July 8, 2016
As the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials continue, more athletes with ties to our state have made the team. Earlier this week, http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/weblogs/sports/2016/jun/30/four-rebels-two-bulldogs-will-be-at-us-track-and-f/">the Jackson Free Press posted a story on athletes who made the team, as the track and field trials started last week.
Four more athletes either from Mississippi or with ties to our state have punched their ticket to Rio. So far, field events have been where the majority of athletes have made the team.
It seems fitting that that men’s pole vaulter Sam Kendricks punched his ticket to the Olympics on the Fourth of July. The current Army reservist, who was once a star at Oxford High School, won the event with a height of 5.91 meters, or 19 feet and 4 1/2 inches.
The second lieutenant starred at the University of Mississippi, where he was a two-time NCAA champion before becoming a professional. Cale Simmons who cleared a height of 5.65 meters, or 18 feet and 6 1/4 inches, for second and Logan Cunningham 5.60 meters, or 18 feet and 4 1/4 inches, for third will join him on the team.
Kendricks broke a meet record that Tim Mack set in 2004. Mack was on hand to root on Kendricks to break his mark.
Four years ago, Kendricks came to the trials to jump before he was scratched for jumpers who were ranked higher than him. Now, the 23-year-old is heading to the Olympics after disappointment four years ago.
In the men’s long jump, former Hinds Community College star Jeffery Henderson won the event, earning his place on the team. Henderson started at Hinds before going on to standout at Stillman College.
His jump of 8.59 meters, or 28 feet and two inches, was barely enough to take first place. Henderson will be joined in Rio with Jarrion Lawson, who jumped 8.58 meters, or 28 feet and 1 3/4 inches, for second and Marquis Dendy 8.42 meters, or 27 feet, 7 1/4 inches for third.
The Rebels will be well represented in Rio, as volunteer assistant Gwen Berry took second place in the women’s hammer throw. She just missed out on first place with a throw of 73.09 meters, or 239 feet and 9 1/2 inches.
Amber Campbell took first place in the hammer throw with a toss of 74.03 meters, or 242 feet and 10 1/2 inches, and Deanna Price took third with a throw of 73.09 meters, or 239 feet and 9 1/2 inches. None of the men threw far enough to meet the Olympic standard and must wait to see if they get an invite from the International Association of Athletics Federation, who may invite up to three athletes.
A perfect summer continues for Rebels star Raven Saunders. She already became a NCAA champion earlier this summer as a sophomore.
The 20-year-old is now heading to Rio after finishing second in the women’s shot put. Saunders made a throw of 19.24 meters, or 63 feet and 1/4 inch. Michelle Carter took first place with a toss of 19.59 meters, or 64 feet and 3 1/4 inches, and Felisha Johnson made a throw of 19.23 meters, or 63 feet and one inch, for third.
Current women’s track and field coach Connie Price-Smith will be the coach of the U.S. Women’s team in Rio. She was a former four-timeOlympian in the shot put and discus. Price-Smith was on the U.S. Team in Seoul, South Korea (1988), Barcelona, Spain (1992), Atlanta, Ga. (1996), and the Sydney, Australia before retiring from athletics in 2002.
The U.S. Track and Field trials continue until Sunday when the Olympic team will be set. There are still athletes with ties to our state who could reach Rio, so stay on the lookout for more stories on the road to the Olympics.