DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Army reservist Sam Kendricks continues to raise the bar for American pole vaulters.
The reigning world champion set an American record Saturday at the U.S. track and field championships at Drake Stadium with a clearance of 19 feet, 10 1/2 inches (6.06 meters).
It's the highest vault in the world this year.
Kendricks, a six-time national champion to go along with his gold medal at the 2017 world championships in London and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, celebrated his achievement with his fellow competitors.
“I saw it coming,” said Kendricks, known around the world for his camaraderie on the track. “I looked as I came over the bar, I looked to the left, and I saw that I hit the bar, but I didn’t hit as hard as the one before, and I said that’s going to stay. As I was falling, I was saying they’re about to come tackle me.
"They were lined up on the edge of the runway, clapping for me," said Kendricks, 26, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army's transportation corps. "We're a pretty tight-knit group all around the world in the pole vault."
Kendricks also is known around the world for his patriotism: He famously stopped running to the vault, dropped his pole and stood at attention when he heard the “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing during the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The national anthem was playing for American Michelle Carter who won gold in the shot put.
Kendricks will attempt to defend his world championship in Doha, Qatar, beginning in September.
Also of note: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Hillary Bor, who ran in college at Iowa State, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Saturday.
Contributing: The Associated Press; USA Track and Field