field program. He also somehow managed to balance his athletic career while enrolled in Ole Miss’ ROTC program.
How was Sam able to manage both those lifestyles during college?
“I was always tired, but it made me hard as a rock,” Sam said. “Buy into something and seek the knowledge that accompanies it. You’ll become something different, and you’ve got to be OK with it.”
Eventually, Kendricks earned the title of First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. Even while participating in competitions, he displays the discipline he was raised with and taught along the way.
During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Kendricks also made headlines and went viral when he stopped pole vaulting, mid attempt, as he heard the national anthem of the United States.
“I can’t take credit for that moment. I’m a trained person, I’m a soldier,” Kendricks said. “As soon as I heard the anthem, I couldn’t think of it any other way.”
This year, Kendricks will look to add to his medal collection and will finally be competing again after the Olympics were moved a year later due to the global pandemic.
He should be a strong contender to win the Gold in the 2021 Olympics hosted in Tokyo, Japan. The Olympics are scheduled July 23 through August 8.