Jump Sam Jump. It’s a slogan plastered on store fronts, schools, tweets and Facebook statuses everywhere in Oxford. “Sam” is Sam Kendricks, an Oxford native and former Ole Miss track and field athlete. The “jump” is the Olympic pole vault in Rio, where the 23-year-old is favored to be the first American man since 2004 to medal in the event.
The story of Kendrick’s rise to world-class Olympic athlete is tightly intertwined with the Oxford and Ole Miss community. He opted not to train with the rest of Team USA in Houston, instead preparing at his old facilities at Oxford Middle School (“You go to all these places in the world,” Kendricks told The Clarion-Ledger. “But for us, it doesn’t really have the character of [OMS]... Our sweat and blood is in this track and this facility and this town”). He refused to hire a professional coach, sticking with the guy who coached him through high school: his dad (“I’m thankful that I had my father as my coach,” Kendricks told The Oxford Eagle, “because another coach may have had an accelerated mindset for my training in order to make me improve...”). He claims his experience as a three-time NCAA champion at Ole Miss launched his career, and despite forgoing his senior year to focus on Olympics prep, he still works out at the Rebels’ indoor practice facility when the weather drives him off his middle school track.
So it’s no wonder that the Oxford and Ole Miss communities are going nuts in their fervent support of Kendricks leading up to the Olympic competition, which begins with the qualifiers on Saturday night (6:20 p.m. CT) and (hopefully) ends in the finals on Monday night.
(If you’re in Oxford for the finals, by the way, go check out the watch party at Rafters, which starts at 6:15 p.m CT.)
Even the daggum retirement home is turnt.
Sam’s brother is an ATO.