Olympic Trials Men’s Pole Vault — Kendricks’ First Crown In 5 Years

Off the top podium step at USA Champs since ’19 (though he won at the ’23 Indoor) this time Sam Kendricks flew to a meet record. (KEVIN MORRIS)

ON PAPER, KC Lightfoot, Chris Nilsen and Sam Kendricks, a trio with numerous global medals, American Records and 6-meter (19-8¼ or higher) clearances between them, should have easily qualified for the Olympic team.

But Lightfoot was unable to clear 18-4½ (5.60) in the qualifying round and did not advance to the final.

Nilsen cleared 18-8¼ (5.70) in the qualifying round and advanced to the finals, but he missed twice in the process and looked to be well off his best form.

Kendricks jumped effectively in the qualifying round, but told reporters after that he was considering declining his spot on the Olympic team if he qualified, citing dissatisfaction with his treatment after a failed Covid test at the Tokyo Olympics.

In the final the field of 13 was reduced to 9 after the first two heights of 17-11¼ (5.47) and 18-5¼ (5.62).

Kendricks and NCAA champion Keaton Daniel cleared 18-9¼ (5.72) on their first attempts to move into 1st and 2nd, Nilsen and Jacob Wooten cleared on their second attempts and moved into a tie for 3rd. 2021 Olympian Matt Ludwig had a clutch third-attempt make to stay in the competition in 5th place.

The competition seemed like it might end with lower heights than expected, only Kendricks was clearing the bar with extra height, but at 19-1 (5.82) the rest of the vaulters found new life. Daniel began the round with a clearance, a new lifetime best. Wooten followed with a first-attempt clearance, matching his season best. Nilsen responded with a clearance, also on first try, an outdoor season best. Kendricks followed with a big clearance. Only Ludwig was unable to clear on his first attempt; he then chose to pass to the next height.

At 19-3 (5.87), Daniel missed at first time of asking, but Wooten, Nilsen and Kendricks all cleared on their first attempts, to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. Ludwig missed; he and Daniel then passed.

At 19-5 (5.92), a meet record, all five vaulters missed their first goes at the bar, ending the competition for Ludwig.

Daniel missed his second attempt, ending his competition due to his earlier pass, and the Olympic team was solidified as Kendricks, Nilsen and Wooten.

Nilsen and Wooten were unable to clear 19-5, but Kendricks made it over easily on his second attempt for a new meet record and his first USA title since 2019.

Kendricks chose to end on a high note and did not continue to jump. He indicated that he would accept his spot on the Olympic Team after all.

Now 31, 2-time world champion Kendricks, the bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics in 2016, said, “We’re trying to rebuild this year. We’re gonna reconsolidate, we’re gonna reassert a positive view for Team USA. I’m gonna be the captain of my pole vault squad. I’m gonna be a positive force for Team USA. I’m gonna hold everybody accountable to their position and their job for bringing us back home better than we leave the States. ’cause that’s their job — not winning medals like everybody thinks. It’s our job is to come back home, represent well, and make sure that we put the flag on our shoulders in the right way, OK? So that’s where I’m gonna lead my team.”


FINAL (June 23)

1. Sam Kendricks (Nik) 19-5 (5.92) (MR);

=2. Chris Nilsen (NikNYAC) 19-3 (5.87);

=2. Jacob Wooten (unat) 19-3 (5.87);

4. Keaton Daniel (Ky) 19-1 (5.82) PR;

5. Matt Ludwig (unat) 18-9¼ (5.72);

=6. Zach Bradford (unat) 18-5¼ (5.62);

=6. Luke Winder (RISEPV) 18-5¼ (5.62);

=8. Austin Miller (unat) 18-5¼ (5.62);

=8. Nate Richartz (Tracksm) 18-5¼ (5.62);

10. Clayton Fritsch (unat) 17-11¼ (5.47);

11. Carson Waters (unat) 17-11¼ (5.47);

… nh—Hunter Garretson (Akr), Tray Oates (unat).


Qualifiers: Miller, Wooten, Nilsen, Daniel & Bradford cleared 18-8¼ (5.70); all other finalists cleared 18-6½ (5.65);

Non-qualifiers: [18-4½/5.60]—Cole Walsh (unat), Tyler Burns (Cal);

[18-½/5.50] Christyan Sampy (Hous), KC Lightfoot (Puma), Scott Toney (Penn), Clayton Simms (Ks);

[17-8½/5.40]—Conner McClure (VaT), Logan Hammer (UtSt), James Rhoads (Penn), Bradley Jelmert (ArSt), Jacob Englar (unat), Scott Houston (Vaulth);

[nh]—Trevor Stephenson (unat).

17-11¼ 18-5¼ 18-9¼ 19-1 19-3 19-5
Daniel xo o o o xp xx
Miller o xo xxx
Fritsch o xxx
Wooten xo o xo o o xxx
Winder o o xxx
Richartz o xo xxx
Oates xxx
Garretson xxx
Waters xo xxx
Nilsen o xo xo o o xxx
Kendricks o o o o o xo
Bradford o o xxx
Ludwig o o xxo xp xp x
5.47 5.62 5.72 5.82 5.87 5.92