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Rebels To Compete Against Nation's Best

Eight women's teams and seven men's teams are ranked in the top 25 entering the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships this weekend in College Station, Texas. Five women's teams are ranked in the top seven in the nation, paced by Florida, which is ranked No. 2. On the men's side, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M, in that order, are the top three teams in the nation.

Ole Miss is among the seven SEC teams on the men's side, entering the SEC Indoor Championships as the No. 20-ranked team in the nation.

"If you ask any of the coaches in this league, they would tell you that this is by far the best conference in the United States," head coach Brian O'Neal said. "Our young men and women are just looking forward to competing against the best."

The Ole Miss men have eight athletes ranked, highlighted by junior Sam Kendricks, who jumped 18-8.25 this past weekend at the Albuquerque Convention Center, which ranks him No. 1 in the NCAA, No. 1 among Americans and No. 13 in the world this year. The Ole Miss women have three athletes ranked, led by senior Fabia McDonald who is ranked No. 14 and No. 22 in the pentathlon and long jump, respectively.

The three-day SEC Indoor Championships from Thursday to Saturday in College Station, Texas will be the Rebels' last meet before the NCAA Indoor Championships (March 14-15) and then the start of the outdoor season.

"We're young in a lot of position areas," O'Neal said. "Our young men and women are excited to come in here and compete and see where we stack up against the best and get our feet wet as we compete against the best. The SEC Championship is the pinnacle for us, in terms of the regular season. We're trying to go out there, line up, represent the Red and Blue and compete to the best of our abilities."

SEC In The National Rankings:

MEN

1. Arkansas

2. Florida

3. Texas A&M

12. Alabama

15. LSU

20. Ole Miss

24. Georgia

WOMEN

2. Florida

3. Texas A&M

4. Arkansas

6. Kentucky

7. Georgia

14. LSU

23. Mississippi State

25. Missouri

Track Hands Out Awards At Team Banquet

Photo Gallery Kendricks_banquet13.jpg

Ole Miss Track & Field had an outstanding season in 2012-13, highlighted by the men's No. 8 national outdoor finish (best in school history), the men's No. 23 national indoor finish and the women's No. 4 SEC cross country finish (best in school history).

The team held its annual banquet last week to honor the accolades of last year's team and kick off the new 2013-14 season.

In addition to All-America honors, NCAA Championship participants and SEC Championship awards, here are some of the team awards that were presented by head coach Brian O'Neal at the banquet:

Men's Student-Athlete of the Year: Jonathan Redding
Women's Student-Athlete of the Year: Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen
Men's Outdoor Athlete of the Year: Sam Kendricks
Women's Outdoor Athlete of the Year: Mary Ashton Nall
Men's Indoor Athlete of the Year: Ricky Robertson
Women's Indoor Athlete of the Year: Asia Cooper


Kendricks_060513c_JM.JPG
You've seen the photo. Now here's the story behind the picture from the man himself.



The photo above, courtesy of Josh McCoy, came on his winning pole vault at a height of 18-8.25 feet.

"The funny thing about that moment -- that picture -- is that I went through about five different emotions as I came dwon," Kendricks said. "Josh McCoy snapped that one picture where I was like this, but I was only like that for an instant. And so I was celebrating, and then I was relieved, and then I hit the mat, and it was over."

"With all my friends there and all the coaches, I really still don't know how to feel. I'm excited. I feel proud to be a Rebel. I feel accomplished that I have done this. But at the same time, who can be fully satisfied with something like this. I went there and did what I knew I could do. I just happened to come out victorious in the competition. And right now, I'm looking toward the future."

Kendricks said he never envisioned when he first started vaulting that all this was even a possibility, even to come to Ole Miss, even to jump higher than 14 feet. His grandfather, also Sam, has a flag pole in his front yard, and he moved it up from height to height while Sam jumped in high school, eventually to his highest jump, 17 feet.  Sam said the flag pole didn't go any higher, and his grandfather didn't want to buy a new one. When he arrived home yesterday, he said he saw something that reminded him of the flag pole.

"I see a big banner that says, 'Congratulations, Sam,' and I see all my family standing in the front yard, but I also see something along the column next to the front door, and it's a tape measure," Kendricks said.

"And it goes up and up and up and up, over the balcony, over the second story, and onto our roof, and I realized my mom had climbed on the outside of the balcony and taped it at 18-8.25 feet, way above the second story of our roof."

The immediate future Kendricks talked about is the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will be held June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, where the top qualifiers will advance to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 10-18. There's also the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which Kendricks said he also thinks about. He is currently ranked second among Americans and seventh in the world this year with a mark of of 19-0.75 feet. 

"I've never done anything on that scale before," he said of representing his country. "Coming to college has been new experience after new experience. And just the possibility that I might be able to put USA on my chest is fulfilling."

"I think every guy need to allow himself those dreams," he said of Rio 2016. "And I hope that in the future I can still be a competitive vaulter, be healthy and be able to represent my country the best I can. The Olympic dream is always out there for a lot of guys, and for me, and I would be really happy if that came to fruition."








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