OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI Sports/Ole Miss Athletics) – Two Ole Miss track stars make headlines Friday.
Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks has been selected as a member of Team USA for the upcoming 2013 World University Games and the Rebels’ former standout Isiah Young signed a four-year contract with Nike to run professionally.
Kendricks is part of the 16-member U.S. team that will compete July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia.
Athletes eligible for the World University Games include those born between 1985 and 1995, have taken at least one three-credit course toward a degree or diploma in the last year and have met the 2013 WUG qualifying standard.
More than 40 hours of the Games will be shown live on ESPNU, while an additional 250 hours will be shown live on ESPN3. The coverage will focus mainly on basketball, water polo, swimming, track & field, beach volleyball and volleyball.
“It’s always a great honor when you get the opportunity to represent your country,” Ole Miss head coach Brian O’Neal said. “With Sam being in the ROTC here on campus, he is doing that both on and off the track. In every facet of his life, he represents the United States at the highest levels. It’s exciting to see him doing it in the realm in which I work, that is track and field. He’s a great kid, and I look forward to him going over there and doing really well.”
This will extend the Oxford, Miss., native’s phenomenal sophomore season. Kendricks won the 2013 NCAA pole vault title earlier this month and helped the Ole Miss men place eighth at the NCAA Championships, their highest national finish ever.
Kendricks ranks eighth in the world this year with a school-record mark of 19-0.75 that he set at the Texas Relays on March 29. It was the best vault in the NCAA since 1998 and placed Kendricks fifth-best in collegiate history.
Kendricks is the latest in a long line of Ole Miss Rebels that have represented Team USA at international track & field competitions. That list includes Olympic gold medalist Brittney Reese, as well as such standouts as Isiah Young, Mike Granger, Savante’ Stringfellow, George Kersh and Clarence Daniel.
WCBI’s Robby Donoho featured Isiah Young as a Student Athlete of the Week.
Young will represent Nike at various track meets each year, including some of the world’s premier athletics contests as part of the IAAF Diamond League. He begins his pro career running the 100 meters this Sunday in Birmingham, England, at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix, which will feature 11 reigning Olympic champions and 30 medalists from the recent London Games.
As he prepares to compete for Team USA at the 2013 World Championships (Aug. 10-18 in Moscow, Russia), he will run in the 200 meters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 4. The Junction City, Kan., native will compete there alongside nine Olympic champions, including former Ole Miss star and reigning women’s long jump gold medalist Brittney Reese.
“I’m excited for Isiah as he becomes the next athlete in Ole Miss track and field history to join the pro ranks,” said Rebel head coach Brian O’Neal. “His agreement with Nike allows him to fulfill his dream to compete as a pro athlete. Coming to Ole Miss, he took advantage of the opportunity to become a college graduate, an SEC champion, an All-American, an Olympian, and now a professional track and field athlete. He will continue to represent the great brand of Nike that has equipped him while he’s been an Ole Miss Rebel.”
Young graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, while setting record after record on the track. In 2013 alone, Young claimed his second straight SEC outdoor title in the 200 and was SEC runner-up in the 100. After earning the SEC Commissioner’s Trophy as the conference meet’s high points scorer, he was named the 2013 SEC Runner of the Year and 2013 South Region Track Athlete of the Year. He placed second in the 200 and third in the 100 at the NCAA Championships.
Young qualified for the 2012 London Olympics when he placed third in the 200 at last year’s U.S. Olympic Trials with a then school-record 20.12. He made the 200 semifinals in London.
This year, he shattered his previous record with a scintillating 19.86 to earn silver at the USA Championships and earn a spot on Team USA for the World Championships. His time is fourth-best in the world this year and made him the 12th-best American all-time in the 200.
In the 100, Young ran a personal-best and school-record 9.93 in the USA Championships semis to qualify for the finals, where he placed seventh in 10.12.
Young, who will continue to train in Oxford for the next year, is one of only three people to run under 10 seconds in the 100 and sub-20 in the 200 this year. The others are USA’s Tyson Gay and Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, arguably the top two sprinters of all-time.